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
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.
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.