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Fair To Midland

By Aaron Pompey

Fair to Midland played the Wiltern on Friday night as part of the Inward Scream Tour '07 - their performance overshadowing both SoCal's Bleed the Dream and the headlining, musically-schizophrenic Dir En Grey. The tour supports DEG's 2007 release The Marrow of a Bone and upcoming releases from both BTD and FTM.

Serj Tankian's (System of a Down) Serjical Strike label signed the Sulphur Springs natives in April of last year, after the band had shopped their demos to a number of indie labels and even released two DIY CDs - The Carbon Copy Silver Lining EP in 2001 and the full-length album inter.funda.stifle in 2004. Tankian's support and subsequent exposure for FTM helped accelerate the completion of the upcoming Fables From a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times is True (set for a June 12th release) and secured them a slot on the Inward Scream tour.

And rare amid music's industrialized star-making culture, FTM's line-up has remained constant since the band formed in the late-90s, with Darroh Sudderth on vocals, Cliff Campbell on guitar, Jon Dickens on bass, Brett Stowers on drums, and Matt Langley on keyboards. And for good reason - the group's dynamic seems to rely on a very specific energy and one that seems to have emerged from their long history as bandmates.

It's not an overstatement to label the band's energy relentless. In fact, that is what seems to feed their musical prowess - an uncompromising and persistent commitment to their sound and their art. It's that persistence that got Tankian's attention and that drives the group's onstage performances. And FTM's sensibility seems regionally uncharacteristic - aligned more with the politicized emotion of SOAD than with Texas countrymen like The Old '97s, Polyphonic Spree, Spoon, or the one-hit wonder Deep Blue Something.

Opening the show with "Somewhat Damaged" and "You Know What You Are?", the band featured new tracks off the unreleased Mayfly album, and pulled from the band's 8-year catalog, including the recently-issued The Drawn and Quartered EP. After "The Hand That Feeds," FTM wrapped their no-encore set with "Head Like A Hole" before slipping off stage.

The set seemed to fly by - perhaps more for the Dir En Grey contingent, who seemed both surprised and mesmerized by FTM's strong showing. In the wake of FTM's final number, there were those moments when the band's residual energy lingered and fans continued staring up at the brightly-lit, but empty, stage.

Anchoring his young Serjical Strike label with protégées FTM is a strong move for Tankian - and a worthy risk for FTM. Together, they seem to be establishing a sound and a culture that may well feature some promising and genre-bending acts at a pivotal point in music history.

FTM follows up their L.A. appearance with Inward Scream stops in San Francisco, Austin (SXSW), Jacksonsville, Indio CA, and East Rutherford NJ (Bamboozle). News and information on the band is at www.myspace.com/fairtomidland and www.fairtomidland.com.