Words by Danielle Chelosky | Photo by Nick Karp
It wasn’t my first time seeing Balance & Composure. March of 2017, unemployed and eager, I gathered up a few bucks to buy tickets to see them at Revolution Bar on Long Island. I didn’t like them at the time, though I liked the song “I Tore You Apart In My Head”, but that’s about as far as my knowledge of them extended. I just figured that since the show was on 4/20 and about fifteen minutes from my house, I may as well check it out.
This, unlike every other decision I make, ended up being a good one. It was one of the best gigs I had ever gone to even though I only knew a few songs. The band put everything into the mix of emo and indie songs, lead vocalist and guitarist Jon Simmons exhibited as much ardence as the crowd that was pushing and hopping on the stage and diving, and there existed an unbreakable connection in the whole room.
After that, I immersed myself in Light We Made, despite the widespread resentment, and for a while that album made me feel comfortable where I was. Later on, when I grew uncomfortable, I fell in love with Separation and The Things We Think We’re Missing. I ached to experience them live again with this new attachment to their music.
Lo and behold, Balance & Composure announced their ten year tour. I bought a ticket as soon as possible with an intuition of how legendary the show would be. And after my first show at the Bowery Ballroom—the iconic Mac Demarco surprise show—I was excited to get back there.
Opening with “Void”, the brimming room echoed back the words even louder and broke into a feverish mob when the beat dropped—from standing still and singing along to sending a wave of pushing back and forth real quick. Lights colored the band a mesmerizing dark blue as they delved into the guitar solo, backing away from the front of the stage and physically indulging into their sound.
Their setlist encompassed the angstiest of their repertoire—with songs mainly off of their earlier albums, even including a beloved track off of Only Boundaries, one of their first releases back in 2009, “I Can’t Do This Alone”. As soon as the heavy drums commenced, everyone prepared to scream “I GAVE UP LONG AGO / THOUGHT YOU’D NEVER SHOW” with the aggressive fistpump directly at Simmons.
Fade maintained the crowd’s undivided attention as well, dancing around to the catchy verses before headbanging and lurching right into the clamorous chorus. Fans started lifting each other up to crowdsurf only a couple of songs in, especially during songs like “Patience” and “Back of Your Head”, and the crowd cooperated—until a few stagedivers landed face first on the floor (hope y’all are okay). But, for the most part, everyone supported each other and contributed to the madness.
The band strayed from their typical songs, leaving out classics like “Tiny Raindrop”, but bestowing on New York old gems such as “More To Me” and “Burdens”. Only two songs off of their most recent, more experimental album, Light We Made, were played that night—”Postcard” and “Midnight Zone”, during both of which the moshing subsided but the dancing didn’t.
Even when their sound deviated from their usual yelling and violent instrumentals, the crowd responded vehemently to the lighter upbeat indie sound. Bowery still broke out in tumult for the otherwise calm chorus of “Postcard”, and Simmons relished the fervency by keeping his eyes closed and performing the routined moves—his arms waving naturally on each side and even the occasional full-body twist. I was captivated by this type of stage presence; he exuded a personal sense of calm passion and genuine fulfillment, and I couldn’t help but wonder why he would want to stop playing shows. The pink and red lighting really matched the dreamlike ambiance, inducing me with this feeling that I was momentarily inside Light We Made, if it were a place. I did not want to leave this seemingly imaginary world.
The lack of LWM, however, doesn’t compare to the complete absence of Slow Heart. While the band lingered in the earlier eras—which, I guess, we should expect from a ten year anniversary tour—they, dare I say, neglected the beautiful EP. I’m sure a majority of fans didn’t mind, considering the compensation was the old enraged Balance & Composure after whom we all pine, but I would kill just to hear the opening rhythm of “Body Language”. Still, the breathtaking performance of “When I Come Undone” can eliminate every complaint and criticism harboring within me. Out of all of the songs that resonated with me, this one did so sonorously and strikingly—the beat reverberated my body, the rhythm of the words flowed from my mouth like no set of syllables has ever felt more familiar, and my head cleared of everything else I’ve stored up there. If you’ve ever been overwhelmed with a certain type of ineffable transcendence in the midst of a show, you get it. It’s a rare thing.
Returning home at 1:30 A.M., I discovered a concerning amount of black and blue spots decorating my skin. My head also ached, not just from the loudness, but because an actual bump resided directly above my right hemisphere because I had been thrown onto the stage headfirst. I spent the next day in bed and noticed that the days following a Balance show include similar symptoms as withdrawal.
Luckily, it’s been confirmed that these aren’t the last Balance shows. If you like them, you already know that seeing them live should be at the very top of your priority list. If you don’t, the show still holds the same emotional essence that’ll leave you with relentless nostalgia afterward. So, moral of the story, go see Balance & Composure.
TheWaster.com | NYC