On October 8, New Jersey-based rock band, The Early November came to The Garage in Burnsville, MN with Have Mercy and Owel. They kicked off this tour in celebration of their newly released album, Lilac. Have Mercy also released their new album, The Love Life, back in August giving both bands a chance to tour and share new music with their eager fanbase.
I first heard The Early November on the 2013 Vans Warped Tour Compilation CD and had the privilege of seeing them perform a handful of times at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, MN when they toured with the Vans Warped Tour. Now signed to Rise Records, The Early November has released four full-length albums since their humble beginnings in 1999 and a few other EPs within their twenty years together.
Their newest album, Lilac, was released at the end of September and shows how this group has grown together. The band commented on their newest release saying, “We think you can feel the journey while listening to the record. It’s about unbearable darkness but mostly about unstoppable light. It’s about depression but more than anything, hope. It’s about not giving up. It’s about life. It’s a journey that may feel familiar to some. It’s a record that is for you as much as it is for us.” (1).
This album captures what it means to be human including the idea that, as humans, we must make the conscious decision to be alive and move past our personal traumas. Something I really appreciate about this tour is how much raw emotion can be felt listening to The Early November and Have Mercy’s newest albums. These bands come together to share their stories of struggle alongside their stories of healing.
Have Mercy’s newest album, The Love Life, is absolutely heartbreaking in the best way possible. It was well written and incredibly performed by the band. I’ve never been disappointed with Have Mercy and admire their ability to talk about the challenges of moving forward following heartbreak and addiction.
I remember seeing Have Mercy at The Amsterdam back in 2017, where vocalist Brian Swindle had just flown back home to make amends with his partner but ended up coming back on tour that night heartbroken and dealing with an emotional breakup. His performance that night was incredibly heartfelt as he poured so much emotion into each song. It was difficult to not feel the pain he was experiencing during their set.
Not only did The Early November and Have Mercy release new music this year, but Owel did, as well. Their newest album, Paris, was released back in March and has been well-received by fans. This New Jersey band is known for adding orchestral elements to their alternative sound to create a blended arrangement of multiple musical genres.
Paris was well thought out through its development and the band felt that “while we dipped our toes into the world of synths and drum machines with the last record, this record was more about us diving back into a more lush, orchestral sound” (2).
Owel opened up the show with a unique performance that included various piano and trumpet segments and ended their final song by playing one of their guitars with a cello bow. They truly had a distinctive sound and the incorporation of various orchestral elements was intriguing to watch. As a former trumpet player myself, it was really heartwarming to see someone using their orchestral talents within the alternative music scene.
High energy ska bands like Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake have incorporated diverse trumpet, trombone and saxophone elements that give them their own signature sound, but seeing these instruments used in heavier music is something I really enjoyed. Owel reminded me a lot of the band Foxing, who often uses their own experimental orchestral sounds and vibrating vocals to create music that is hard to imitate.
Have Mercy followed Owel’s intriguing performance, switching between songs performed by the entire band to ones that lead vocalist, Brian Swindle, carried out on his own. Swindle opened up about their new album saying, “I was a shithead for a long time and didn’t realize it” and how that affected his life has become the basis for their newest album.
I always appreciate and admire when performers are willing to open up about the things that they are going through and I think that this honesty helps keep this music scene alive and inclusive. Not only was Swindle able to open up about difficult topics, but he was also able to joke around and say, “This is emo music, it’s about to get sad up in here,” with a smile on his face to make the crowd laugh, while still letting the music be unapologetically vulnerable and raw.
Have Mercy is a band that’s been on my radar for quite some time and each time I’ve had the privilege of seeing them perform, I’ve left with a new sense of appreciation for who they are and the music that they make. The only thing that could have made this performance better would have been if the set could have been longer.
The Early November wrapped up the evening with a powerful and energetic set that brought old and new fans together to sing along with the band. Since The Early November has been touring and performing for many years, it was great to see young and old fans being swept away by the music.
Lead vocalist Ace Enders was noticeably enjoying himself on stage and spreading that energy to his bandmates. You could see how much fun these musicians were having being able to share their stories and music with their fans. Since The Garage is such an intimate and open space, Enders commented on how great it was to be able to see everyone’s faces.
Halfway through the set, as the crowd cheered in excitement and praise for the release of The Early November’s newest album, Enders smiled out into the crowd saying, “I like the ‘yeahs’ but I love your smiles even more.” The Garage was filled with people truly having a good time hearing their favorite bands perform. The joy the bands and their fans felt radiated throughout the space.
It’s always heartening to listen to music that you were into when you were younger. Getting to see The Early November again after so many years, with Have Mercy and Owel, reignited my appreciation for the music I loved back in 2013 and the music I still love now. All of these bands have released powerful albums this year and their positive impact on listeners was evident in the joy the crowd felt last night and the joy the performers shared during their sets.
Photos and Article by Lauren Zimitsch