Bravery frontman Sam EndicottHalloween being the excuse for an identity crisis, it’s only fitting that two bands as different as Straylight Run and The Bravery should play together. One-half indie-tastic flannel and one-half costume spectacular, Halloween turned out to be a night of idiosyncratic and spontaneous amusement.

It was Straylight Run’s first night back on tour after The Needles the Space, and it showed. Their opening songs were stiff, lacking emotion, and rife with EQ problems. Bland indie garb aside, they just didn’t fit the mood. Maybe he was frustrated by sound problems or just the show in general, but out of nowhere lead singer John Nolan unleashed his Taking Back Sunday roots. The album version of “Take It To Manhattan” hides Nolan’s temperamental side, but as the hook dropped, Nolan and female vocal accompanist Michelle DaRosa were screaming what had to be the most sincere words uttered all night, “I’ve had it up to here with, I’ve had enough of all of these songs of self-imposed, unhappiness.

As if on cue, the show became a wonderful blur of spacey, celestial, indie-bravado mixed with overlapping crescendos and climaxes. “How Do I Fix My Head” and “Soon We’ll Be Living In the Future” were transient, fast-paced montages of acoustic, clap-beat choruses with experimental, space-age, guitar laden verses. Their sound was much more genuine than the impression I got from The Needles the Space.

“Existentialism on Prom Night” and “Hands In the Sky (Big Shot)” were the highs of the show. On “Existentialism,” Nolan and DeRosa complemented each other vocally as any brother and sister should. Nolan has the range and emotion to run wild with any song, while DeRosa’s elegant harmonies bring the song back down to level. The grandiose conclusion of “Hands In the Sky” left the club in a semi-speechless state of profound epiphany.

I’d almost forgotten it was Halloween night until The Bravery took the stage. Decked in full Halloween garb (including bassist Mike Hindert’s ridiculous three-foot horse head and top hat), they opened with the all-too appropriate “Fearless.” If you’ve never heard of The Bravery, they are not nearly as musically complex as Straylight; they’re closer to a SoCal version of The Killers. Stomping guitar riffs and pop-synth lines aren’t much to envy musically, but they’re easy to love because they are so legitimately fun.

You can’t take yourself seriously if you’re going to don a horse head for the entire show while crowd surfing and climbing amps (bassist Mike Hindert). But this is what makes them impressionable entertainers rather than musicians. They introduced every song to the crowd while making chic, relevant conversation like explaining their high school crush on Cherry Valance of “The Outsiders” in the track “Time Won’t Let Me Go.”

While songs like “Tyrant” and “Unconditional,” off their 2005 self-titled release, were familiar hits with the 9:30 crowd, their newest album, “The Sun and The Moon” got a less gracious reception until the Bush-slamming diatribe “Every Word Is A Knife In My Ear.” “Bad Son” was the most innovative and amusing song of the night, with the whistling melody and relaxed sound of the steel guitar. They concluded with “No Brakes,” a mantra of dramatic, post-sublime attitudes that ends with the question, “Can I leave it up to?”

After experiencing such a diverse mess of music in less than two hours, my mind tried desperately to reconcile the two opposing artists. But all that came to my mind was the chorus of “No Brakes,” “Carry me home, put me to bed. Leave me alone, it’s all in my head…“ So I committed it to memory to appreciate the moments of musical bliss along with the natural awkwardness. But had it been any other night than Halloween, I’m not entirely sure my senses could have handled it.

Christopher Beach is a Patrol contributor.

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Previously in Live: John Butler Trio (Washington DC), Josh Ritter (Washington DC), and St. Vincent (Los Angeles).

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