Sunday, February 25th was my second time seeing Nothing More. The first being at the Aztec Theater in San Antonio last year. And compared to the tight, slanted ground of the Aztec Theater—forcing the audience to remain still during the show—the band thrived with the wide-open slab inside Emo’s here in Austin, Texas.
The band opened with “Christ Copyright” from their self-titled album from 2014, and that was enough of a hitter to immediately open up the pit. And due to the hard rock flavor of the music, this pit was more inviting with more individuals filling its gaps. While on the extreme side of audience participation, the pit is once again a great metaphor for the audience interaction with the band. Many were singing every lyric (though the less known tracks such as “First Punch” had a noticeably smaller volume) and dancing to the music.
The pit and the show took off with the track “Let ‘em Burn.” The song appears early on the band’s Grammy-nominated release The Stories We Tell Ourselves. Through a vicious beat that filled the room and lyrics that spit blame onto humanity as a collective for the world’s problems, this song roared. This energy carried to the not-as-hard-hitting tracks of “Mr. MTV” (which I did indeed crowd surf during), “Don’t Stop,” “Ripping Me Apart,” and “Go to War.”
To give a diatribe of how strong the music’s effect on this fan-filled crowd, during the aforementioned performance of “Don’t Stop,” I was moshing (as I had been the entire show), and a burly, long-haired man shoved (more of threw) my scrawny body five feet to land on my buttocks. After taking a much-needed squat, the energy of the song (or my own lack of intelligence) launched me back into the pit to continue moshing the rest of the show.
Even continuing moshing during the softer track “Here’s to the Heartache,” which the bands performance combined with the atmosphere was delightful.
A weakness many bands face is with the awkward transition from heavy to soft back to heavy. Nothing More does it better than most due not only to their auditory transition tracks between songs (many of which come directly off The Stories We Tell Ourselves) but also to their strong confidence/lack of fear towards just doing them. Instead of slowly winding down to softer tracks and winding slowly back up. The band—contrary to their last performance in San Antonio—just makes the jumps.
For example, after “Got to War” is “Just Say When,” the softest track they’ve ever done. And then, they jump back up to “Do You Really Want It”; down to “Here’s to the Heartache” and “Fade In/Fade Out; then back up again for “Jenny.” During this performance, the band takes the audience on a stormy wave of emotions. And sometimes it can be a little jarring and even disappointing for example going down after “Do You Really Want It.” But this is still by the far the best effort I have seen from a band.
What also pushes Nothing More’s sets from being standard fare to something to witness is their use of props and stage equipment. In the middle of the set, bassist Daniel Oliver straps his bass to an arm and begins along with guitarist Mark Volleluga to play drums on the bass guitar. Hawkins eventually joins the bass drum to create this highly rhythmic groove, in the vain of Phillip Glass. Later, Hawkins swings around on an elevated platform while pulling voice modulation levers and sound effects during their surprisingly decent cover of “First of the Year (Equinox)” by Skrillex.
I hope it doesn’t sound like I am orgasming with love for this performance to the point of sounding like an advertisement, but this truly was one of the strongest performances from a rock band I have seen.
Nothing More is a rare band that is bold enough to put an acoustic ballad in the same set as “This is the Time” (which I also crowd surfed during).
The band closed their set with a classic reminder by frontman Johnny Hawkins that “this band does not do encores... for two reasons: they’re fake, and they’re fake.” Then the band propelled into “Burn the Witch (Salem)” from their rarely paraded debut album The Few Not Fleeting. During this performance, the band skipped the second verse and sprung into a drum solo with drummer Ben Anderson and lead singer Hawkins and the help of the Volleluga and Oliver, who held drums in the air like a Broadway show for Hawkins. It was quite a site.
Although the additions of “Fade In/Fade Out” and “First Punch” to their 2017 setlist for this performance did help it feel fresh and exciting, I was, however, disappointed by the once again abandoning of anything from The Few Not Fleeting (except “Burn the Witch (Salem)” of course). It would have been nice to hear at least one other song from this album such as “Fat Kid” or “The Cleansing,” but I understand it is not that popular of an album.
Nothing More is wonderful live, and even if the albums don’t fully win you over, I would still recommend due to the captivating energy of not only the band but the spectators beneath them.