Ace Enders’ career has reached the tallest mountains and the lowest trenches, but the profoundly talented vocalist of The Early November can always see the brightest lights at the end of the darkest tunnels. Enders and TEN returned to Phoenix on Tuesday, on tour to promote the band’s upcoming album, Lilac.
Fellow New Jersey conglomerate OWEL started things off with a beautifully emotional set to an already crowded room. The six-piece band barely fit on The Rebel Lounge’s small stage, but brought keys, trumpet and violin anyway and created a wall of sound that washed over the appreciative audience. Singer Jay Sakong’s high, clear vocals elevated the set, complemented by violinist Jane Park on harmonies. Many in the room already knew the words and sang their hearts out for this stellar opener.
Brian Swindle prefaced Have Mercy’s incredible set by expressing gratitude for surviving the heatstroke that nearly hospitalized him during his last visit to Arizona. He was joined onstage by fill-in members from Head North and the band successfully kept the energy and the laughter flowing during their time in front of the Phoenix fans. Swindle was hilarious in his stage banter, describing his recent experiences with magic mushrooms and lamenting drinking more whiskey than water on tour. The crowd was in stitches between songs, lightening the mood of Have Mercy’s otherwise heavy set. The driving “Mattress on the Floor” and the acoustic rendition of “Dressed Down” were evening favorites before the band left the stage to make way for The Early November.
Ace Enders is truly in a league of his own and the Rebel audience was prepared to make sure that he knew it. Opening solo with “A Stain on the Carpet”, fans were already pouring their hearts into the music from the first notes. With a catalog as lengthy as The Early November’s, it would be tough to avoid the inevitable nostalgia. Instead, Enders leaned into it fully, embracing the desires of his audience with songs like “Decoration” (which actually started a light mosh pit) and “Baby Blue”. He took the room down Drive-Thru Records’ memory lane, as fans shouted requests for their favorite older tunes.
This tour was meant to promote the band’s latest project, previewed to perfection with “Ave Maria”, and “Hit By a Car”. Enders spoke eloquently and at length about the twists and turns of his time in music, adding his boundless gratitude for the people that continue to show up and support. The packed room was pure admiration and the night continued with TEN’s sleeper hit “I Want to See You Sad”.
The setlist seemed to fly by, as TEN skipped the traditional encore to play their last three showstoppers without pausing the regular set. Ending with the classic “Ever So Sweet”, the introspective “Narrow Mouth” and the shouting singalong to “Frayed in Doubt” was the cherry on top of a perfect evening with a remarkable group of musicians. Enders obliged the starstruck crowd with a meet and greet directly after leaving the stage, as old and new fans expressed their love and hope that he would come back as soon as humanly possible.
Story and photos by Olivia Khiel