NEW YORK — "Here's the bottom line," Sparta singer/guitarist Jim Ward said from the stage of CBGB on Saturday night. "Our [new album] doesn't come out until July. We could maybe sit around and be lazy, but we decided to tour some clubs and have fun."
The New York stop of that tour found the El Paso, Texas, band performing a pile of new songs alongside favorites from its 2002 debut album, Wiretap Scars. The crowd showed its approval with pumping fists and bobbing heads.
Sparta, of course, include three-fifths of At the Drive-In, a revered postpunk band that split up in March 2001 (see "Sparta Rise From At The Drive-In's Ashes With EP, Tour"). And although many expected Sparta to sound identical to ATDI, the foursome debunked this notion with Wiretap Scars, a straightforward, guitar-based rock album laden with hard-driving melodies and Ward's growling vocals.
Songs from the group's upcoming album, Porcelain (slated for release July 13), fit in perfectly alongside the crowd favorites from Wiretap. Tracks like "Breaking the Broken," "Guns of Memorial Park," "La Cerca" and "Lines in Sand" were fraught with intense riffs, layered guitars and solid hooks.
"We've wanted to play here [at CBGB] for a long time," Ward told the crowd on Saturday night. "It's cool that we have a chance to now and play for a fun crowd." That crowd was with the band every step of the way, shouting along as Ward's vocals leaped from earnest, tremulous crooning into throaty, melodic yelling, while guitarist Paul Hinojos, drummer Tony Hajjar and bassist Matt Miller hammered out dynamic rhythms and powerful crescendos.
And while ATDI reportedly split up because the members had, according to Ward, "burned out on each other," something he said onstage suggests that that's unlikely to happen to Sparta. Before closing the night, Ward said, "Maybe you have to live our lives to understand how all four of us are connected, how close the four of us really are. Well, today someone of ours lost someone. There have been so many times when we've been away on tour and we've lost someone — and we just keep on touring." Dedicated to Hinojos' aunt, who had passed away, Sparta then plunged into the set-closing "Air," and the crowd passionately shouted along. For the last chorus, Ward threw down his guitar, grabbed the mic and jumped into the audience.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.