It’s endearing to watch a band grow. It is exciting to see them blossom and reach the potential that you know they are capable of and know that they have worked hard to achieve. They consistently blow you away a little bit more with every show, with every month, with every new song, and with every new step taken. This is how I feel about the Devious Means. This review will cover not only the band’s set at the House of Blues, Anaheim last Thursday but also shed some light on the glorious transformation I have witnessed in the Devious Means from a ‘B’ act with untapped, nuclear potential; to a crowd pleasing, rhinoceros plated steam engine (an ‘A+’ act). Judging by their performance last Thursday, the band is set to not only take Orange County by hurricane, but have also aligned themselves in a way that they are hard not to be recognized by industry pros. Yes, this show was that good.
The first time I saw the Devious Means was at the House of Blues, Anaheim last year for the release of their EP, “Songs We All Are Singing.” I had heard the album a few weeks before the show and my reaction was a mix of surprise, awe, some indifference, and amazement. On the whole, however, I loved it. I thought the sound was fresh and original and I couldn’t wait to see the songs translated live.
Now, here is where I implement some honesty. The show was good; not great. The material from the new EP wasn’t executed as well live as it was on the album and the general flow of the set was staggered and inconsistent. Not to say that the show was bad, but rather, it left me wanting more. I was really looking forward to the songs I’d fallen in love with on the album to be represented well live. Not to mention, besides the 6 songs I had heard from their new work, I had only checked out maybe one other song from their previous release, and if you were a fan of theirs back then, you know that the feel of the old album held a significantly different vibe than their new release.
Their EP release show, as well as the release of the EP itself, marked a separation for the band from ‘the old’ to ‘the new.’ In less than a year’s time, the Devious Means made a transition from capitalizing on their ‘pop/indie’ roots from their first album, to wielding a new sound with darker themes, dirtier guitar riffs, a larger play on vocal rhythm and melodies which produced an all-around bigger, badder (as in bad ass), louder and rockier sound. ‘The New,’ is what separates the Devious Means from any other band in and out of the Orange County scene. You won’t hear another sound like theirs, as they blend a mix of indie rock/meets hard rock/meets pop. This is a good place to transition to the show last Thursday at the House of Blues, Anaheim.
A Devious Means staple is putting on superbly executed shows with an enormous crowd turnout. This night at the House of Blues was no exception. ‘The Meanies,’ (as their fans have come to call them) put on a Christmas themed show where the classic movie, “A Christmas Story,” was the north star titling the event, “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!” Apart from playing with a stellar lineup of opening acts including York (keep an eye on these guys and expect to see a write up about them soon) and Midnight Hour, the Meanies, in alignment with Secret Chief, found a kid choir to sing Christmas Carols in between sets. The choir, made up of what I believe was 10 or 12 children, sang in front of the sound board in the pit of the House of Blues; a feature that was first brought about by the guys at Secret Chief earlier in the year. It is an awesome asset to providing cohesion throughout the entire show. Christmas was alive in the House of Blues even with the absence of a band on stage. The sweet sounds of children signing about Santa Clause and candy canes, and jingle bells, and the like danced in the audience’s head and brought them back to a time when they couldn’t go to sleep in anticipation of the arrival of that jolly fat man in a red suit!
Devious Means closed the evening. The band began their set in true Christmas spirited fashion by doing a rendition of the Classic, “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Warm fuzzies and rosy cheeks came across every member in the audience as the band encouraged them to sing along. These warm fuzzies were quickly blown away as the band transitioned into their first song, a new one which I had heard for my first time at a show at Detroit Bar a few months back, “Blood in the Body.” What was once a feeling of reminiscent childhood happiness quickly turned into fist pump inducing, fight club seeking, and barbarian screaming, “Hell YA!” antics. This song completely embodies the natural step forward the band is taking on capitalizing on the furiously creative and aggressive nature of “Songs We All Are Singing.”
On top of keeping to their standardly effective play on vocal rhythm, thanks to front man Chris Faris, and effective use of changes and transitions, they have adopted a more aggressive approach with guitar riffs which tips a hat to a Jack White influence. Further, if I may be so bold, because the band played two new songs this evening, including this one, I think that front man Chris Faris, whose voice was stellar and the strongest I have ever seen at a show to date, is also taking some tips from Jack White vocally as well. Faris appears to be challenging himself in ways that I have yet to see and especially in terms of his range I see this apparently the case. The band’s second new song, “Holiday,” is where this fact shines most true and I applaud Ferris for taking risks here because the play on range and rhythm was especially effective. Their new material reveals the natural steps the band is taking to build on their already exceptional sound that will only make it stronger and more interesting to listen to.
Another key notable attribute about the band’s growth is that their set, not even once, took a dive in terms of energy or momentum. As well as meticulously building on their sound, the band has also been working on their stage show. In their set, they took little to no pause in between songs which helped drive the momentum upward and keep the set flowing naturally. Further, the Devious Means seemed to have dropped ‘the old,’ and have been really pushing ‘the new’ hard. At this show the set was extremely cohesive in that every song worked well together but was different enough to keep the audience riveted throughout the set. In comparison to their EP release show, the band is no longer struggling with two faces. From this critic, especially for these big showcases, I think it is a good step to drop ‘the old,’ being that the set was better for it as well as the Meanies looked better without it.
Another notable detail about the band’s stage show was their showman ship within songs. In their newest number “Holiday,” the song’s bridge, marks a radical change in momentum that really pounds the song home with hits that land like punches to the face. To get there, the band must first transition out of the fast paced, speed-trip that is the first ¾ of the song. Further, being that this was “Holiday’s” debut, the Devious Means played on the audience’s anticipation. Everything was new but as the crucial transition approached the band did what was naturally right, they paused. They held out the last chord of the old section and let it ring for what seemed like an eternity. The House of Blues was silent in anticipation, not sure if the next move was going to a mosh-pit inducing punk section, a tear dropping choral section, or the song was over all together. But they waited, and as mentioned before, they played on the crowd’s anticipation and drove the song home with none of the above mentions, but instead swift, repeated Chuck Norris round house kicks to the face… It was so great. I was floored, the audience erupted in applause and thanks, and the Devious Means rose to epic proportions that day, not only due to their new material but their clear attention to detail and a harnessing of their new identity.
I sincerely can’t wait to see what this group of Meanies does next. They have been exciting to watch for a long time, but now, as mentioned before, truly exceptional things are in reach for them as they seemed to have discovered what makes them unique, and excellent. The band’s lineup couldn’t be stronger, and though I didn’t mention any of the other members in the group, everyone adds a crucially irreplaceable roll defining the Devious Means’ success.
I have raved about the other members in the past, but the highlight of this show was most honestly Chris Faris. I feel he has really stepped up as a front man to the Devious Means, and is making the right moves in transforming with the band’s growth. The music has become more aggressive, and he has risen to the occasion and become more aggressive himself. With the band’s momentum leaning in the direction you better keep an eye out on these guys. I know that we at the Hub will be doing so, and as endearing as it has been watching them grow into their own, it is even more so to realize that one of Orange County’s crown jewels is finally ready for the big time.
Good luck to the Devious Means on their future endeavors. We can’t wait for what’s next.