Friday, October 10, 2014

ALBUM REVIEW: Lady Justice - Lady Justice

Lady Justice's self titled debut album opens with a simple eight note chunk that builds with each repetition, an analogy that hold true throughout the album. The quartet (Shane-Guitar, Sam-Bass, Drew-Drums, Jess-Vocals) plays with flowing melodies, flashy solos and jumps between varying genre influences with ease and pulls off a nearly impossible task: keeping this metal head interested for the entire duration of an alt-rock album. In fact, in my opinion, the album gets better the deeper into it you listen, and stays away from become another "default rock" album where every song is a repeat of the one before it.
Every time I restart the album, with tracks Futures and Blue Light put together as a single song, Jess' voice surprises. The minute long introduction leaves me with my head cocked like an RCA dog, waiting for what's next...

Jess' voice POPS from the speakers. I think I actually verbalized an "ooh". Pure, soft, delicate and sultry somehow all at once, her melodies stroll elegantly over Shane's picking, popping and even the occasional reggae-ish ba-bumping. In "All Or Nothing" Jess bounces with the guitar in a particularly tasty bite of ear candy before leading into a power chorus, complete with distortion and a level change. "All Or Nothing" also highlights a technique all often underutilized by musicians who haven't learned the lesson Less Is More. Or more elegantly, sometimes it's the notes you don't play that make the song. The repeating rests at the end of each bar add a just enough panache to make it interesting, but not distracting. 

"Drink It Down", the fist of two singles off "Lady Justice", didn't really jump out at me. It's not a bad song by any means, but certainly not one of my favorites. The structure just doesn't work all that well for me. It has the basic verse-pre chorus-chorus-repeat-bridge-solo-chorus that has become standardized song writing, which is all well and good (it's the standard for a reason), but the guitar seems a little wandery in the second verse, and the solo comes out disjointed from the rest of the song. At the same time, I like the individual separation between the instruments because it really allows the song to breath.... so if you don't mind I'm going to go to my corner and continue to have this cake while I eat it. 

"Crash And Burn" on the other hand, is a definite head bobber. Jess' vocals are absolutely dripping with attitude, You can almost hear her eyes rolling sarcastically. The song makes me want to get up from the laptop and dance around the house with a scarf while thoroughly enjoying the karmic revenge executed on the the idiots in my life. Was that weird? Yeah OK, that was weird. 

(Photo Courtesy of True Northwest Productions ) 

The albums ninth track, "Connect" sounds like it should be performed on a theater stage, integrated into the year's biggest musical. And I mean that in the nicest of ways. Yes I'm a metal head, but I'm also a sucker for good theater and as "Connect" plays you can almost see the dueting singers dancing down sidewalks, shuffling into alleys, hanging from the bottom rung of fire escapes and leaning back and forth flirtatiously. It has a fun, light hearted and upbeat feel without loosing the inherent sweetness within. 

Without a doubt, my personal favorite track is "Joke's On You", I found the opening riff incredibly catchy, and both the guitar and vocals transition into the chorus of the song seamlessly, pausing only to emphasize the title point - "Joke's On You". As the story of the song unfolds, with added exclamation points from drummer Drew, it leads to increasing urges to raise a fist and cry out "You Go Girl!"
"Joke's On You" - Acoustic Style

For a first release, this album is impressive. While I mentioned a few personal taste bugs, not one song turned me off. Every album has those one or two songs that you skip past every time, and I really didn't find any of those. I have my favorites, sure, but I also don't have any that I can't stand; a monstrous feat in the pleasure battle between me and the love/hate relationship I have with alt-rock. There were times I marveled at the writing, and times I thought they hit a clunker. Jess' voice impressed me, the richness in her tone is uncanny, but I also found myself lamenting that an opportunity was missed to do more with her vocals through doubling and/or layering. Maybe even add an effect here and there. The vocal purity shouldn't be sidelined in the least, it should be out front and center, but there are ways to take that purity and shine it up a bit more than it already is. Hopefully there will be a few more of those gems on the next release. 

RATING: B(uy It)
It's not going to blow your hair back or knock you out of your chair, but it's great to enjoy on a Sunday morning with that first cup of coffee. 

Lady Justice (Self Titled) can be purchased on iTunes

For More Information on Lady Justice visit their Website, Facebook, YouTube or ReverbNation pages. 

Also be sure to catch one of their Upcoming Shows. I have yet to have the pleasure, but I have a feeling Lady Justice is a hell of a performance. 

(Photo Courtesy of True Northwest Productions ) 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Album Review: THREE; by Numbers

I feel like I should start this review with full disclosure: Numbers is my favorite Seattle band, and one of my favorite bands period, local or national. I also figure that's a safe bet for my first album review. Chances are I won't hate it, but I won't be dishonest either. It helps that theirs is also the most recent album release by a local act that I'm in tune with...

Things start with Shortly Broken, hard and heavy. Right out of the gate they seem to be establishing what this album is going to be about - the mathy chunky riffs I love them for- but it soon moves into a more pop standardized 4/4 double kick riff with clean vocals over the top (as opposed to growling). It may be more appealing to mass audiences but as a metal head, I feel it lacks some edge from the start of the previous self titled album. There's something to be said for putting on an album, hearing it lead with a solid piano intro and then diving into a crazy techno-math-metal-growly explosion, as I found with the beginning on "Ice On Fire", and the only response is an exclamation of "HOLY SHIT!". It almost seems like this three minute song is designed to be an intro track to the rest of the album. It establishes a feel for THREE as a whole, more than standing as a piece of brilliant song writing on it's own.

Empty Eyes definitely pulls at my "retro" (1st album) heart strings more. It has a ridiculously sick intro, more piano incorporated, and more of the bouncing incessantly back and forth between singing and growling that I associate with Numbers, . Empty Eyes also pushes a catchy chorus vocal. I won't deny I walked around for days muttering under my breath "Excuse me, but you got it wrong"... I can't put my finger on it, but this track seems to have more pizazz, more depth, and well written parts than it's predecessor.

And then comes Legal Lee Speaking. Maybe it's how my personal tastes work out, maybe it's designed this way, but on both of their albums the 3rd track hits a special place for me, and I think is clearly the single. (If you haven't heard Bravery, stop reading and listen). It has that edge that's necessary to make me feel slapped in the face, like in the words of Fight Club, "makes be want to kill every panda that won't screw to save it's species". There's an urgency and a dedication that demands LISTEN TO THIS. DO IT. DO IT NOW!!! Pay special attention to the breakdown at 1:38. It has everything that attracts me to Numbers... A chunky break down, with a keyboard underlay and interesting guitar structure pushing the whole thing along.

As the album moves into Fight or Flight, we need to take a moment to face facts. Victor Olavarria is a stud. Seriously. Take a minute to listen, and catch him live. He's one of those freak individuals that piss me off because they have a natural musical gift of talent I never will. I may be a decent player, but i had to work my ass off to get there. It took years of studying, scale assessment and an understanding of how my instrument worked. Victor seems like the kind of guy that sat down and could just play... and then he did the learning on top of it. When you watch him in videos it's that rare combination of fluidity and technique. I once had a gifted "raw talent' drummer say to me "any rock band is only as good as their drummer", and that made sense to me. You could have 7 guitarists riffing all over the place, but if you don't have a drummer that doesn't pull it all together and makes you want to head bang what's the point? Victor has both. if you're looking for a more sequitur example, think Travis Barker of Blink 182. I know, I know, they're a cheesy pop punk band with the annoying high voices, but that doesn't mean he's any less of a bad ass drummer. Seriously, listen to Barker play. He GETS it. So does Victor. No song on the album displays it more than Fight or Flight. He throws in a brilliant command of double kick, but with accents so he doesn't over do it, while remaining patient on the other pieces. He binds it together, as a drummer should, integrating the guitar/bass riffs with the vocals and keeping your head bobbing at the same time. (I found a clip of Victor recording Figured You Forgot; from the first album)

Short note on It's Chilly Out - the dissonant piano is brilliant, and that theme carries throughout the song. They keep ritarding (musical term alert) to that same theme for the duration of the song. It's Chilly Out is a good song, but more importantly shows the musical knowledge of Kyle Bishop, the singer and primary song writer. It doesn't all have to be 4/4 root to 5th to 1 (again, music terms). Stretch! It'll be OK. I'll buy into it.

Undertow... WTF?!!?! It's an epic 11 MINUTE piece, clearly written to stroke ego of those writing it. I don't say that to undermine the songs intentions, I've written 13 minutes songs, sometimes they just come out that way, but what impresses me is that Numbers managed to do it without a stoneresk Pink Floyd interlude in the middle. You don't see that much. And by not much I mean almost never. Especially out of a local act. Undertow clearly demonstrates this bands ability to push their own musical boundaries. I don't care what band you are, there is a vulnerability to a song you have to succumb to in order to write an 11 minute tune. My experience has been that you literally just decide "I'm not in charge anymore" and the song takes you where it's going, whether you want it to or not. i often hear novelists say the same thing, referring to their characters being in control of the author, not the other way around. Songs aren't that much different. Kudos to Numbers letting the song take you. You pulled it off. It works. YOU DONE IT!

Sicken is a fantastic highlight. It's got everything. A little bit of metal, little bit of pop, little bit of techno, little bit of solid piano, even a little bit of what sounds like a marimba. If you know anything about me, I'm a sucker for wicked fast guitar riffs over multi-layered back beat, and Sicken has exactly that. I'm always amazed that those kinds of scale melodics can be written over the top of standardized metal riffs. 2 minutes and 17 seconds into the song they demonstrate all these points. It is possible to have the best of both worlds. Sit back and listen, they'll show you.

While I've spent the last few paragraphs highlighting some of the gems of the album, I must admit I felt like there is something missing from this sophomore release. I fell in love with Numbers because I thought they were just metal enough to be legit, and just poppy enough to appeal to masses... meaning me. I may be a metal head, but I make no secret that I'm incredibly picky about my metal and if it doesn't hit that exact spot, I tend to gravitate away from it. I would recommend THREE to anyone, but it definitely doesn't match up to the self titled album. I think they've hit a little bit of the sophomore struggle seen so often: You've had a lifetime to write the first album, and a year to write a second. It's seems to me they have a bit of a decision to make: Do you focus your appeal to the math-core fans, or the pop-metal fans? Either way, I'll be waiting anxiously.

Solid B: for BUY IT. It's well worth the money to purchase the album. You won't be let down...unless you're like me and the first album changed your life, and you were hoping for a repeat. Sadly, that repeat never comes twice, because it's never quite at just the right time again. Don't get me wrong, I'll enjoy the shit out of this record and 'wear out the wax" (if you're into made up throwback phrases) but it won't replace their first release.

Numbers: THREE can be purchased at:
Band Camp, iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon

More Information on Numbers can also be found on their WebsiteFacebook, Twitter, YouTube and Sound Cloud accounts, and be sure to catch them at any (OR ALL) of their upcoming shows.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Zombie Jihad, Shades of Static, Thirion X, Blackline, The Saints of Damnation, Strawberry Rocket - April 4th, 2014, Louie G's

Zombie Jihad
Let's start with this... I only saw three songs (I know, I was one of those jackasses who got there late) so take everything I say with that in mind. A little "grain of salt" syndrome, if you will. That being said, I got the impression this was a band that is just doing it for the fun of it, which isn't a bad thing. They were a little bit rock, a little bit blues, with a guitar tone reminiscent of old school Nirvana. That's guitar TONE, not guitar STYLE. Johnny Rockstar (Guitar) has it dialed in to sound like Bleach, you know, if it'd been a blues album. There wasn't anything that turned me off about Zombie Jihad, and if you're a fan of blues-rock, as I am, they're a band worth checking out. Although I suggest taking a leap of faith and just going to one of their shows rather than looking them up online. It doesn't appear they have much of an interweb presence.
Find more information for Zombie Jihad on their Facebook or ReverbNation pages.

Shades of Static
I'd describe their show in two words - Good 'Nough. I guess that's not even two complete words, which basically describes how I felt watching them. Don't get me wrong, they aren't bad, but I found them very unsurprising, and exactly as their name describes, static. It didn't seem like the set had any ebb, any flow, none of the proverbial "W" of excitement level most bands try to achieve. Granted, it was a tough room at time, so I give a little leeway for that. I can tell you personally how difficult it can be playing a show to 30-40 people when it's early in the night and the crowd seems more interested in pizza than the band on stage. I can also tell you personally that you should always blast out at 100% because you never know when some border line over the hill asshole like me is sitting in the crowd taking notes to write a review and enjoying pizza (Calzone technically, which is to DIE for at Louie G's by the way. It lives up to the hype). I've spent some time listening to their recorded music and had the same impression, unfortunately. It's not bad, but nothing really jumps out at me, and I keep waiting for it to get out of second gear. But maybe I just don't "get it", maybe I'm not on enough drugs, maybe I think my opinion matters too much.... You be the judge.
Find more information for Shades of Static on Facebook

Thirion X
The dichotomy of Thirion X to Shades of Static couldn't have been more drastic. Yes, I'm a metal head by nature, but here was a band that barely made it over the pass from Spokane in time to play (they were a late addition to do another band canceling), hit the stage, and rocked. They had kind of a Godsmack meets Disturbed feel. Guitarist Antonio's chunky and grinding no nonsense guitar riffs make your head bob, whether you want it to or not. Odin (vocals) has a great throaty growl, which to me is the best kind. A growl that sounds like it's coming from the top of the chest, not the throat, and not from somewhere in the bowels of the intestines... pardon the pun. His clean singing voice wasn't spectacular, but not bad, and used just enough to break up the vocal monotony that many metal bands fall into the trap of.  I love watching bands that come from out of town that seem like they have a statement to make, and Thirion X was that type of band. They had an energy with them that said "We're here, and we're gonna show you that Seattle ain't the only place that knows how to rock!". In the most polite way, of course. Being out of your city, out of your element, it makes a band really bring it because they're there with something to prove, and they're going to make every effort to impress the house, gain fans, and be invited back. Even with a minor tech problem or two early in the set, they didn't allow it to destroy their set, and they powered right on through with ease. That always says a lot about a bands fortitude and character. I say to you, oh travelling Seattle metal band: If you're looking for someone to partner up with on the east side of the mountains who doesn't suck, look up Thirion X.
Find more information for Thirion X on their Facebook and ReverbNation Pages

Before I get into Blackline, I really think it necessary to make a point here about set changes. It's possible there were technical problems or other mitigating circumstances I'm not aware of, so I apologize if that's the case, but a FIFTY SIX MINUTE interlude of silence is just not acceptable at any venue, nor should it be. From the minute the band before you finishes, you are on a timer. If you aren't on stage and and least making noise, even if it's not running through the house system, within 20 minutes people get bored. They have had a chance to have a smoke, grab a beer and chat about the last band. If you aren't playing by then, you're losing the crowd. They're getting bored and leaving. Not only does that hurt your audience, it hurts the audience for every band after you. So let's be polite and get your gear off, and on stage huh? And if the band before you isn't off the stage in about 7 minutes, you should be practically setting up behind them to make a point. There's no room for Prima Donna's here! Get a move one!

Ok so after an ungodly amount of time, Blackline hit the stage. They have all the trademarks of experienced musicians: proficiency, talent, performance awareness, chemistry, good songwriting, and they're tight as hell. Points, points, points and more points. I personally found it a little dated. That says nothing about the bands ability, only about my personal taste. Even in my early thirties I'm continually striving to find that new sound; this can also be a double edged sword because I'm also incredibly picky. If you aren't that new sound, you better just absolutely rock, and I don't mean "be a good musician". I mean your stage set better force me to get up and get as close as possible to whatever music you're putting out. If you aren't doing either of those, be prepared to be a bar band forever. That's my issue here with Blackline. They are very talented musicians, but I found myself seriously yearning for the "wow" factor.

The Saints of Damnation
That "wow" factor? Yeah, there it is. I've probably seen TSOD about a dozen times, and this was one of the most energetic shows I've seen them play. I'll be honest, the room was dying when they went on, and holy shit did they pull people back in. It was like a clap of thunder suddenly shattered through Louie G's and suddenly everyone realized " Oh Right! Rock Music!". They even managed to get a mosh pit started between what appeared to be a pair of teenagers and drunken has been. Trust me, those are the best kind. TSOD seem to have one motive in mind: kick ass, melt faces, and don't apologize for it. There's no frills, no gimmicks, just head banging hard rock, and top it off you can tell they love playing. All of these guys have been around the scene for a long time and, even though I've said this a hundred times, it shows. Robert Maeder (vocals) fascinates me every time he opens his mouth. He's always on key, but he has this gritty, almost husky, voice that irritates me.... only because I'm envious. If I sang like that (and if I sang at all), I'm pretty sure I'd had sores on my uvula. Jason Austin (Guitar) is as slick as ice, and moves effortlessly across his strings, chugging out riff after riff like a freight train. Speaking of freight trains, bassist Bloody is a giant among men, has the personality to match, and plays like it. He demands attention by playing solid grooves, and securing the fortress for the other members. No bass pedals here dammit! Bloody routinely gives me a hard time about my playing days as a bassist because I used about 6 different effect pedals, and he's just good enough to give me pause and rethink my setup. Almost... Keith Rousu (drums) takes the stage with a minimal 4 piece kit and busts the hell out of it, reminding drummers everywhere the rule isn't "get more stuff", it's "do more with your stuff". Fun fact about Keith, you can find him at the CLink on Seahawks Sunday's conducting, yes CONDUCTING, Blue Thunder.  Bloody is also a screen printer and designer, so if you're looking for t-shirts or other printables, look him up at Downforce Designs, and the soon to be opened Hot Mess Designs.
You can also find more info on The Saints of Damnation on Facebook, ReverbNation, and their YouTube channel.

Strawberry Rocket
Last band of the night, and odd band out of the night. These guys were in a world all their own, totally unique to anything else heard that night, and I found it wonderfully refreshing. The first thing I noticed, and I mean the very first thing, was that these guys are crazy good on their instruments. It took me all of about fifteen seconds to think "uh... yeah. I'll never be that good". They were quirky and fun, filling the room with good ol' fashioned dance rock, with just a touch of Latin flavoring to spice things up (again, pardon the pun). It reminded me of watching bands in the humble Methow Valley, where I grew up. The kind of band where the local banker, and the carpenter who was building his house, who had a friend that lived in a yurt, decided to start jamming one day. It was a great way to close out the night, and to let things wind down naturally. In true Strawberry Rocket fashion, allow me to close with a quote from their show - "This song is about a little blue dot you can make a wish on. Maybe it'll come true, maybe not. You know how wishing dots are".
Find more info for Strawberry Rocket on their Facebook and ReverbNation pages.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Rain Light Fade, Darklight, Circus Sized Peanuts, Buck Up Little Kamper - January 4th, 2014, Studio 7

Rain Light Fade
Sometimes I see a band and have the thought "this band has NO BUSINESS being a local". That was my impression of Rain Light Fade. These guys are just pro, there's no other way to put it. Their Facebook page lists their influences as Depeche Mode and A Perfect Circle, and that's exactly how I'd describe them. Just funky enough to want to move your hips, just rock enough to bob your head. Their songs are well written and well constructed, and it's very obvious Rain Light Fade is a band with musicians who know their shit. You can just see they're a band who has been around for a while, the guys have experience, and they've learned how to take command of a stage with unreal confidence. These are all the marks of a band that, as I said before, has no business being a local act. Each member adds just enough flip and flare to make things interesting, without deterring from the path of the song. There is just enough soloing to keep things interesting, and more importantly, it's done in an interesting way. For example, in "Taken Lower" there is a nice little scale diddy, but rather than use your typical screaming distortion and blasting it out, Ian Tomlinson (guitar) blankets it with a with a muted, distant effect. It's like someone who is red faced angry and whispers their frustrations instead of yelling... often a more much more terrifying prospect. He then follows it up with slow melodic solo that's tasty as hell. Steve Gale (drums) pings off the bell on his ride cymbal to accomplish the same goal. It's just enough to perk my ears up, draw some attention to what's happening at the back of the stage, without being obnoxious. Those are the kind of things a band does when the players are comfortable with their instruments and they don't have to prove to anyone how "good" they are. Bassist Eric A. Vickers tone that night was sick, and as a bassist myself, there's nothing that gives me a warm fuzzy more than listening to a bassist who has a wonderfully dialed in tone. And then there's vocalist Dane Vance Creek.He has one of the strongest voices I've seen in Seattle. So many people try to pull off that "I'm Maynard James Keenan" thing if they play in a progressive rock band, and thank God, he doesn't. He uses his own style and melody to woo the audience, both with his voice and his stage act. In summation, let me put it this way: I took some video on my phone and sent it to a vocalist friend of mine. The response I got was "WOW great voice! Even with the shitty phone quality they sound great". Check these guys out. Their videos don't do the band enough justice to their live show.
For more info on Rain Light Fade at their Facebook,  or ReverbNation pages. You can also follow them on Twitter and their YouTube channel.

I've been following Darklight since they played their very first show about a year and a half ago. In that time they've really become comfortable on stage, and worked out all the "new band" jitters that only time and experience can alleviate. They look like they've moved beyond that awkward teenager phase, into a well adjusted contributing member of the music community. Ok... well adjusted is a bit generous, but you get the idea. Darklight has a command of the stage now. They show up ready to play, and ready to have fun. So often in the music scene bands forget they should allow room for the F word. Meaning Fun, not that F word  (get your mind out of the gutter). Not Darklight. These guys, and specifically Little Ben, have no shame. They're joking with the crowd, making fun of themselves, bringing kids on stage, and still playing a great show. In the last year especially I've noticed the band has become a tight, well practiced machine. There is no more fumbling between songs, questioning looks among members during changes, and there is nothing for them to prove anymore. Darklight has figured out who they are and found the music they want to write. It's a little grunge, a little straight 4/4 rock, dirty, with just a touch of metal. Shannon "Freakshow" Koontz belts out lyrics that are introspective and brooding, challenging listeners to question themselves and the expectations placed on them, while maintaining slick guitar riffs. Being a thee piece band, Freakshow has no secondary guitar to back him up, and he is up the challenge of writing melodies that don't follow a "keep it simple while singing" formula. I think Shannon is a better guitar player than he gets credit for. I find myself tied up in watching him sing in makeup and interact with "Little" Ben Scott (bass) and forget to watch his talent on the strings. Ben is a well known music promoter around Seattle, a total ham, and always in show mode. His energy onstage leaves nothing to be desired, and he's one hell of a bassist as well. He always has a solid tone, and he makes filling in the gaps left by not having a second guitarist beautifully. I have one note to offer Ben: put some damn shoes on. I admire your pretty blue socks, but it's just gross.
Xavier Upshaw (Drums) is definitely comes off as the quiet one of the group. He keeps hidden behind his set, keeps the rhythm, and I can only imagine keeps Shannon and Ben in check.
Find more information on Darklight on their Facebook, ReverbNation and YouTube pages.

Circus Sized Peanuts
I have a feeling Circus Sized Peanuts is a young band, both as a group, and the median  age of it's members. There is a LOT of potential here, but there are definitely some pieces of advice I have to offer from old jaded "vet" of the music business in Seattle. This metal group is made of of a vocalist, two guitars, and a drummer. But where is their bassist? Nowhere to be found. At first I thought maybe they were playing to  a track, but no. And then I thought maybe he came down with the flu that's been going around, and they decided to play the show without him, which would be a pro move (if it's possible for your band to do so), but further research just revealed they don't HAVE a bassist. Maybe this is just due to the band being in it's infantile stages still, but I hope it's not a long term plan, because the lack of low-end is very apparent. The two guitarists (Bryce Morrell, Taylor Wheeler) are decent players, with nothing too flashy, which I like. They seem to focus on keeping the metal, metal and not emphasizing how cool they are. The tone each of them achieves compliment the other very well, and the overall sound is chunky as hell, which I'm a total sucker for. Vocalist Zac Basher has a great growl, throaty and guttural with power behind it, but his clean vocals leave something to be desired. It seemed like more a rap with the words extended a little than it did actual singing. My advice here is to commit one way or the other. If you're going for a rap vibe, go for it. If you're singing, take some time to focus on melody. Pay attention to the vocals of the bands you love, and how they integrate/alternate the vocal patterns with the music behind them. I found one thing disjointed  during their set. The whole time was straight up metal - distorted guitars, double kick, deep growls... except for one song. During "See Ya Later" things couldn't have taken a more left turn. There was . no growling at all, not a hint of distortion, and drummer Kyle Basher even turned his snares off. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they shouldn't go for versatility, but there's something to be said for happy medium. Going from 10 to 1 in a single instant is difficult for an audience to know what to do with. Again, there is a LOT of potential with Circus Sized Peanuts. They are for sure headed in the right direction, but are also not quite there yet. With a little time, practice, experience and decision making on who they want to be as a band, this is going to be a group to watch for.
Find more information on Circus Sized Peanuts on their Facebook page.

Buck Up Little Kamper
All the way from Ketchikan, Alaska, Buck Up Little Kamper came to Seattle to melt faces. When these guys took the stage they looked PUMPED, but also nervous. Being on the road is always exciting but before taking the stage, taking a moment to breath can settle the nerves and make your group look like a pro. Like you've been here before, like you're ready to rock but you're in control. They settled down a couple songs in and it wasn't a detriment to their set, just an observation I made. Metal metal metal is the name of this bands game. It was all metal all the time. Anthony "Jack Human" Matthews (vocals) has a very very deep growl, which isn't my personal preference, but he does it well. Guitarist John "Little Johnny Horror" Sullivan is a firecracker, and entertaining as hell to watch. A borderline madman on stage, the music appears to consume him entirely as he jumps, throws his guitar around, and generally has a seizure. And I don't say that in a negative way. On the other side of the stage Will "Wild Bill" Stevenson and Lee "The Sheriff" Freeman are the rocks that hold it all together... almost literally. I found myself watching a tale of two stages. From my view, the left was going crazy, rocking out, threatening to destroy everything in their path. On the right, I'm pretty sure a kitten would have felt safe. I know it should be all about the music, but you do have to factor in performance when reviewing a show, and there was just nothing coming from that side of the stage, which made me question "are those guys even enjoying themselves?". On the other hand, there's something to be said for being yourself, and if they're naturally shy guys, so be it. 
Find more information on Buck Up Little Kamper on their Facebook page. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Windowpane, Mechanism, In The Between, Inside The Gates - December 21st, 2014, Louie G's Pizzeria

A staple in the Seattle music scene for over ten years, Windowpane never disappoints. For a band that could be labeled with the often deragetory "default rock", they bring it. They aren't going to blow your mind with their technical abilities (although they have them), hallucinogenic stages, glitz or glam, but Windowpane just plain knows how to rock. They're a band. Comrades. In the fight to the end, and it shows. This is a band I have been following for several years, back to my own playing days. They were the guys we looked up to, inspirations of "making it". They sold out the Showbox with ALL LOCAL BANDS, a task that seems impossible in today's music economy. They have toured with 5 Finger Death Punch. Played at a sold out Paramount, and yet remain some of the most humble and friendly people I've ever had the pleasure to meet, and the privlidge to enjoy conversations with. These are the type of guys that will put on a show as professional as any band you'll see, and then walk off the stage and steal the night away taking shots of tequila and spewing road stories and advice to a group of starry eyed kids who only hope to someday be at their level, and the ability to contribute stories of their own. Glenn Cannon (Vocals/Guitar) is a constant appreciative ham on stage, thanking and loving on the fans at every opportunity. Even in the face of mic stands toppling over Windowpane never misses a beat. With a single finger twirl the remaining group presses on with an impromptu jam session until the problem is solved and they move directly into the next song. Had you been sitting at a table enjoying a slice of Louie G's famous pizza (foolishly) instead of watching the show chances are you never would have known. Tony Abreu (Guitar) is just a plain stud. A showman to the core and a damn sexy beast, if I say so myself. He keep his mop top flowing just a fast as his fingers, never missing a note. Whether squealing out tastefully written solos, backing up Glenn vocally, leaning back to back with another member, or extending his guitar over the crowd for a closer look at his artistry, Tony is one hell of a player. Mark Harris (Bass) holds down the low end as a true bassist should. Nothing flashy here, just a good solid base [pun intended] for the rest of the group to work around. I have nothing but respect, being a bassist myself, for the guys who don't need to make it about them when the song doesn't warrant it. He does his job, does it well, and sure look likes he has a good time doing it. You know, like a bassist. Sean Morrison (Drums)  locks in with Mark beautifully. The two work in tandum like a machine, slapping at accents and adding just that little bit of flare that every good drummer provides to finish off a song. Often it's just that little bit of polish that makes the difference. Too much and you end up with a dingy film over the whole thing, too little makes no difference at all, but just the right amount makes everything shine.
Find More Information on Windowpane at their official website:, on Facebook, ReverbNation or the Windowpane YouTube channel. You can also follow them on their Twitter account.

*Bonus points to anyone who can find me in the video below. I haven't been able to spot myself, but I'm pretty sure I was at the show this video was filmed at.

Mechanism is one of those bands I have been hearing about for a looooong time, but have never actually seen perform. A band I would describe as a bit of the old school metal, I wasn't all that impressed by the first couple of songs, given all the hype I had heard. They did bring an AMAZING and supportive crowd, so the buzz can't be for naught. As the show went on, two things became clear: Mechanism got better as they played, and Tacoma loves it's metal. Like really loves it's metal. It has been a very long time since I've seen a legit mosh pit break out, and Mechanism got the crowd going enough to spawn one. If anyone stole the show for the night, I have to give it to this five-some. And damn can these guys wail! I'll admit whiddly-woo solos aren't my cup of tea but it is VERY VERY apparent Ryan Renfield (Vocals, Guitar) and Tony DeLisio (Guitar) are talented and extremely proficient on their instruments. At one ponit in the set the two guys slipped into a piece played in unison; a nice touch and not easy to do well. They pulled it off precisely and it played a big part in selling me on what they were putting out there.  Daryl Williams (Drums) stood out to me more than anyone. His double kick is like a metronome, and his snare sound in particular is delicious. It has that perfect *ping* and resonance you often find in picilo snares, and it's a sound I can't get enough of when used in the right band. The recent addition of Manny Rojas on keyboards has really added a layer of depth not present in the video below. Manny has a unique gift of being a "lead"keyboardist, wailing on the black and whites the same way a guitarist would. It's a unique feature, especially among local metal bands.
Find more information for Mechanism on their official website,  or Mechanism's Facebook page.

Take a little old school rock, a little progressive metal (or what I've affectionately heard referred to as "wuss" metal), an underlying track played from a laptop, give it some pure toned lady vocals on top as the cherry, and you've got the recipe for In The Between. I have seen this band several times now, and enjoyed it every time. Maybe I'm getting old, but I find In The Between a breath of fresh air in a rock scene filled with loud, screamy guitars, gravelly vocals, and a chug along double kick. Don't get me wrong, I'm a metal head and love all of those elements, but to be honest there are a lot of bands in the northwest that just do a piss poor job (as defined by my, and only my, personal ear holes) of knowing when enough is enough. Will Warren (Drums) puts in just enough double kick to give it some oomph when neccesary, but doesn't use it as a clutch to add more meat to the songs. It turns out that's a good thing, because the songs don't need it. Will is one of those classic 'pound the shit out of the skins' drummers, but he doesn't follow the 'keep it in 4/4' rules so often associated them. He adds his own intros, break downs and interjections that allow his talent to shine through without overpowering his band mates. Shane Scot (Guitar, Vocals) appears to have a defined sound he's going for, and it comes through in the way the songs are written and structured. Using delays and chorus effects that are found prominently in the progressive "wuss" metal scene he weaves a pleaseant tapestry using the loom that is the depth track that accompanies their sets. The talent and purity of Kaitlin Beard's vocals can't be doted on enough. Even though I've seen In The Between 4 or 5 times, I'm always blown away at how classically powerful her voice is, and how natural she makes it look. Kaitlin is an artist who obviously enjoys what she's doing, often joking and smiling throughout the sets with both her band mates and crowd. It's a behavior that's infectious and spreads like wildfire among those of us on the floor. Trust me, I catch myself grinning like an idiot watching these guys (and gal) play, and the quick glances I steal of those around me prove I'm not the only one.
Find more information for In The Between at their official website, the band's Facebook page, YouTube channel, at ReverbNation or on Twitter.

*Two videos for In The Between. One to feature their video, the other Kaitlin's voice. TV is a very unfriendly environment for a singer due to the fact there is little or no reverb, and the vocal mics always run extremely hot. She pulls it off beautifully, see it HERE.

Unfortunately, it can't be all love. I knew nothing about Inside The Gates before the show, and I didn't see anything that made me want to seek them out in the future. They are a half cover, half original band featuring the best of old school metal. The one standout was Lucas Clevenger, whose vocals are uncanny. He has pipes like you can't believe and that serve as a real tribute to the "hair metal" bands of the late 80's and early 90's. It's like watching Robert Plant on steroids. The rest of the guys are decent enough musicians, but again I'm picky about my metal, and their style just does not do it for me at all. Maybe it's because I didn't grow up on Ozzy and Metal Church, maybe it's because my ears (and brain) were getting tired by the end of the night, or maybe it's because I knew I had an hour drive back to the north end of Seattle, but I found myself headed for the car after about four songs. I found them plain unexciting to watch. That's not to say they're untalented or they played poorly, because that wasn't the case at all, but in this business you fave to factor in the entertainment value for your audience, and I found their performance lacking in that department. But what do I know? I can't speak for everyone, and maybe your opinion will differ from mine and they will be your new favorite band. They just won't be mine.
You can find more information on Inside The Gates on their Facebook page or at ReverbNation.