There is no other way to describe the mentality behind fans of The Sound of Animals Fighting aside from a cult of inspired and dedicated people. We’re loud, unforgiving, passionate and infatuated with every mystery laced into whatever TSOAF creates. We’ve been begging for new material since ’08, grinding the rumor mills speculating when their next record would appear, grasping at straws filling ourselves with seemingly empty hope. We waited for them to come out of their tour-slumber for eight years, as if waiting for our long-lost lovers, praying to the Gods of each member’s respective genres for a new tour and material.
Compiled of some of the most creative and interesting talent, The Sound of Animals Fighting is a supergroup of a unique nature. Founded by Rich Balling (RX Bandits), TSOAF is a band that has evolved and included so many members during their trilogy of albums, that each one both reminds fans why they love TSOAF while introducing something we never expected. Ranging from progressive to psychedelic and experimental, TSOAF always bring something inspiring to the table with their intricate lyricism often in the form of spoken word. Their last and only tour prior to this one featured members wearing various animal masks, prolonging the anonymity of the musicians allowing fans to only focus on the music itself (although realistically, we knew who they were anyway).
Since that tour in ’06, we’ve been itching for the day TSOAF would emerge from their personal bands and projects to bless us begging fans with a second tour (that reached a little more than just the West Coast).
This year was finally the year our prayers were answered. Seven shows. Four on the East Coast. Me at the first one on the docket.
Waiting for the set to start in the dimly lit Trocadero in Philly last Thursday, the anticipation was so heavy I had to hold my breath to make sense of it. Part of me was anxious and half anticipating literal sounds of animals fighting to come across the speakers, mocking us all for being so addicted to the music. A few slow-claps later and the stage still loomed over us, empty and taunting. We all fidgeted, curious, anxious, and protective of the space we were holding, knowing full well that when the music started the rush forward would make it nearly impossible to hold your ground.
Just when the crowd started getting restless, and I could hardly hold my breath any longer, Matt Kelly (The Autumns) took center stage as “Overture,” off Tiger and the Duke echoed through the theater. With anonymous people donning orange morph-suits at his feet, Kelly embarked on an acapella version of “The Heretic,” sending goosebumps across my body, the entire crowd still holding their breath.
Perhaps one of the most incredibly ambitious performances I have ever witnessed, TSOAF managed to craft the perfect setlist even without my personal favorites, Lauren Coleman and Charlene Rogers there to perform their spoken word live.
Anthony Green (Saosin, Circa Survive) commanded the stage with enough energy to fuel a small country, while Chris Tsagakis (RX Bandits) wailed on drums and Matt Embree (RX Bandits) and Steve Choi (Rx Bandits) owned guitar. Every time Rich Balling took center stage it was impossible to tear your eyes away from him, singing from deep within his chest. The crowd was an entity all its own, pulsing with the cadence of each song, as the music swept over us like waves as we constantly hungered for more. You could tell all the members of TSOAF were just as excited to be there, absorbing the energy of the room and throwing it right back at us.
Keeping my distance from the pit and trying to avoid the elbows in front of me that kept smacking me in the chest, it was the first show in a long time I was able to ignore my lack of personal space and respect I had because the performance was so captivating. Seeing songs performed live that I had been dreaming of since I was fifteen was life altering, and the band had made sure of it.
More morph-suit-cladded unknowns lined the stage in yellow and blue to create The Ocean and the Sun, symbolizing the group’s third and most recent record. And later again in red-suits holding picture frames around their anonymous faces. It was like having a bunch of pieces to different puzzles, yet finding a way that they all fit.
Carefully designed (or at least with the appearance of intricate planning), TSOAF’s stage presence was reflective of the uniquely special aspect their music provides. While we all carry TSOAF’s songs with us deep in our hearts, it was very powerful to have visuals just as beautiful to go along with the music.
As if searching for something to complain about, I was disappointed that “Skullflower” hadn’t been performed, and was speedily consoled with TSOAF’s encore, one fitting enough to live up to how incredible the rest of the show was.
I can’t imagine where the tour has progressed from the opening night, I only wish I could’ve attended (or afforded) its entirety. Not only was the show more than a million times worth traveling back up to Philly for, it hopefully means that the crew has plans for new material on the horizon (and hopefully a Baltimore show thrown in there).