Coheed and Cambria – Gainesville

Coheed Cambria Review
Gainesville, FL

The first time I ever got to see the mighty Coheed and Cambria they were touring with Thursday and Thrice. They played a sold-out show at the House of Blues in Orlando circa 2002. The second time they were opening for The Used at the now defunct Club 5 in Jacksonville, then again at the now defunct Freebird Live in Jacksonville Beach, that time as headliners. There are not many bands that I would go way out of my way to see live and review over and over again, but if I even sense that they will be coming within a hundred mile radius of me it would feel wrong not to be in attendance.

Coheed Cambria Review Travis Stever Venue Gainesville
Travis Stever of Coheed and Cambria at Venue in Gainesville. Photo by Ivan Correa.

Coheed and Cambria have been doing their thing for over 20 years now. Though they are older and and more road-worn it seems to have done little to slow them down.

The Venue is the former Florida Theater in Gainesville. The line wrapped around the building as it became apparent that the rumored 6 pm doors were not going to happen. 6 o’clock doors turned into 7 and then 7:30 doors. A menacing security guard paced the line looking for a reason to overstep his authority. Rat rods and cars that looked like circus reject nightmares rumbled up and down University Ave, revving their engines and lightly dusting the line with black smoke.

The Venue is one of the more interesting spots I have ever been to for a concert. Parts of the venue feels like a speakeasy. This was not only due to the venue’s post-apocalyptic lighting scheme that made it difficult to see your hand in front of your face, but also because the couches found throughout seemed to be straight out of the nightclub scenes in Scarface. The bar right next to the stage and the neon signage only served to reinforce these ideas.

Polyphia was a new name to me. I listened to a few songs on the way to Gainesville and the hype was just not there to be had. Instrumental bands can be great, though for me it is usually only recognized in a live setting. Polyphia certainly are a talented 4-piece but despite the guitar prowess of Timothy Henson, the spectacle lacked the depth of a future headliner.

Saves the Day were the other side of the Coheed and Cambria coin for me. This pairing, when I saw it listed, struck me in such an odd way that I knew I would regret missing this show. Each act on the bill is or has been associated with Equal Vision Records at some point in their career. Chris Conley, the only remaining member from their Equal Vision days, came out looking more like Chris McCandless. I struggled to see a glimpse of the youthful energy and enthusiasm that I remembered fondly.

Taking pictures was a struggle as he spent a good portion of their set standing backwards.  I wondered where he was because he was present but he wasn’t there. Crouched next to a stack of enormous speakers, inches away from a hero of my teenage years I sang every line of “The Last Lie I Told”. Instead of capitalizing on the energy that song developed in the crowd he brought the tempo way back down and trudged through the rest of their set in a similar manner.

“My Sweet Fracture” was the only other Through Being Cool track, along with “Nightingale”, “Firefly” and “Cars and Calories” from Stay What You Are. “Get Fucked Up” from Under The Boards was the closest they came again to capturing any sort of momentum.

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Coheed Cambria Review Claudio Sanchez Gainesville Venue
Claudio Sanchez of Coheed and Cambria at Gainesville’s Venue. Photo by Ben Correa.

The turnover between bands was rapid and before long the stage lights came to life and the room began to fill with fog. A familiar silhouette of gigantic hair appeared in the far back corner and the crowd erupted. “Ghost” brought the potential energy of the sold-out crowd to maximum levels before the band seamlessly launched into “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3”.

The speakers were pumping hundreds and hundreds of watts of bass directly into my chest as Coheed and Cambria hit the stage. I fought to get a picture of Claudio’s face through his hair as “Blood Red Summer” flooded the hall. This made the entire trip worth it; not only to hear old and new songs, but to physically feel the vibrations of the speakers and hear the crowd behind me almost drowning out the sound of the band. They hopped from album to album, including a 3 song string of “Delirium Trigger”, “No World For Tomorrow”, and “Ten Speed”.

There’s a reason the show was sold out and not just because it happened to be a Friday night. Coheed and Cambria is the most consistently great band that I think I’ve seen, ever. Not once have I left a concert or finished an album and been disappointed. It’s always incredible.

Every time I’ve been there to witness the event that is Coheed and Cambria, they have always been on. It was nice to see Josh Eppard back behind the drum set, something that I hadn’t seen the past couple of times. Josh looked at home and it was great to see as close to the original lineup as we are likely to see again.

The encore consisted of “You Got Spirit, Kid”, a cover of Nirvana’s “Drain You” which caught me by surprise, and they closed the show with “Welcome Home”.

The show ended and the drunken masses flooded the streets, cell phones in hand trying to score Ubers. I noticed that my hearing had not been completely destroyed despite forgetting to pick up ear plugs that week. Demerit to The Venue for only turning it up to 9, but it’s a credit to Coheed and Cambria for putting on a full-sized, incredible show despite.

The band has been working hard for a long time and they remain driven and humble, which is great to see and hear. Gainesville itself has never been a destination for me but when it’s the closest stop for the force of Coheed and Cambria, I will always make the trip.

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Broken Birdie


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