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Tiger Army/The Unseen/Lost City Angels- April 2005

            In the grand scheme of the universal punk scene, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has long fought to be substantially put on the map (excluding hometown gem Anti-Flag.) One April ’05 night, however, was exceptional in the fact that it superbly showcased national favorites in an intimate setting.

            The first group to ascend the stage at Mr. Small’s Theatre was the rising Boston quintet Lost City Angels. Although their set was not as anticipated by the crowd as the two to follow, most of the LCA tracks were surprisingly bright, resembling certain aspects of Social Distortion, coincidentally their former tourmates.

            Somewhere towards the middle of the set, lead singer Nick Bacon decided that the audience’s attempt to form a circle pit wasn’t adequate. Consequently, he encouraged guitarists Drew Suxx and Ronnie as well as bassist Duggan D. to fling water onto the funhouse floor to create a massive gyrating slip-n-slide. Although several spectators slipped and/or slid as a result, the moshers’ brother- (and even sister-) hood uncannily strengthened from this event.

            The duration of LCA’s playing time concluded uneventfully, and the audience members seemed to silently wonder if they had the patience to endure an entire set change to witness the Unseen in action.

            During this downtime, there was an adjustment made to the bar’s entrance security personnel roster. This adjustment created somewhat of a traditional British atmosphere of a punk show because the new attendant resembled a motionless palace guard at whom one would thoroughly enjoy making humorous gestures but didn’t pay the $11.50 cover charge to do so.

            Finally the Unseen mounted the stage with genuine enthusiasm, and the spectators soon reinstated their excited fervor.

While the also-Boston-natives commenced their half-hour crusade against today’s political structure and staff, the circle pit also reformed with much greater dimensions. [Note from TDA: From a wallflower’s standpoint, these mosh pits can seem quite foreign. Each of the participants skips around until he/she smacks into someone familiar, pats this individual on the back, then thrusts him/herself back into the counterclockwise vortex, kickflipping and flailing erratically.]

A nearby spectator remarked in observation that the venue wasn’t filled to capacity; this came as a surprise because the Unseen are so well adored in Pittsburgh. To those who were in attendance, the band then provided a glimpse into hardcore history with a chilling rendition of the Misfits’ “Halloween.”

Thrilling their captivated audience members with more of their intense repertoire, the Unseen continued with the mosh pit ever thriving.

Vocalist Mark Unseen belted out a crowd favorite, “Scream Out,” and was quick to emphasize its presence on Vol. 2 of the “Rock Against Bush” soundtrack—another testament to the group’s political maladies. One young crowdsurfer suddenly found himself onstage, and a jovial Mark pushed him back into the crowd’s outstretched arms.

The dynamic set then continued with the outspoken “So This Is Freedom?” Bolstering the group’s painfully obvious standpoint on the state of the union, the energy vaulted from the stage and yet again cast the attendees into a seemingly choreographed frenzy. Near the end of this aggressive tune, one of a female patron’s enormous liberty spikes flopped over, striking her square in the face—a humorous coincidence, considering the song’s outward theme.

After a few more tracks and a plug for their May 2005 album “State of Discontent” on Hellcat Records, the set ended with the hollowed-out church filled with people begging for more. Drummer Pat Melzard twirled his sticks in response, and the Unseen exited the stage peacefully with all eyes on them.

There was a brief interlude until the road crew was back to work for Tiger Army’s 30-plus minutes of limelight.

Back at the merch area, Mark quietly escaped to sell Unseen wares and converse with few fans who noticed his subtle re-entry into the venue. One enthusiastic admirer darted up and, holding out his newly acquired vinyl copy of the Unseen’s “Explode,” asked Mark for an autograph. Without missing a beat, Mark spit on the album and handed it back to the blatantly befuddled fan. “Good enough!” the teen exclaimed, making his way back into the mass of punks, Goths, skins, and other random scenesters representing their respective subcultures.

Ten minutes pass, and the audience members decided they’d had enough. Each person vainly seemed to assume that his/her chanting would quicken the Earth’s rotation and cause time to pass more rapidly, because the diehard Tiger Army fans took to shouting their famous battle cry, “Tiger Army—Never Die!”

A few more check-check-one-two’s and the trio come onstage to an irritatingly endearing country tune—one of the several styles that influence their psychobilly act.

The group dove into their portion of the show with “True Romance,” a gripping love-betrayal-revenge number from their self-titled 1999 debut album.

Tiger Army continued with “When Night Comes Down,” a true capture of their high caliber of musicianship. Bassist Geoff Kresge of AFI and Blanks 77 fame was outstandingly proficient on his upright bass; in one track, he and his trademark sunglasses enjoyed an especially crowd-pleasing solo. Following were melodic and sweet “From the Darkness,” and “Cupid’s Victim,” a cheer-inducing favorite.

Finally came the band’s signature anthem, “Never Die.” The chorused cries of overwhelmed fans, the worming, flailing crowdsurfers, and the stage lights conveniently strobing off of the billowing cigarette smoke actually created quite an ambience, however untraditional that may seem.

Captivated, the spectators begged for an encore. The band members appeared to be amused by this enthusiasm as they hastily commenced the punctuating track, “Under Saturn’s Shadow.”

The Tiger Army set concluded with several farewells and thank-you’s as the crowd (including Anti-Flag frontman Justin Sane) filtered out into the surrounding street to fraternize and discuss the night’s rare sequence of events.

And so the night drew to a close, leaving the Steel City’s fans with concrete memories of a tour stop that afforded Pittsburgh simultaneously musical and geographical significance.

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