By Mike Flanagan
The only way to describe The Receiving End of Sirens’ set at the Middle East on Wednesday is to say that when TREOS goes on, whether there’s alcohol involved or not, I black out.
My friend Garrett and I discussed this phenomenon on our drive from the South Shore to Cambridge—it’s almost impossible to explain TREOS to people who don’t already love TREOS.
People who know us now might find it hard to picture us melding in with sweaty bodies, grabbing the soaked collars of similarly entranced strangers, screaming overly aggressive lyrics to a salvo of drop-C guitar chugs and pounding our chests to the double kick drum during the breakdowns.
Sure, that kind of catharsis is what drew us to TREOS shows in high school—what red-blooded, suburban high school kid doesn’t want an excuse to use someone’s head to vault himself up to kick other people in the head with no consequence? It was an undeniably age-appropriate release, even more so because we were in a band that hoped and dreamed of one day becoming TREOS.
That band has long since broken up, and so has TREOS. Now we’re “adults.” When we go to shows, we stand and bob our heads calmly. We have a few beers. We appreciate the music and the performance, almost like intellectuals.
Furthermore, I am a “music critic,” and I often catch myself wearing that hat all too well. Sometimes, I won’t let myself enjoy a show. I look around at the kids toppling over each other in the pit. That was me in a simpler time, but now my taste and critical ear is far too nuanced. In a few years, they’ll be where I am. They don’t know it, but I do.
When TREOS reunites, as they have for just a few one-off shows since they disbanded in 2008, that highfalutin horseshit flies out the window.
Even still, I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle myself in the crowd this time around. The first reunion show happened in spring 2010—roughly the two-year of their ‘hiatus.’ My friends and I got our tickets as fast as we could—one even knowingly overdrew his bank account because he didn’t know if the tickets would last until he deposited his next check. They didn’t. And we all let loose like it was 2006.
My neighbor and closest friend through childhood showed me one of the earliest TREOS songs—“Bell, Book and Candle”—when we were in sevent grade. Back then, the barely legal local buddies were playing pseudo-venues like the long-since-defunct All About Records in Taunton and the American Legion in Norwood.
Two years later, TREOS had “made it.” They signed to Triple Crown Records, recorded Between the Heart and the Synapse (2005), and toured the country full-time. By then, everyone I was close with adopted TREOS as their favorite band. We went to absurd lengths to make our way to almost every show they played within 100 miles, many of which occurred before any of us could drive.
After a lineup change, another album, and the birth of Brown’s son, TREOS disbanded to rabid and intensely supportive Providence and Boston crowds. That regional crowd was every bit as present on Wednesday as it was in 2008. TREOS is OUR band. And they wouldn’t keep playing for us every couple of years if they didn’t agree.
This time could have been different. I actually had the opportunity to sit with the bassist, co-lead singer, and principle songwriter Brendan Brown a few weeks ago. We talked for a little over an hour about his new life as a traditional father, husband, and non-rockstar, his fondest memories from TREOS’s heyday, and how the reunion shows come together.
“We wouldn’t keep playing if we didn’t still love playing together,” he said.
On Wednesday, when the lights dissipated and TREOS broke into the opening chorus of “Planning a Prison Break,” it happened—I blacked out and I can’t remember a thing.
I was very close to the front of the stage, but I still couldn’t tell you what anyone in the band was wearing, what songs they played (thought I presume they played most of their two albums’ worth of songs), or what their stage setup was.
All I know is that something switched in my brain and I let loose. I found my friends in the crowd, lost them again, left for water and fresh air (I really am getting too old for this), and finally reconvened with Garrett, whose leg brace holding in a broken knee had been torn to shreds. He had lost his shirt somewhere during the set, after TREOS ended with the almost universal fan-favorite, “This Armistice.
After digesting the spotty yet intensely satisfying experience, I realized that Brown wasn’t just trying to make me feel comfortable when he said that it would be a cathartic experience for all of us during our interview.
The six guys in the band needed this as much as we, the fans, needed it. It’s still a healthy release for everyone, whether we’re 15, 18, 22, or 32.
Photo by Jessica Sheck (Flickr)
About Mike -- I graduated with a degree in journalism from Emerson College in December. I've done investigative work for the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and covered beats in Bridgewater and Dorchester, but my passion is music. When I'm not blurring the line between obsession and enjoyment while listening to Pavement or Bruce Springsteen, I'm punching walls over the Celtics. Twitter:@mikeflanagan2.
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