Stephen Brodsky at the Rock and Roll Hotel

Cave In front man Stephen Brodsky performs his latest solo material at Rock and Roll Hotel in DC. Photo: Stephen Brodsky

WASHINGTON, May 28, 2013 — Stephen Brodsky has done the solo project thing in the past, so seeing him perform his own songs at the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hotel is not that out of the ordinary for those familiar with his work. Although Brodsky does not carry much weight as a big-name solo artist outside of niche circles, he is still reasonably well known, but usually as part of an ensemble. This is why the promotional material for this tour was billed as, “Stephen Brodsky of Cave In.” It was a useful way to hype up the show.

It is important to discuss Brodsky in terms of Cave In. It is also why it is so hard to separate him from the band. First of all, Brodsky is still very much a member of Cave In. Second, his solo material might seem like a dramatic departure from what he does with Cave In, but ideologically it fits right in with what the band has been doing for its entire existence.

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Normally Brodsky plays guitar and sings/screams vocals for Cave In, a distinctly Massachusetts hardcore/post-hardcore band. The band started out deeply immersed in the Boston/New York hardcore scene, but even within that scene they stood out from many others, energetically putting out sprawling metal/hardcore opuses.

From there they branched out even further, evolving from something of a vague space rock band to something everyone seemed to recognize as more of an alt rock ensemble. After taking a hiatus in 2006, they came back to the scene playing closer to their hardcore roots than ever but with an atmospheric touch they had not had before.

During this time, Brodsky was not only at the center of Cave In’s stylistic departures, even as he filled in for similar bands in their various music circles. He is also developing his own solo projects as well. When listening to Brodsky perform in a solo setting, it seems jarring when set alongside some of Cave In’s screaming metal pieces or even their spacey rock songs. Yet none of it is really surprising.

Brodsky is making the same sort of creative leaps in his solo output that he would being doing with the other members of Cave In on a regular basis. The tour that found itself at the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hotel recently in support of Brodsky’s new album Hit or Mystery feels like the kind of album music Cave In would be putting out around their Jupiter album days, if all they were interested in using were acoustic guitars and keyboards.

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What Brodsky has created, especially in a live setting, is more creative, though, and does not feel like anything else out there.  He is fashioned an acoustic guitar-based sound with Emily Lee providing keyboards and additional vocals that completely alters the atmosphere. Nothing feels overly complex in the way that either Brodsky or Lee play, but the entire set is surprisingly affecting. 

There is not a forceful point in anything Brodsky plays. Rather, each song has its own soft and somber mood. Brodsky’s vocals give off a light and low hum as if he is trying convince the audience to drift away. The music is so delicately performed that his sound at times seems so fragile that it might break.

Brodsky’s solo material is a substantial creative break from anything he has previously been known for. Yet he seems to be making an important statement. Brodsky is going to try to take as many creative chances as he can whether it is within the context of a band, or, more importantly, when he is performing on his own.

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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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