Between the Buried and Me
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“We’re able to tour less now than we used to,” said Dan Briggs, bassist for North Carolina-based prog-rock fivepiece Between the Buried and Me, “which is good for everyone’s mental health.”
Briggs sounds tired. Since July 7, when the act started touring in support of and on the heels of the Coma Ecliptic concept album release, they have had only five nights without playing before a crowd.
Peppered in the nationwide tour were a handful of sold-out shows, as well as the typical unshared hi-jinx that happens when five guys cohabitate the cozy confines of a tour bus.
Leading up to this tour, BTBAM was enjoying positive praise for the latest effort, primarily because it pays tribute to so much of the pioneers of concept albums, as well as musicals, theater, classical song structure, and the idea that although each song tells it’s own story, it can be apart of something larger, err, something grand.
BTBAM is unofficially based out of Raleigh, although its members are somewhat spread out across the state. Since Winston-Salem is centralized, it was determined that the group would conduct the final rehearsal for the light show and performance at Ziggy’s. This was on July 6.
But geographic location is really only relevant when discussing tours given that BTBAM members are so spread out, unlike predecessors such as The Who, Pink Floyd, and Yes who had to write and record albums in the same room at the same time.
In discussing the album, Briggs seemed incredibly nonchalant in admitting that although the story was written by Tommy Rogers, who was in California at the time, the rest of the band had its hand’s full with writing the music.
There’s an unfamiliar feeling in the air to anyone in the building who has not, or probably never will, be in the final moments before leaving for a nationwide tour. It’s quiet, even with guitarist Dustie Waring sporadically plucking his strings, tuning his amps and checking the microphone, but it’s not uneasy.
The stage design and lighting, which have been provided by Duck Lights (a company that BTBAM has worked with in the past) based out of Los Angeles, are blasting strobes, painting certain areas with video projections, and fanning beams of blue and white all over the main room, primarily manned by Ricky Fernandez.
Lee Duck, owner of Duck Lights, enjoyed working with the band to develop the stage. “[BTBAM] was sticking more toward the Pink Floyd era of stage production,” he said. “We set it up so there was a clean way to integrate the background.”
Duck also described the lighting, albeit in an elementary way for layperson, as being midi-controlled, which means lights are synched up to notes, which is why there is fluidity when strobe blasts hit during certain songs. This also eliminates the need for onthe-fly light control.
“[Ricky] is able to override what is already there,” Duck said. “He’s focused on higher level things, like, is there enough stage lighting? Do I need to change the dynamic? It frees up the lighting designer to focus on the bigger picture.”
The production for this tour is an amalgamation of themes that relies on the band’s past catalog of songs, as well as the visuals and story of Coma Ecliptic. The idea behind the album is that a man puts himself in a self-induced coma to go back in time to visit his past lives, ultimately ending with the decision to choose one or move on with his current.
“It translates so well onto a rock record,” Briggs said. “We wanted to do something that was more theatrical where [Tommy Rogers] gets to sing different character voices more.”
Tracks like “The Ectopic Stroll,” for instance, offer the listener a variety of characters to go along with the story. There is a maniacal doctor, a nurse character, and of course the main character, which all play into the overall storyline of the concept.
“The kookie nature of the music led that to be able to happen,” Briggs said.
It’s been 15 years since the inception of Between the Buried and Me, with the current lineup of members remaining intact since 2005. With Briggs on bass, Waring on guitar, and Rogers on vocals and keys, there is still Blake Richardson on drums and Paul Waggoner on vocals and lead guitar. Waggoner and Rogers are the only two remaining original members.
With eight studio albums to its credit, BTBAM has quite the catalog to choose from when deciding on the set list, including the possibility of delivering a cut from the group’s The Anatomy Of album, which is comprised entirely of covers.
“We try to change [the set list] every tour,” Briggs said. “We get bored really quickly, and nights that we do”¦ if we are doing four or five headlining tours on a record, we want to make sure people are seeing different songs.”
For this Coma Ecliptic Tour, BTBAM has opted to only play out a few songs from the latest record, saving the entire live show for the future. It does beg the question, though, that if a concept album is written as a fulllength story, wouldn’t playing only bits and pieces, in this instance those bits and pieces would be only a couple songs, take some thing
away from the album’s prestige?
“There’s a handful of great concept rock albums, but you know, to me, it’s not even just listening to those records,” Briggs said. He referenced Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Modest Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition, describing how those classical composers used thematic pieces to tell a story through many parts.
“Thankfully, the album is able to split up pretty easily, so it’s not too weird,” said Briggs. !
Between the Buried and Me plays Ziggy’s on Friday, August 14 with Animals as Leaders and The Contortionist. Tickets to the show are $22 in advance and $25 day of the show. Doors open at 7 p.m.