On Tuesday, July 12, The Merrow hosted bands from all over the United States. Kicking off the night was Colorado’s Wayfarer, which seemed odd since they were portrayed to be the headliners. Though the band seemed thrown off that they didn’t get a larger turnout, Wayfarer were certainly the highlight of an otherwise underwhelming evening. Their ambient, dry approach to black metal used many tempo changes and elongated, atmospheric passages to reflect their mountainous, Denver background. The band had quite the handle on their instruments, but their stage presence needed some work. Drummer Isaac Faulk seemed to be aesthetically the most dynamic, and bassist Joey Truscelli helped by moving around more towards the end of their set. But my biggest gripe was that when Shane McCarthy and Tanner Rezabek traded vocals, they both sounded practically identical. And I don’t expect all bands to have the same vocal contrasts as the likes of Nile or Exhumed, but I personally didn’t see the point of trading vocals when they sounded that similar. Wayfarer has crafted something unique, but improvements in their stage presence would go far.
Next to perform were Portland, Maine’s Falls of Rauros. What little steam they had upon starting their set was quickly lost due to their overly-drawn out clean passages and merciless reverb. This was a pattern in their set: engaging parts would last for a few seconds but were eclipsed by the following 8 minutes of polished but unenthusiastic riffing. Furthermore, the band had their backs and sides turned towards the crowd for the majority of their set and made practically no effort to interact with the audience. I was especially excited to see a band travel so far from home to play San Diego, but Falls of Rauros didn’t offer much for this experience. They also slumped into the pitfall of having alternate vocalists who sounded identical and gave off the vibe that they simply didn’t want to be there, which surprised me when they sheepishly decided to do an encore. While I’m all for bands that divert from the traditional path of grim-and-frostbitten satanic black metal, Falls of Rauros missed the mark.
Not much can be said for Old Man Wizard either unfortunately. I was eager to finally see the band since they’ve been a common name in the San Diego music scene for quite some time, but their set wasn’t engaging. Old Man Wizard has a unique vision and an intriguing approach to music, but they had difficulty translating that into a live setting. The triple harmonies sounded incohesive, and the awkward stage movements and self-deprecation between songs certainly didn’t help. Maybe it was an off night for the trio, but their live performance was lackluster compared to the dynamic presence on their recorded music.