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. 

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