After a decade together, Michigan duo Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) decided to call it quits via Facebook after one final tour together. Originally the project of vocalist/guitarist Keith Lantinen, his wife Cathy Lantinen became an integral part of the group on guitar.
The last NYC area show hit Brooklyn venue Shea Stadium, with opening acts Long Beard, For Everest and Warren Franklin & the Founding Fathers. With an 8:30 pm show time, the line at the door opened with a short queue of quiet introverts and couples strewn across the industrial block looking to celebrate the band’s last stand. Long Beard, the project of New Brunswick musician Leslie Bear, began their set with the track “Porch” off of their album “Sleepwalker.”
Having seen Leslie perform solo during CMJ, the full band is definitely a more captivating experience with Stefan Koekemoer and Devin Silvers filling time in between Bear’s guitar tuning. Utilizing a loop pedal and a myriad of different guitar effects, the New Jersey outfit is a cohesive unit playing sweet, ethereal tunes.
After their set, “post-punk pop” quartet For Everest took the stage, loaded with an eclectic blend of Superchunk influenced, heavy indie-emo sound. With the vocal powerhouse of Sarah Cowell commanding the show clad in a “The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die” shirt, another group whose sonic influence shows through in the vocal/guitar dynamic between Cowell and Nick Pitman.
As somewhat of a somber night for them, despite the many 4/20 jokes and acrid smell in the venue that night, bassist Jon Crevier was performing his last run of shows with the group, deciding to leave amongst a decision to attend law school and forming a family. Warren Franklin & the Founding Fathers have been on tour with Empire! Empire! for their final run, and have also served as backing members of the group. Led by Warren Franklin, the group plays more on the pop end of the emo spectrum, influenced by earlier acts like Taking Back Sunday with the midwestern vibes of Rilo Kiley. With a similar setup as the headlining act, the band also relies on a revolving cast of musicians, notably Keith of Empire! Empire!, calling for plenty of onstage banter between the quartet.
In an almost bittersweet sentiment, Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) began their set with the first track off of their final EP “What It Takes to Move Forward.” After a recent history, marred by misfortune like cancelled shows, tours, and a final EP that never came to fruition, the title of the record came to be more of a signifier of the duo retiring and essentially moving forward.
Whether it’s settling down together as a couple, going to law school, or even playing guitar in another group of friends, the very conscious and almost unsettling decisions made can come as disheartening to the many fans who witnessed the group lurch out their last run of shows for a group to last surprisingly as long as they have, but inevitably necessary to reach this mature stage in their lives. The ideas of introspection and even dwelling on youth are many of the themes the band explores lyrically, underscored by somber, yet technically proficient guitar work akin to American Football or Death Cab for Cutie at their more delicate moments.
After the final track “The Promise That Life Can Go on No Matter How Bad Our Losses,” the couple stayed behind to talk with their heartbroken devotees, some traveling as far away as Texas just to get a final glimpse of the band.