The Honorary Title/Gratitude/Straylight Run/Minus the Bear
April 15, 2005 - El Corazon - Seattle, WA
by Ashley Graham

They aren’t the night’s headliners.  In fact, they aren’t even the openers for the headliners.  They are the openers for the openers of the openers.  Position aside, though, The Honorary Title leave their mark and prove that they have something to offer by being the night’s main highlight.

Performing a handful of songs off of their debut album
Anything Else But the Truth along with a few new songs, New York’s The Honorary Title is a two piece made up of vocalist Jarrod Gorbel and instrumentalist Aaron Kamstra.  Both are just getting used to the idea of stage presence, but the performance doesn’t necessarily suffer.  Gorbel could stand to be a little less confident, but maybe it, as is so rarely the case, is part of his charm.  Counterpart Kamstra is busy throughout the show flip-flopping from keyboards to bass to backing vocals with apparent ease. 

Looking beyond the horrible “emo” tag that The Honorary Title has been assigned in reviews will reveal a band with a great deal going for it – keep reading those reviews and you’ll see comparisons to Elvis Costello, Elliott Smith and Nick Drake (this listener tends to peg Gorbel as a hip Rocky Votolato set to a new soundtrack).  It would be easy to lose a band in a line-up of this size but The Honorary Title doesn’t allow for it.  They are the one band easily remembered at the end of the night’s wide variety of sounds.

Following them on stage is the latest effort from former New End Original and onelinedrawing frontman Jonah Matranga, Gratitude.  After waiting the entire set for a highlight it finally comes in the form of Matranga’s tirade about MySpace.  “Everyone on the site has that pout,” Matranga muses. “Get rid of that ‘I’m lookin’ to get laid on the internet look’ and be a freak with me!”  The crowd may be mixed on the music but seasoned vet of the stage that he is, Matranga is able to keep the show alive with his own energy and personality, even when the music is lacking it.

Gratitutde’s pop-punk noise is soon replaced by the mellower Straylight Run, also the tour’s normal headliner.  The only thing that keeps Straylight from being just another boring, sound-alike band is the presence of vocalist and keyboardist Michelle Nolan who pulls emphasis off of brother John Nolan’s whiny voice and softens its blow.  The crowd is there to see this band though and they love every minute of the performance.  Obviously there is a demand for this brand of pop, though the shouts of “I love you Michelle” are an encouraging sign that at least some of the audience knows who is saving the show too.

Seattle’s Minus the Bear closes this night of the tour with their take on the dance and keyboard-inspired 80s revival.  It’s a fresh look but it falters on a handful of songs in the set.  It’s not always as fun as it should be, but it is still among the best of the night, ranking with the enjoyable Honorary Title boys and keeping clear of the boredom that the other bands have to offer.

The tour, presented by Alternative Press and Vans, continues through May 6. 

For more information:

             The Honorary Title:
             Straylight Run:
             Minus the Bear:
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