March 12, 2010 – Columbus rockers Afortiori, composed of Daniel Erb on vocals and guitar, D White on guitar, John Richardson on bass, Nile Carpenter playing Cello, Terry Gibson playing drums, and Josh Keating manning the keyboard, played The Basement on Neil avenue with fellow Columbus natives The Phantods, Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned (NY), Family of the Year (CA), and Aficionado (NY).

Dan, Terry, John, and Nile make waves on stage at The Basement

I had come to The Basement that night with every intention of writing my inaugural review for this site on the Phantods. I arrived with girlfriend in tow to see and hear what could be our, or at least her, last Phantods show for the foreseeable future. Expectant as always of a great showing by the indomitable carnival rockers, I came to an impasse by the end of the night after I had my first live encounter with Afortiori. Not to say that Phantods weren’t in top form, because they were. Unveiling new songs from their forthcoming record that were not only great songs, but displayed an evolution of their unique brand of music into as yet uncharted waters. I was impressed. My dilemma lie in the fact that I had seen the Phantods before and even though Gretchen (vocals/keyboard), Dan (guitar), Nate (bass), Keenan (drums), and Kyle (guitar/keys/vibraslap) were out there kicking ass, I was enamored with the newness that is Afortiori. Let me tell you why.

Afortiori have a sound that is part angry, part indie. They are wailing and howling, but at the same time are so kinetic that you find yourself wanting to stomp around the room and throw your body in to those that are milling about around you. Entirely immersed in the ebb and flow of the sea that is their music it comes as a surprise when the song comes to an end. Now some listeners might find Dan Erb’s voice to be little too close on the side of Julian Casablancas but I felt that it really graced the music very well in keeping with the careening dynamic of the music and fortunately it didn’t linger there too long at any given time. I did wonder to myself whether or not I was going to be able to hear all the different musical identities with the stage being so crowded and the volume so high. Thankfully I could. Not all the time, but enough that when all the musical voices weren’t combined in a twisting crescendo I could hear Nile play his cello and Josh pick out cords on his keyboard. Maybe the most unique thing about this band is that neither D White or Dan Erb can be pegged down as rhythm or lead guitar. Playing with and off each other, they intertwined so well that you had to try and watch what they were doing with their hands to figure out who was doing what. Most of the time I didn’t really care who was doing what as long as it was there to be greedily consumed by my ears.

Dan Erb addresses the mic

While the entire set was to be commended, two songs stood out to me above the rest. “Cleopatra” and “Keep your distance” are both songs that demonstrate the essence of this band. Feeling akin to Modest Mouse and Sigur Ros there is a stifled aggression here that is only allowed to raise it’s head once or twice on the recordings but really took a chunk out of the audience when played live. Truth be told, I enjoyed the songs more at the venue than on their recordings. For one they were faster, which was probably a by-product of performance anxiety due to the fact it was their first headlining show, and they were also more insistent. They begged and grabbed at me with a kind of desperation born and raised to have the sharp teeth it needs to survive in a musical landscape irradiated by nuclear waste spilled from the likes of Daughtrey and John Mayer. This was real and earnest and painful. True rock n’ roll and in being so it earned my respect.

I have to say that the only low point of the night was Erb’s solo song. I wasn’t really a fan. I like the whole ensemble too much to see it broken apart and stripped down to what is probably it’s heart and soul. That might sound a little strange…I can hear you saying “But Joel, isn’t that what we want to hear in music; isn’t that what’s important?!” Maybe. Probably. It just happens to be my humble opinion that the band makes the band, not the man makes the band. It wasn’t a bad song. In it I could hear the foundations and building blocks of the sound of Afortiori and that was appreciated. But there was a reason that five people got together and are making the music that it has become. Because that’s what it needs to be. Not a lone guitar and a man with a microphone.

In conclusion, Afortiori is a band to watch and a band to go see. Your $5 dollars some Friday night could be spent on much worse things. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed and you might actually get something out of it. You can find these guys on the web at http://www.myspace.com/afortiorimusica . They are currently in the studio working on an EP that should be ready soon. Stay attached and alive dear readers there is more to come.