Cave In eulogizes their fallen bandmate through song, rather than speech, at the TLA - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

The relationships we build with musicians are a unique thing.  The passing of a beloved artist can have a profound impact on us, as fans, in some of the most unexpected ways.  I’ve been a fan of Cave In since Jupiter came out in 2000 and have stayed with them on the journey since, circling back to earlier material as I went.  They’ve released some of my favorite music over the last 20 years, going through multiple stylistic changes, but never making compromises to fill their artistic vision, even when that meant parting ways with a major label deal.  So, when the news broke that bassist Caleb Scofield had died in a car accident in March of 2018, it felt like the loss of an old friend.  A loss that made me profoundly sad, even though we’d never so much as shaken hands.

As sad as I was, I’m sure the bandmates that Scofield called family were much worse off.  Despite any pain, however, they pulled themselves together, and finished their vision of what is (presumably) the last Cave In album, Final Transmission.  Then, they did what they do best: hit the road.  On Thursday night that road led right up to the stage of TLA, where they, together with an intimate gathering of friends, celebrated the legacy that Scofield left behind.  Taking a welcome approach, nothing in the past catalogue was off limits, and songs old and new got to share time in the spotlight.

Cave In | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

Earlier cuts from their hardcore metal days made an appearance –  “Juggernaut” was a surprise, and one that even seemed to catch guest-bassist Nate Newton (from fellow Boston stalwarts Converge) off-guard.  The expansive “Joy Opposites,” from their lone major label album, filled the room with its soaring guitars and catchy hook.  “Big Riff” was the crowd pleaser I waited for, and they delivered in spades with singer Stephen Brodsky wailing over chugging guitars.  They ended the night exactly as I hoped they would, with their magnum opus “Sing My Loves.”  It’s a sprawling, epic piece of rock-n-roll that covers just about every style they’ve adopted in their careers.  A stunning cap on a very special evening.

They weren’t much for words throughout the set.  There wasn’t much that needed to be said.  It’s gotta be hard to eulogize every night, but they did so through song, rather than speech.  Newton took a moment to appreciate the shoes he was filling on the tour, and when he raised his bass in the air and announced that it was Scofield’s, more than a few of us got a little misty-eyed.  I would have liked to see more people in attendance, especially for the opening acts.   I suppose the bright spot is that the whole night felt a little more personal: just a bunch of friends celebrating the life of a great friend, father, husband, and musician.

War on Women | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

Baltimore hardcore punk rockers War On Women warmed up the crowd with an infectiously energetic set.  As the name infers, their music centers around women’s issues with a style that effortlessly ran the gamut from angry, to humorous, to personal, but never self-pitying.  Trans rights, sexual assault trauma, reproductive rights — songs coursed with a furious energy that was about as subtle as a hammer, and that might make some folks uncomfortable.  That’s the point, though, and it was a point well made through thrashing melodies infused with classic punk rocker aura running through its veins.  Retro-hardcore, if that’s a thing.

First to the stage for the evening was the prog-metal act Lazer/Wulf.  The trio from Georgia are a melting pot of  styles – bouncing between heavy metal, math rock, and more avant-garde fare.  Largely instrumental, their set only consisted of a handful of songs, but they effortlessly play close to 10 minutes on some, rarely taking a moment to breath.

Maybe this is the last of Cave In.  Maybe there is more left, they just have to figure it out.  Whatever ends up happening, the entire family has a catalogue of albums, side projects, collaborations, and generations of fans they can be proud of, and Caleb Scofield has left a legacy that can’t be touched.

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