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Trioscapes comes to Birmingham
At 8 p.m. on a cool Monday night in Woodlawn (a neighborhood in Birmingham, Alabama), bassist Dan Briggs, 28, stepped out of his car onto 1st Avenue North with a takeout order from Shangri La.
With only 30 minutes to go before the show, Briggs didn’t have enough time to eat his vegan meal. He took a quick bite, left his dinner in the band’s North Carolina van and walked into a DIY venue, The Forge, to sell some merchandise.
A little after 8:30 p.m., the opener Evan Brewer came on. Brewer played his set on the stage by himself with only a bass and a laptop to his right. The former bassist for Animosity now plays the same instrument in The Faceless. Dan and his bandmates, saxophonist Walter Fancourt, 21, and drummer Matt Lynch, 27, stood together at the front right of the floor and watched attentively.
The Forge opened up very recently and it’s entirely run by volunteers. The egg white walls are still in need of a new layer of paint, the grey stage is only a foot above the ground, and wires are seen running through the right side. The stage area has a few ceiling tiles missing, an out of place ceiling fan, a couple of fluorescent ceiling lights, and a black curtain behind the band’s equipment. When the music starts, one incandescent light bulb on the front left of the stage illuminates their presence while the subpar sound system tries to capture all of the noise. The venue is about 50 feet in width and maybe 200 feet in length, certainly a work in progress.
There are only fifteen people in the crowd. Briggs is used to all of this.
“This kind of show is fun, it’s intimate,” expressed Briggs. It costs $8 to catch this particular lineup, but seeing Dan play bass with progressive metal band Between the Buried and Me typically costs around $25.
Brewer and Briggs met in 2007, and their acts have toured together off and on ever since. Brewer, a Nashville native, joined Trioscapes for their shows in Knoxville, Nashville and Birmingham. The trio more than welcomed him to come along.
After Brewer was done with his set, Trioscapes started warming up. This is their first chance all day to practice.
“We don’t usually do a sound check,” said Briggs. “If the venue allows us to, maybe we’ll do it, but loading in and out equipment and all of that stuff takes up most of the time. I never usually write [music] on the road either. If I do, it’s usually with my headphones on playing on a little MIDI keyboard.”
The set kicked off at around 9:15, and it was clearly apparent that there was no need for a sound check. These guys went right into percussion grooves while changing time signatures seamlessly. To call them an afrobeat or jazz fusion group would only narrow the range of what these guys do. Fancourt busted out his flute for one piece and Lynch made the sounds of a tabla—a pair of small drums attached together —with an electronic drum pad on another song.
With their last song being the shortest, clocking in at a little over five minutes, the other four jams went on for no less than seven minutes. Briggs and Fancourt were trading off licks while Lynch held together a dense, technical beat.
Even though there’s an age gap between the two older members and the younger Fancourt, Trioscapes sees that as an aid for their sound.
“I guess that’s what’s great about it,” said Briggs. “Every group I’m in, everybody has different influences. I think if I were in a group where everyone always had the same influences, you’d have less of a drive to push yourself out of the box.”
Much like the way the band was conceived, each member is using the time off from their main projects to promote Trioscapes’ debut album Separate Realities.
“I play in an alternative rock band called Reptar,” said Fancourt, whose name was mentioned to Briggs by a handful of mutual friends before Dan finally contacted Walter. “I started playing with them about five months ago. I did some playing at the end of the Rubblebucket tour.”
“I was in a band called Eyris, it’s more on the progressive side,” said Lynch. Briggs and Lynch met while Eyris was opening up for Between the Buried and Me back in 2009. “I fill in for random people every now and then.”
The general reception towards Separate Realities has been pretty positive so far.
“For a lot of people, the album’s something they haven’t quite heard,” said Briggs. “Whether it’s fans of heavier music that haven’t listened to much jazz or vice versa, I haven’t really seen any horrible reviews so far.”
I think there was one review in Outburn Magazine where they didn’t understand the music? They said there was too much saxophone. There’s only three of us! We can’t just keep learning new instruments,” Briggs stated jokingly.
On their first tour going south of Georgia, Trioscapes is selling a limited edition live album with four tracks on it (it’s really good). This is particularly interesting, considering they’ve only been a group for a year with a small repertoire of songs.
“I’ve been to shows where the bands had tour-only merchandise and I went nuts over it,” explained Briggs.
“The band Cave In did a CD when they were at Lollapalooza that had like five or six songs. They played ‘Dazed and Confused’ by Led Zeppelin and other originals that were so good. I failed to get one at the show and I ended up buying a copy on eBay years later for an embarrassing amount of money, like $45-50. I had to have it to complete my collection because I was obsessive. To me it was like, you know, whatever, I’ll see them next time. And then they didn’t fucking tour for another six years. I kicked myself for a long time. I’ve always wanted to do an exclusive offer like that.”
When asked what city they were looking forward to playing next on this tour, the three musicians in unison quickly answered “San Juan, Puerto Rico.”
The band ended their fantastic set right at 10 p.m., finishing with their most popular song “Blast Off” (it currently has over 95,000 views on YouTube). After packing up, talking to fans and signing autographs, the trio got in the van. Dan finally had an opportunity to eat his dinner.
They started the engine and headed towards a friend’s place 45 minutes south of Birmingham to cut some time off of the next day’s drive to Tallahassee.