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.



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