In Review: Meridene, The Gentle Guest perform at Phoenix Park

In a newly written Meridene song, guitarist and vocalist Trevor Ives sang valiantly, “I like it this way,” which seemed to be the sentiment of a crowd clinging onto a gorgeous Eau Claire summer. Joined by The Gentle Guest, Meridene closed the Sounds Like Summer concert series in Phoenix Park on Thursday night with a stellar performance.

Eric Rykal’s project, The Gentle Guest, opened the show with a mass of new songs, only playing two from their 2007 full-length We Are Bound to Save Some Souls Tonight. While some of the newer tracks stayed true to Rykal’s fire-and-brimstone writing, many set a contemplative mood that tended to follow closer to the initial Gentle Guest EP, Our Little Ruckus.

Paul Brandt (who also plays with Meridene and countless other acts) stole the show with his menacing slide guitar. The growling melodies over top of Rykal’s threatening minor chord progressions painted a picture that seemed to be perfectly stuck in 1855.

Meridene also premiered new songs and announced that they are currently recording an EP to be released in the near future. As always, singer Trevor Ives’ hooks were flawlessly catchy, but were able to provide a clear direction, which elevated them to a level above a simple pop band.

Unfortunately, however, Meridene tended to lack the punch that has been a staple at their live shows for years. Ives never faltered vocally, but did sound weak in parts without the support of harmonies (many of which are present on their full-length record You’re Not Pretty, You’re Worse). The group also seemed to lack the angst and energy that their music expels. It wasn’t until “Sea Change,” the final song, that Meridene showed its true, exciting brilliance, encouraging the crowd to connect and join in.