Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Lesson in Metal-- Tooth

I am not a metal fan. Let it be known. If anyone really gives a shit. So how is it that last night I ended up at Durham's premiere metal band, Tooth's Animality CD release party at Duke Coffeehouse? I was influenced by the media. That's how.

Ross Grady amped up this CD in his Triangle Rock ibiblio post. Sometimes I agree with Ross Grady. Then the INDY ran a full-page article that was highly complimentary. Both described an eclectic metal and decreed this CD a local success, and worthy of a listen. So I went.

Before I went I had several expectations:
1. I was not going to like it.
2. I would not understand any lyrics.
3. It would be so unbearably loud my ears would bleed and my head would hurt.
4. I might get injured by a flying bottle or a rampant thrashing mosher.
5. There would be no women at this show.

How am I going to say anything about a metal show. I don't know how to describe metal music. There are so many distinctions to metal: heavy metal, thrash, death, doom, hardcore, nu-metal, glam. Goth, speed, Viking (what the f* is that??) Grindcore goregrind, gorecore. What do I know about this.

This is the second recent CD release I have attended at the Duke Coffeehouse since this blog was created (remember Hammer No More the Fingers) and one of many Duke CH local lineups I've been to in the past few months. I have to say, I am learning to really like this venue. It's a good sized room, it takes on the energy and persona (and often smells) of the bands playing, it's unassuming in that way. But best, the local bands are packing the place. Last night, I'd estimate 125-150 people. Enough to heat the room without claustrophobia, enough to allow for movement without pain. Great crowd, more than I expected. Convinced me of the metal market in Durham.

The lineup was: The Wigg Report (last minute addition, they were supposed to play guerrilla sets outside in between bands, but ended up filling in for cancelled band), The Chest Pains, Gun Metal Black, and Tooth.

Completely missed Wigg Report. This is the least metal of the bands, if they have any metal in them, it's aluminum, soft, and pliable. Arrived for 1/2 of Chest Pains punk set, with some almost bluesy 70's influenced guitar riffs. Then Gun Metal Black's rapid fire thrash metal set. Both high energy, left people sweating. Good performers. Fast fingered guitar solos, Angry bass. Palpitation-inducing triple quadruple kick drum arrhythmias.

It's the vocals. That's what I can't deal with when it comes to metal. The screaming, the guttural, man-possessed monster voice-inator. Not that I need to know the lyrics. I can't understand the lyrics of MOST of the bands I hear for the first time. But I cannot distinguish words here. I hear sounds. And noises. And it's not really singing. Because I am missing the melody. This is my problem here. So I tried to ignore the vocals, nearly impossible, but just listen to what's behind the vocals.

Here Comes Tooth. This is a bunch of young bearded guys, apparently all have known each other growing up for a while. Frontman is long haired, bearded, Dry Heathens Tshirt on. I think I've bought beer from him before. He acknowledges his parents who are there. And then dedicates the show to Satan.

The music is powerful, fast, with wild rearing gallops, like a Stallion one of their songs is titled. They all got their rock faces on, angry, wild-eyed, heads nodding with each kick drum. The bassist is crazed, looks like one of those New Zealand Maori dancers, eyes bulging, tongue out. Bass is held straight up, out in front of him, firing shots into the air. Guitarist are blazing through the frenzied fingered solos, together separate. Frontman has his hair spinning, propeller, in his face growling through his Cousin It do. And then it happened. I understood a lyric. It was something about an oyster that opened up.

That's what it was like, something opened up. It all sort of fit together. It was a pearl in an oyster, finding my own sense of joy in metal. Maybe it was the undeniable good time these guys were having up there. I just let it take over, I nodded my head to the insanely fast kick drum (sore neck today to prove it). I heard the melody through whacked up guitar distortion. I stayed the hell away from the moshers, who were getting more frenzied as the set went on. At some point, the shirtless guitarist mouth-sprayed beer on them, adding stench and wet to the sweaty chaos.

The amp stacks were near as tall as the ceiling, yet the volume was tasteful. It was not so loud that earplugs were required (although still recommended). My ears did not bleed. And there were women there. Lots. Mosh chicks too. I left with my disk, happy I went, new appreciation for metal. Not a convert, just appreciative. And again reminded of how supportive the local musicians are of each other, noticing many musicians from different genres there. Another win for the Durham scene.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

"and We ARE The Dirty Little Heaters"

It's a declaration. The Dirty Little Heaters that were, no longer are, and the new lineup is. Is what, well, I'll get to that.

There was something intriguing and intimidating about two bad-ass, tough rock chicks who kick the shit out of their songs, and DLH had that schoolyard dominated. Their frenzied quick sets captured you and you'd keep giving them your lunch money. Together Reese Gibbs and Melissa Thomas brought some super-power woman stomp rock that left you wanting more. Some breakups are better than others, but most are no good. When something sounds so good, you wonder what happened. I thought the dissolution of the DLH last year was the end of that and was terribly sad for that loss.

But they are back, without Melissa Thomas, and with a new power and attitude that whomps. A new testosterone infused line-up. Rob Walsh (Spinns bassist) on the bass and ubiquitous drummer Dave Perry have joined Reese Gibbs for the new-formed Dirty Little Heaters. Same band name, some same songs, some new ones. The new sound is fuller with more melody and undiminished intensity.

They debuted at Local 506 mid-November with the Loners and Adult Filmmakers. They all (except maybe Dave) seemed a touch nervous, Reese downing the water, "I got cotton-mouth" she kept saying. And why wouldn't she be? It's like introducing the first boyfriend after the divorce to your parents... will they like him and accept him?

Well, I like em. The songs are still fun and pounding with lots of guitar feedback, in fact the songs are mostly the same, "Cherry Van" and "who's got the blow" . The addition of a bass adds a richness and melody line not present prior. The drums are still central and intense. Rob adds the bad party boy smokin, both a cigarette and his bass-playing. Clearly they are having fun with each other. There were some new slower songs, melodic, and Reese promised we'd learn to like them too. (I already did.)

The major force of this band remains the pipes of Reese Gibbs-McHenry. There aren't many voices in this town that can do what she can with hers. Her voice is Janis-y, rocknroll, it's blues, it's gospel, it's got more power and tone than a Marshall amp. It can be sweet and quiet too, still directed and intense. Its the bigness of this voice that makes this band's music and energy unique.

Constructive criticism. Too much down time between songs. To me, this diminished the energy that revved up with the music, gets all your cells jumping. Then have to recalibrate when it gets turned off then on again. Got to keep those neurons hyper-firing.

It was a great comeback, and I'm looking forward to them honing their show, and more songs. It's only going to get bigger and better.


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Salt to Bitters

A few Wednesdays back I headed out for some dinner. Saw a free show at Local 506. I missed out on the opener, Gambling the Muse, who I'd seen previously at Troika, and really enjoyed. But saw Salt to Bitters.

Salt to Bitters is a band that seems to be dedicated to the practice of consuming, imbibing, vomiting, recovering from, apologizing for and celebrating alcohol. The flyer for the show portrayed a body hugging the can presumably puking, the pertinents for the show printed over her back. Foreshadowing for the night.

Tony T. Raver, lead singer is baby-faced, with a weathered look, his guitar looks haggard, beaten. You can almost look at the guitar and know how the music will sound. The music gets started, and it's boozy, wild. Tony is all over the stage, careens wildly, spitting and slamming his pick into the strings. His hair is in his face, and he's stumbling, but in control. Maybe. The drummer is Jenny Tonic, bassist from Jimmy and the Teasers, and she's just plain hot. The rhythms careen as well, with a regular irregularity, jerky stops, that makes you feel like you just might fall over if you try to dance to them, like one too many shots of tequila. There's a violin too. That seemed a bit disconnect, but it lent the perfect hint of whine to the raving emo lyrics. And the violinist was energetic, and moving.

The song content was about love, lost love. Booze, drinking. Sex. Morning after. Great friends, and how they're drunk. It's acoustipunky bar brawl music, makes you feel like swaggering and making inappropriate comments to strangers.

And that's what happened. Just before the cops came. Drunk and disorderly conduct encouraged, next thing you know, the audience is fighting. Apparently the alcoholic disinhibition lead to an over-step of a comment, then the female recipient of the comment hauled off and punched the commenter in the face. Well, when you're drunk, and just got hit by a woman, what's the recourse? You call the police of course. I dunno, did the music make him do it? The glory of the sauce. And that was the end of that.

It was all vertiginous and bombastic. Next time I think I have to drink more to really let loose. I like it though. I was left feeling a little anxious and worried about something I couldn't quite put my finger on. Maybe the music just triggered a little of that swerving, slightly deviant, violent side that I typically suppress.


Friday, November 30, 2007

Back in Action

Got some shows to review, coming up soon. Got sick, then Thanksgiving flurry. Coming soon: Salt to Bitters, Dirty Little Heaters.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Shows this Weekend 11/16

Great music to be had this weekend:

Friday 11/16
Duke Coffeehouse- 8:30pm The revived bill from the previously cancelled Troika show. Now at music lovers price, $5!
-Cantwell Gomez, Jordan

-Veronique Diabolique
-Des Ark -- Aimee solo

James Joyce Pub FREE 10pm

-Blood Red River

-Scott Waite Debacle

Local 506- 10pm $6
-Dirty Little Heaters-- new lineup, but the long-awaited return of Reese Gibbs!
-The Loners
-Adult Filmmakers

Saturday 11/17

Hillsborough Road Coop-- 621 Hillsborough Rd, Carrboro-- $10 all you can eat/drink
This is a house party eating and drinking pre-Thanksgiving festivity.
-Hammer No More the Fingers
-The Bronzed Chorus

Nightlight 10pm $5
-Future Kings of Nowhere
-The Payola Reserve Baltimore
-American Aquarium
-The Black Austin, TX

Sunday 11/18

Local 506 9pm $8

-Rat Jackson
-Red Collar
-The Blakes- Seattle, WA

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Still reeling

To be cliche, I got Hammered last night. I had the distinct pleasure of attending Hammer No More the Fingers CD release "Orgy" last night. It was a great night of music, energy, and I definitely got my $5 worth.

The show was at the Duke Coffeehouse, a medium sized venue, box-shaped with random furniture strewn about. There was food, pizza, beer galore, BBQ. It was celebratory upon entrance. There were more than a hundred people, by my rough estimation for the first band, who went on at close to 10. And that crowd easily doubled as the night wore on. There was an outdoor firepit set up, and this hosted a regular crowd through the night. This was the biggest crowd I've seen at the Duke Coffeehouse for a local show, and the most appealing lineup from beginning to end that I've seen there, even better than what I saw at Troika.

The lineup was supposed to start with Dead to Society. This is a punk band, headed up by "Ill Bill" who really was ill, apparently was sick, so the band canceled. I still want to hear them sometime.

The night kicked off with Future Kings of Nowhere. I've seen these guys before, and tonight was one of the best shows I've seen from them. The lineup was smaller, fewer band members than I've seen, and Shane, the band's frontman was on fire. He was on the tip of his toes, shaking and quaking, whining passionately, and pounding frenetically on his blue acoustic. The drummer was right there with him. A new bassist looked non-plussed, and either nervous or put-out, but hit the notes. The usual horn suspects, a composite of Midtown Dickens, and Eberhardt (2 Durham mainstays) joined and belted out off-note brass that adds to the off-kilter fun and energy of this band.

Next, Red Collar. This is NC's most high energy performing bands. They play melodic punk, banging on guitars, jumping all over the stage, sweating, and audience singing in unison their cynical anthems of hard work and survival. But something was not quite right. At least that is what Jason Kutchma kept telling us during the show, but I wasn't sure what he was talking about. It sounded good to me, and the rest of the crowd didn't seem to notice anything off. And then both guitarists had their instruments on the ground, Mike Jackson being passed overhead through the crowd. Despite no guitars, the audience was still riveted, singing and not a hiccup in the energy. These guys really have it.

I Was totally Destroying It followed. They are fairly new around here, busting onto the scene with a new CD and their own CD release party only a month or so ago. Despite having one of the longest, most difficult to remember or say band names ever, they play a great pop song. The chemistry is there, and rumor has it the lead guitarist/singer and most-talented keyboard/vocal/guitarist Rachel have a thing going on... love a little band love. The visual focus for this band flits between the sweet young Rachel, and the wild, open mouthed arms flinging and flying drumming of James Hepler, arguably one of the most enthusiastic drummers in town. They kept the audience high until the highlight of the night finally hit the stage.

Hammer No More the Fingers, oh, another long-ass silly name. But this gets shortened in many ways, to HNMTF, Hammer, Hammer No More, etc. These guys have been playing together for almost half their lives, and it shows. The guitar playing of Joe Hall is impeccable, his oddly, but so right chord progressions are never covered up by over-distorted pedal effects, just clean beautiful guitar notes. His huge hands look like spiders climbing up and down the neck, making it look easy. The tone is full and complements the melodic bass lines perfectly. Duncan's bass lines are both rhythmic, and catchy melodically, weaving together addictive fun pop songs with a rough crunchy edge. And this is all held together with the confident strong even drumming of Jeff Stickley, smiling wide the whole time. These guys create a perfect musical balance. Their performance is infectious, with the entire crowd singing along, jumping up and down. I felt the floor moving below me, and momentary concern that the Duke Coffeehouse might actually collapse. Joe contorts and bends so far backwards at times, it looks like he might hit the back of his head on the stage. They threw blown up rubber gloves at the audience, and these hands and fingers bounced overhead through the songs. After a rousing set, the boys of Hammer left the stage, and moved mid-floor with the audience for an acoustic version of "Concrete", with the entire audience joining in for the chorus.

Hats of to Hammer, they have created a giant momentum, and I expect to see them launched nationally over the next year. Don't miss their upcoming shows-no doubt they will be playing these smaller, more intimate venues for long. Catch them while you can.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Troika Cancellation!?!?!

OK, more on the Troika bitchfest. This comes with a mix a chagrin, sympathy, and disdain.

Indy blog "reports" that Les Savy Fav cancels. But the show will go on, des ark still playing...... Today, I read on the ch-alt scene listserv that now Des Ark has cancelled too, and the show will be cancelled. What happened?

I feel bad for the local bands who were scheduled to do this show. Cantwell Gomez and Jordan and Veronique Diabolique. These guys should have had opportunity to play this festival, they provide some of the best, most unique music around this town. They got cheated, robbed.

I can only speculate as to what happened. My suspicion is it was money. I bet that the amount of revenue generated by the festival was insufficient to cover the likely hefty guarantee for Les Savy Fav. Zeno Gill's email says that Les Savy Fav and Des Ark cancelled for "opposite reasons". No reasons were stated however. harrumph.

There is this enigmatic sensation of swirling drama surrounding this whole festival, rumours, but really, not a lot of talk about this. In almost a familial protective sense. Don't ask, don't tell. But it leaves the music community befuddled... any chance of preserving this festival, or are we witnessing an implosion in progress?

Oh, and there are reviews coming of the music. So far I haven't even been able to get beyond the swirling vortex of chaos surrounding this fest.