La Dispute / Title Fight

Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON, April 1

Photo: Matt Forsythe

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Apr 2, 2015

Had Title Fight and La Dispute opted to give their current co-headlining tour a name, the two bands should have pushed to label it the "Will Yip Experience Tour," named for the Pennsylvania producer both bands have recorded with. Yip's name appeared in production credits for La Dispute's acclaimed 2014 record Rooms of the House, as well as all of Title Fight's recorded material from the past three years (2012's Floral Green, 2013's Spring Songs, 2015's Hyperview), and the two are some of the hottest acts in the current world of punk and post-hardcore music. The reasons for that were on full display before a packed Phoenix Concert Theatre, where both headliners made sure to give their faithful a good look at their newest material.
Title Fight took the stage first, with a set dominated by Floral Green fan favourites and the new sonic approach of this year's Hyperview material, first lulling fans into a trance with the dreamy "Murder Your Memory." Though all the band's instruments sat well amongst each other in the mix, vocalist/guitarist Jamie Rhoden's lower register vocal work in the early going on tracks such as "Chlorine" and "Like a Ritual" had a tough time breaking through the wall of distorted guitars and crashing drums, rendering some lyrics inaudible. While this was more of an engineering problem that was out of the band's control, he sounded good when his vocals were able to punch through to the forefront.
Similar problems got the better of vocalist/bassist Ned Russin's forceful shouting, though one could also attribute it to his enthusiastic stage moves. The most animated band member without question, his shortness of breath forced him to work a bit harder in the more demanding moments of "Leaf" and "Make You Cry," reaching high up into his register to belt out their anthemic choruses. Taking a welcome break from the harsher vocals with the mid-set cool-down of "Your Pain Is Mine Now" seemed to do the two vocalists good; both got their range back for the roaring "Symmetry," much to the delight of the more veteran fans in attendance.
Each member's command of his instrument was enough to get the audience (who were more than delighted to help out by singing along) to overlook the vocal issues. Rhoden's chunky, distorted six-string riffing complemented Shane Moran's jangly clean tone well, adding emphasis to the group's softer material, while Ben Russin's drumming was impressively precise, holding down a strong rhythm section with his brother on bass. Rarely taking a minute to breathe between tracks, the group found ways to cleverly transition between songs, either with brief jam sections or seamless tempo changes. While not every song in Title Fight's catalogue is known to incite a mosh, the crowd swayed along to the more docile "Liar's Love," "Lefty" and the slow-burning "Head in the Ceiling Fan" before sending the Kingston, PA natives on their way by singing along to a rousing rendition of "Secret Society."
Grand Rapids crew La Dispute kept the energy level high with an incredibly tight set of their own to close out the evening, leading off with the driving "King Park," to which the audience knew every word. Frontman Jordan Dreyer was a joy to watch, moving about the stage in an energetic fashion. Though he told the crowd he was taking it a bit easier, having fallen three times during the previous evening's set in Pittsburgh, he showed no signs of cautiousness as he leapt to the front of the guard rail to lead the enthusiastic crowd in several moments of call-and-response.
He shifted between his forceful shout and quieter, melodic clean vocals in delivering his poetic lyrical work from Rooms of the House cuts "First Reactions After Falling Through the Ice," and "For Mayor in Splitsville." His bandmates were as up to task as he was, shifting between moments both rocking ("Stay Happy There," "You and I in Unison") and reserved ("A Letter," "Woman (In Mirror)" with ease, sending the audience home with an impressive encore highlighted by the stunning 12-minute epic "The Last Lost Continent."


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