Textbook alchemy 

Vancouver band conquers genre minefield

Who: A Textbook Tragedy with Cry Of The Afflicted

What: The Punk Night

Where: Boot Pub

When: Sunday, Oct. 2

Aggressive hardcore and jazz seem like they come from different universes. Take your average jazz club crowd and your average all-ages hardcore show and put them together in a room and inevitably you’re going to get a lot of shifting from foot to foot, clearing of throats, hands in pockets and awkward conversation killers like "okay then," and "how about that." Like oil and water, the two really don’t mix.

Either no one told the boys of Vancouver band A Textbook Tragedy, or they are simply too young and headstrong to care, but the jazz-hardcore fusion nurtured by the four-man outfit is nothing short of alchemy. Frantic larynx-destroying vocals, and manic bursts of sonic chaos mesh with graceful solos and intricate bass lines, all the while backed up by assertive drumming that suggests an understanding beyond just wanting to whack stuff. It’s disarming and disturbing all at once.

Grasping at categoric straws will result in something like "post-hardcore, experimental metal," – whatever that means. A Textbook Tragedy sits at a crossroads of jazz legends like Buddy Rich, hardcore heavies like Dillinger Escape Plan and the atmospheric loveliness of bands like Granddaddy and Explosions In The Sky, an instrumental ensemble for which the Tragedy boys harbour rapturous admiration.

"We don’t put any limits on our music so we’re going to go ahead and put in whatever we want," bass player Bill Crook remarked.

Barely out of high school, the band’s youth is an unavoidable subject. A Textbook Tragedy made the transition from the all-ages show circuit to playing bar shows as recently as last year.

"When we first made the jump to the bar scene we were playing to a whole new crowd, people we hardly didn’t know, and they’re looking up at us like: ‘who are these kids?’" Crook recalled.

But, the bass player emphasizes, the band members have been playing music all their lives, with various instruments, classical piano, and jazz and concert band experience under their thumbs. Their current project harnesses the energy of their youth with musicianship beyond their years, resulting in a potent combination of skill and enthusiasm, the source of their acceptance and their ticket out of the all-ages realm into the adult jungle.

That’s not to say they’re done with the all-ages scene, especially when it comes to the Warped Tour, for which they scored Calgary and Vancouver appearances in 2004 and 2005.

In addition to their second Warped Tour appearance, 2005 also saw the independent release of A Textbook Tragedy’s debut full-length album, A Parting Dialogue Between Ghost and Priest – an intriguing recording wrapped in Beatrix Potter-styled animorphic cover art, which the band introduced to the world in late July.

Buoyed by what Crook describes as an "extremely successful" release event in Vancouver, the band is all about taking their show on the road, visiting familiar haunts in Western Canada this fall with a tour of the States planned for early 2006.

Youth is definitely not wasted on the young in this case. The road weariness characteristic of older bands doesn’t factor with the Tragedy.

Said Crook: "we just want to be on tour for the rest of our lives."

A Textbook Tragedy plays The Punk Night at the Boot Pub this Sunday, with Kelowna’s Cry Of The Afflicted. For more information on shows at the Boot call 604-932-3338.

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