Welsh post-hardcore outfit Holding Absence returned to Nashville, performing at the Basement East for their first headline date in the city bringing along some of the best the genre has to offer from across the pond – as well as a little love for the Sunshine State.

Acres at the Basement East Feb. 4

English metalcore quintet Acres opened the show at around 6:30 PM. Despite the early start time, the crowd was still reasonably large and steadily grew throughout the set. However, it was obvious that many people entering during Acres’ set weren’t expecting the band to already be on, which is really unfortunate, because they put on a great show. 

Throughout the performance, lead-vocalist Ben Lumber paced the stage and engaged the crowd, which enthusiastically responded to their polished, charging sound. Eagle-eyed fans may have even noticed Holding Absence frontman Lucas Woodland watching from the back of the venue.

Capstan gear at the Basement East Feb. 4th

In between Acres and the Orlando-based Capstan, a playlist of progressive metal favorites – including “Alkaline” from recent breakthrough Sleep Token – kept the energy going. Members of Capstan served as their own techs, setting up their equipment as Ben Lumber took position at the Acres merch-booth. 

Overall, the night was characterized by a tight-knit community feel. Signs were regularly propped on the merch tables reading “Will be right back! Taking pictures,” making it obvious that the touring photographer for a group was also their merch-manager. Also, in a uniquely Nashville fashion, members of the touring party were sharing hugs and high-fives over the barricades with obvious industry friends they hadn’t seen since leaving for tour.

Capstan drummer, Scott Fisher, at the Basement East Feb. 4

Capstan truly set themselves apart, and not just because they were the only American band on tour – or maybe that is exactly what explains their antics. Easily the most fun band of the night, Capstan were the truest to their hardcore and emo roots. While not everyone’s cup of tea, those that love a whiny, angry, at times math-rocky, song that sounds ripped right out of 2007 would have loved the set. 

And for those that don’t find that to be their thing, bass player Andrew Bozymowski is entertaining enough to captivate any audience. Early in the set he yelled, “I’m 280 pounds, and I’m shaking my f*cking ass Nashville,” in an attempt to get the crowd moving more than they already were, and I can confirm, he was indeed shaking his ass through the entire set.

Casey drummer, Max Nicolai, and bassist, Adam Smith, pre-set at the Basement East Feb. 4

Next up were fellow Welsh-men Casey off the tails of their very new album How to Disappear. This group leans more towards the emo, ambient side of the post-hardcore genre which created this really beautiful, atmospheric experience in between songs as guitarist Toby Evans plucked out heavily chorused interludes. Evans’s backing vocals were also especially notable, and the occasional gutturals from vocalist Tom Weaver were so clear. Drummer Max Nicolai was also a standout, particularly on songs where his focus shifted to playing the rims of his set. 

Casey guitarist, Toby Evans, at the Basement East Feb. 4

Collectively, the members of Casey were very emotive and purposeful in their playing and even the way they moved around the stage throughout the set. It was almost as if each member was in their own little world that somehow perfectly blended with the others on stage. Weaver was markedly grateful, speaking numerous times on how lovely everyone was to tour with and taking various moments throughout the set to turn his back to the crowd and crouch with his eyes closed as if in prayer. Weaver also paid special thanks to Holding Absence, saying, “without whom we wouldn’t be on this continent.”

Finally, after a crowd pleasing pre-show playlist including “Roses” by Outkast and “Sweetness” from Jimmy Eat World, Holding Absence took the stage. And boy would I have not wanted to be any of the bands they opened up for in the past. 

Lucas Woodland of Holding Absence at the Basement East Feb. 4

First things first, Lucas Woodland’s voice is insane. Holding Absence is known for their melodic take on the post-hardcore genre, and that is mostly due to Woodland’s vocal style and their infectiously catchy choruses. He has this soft, almost boyband-esq, quality that directly opposes the natural gruffness the genre demands, and instead of shifting between the two, Woodland somehow manages to do both at the same time. In all honesty, I didn’t think he was going to be able to pull it off live, but somehow, he sounds just as good if not better.

Holding Absence guitarist, Scott Casey, at the Basement East Feb. 4

Woodland wasn’t the only one surprising fans. To the side, almost unassuming, guitarist Scott Carey provided all of the backing guttural vocals on their heavier songs with such power and seemingly little effort. All the while bassist Benjamin Elliot and drummer Ashley Green shared moments throughout the set as Green hammered away relentlessly, never appearing to let up. 

Woodland directly addressed the crowd more than any other performer during the night and did so in a very genuine way. He sprinkled shout-outs throughout the set, uttered “thank you so much” after almost every song, and repeatedly said “alright my dudes” before leading into the next song. It created a very conversational feel that was especially unique for a headlining band.

Holding Absence at the Basement East Feb. 4

The second half of the set easily stood out. The band seamlessly transitioned from “False Dawn” to “Scissors” off their newest album The Noble Art of Self Destruction which they then followed this with “In Circles” off of The Greatest Mistake of My Life and The Noble Art of Self Destruction’s lead-single “A Crooked Melody.” 

Before playing their last two songs, Woodland thanked everyone for coming out once again. He expressed that the band had worried if they would ever have a place in the American music scene, but said, “this wonderful country has turned up for us, and we’re so grateful.” After asking the crowd to put everything aside for just the next ten minutes, the group launched into “Afterlife” – the single that famously broke the band into the mainstream – and “Wilt.” During “Wilt,” Green lifted his floor tom and threw it off side stage in a spectacle that left the crowd wondering if it was planned or not. As the song built to its final crescendo, Elliot and Carey lifted their instruments to the sky on either side of Woodland before they all walked off stage – notably not returning for an encore. The house lights came up, and a drum and bass remix of M Dot R’s “Turn Red” (yes that turn red) played as the audience filed out to enjoy the rest of their Sunday night.