In the music industry these days, it's no easy feat to make your bones as a band that plays nothing but instrumentals; hell, it's hard enough for bands that have vocals. And yet Caspian has managed to carve a nice little niche for itself over the years, like fellow instrumental rock acts Explosions in the Sky and Godspeed You Black Emperor. Last month, the band celebrated its 10th anniversary by playing a show in its hometown, which just happens to be the little North Shore city in which I make my home. Caspian had played at a city-run block party last year, but I never actually saw them because I was down the street in a penned-in beer area.
The sold-out gig was at the Larcom Theatre in Beverly, Mass., a cool old venue that reminded me a little of the Orpheum in terms of its ornate features and old-school charm.
I managed to find out about the show as it was going on sale and scored myself a nice front-row center seat. Of course, the band invited fans to come up front, so I ended up standing the whole time anyway, but that was no big deal. Derek Archambault and Jay Maas of Boston hardcore act Defeater opened the show with a sharp acoustic set; the band had previously taken Caspian out on tour.
I own one Caspian album, The Four Trees, and a live EP, but I wasn't concerned. The group's music consists of intricately constructed soundscapes that build to crescendoes and wash over the listener. Bandleader-guitarist Philip Jamieson and his cohorts (which included two other guitarists, bass and drums) got right to business with an eight-song, 50+-minute opening set. Jamieson didn't say much other than to thank the audience on occasion, but vocals aren't the story with Caspian.
It was great to just get lost in the sound and light show. The second set ran another 40 minutes or so, and the band came out for an encore that included "Hymn for the Greatest Generation," which was dedicated to late bassist Chris Friedrich, who died last year. The show closed with a new song that was very much in step with the band's sound. There was an after-show down the street at the Spotlight Tavern with a couple of bands slated to play; I hung out for while with my friend Brad but we ended up leaving after talking to Jamieson. Hopefully the band will keep rolling for another decade.