Recently, three singers, all at one point affiliated with Sacramento’s post-hardcore act, Dance Gavin Dance, embarked on a tour together, each performing their own respective solo music. The tour consisted of DGD’s original frontman, Jonny Craig, fan favorite Kurt Travis, and most recent singer Tilian Pearson.
The latter end of the tour saw the trio play Warren, Michigan’s The Ritz. The venue is on the small end, with the atmosphere of a biker bar. In recent years, The Ritz has been known as a spot for many metro Detroit metal acts. I myself spent a lot of time at this place in high school seeing whatever metalcore/screamo band had a show booked that was eagerly hoping to one day get a spot on the Ernie Ball stage at Warped Tour. It’s the kind of venue that works for a show like this, a treat for the die hard fans of bands like Dance Gavin Dance to see all their singers under one roof.
The show opened with Kurt Travis. Travis is first known, and possibly best know, as the former vocalist of Dance Gavin Dance. He performed on their self-titled (AKA Death Star) and Happiness records, which many fans consider the pinnacle of DGD’s career. Travis, who has recently started a record label and has been putting out solo work for awhile now, recently announced his split with A Lot Like Birds, his follow-up work post his Dance Gavin Dance career. Don’t let that create any notions about the man, as his talent and catalog speaks for itself.
This was my 3rd time catching one of Kurt’s solo sets, and I thought I had a decent idea of what to expect. The last two times I had caught his live show, the set consisted heavily of material off Everything is Beautiful, his most recent solo full-length. However, Travis switched it up this time, incorporating more songs from his previous works, even his self-titled EP. Travis, being the opener, had the shortest set, but it’s quality over quantity, right? The man can pick a setlist, and many fans who caught the set were spotted singing along.
The night rolled on with a performance by Dance Gavin Dance’s current frontman, Tilian Pearson. Tilian, now the longest running singer of the band, has 2 records and a live album (2013’s Acceptance Speech, 2015’s Instant Gratification, and 2016’s Tree City Sessions) under his belt, with a 3rd Dance album due out very soon. Armed with a guitar and partnered with DGD’s Matt Mingus on drums, Tilian delivered a stellar live performance that set himself apart from the other performers despite their common association. While I am admittedly the least familiar with Tilian’s solo work amongst the other performers, I could appreciate his style and bravado, and I could tell the fans did as well.
Jonny Craig headlined this tour. Why? I don’t know. Watching Craig perform in 2016 is like waiting for a train to derail. While he managed to maintain a decent performance with the help of his gospel vocal style that he’s carved out for his own niche in the post-hardcore and hard rock community, Craig’s set was plagued with temper tantrums and other cringe-inducing moments. It was a “classic” Jonny Craig performance you would always hear stories about. Craig is aware that everyone knows about his vices and mishaps, and it’s become clear that he doesn’t care. This was more than confirmed with his declarative, mid-performance shout, “After I’m done performing, I’m gonna go over to the bar and get black-out drunk, and you can suck my fucking dick if you have a problem with me saying it!” That wasn’t the only mishap this performance. He frequently called out fans, even having some removed from the show for cheering him on too loud between songs. No, I’m not kidding. The highlight of Craig’s performance, and I use that term lightly, was his woeful cover of Drake’s “Marvin’s Room.” Craig has the most extensive catalog of music of the performers here, so why he resorted to such an uninspired cover is beyond me, but it made for a good laugh amongst the disgust at what I was watching. Still, the fans that weren’t belittled by the performer seemed to genuinely enjoy his performance, and who am I to take that away from them.
The tour is over now, but I would definitely recommend seeing a solo Tilian or Kurt Travis show if you ever have the opportunity. As for Jonny Craig, skip it, don’t even give him the time of day. Still, the fact that this tour was even a possibility is a fantastic treat for any Dance Gavin Dance fan. (Johnny Athey)