Atlanta indie rockers Manchester Orchestra followed up their 2014 double release of Cope and its stripped-down companion piece Hope this year with the release of their fifth proper album, A Black Mile to the Surface. The album takes the band further into the soaring, anthemic direction that they’ve become known for, while reaching a new level of cinematic intensity in its themes and its storytelling. It’s been three years since the band last played in the DC area, but their latest tour finally brought them back again to the Fillmore Silver Spring, where they played a long, forceful set to a packed room.
Although the themes of the songs on the new album are sometimes only loosely connected (although it began life as a concept album based around the town of Lead, South Dakota), they still feel like a song cycle. It’s probably little surprise, then, that the band chose to perform songs from the album in sets, in the same order that they appear on the album, beginning the show with the first three tracks, “The Maze,” “The Gold,” and “The Moth.” Later in the set a similar trifecta appeared, with mid-album tracks “The Alien,” “The Sunshine,” and “The Grocery.” In between, the band kept their long-time fans happy with a strong selection of Manchester Orchestra classics, including “Shake It Out” and “I’ve Got Friends” from 2009’s Mean Everything to Nothing, “Pensacola” and “Simple Math” from 2011’s Simple Math, and the title track from Cope. They even reached back to their first album, 2006’s I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child, for “I Can Barely Breathe” and “Colly Strings.” The band closed the nearly two-hour long show with an encore consisting of one more track from Mean Everything to Nothing, “I Can Feel a Hot One,” and one more new track, “The Silence.”
The show was opened by two up-and-coming indie rock bands, St. Louis, Missouri’s Foxing (who we very unfortunately missed due to crazy traffic conditions while trying to get to the venue), and Scranton, Pennsylvania’s Tigers Jaw, who put on an energetic set which focused heavily on tracks from their recently-released fifth album, Spin.