It's a damn shame that naked emotion in rock has been given such a bad rap. After all the corporate misery of the early 2000s, it's pretty hard to be sad about anything in a way that's not cliché. Sure, under certain circumstances you can get away with it – like if you're from Canada or if you only record albums in log cabins on scratchy eight-tracks – but for the most part songwriters treat their discontent at a distance.
Not so for The Lifeline. Their very existence is a big fuck you to the manufacturing of bands like My Chemical Romance. This self-made, unsigned fivesome adopts the semi-goth aesthetic, but packs it with real talent and real affect. Their unplugged gig at the 44th Ward demonstrated a spectacular craftsmanship and attention to detail that would blow all sorts of "emo" out of the water.
The atmosphere of the 44th Ward's back room accompanied the set appropriately. The band was barely lit by anything other than red candlelight, and the drum platform was framed with black stage curtains. It was like a séance, only no one asked me if I knew a dead person with a "J" name. Luckily, the band members themselves had no presumptions of morbidity. After all, who says dedicated musicians can't wear all black and tune their guitars by candlelight every now and again?
"It's kind of funny to play these songs like this," Ryan Hope, guitarist and lead vocalist, said of the mostly acoustic setup (the bass was the only electric instrument). "We're usually a balls-out rock band. But I always say if your songs don't translate to this, you've got to go back to the drawing board." While "unplugged set" may evoke the image of a relaxed, slow performance, the Lifeline delivered no such thing. The clean sound never dampened the band's energy, instead allowing Hope's powerful voice and conservatory-trained Rebecca Faber's violin to become the primary forces propelling each song forward. Hope soared along at the top of his range, never breaking or wavering out of key. Most notably on "Romeo and Juliet," Faber's violin flickered commandingly over the other instrumentation. Each song retained a meticulous urgency as the band demonstrated nakedly their prowess for rawness and drama – both good things for once.
-Review and photo by Sasha Geffen