With the stage lights turned way down and the amps turned way up, maybe there were some nights on the Caspian/Junius tour when the ambient metal impresarios simply forgot they were touring Europe. Don’t all clubs look the same once the shows starts? Crowds, empty bottles, bobbing heads? Well, this was not one of those nights. On the prematurely brisk Thursday night, October 22nd, the two bands pulled into Jugendhaus West, essentially a teen disco, on the outskirts of Stuttgart, Germany. There was still beer, sure enough, but it was being quaffed by teenagers (oh, Europe!) who hadn’t quite decided yet if they were Goth or gay. Throw in a handful of grey-haired chaperones and you’ve got all the makings of a NAMBLA mixer. Jokes aside, the combined decibel dealing, hymen-exploding impact of the Caspian/Junius one-two combo may have deflowered more than a few hübschen Mädchen.
Caspian earned points from the start for venturing a German "Hello, Springfield!": "Hallo! Guten Abend! Wir sind Caspian aus Boston, Massachusetts!" (Beverly, MA is turning red) But it was more than mere pleasantries that got a rise out of the crowd. Fans recognized songs – fruits of a previous tour – and a little homey recognition always sets a nice familiar vibe. A Caspian set is an onslaught of musical invention that compels without alienating, or being simply noisy. At their best, they achieve some of the more transcendent peaks of Radiohead (QRO album review) instrumentals, but keep their musical vocabulary entirely within the American vernacular. There is a narrative to their presentation and they deliver like a seasoned storyteller.
One of the challenges of any tour is equipment issues and adjusting to new facilities on a nightly basis. Caspian arrived in Europe with their guitars and a suitcase full of pedals. Every other piece of equipment was rented on the other side of the Atlantic. For a band that depends so much on sonic precision, the vagaries of rented equipment must have been a nightmare proposition. But listening to the set live you would never know the difference. The songs, most from the new album Tertia (QRO review), had all the complexity that you get on the album, with the added bone-rattling benefit of hearing it unfold live.
The headliners for the night, Junius, provided a nice counterbalance to the all-instrumental Caspian. The frontman, with his black hoodie cowled up like a medieval monk, struck that Gothic, Rammstein-esque note that Germans die for. Though the crowd had thinned out somewhat (school night?), those who stayed rocked out all the harder as the Heineken and Junius’ personal, customized lightshow worked its Bacchanalian magic.
It should be said right now that Junius must have one of the most badass drummers in all of Boston. He’s a hulking bear of a man, who looks like a combination of Kevin from Top Chef and a bridge troll. That he plays barefoot on a (rented) sparkly blue, big-bopper drum set only adds to his Hobbit mystique. Needless to say, he wails.
Junius closed out with a three-set encore and then it was "Auf Wiedersehn, baby!", and onto the next stop for these two road warrior bands. No time for the Mercedes-Benz factory tour, a bowl of Kütteln, or a jaunt through the Altes Museum – but who cares when you’re having a good time all the time?