So i dragged Tracers to a metal show. It's true, i did. And for the most part it worked, with one minor, clichéd exception.
I think that the narrative for this event has to start the night before, a Thursday night, when i was up until, oh, 1 AM or so. No reason really, just the worst night of insomnia that i have had in a few months. I got up at 6 AM to go to work, and cruised through the day a little tired and a little spacey, but mostly fine. I kept worrying that i would crash at the show, just fall asleep standing at The EARL, leaning on the side table, my beer clutched tightly in my hand...
It was a relatively cool June evening, cool enough that we could sit outside at the patio at Holy Taco and enjoy tacos and cheese dip. Have i mentioned how good the food is here? I think i have. Just ... go. (But be warned that they do not have any good vegetarian options. It is a "meat and innards" restaurant.)
We grabbed a much needed cup of coffee and wandered up to The EARL in time catch act one, Lazer/Wulf. This is a local three-piece band, and as they explained they were very excited to be back in their home town after two months as openers on a package tour.
Lazur/Wulf tore into their first song, and it seemed to me that they really channeled the spirit of Purkinje Shift. The music was hard riffing, the guitar and the bass flying furiously, while the drummer beat odd patterns that no one who was not fully double-jointed could dance too! It was loud, hard, complex and really good.
In the middle of their set the music was a little more metal and less math rock, the riffing deep and intense, but that spirit, the jazzy free-flowing odd rhythmicality was always there in the background. Definitely worthwhile, and i will be on the lookout for this band.
They geared out relatively quickly and the next band geared in, taking 25 minutes to get all of their pedals and gear set just right. I found myself fading a little during the interminably long interlude… However, this band was ... visually more interesting than Lazer/Wulf. They had a very very pale girl in red and black on bass and a guy who looked a lot like Alice Cooper in the mid-1970s on guitar. They were called White Hills, for whatever reason.
The thing is, leather girl played melody on the bass, and she was really good at it. I am sure that the crowd pressed up to the stage in front of her was admiring her basswork and not the cleavage! No, i mean it -- the girl could play.
Mr. Cooper used his guitar to make noise, channeling it though dozens of pedals. He also added vocals, while the drummer kept the music from meandering too much.
The overall sound was deeply psychedelic and just slightly goth. Imagine The Doors covering The Cure, or maybe The Cure covering The Legendary Pink Dots. -- something like that. They played three, maybe four songs in about 30 minutes, so these were longer tunes. But it was well done, and i found them rather interesting. The performance certainly helped me perk back up after the long set up. Then again, it took them as long to set up as their performance, which seems to be a bad ratio to me.
So, halfway through the bands and so far so good. Tracers was not annoyed just yet. So, of course, this is where things went off track.
The third band was a four-piece, and the most noticeable thing about them was that the singer was a tall woman with a Morticia Adams haircut in a tight leather outfit with red fringe.
The guitarist and bassist were doing their best to channel early Sabbath, and that was fine. I wasn't that into her voice, but her keyboard work seemed a nice accompaniment to the bluesy guitars.
And then after the first tune had wandered around for a little while, she grabbed a flute from atop her keyboard stand and played an aggressive flute solo, while the band played behind her.
Oh. My. Word.
Not impressed, but maybe that was an isolated incident. I was willing to cut them some slack and see what happened next. As the guitarist tuned for the next song, flute-girl leaned into the mic and said, in a serious dead pan, "This is a song about witchcraft..." At which point, I stopped listening. I mean, really? How clichéd can you get!
I bet she is going to "cast a spell" on me for this negative review! Oooh! Spooky! I hate to tell you this lady, but those Harry Potter movies were not documentaries...
So Tracers and I spent this band, who are called Blood Ceremony, standing in the front bar, enjoying a tasty ice cold Sweetwater 420, and watching the crowd mill about. I am sure that the people who stayed to watch Blood Ceremony enjoyed it, but that is just not my thing.
It was just (barely) before midnight when Kylesa took the stage, and I figured I could hold on for just about another hour or so. I had wanted to see this band since i heard 2010's Spiral Shadow album, and in fact they were the reason i dragged Tracers on this sociological experiment.
Kylesa is a five-piece act from Savannah, GA. You probably won't notice five band members in any of my pictures, and that is because two of them are drummers. Yes, that's right, Kylesa have dual drummers. I find that to be kind of unnecessary, but i guess it helps with their really intense rhythms.
So let's focus on the three front band members. On stage right you have Laura Pleasants, a blonde who plays excellent guitar. There were a lot of men in the crowd bunched up on that side of the stage, no doubt to watch her excellent shredding skills!
In the middle is the awesomely named Chase Rudeseal (i figure that it is an authentic Southern name, but goddamit “Rudeseal” just sounds so metal!), who pounds the bass, dances around furiously, and keeps the songs going.
And finally on stage left we have Phillip Cope on guitar, keyboards, and vocals.
Pleasants and Cope split the vocal duties, and i am guessing that they split songwriting duties as well, since the songs that each sang were quite different. Pleasants’ tunes tended to be slower, more ponderous, and her vocals growled. Cope's tunes are faster, more energetic, and his voice is a scratchy howl. Honestly, he really reminded me of Eric Bachmann's harder moments. I would have loved to hear him lead Kylesa in a rousing version Audiowhore during the set.
I admit that the Archers of Load cover would have been fun, but really much of what Kylesa is doing is not that different from the harder moments of AoL. Which leads me to ask , "Why is one thing metal and another, very similar thing, not?" i don't know. if you have been following my writing here for the last 13 years, you will know that i have issues with the concept of "genre". I would say that about half of Kylesa’s set would be called “metal” by most people, since it had growled vocals and fast, dense guitarwork over intense rhythms. But the other half could have been harder moments from any one of a number of mid-90s indie rock bands. Archers of Loaf, Dinosaur Jr, Fugazi – Kylesa are not that far off from those bands. And a few of their songs even featured a lot of pedal distortion, coming very close to SIANspheric, or even Asobi Seksu’s more furious moments.
Well, genre weirdness aside, I really enjoyed their set. The music was pretty loud, but not overpoweringly so. And it moved at a decent pace – even Pleasants’ more ponderous tunes still ground along with a purpose. I really enjoyed it, and their intensity and the diversity of what they were playing really perked me up and kept me going. In fact, i still felt pretty awake at the end of the show.
They also had a really nice light show.
And for some reason, one of Cope's amp heads thinks it is a hovercraft...
I am very glad I went. This was a heck of a show.