Photos + Review: Nick Johnston and Between the Buried and Me at Varsity Theatre (Minneapolis, MN)

Between the Buried and Me (Raleigh, NC), The Contortionist (Indianapolis, IN), Nick Johnston (Ontario, CN)
July 17th, 2019
Varsity Theatre in Minneapolis, MN

All throughout the night of this concert, I was reminded of the start contrast between how this night was going compared to the last time I was at Varsity Theatre for New Found Glory.

First difference was just how much easier it was for me to get in to the venue. There was no line to wait through instead of waiting 30 minutes plus for New Found Glory, and I was able to get my credentials almost right away. Already the night was going well. Besides that though, I was about to see Between the Buried and Me (my favorite band for over ten years now), a progressive metal band where it’s common to have songs last longer than 10 minutes, along with The Contortionist, another progressive metal band. And first would be Nick Johnston, a progressive rock instrumentalist and band. All three are pretty far removed from the pop punk kind of music New Found Glory play. Certainly won’t hear a cover of Let it Go. Although that would be pretty good, i have to admit.

I’m normally not the biggest fan of instrumental rock music. Bands like Chon, Hail the Sun (kinda), and Polyphia always kind bored me. It’s not that they’re bad, there just hasn’t been anything about them that have clicked with me. Nick Johnston though is one of the first instrumental progressive rock bands I’ve fallen in love with. I remember falling in love with Eric Johnson’s Cliffs of Dover from when I would play it on Guitar Hero and I get the same feeling when I listen to Nick’s music.

The band weaved in really groovy, thick riffs with melodies that don’t overpower the rest of the band and actually seem to go somewhere, get built upon and isn’t just meaningless noodling on guitar, which is usually my biggest complaint when it comes to instrumental rock. The drums sounded great and heavy at times, with cymbal work super precise and would easily put me in a trance I couldn’t stop watching. I think drumming and just drummers in general are just something I won’t ever understand as far as how they can play what they play and make it look so easy. I guess that’s why I’m a bassist.

Between the Buried and Me were the highlight of the night for me, but that’s unsurprising with them being a favorite of mine. I was super happy to hear one of my favorite songs, “Fossil Genera,” played live again. I remember either the first or second time seeing BTBAM, some fan nearby gasped out a “OMG they’re playing Fossil Genera!” I had that same thought in my head that time, but this time I knew it was coming. It was still exciting to watch one of your favorites songs played. “Coma Machine is always fun live, and sounds way better in that kind of setting. The chugging of the main riff sounds massive and this time around drummer Blake Richardson added a tasty, doo-wopy, syncopated drum rhythm to the end that I now wish was in the recording. Absolute highlight of the night was both Foam Born’s being, but with seemingly the whole audience scream singing the opening lines “I’ll just keep waiting/You’ll just keep waiting/in the cold…” which i now realize, that’s when in should have snowed.

Oh yeah that’s right, it snowed inside during “The Black Box” or “Telos,” and I got snowed on. God that was cool. I’m already wanting to see both Between the Buried and Me and Nick Johnston again.

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