Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tower Defense, Brother Ares, Debonair, Laser Flames on the Great Big News at the Owl Farm 2/8

Here we are again, it's blog time. This installment occurred at the always wonderful despite sketchily located Owl Farm. Seriously, once you get past the gunshots (just like with lightning, count the seconds between when you see muzzle flash and when you hear the bang to see how far away it is!) and the stray dogs (the pair I saw both appeared gravid), it's a great venue usually filled with good people.

I  hope this b&w filter hides my crap photography skills
This night was no different. First up was local trio Tower Defense. First and foremost: I have no idea if they're named after the flash game genre or not. Regardless, husband-and-wife pair Mike and Sarah Shepherd both handle bass duties while drummer Jereme Frey pounds away. According to their facebook page, Tower Defense was started by Mike and Jereme, who have been in a number of other bands including Gentlemen Divers, Bad Feeler, and the venerable Apollo Up!, and Mike's wife Sarah (herself having played in Take The Power Back, an all-female Rage Against the Machine cover band, and Short Ropes) joined to help play covers at a benefit show. "Suddenly," the 'About' section reads, "the music starting being good." I can't help but agree. These three old friends play a style of post-punk that has pop punk sensibilities without being overly saturated with sweetness, and doesn't go as dark as Joy Division. These three each sing at one point or another. The Shepherds ring out some infectious grooves, with Sarah usually on the bottom part and Mike playing the higher strings. Jereme's strong and energetic drums give a dose of power to this band that really adds some punch to the sound. The vocals are sung in a straightforward and melodic manner, with tasty harmonies throughout. The vocals could be considered synecdochic for the entire sound in that they seem to be going for a rather straightforward style without a lot of adornments, and really, they don't need them. These three have a hooky, expressive style without a lot of fuss.
Since they don't seem to have any streams up and running, have a video of a past performance instead:

so far so good
Next up was noise-doom duo Brother Ares. What can I say about these two that has not already been said (by me)? They play a mixture of doom and sludge with screechy dysmelodic, atonal interludes, intros, and outros. Nick Gore pounds the drums and yells full-bodiedly while Blake Conley strums and shreds guitar and yells in a higher and less rough manner. Their riffs are mammoth in weight and pace - you'll find you can take more than one breath during some sustains. Blake's amp, responsible for his gorgeous tone, doesn't have a top because it was found in the trash. Their love for The Body is noticeable in their sound and also because they started out not using microphones. Their preoccupation with warring birds and remaining a two-some is reminiscent of Eagle Twin, whose influence can also be felt in their sound. A few tracks can even get a bit Isis-y (a la "Weight" from Oceanic). This show was great example of Blake and Gore at their best. They even looked like they were having fun. At one point, [a guy from] the audience came up and started screaming into the microphone. I heard from Gore later that he'd talked to [the guy] about doing it before (turns out he did vocals for some other local bands); at the time it kinda looked like he just decided to grab it out of the blue. Regardless of intent it was pretty jarring. Otherwise it was a pretty exemplary set with lots of good strong positive energy flowing. They rounded it out by bringing back one of their favorite covers, Black Flag's "My War." Look for an upcoming split cassette from them as a part of a series by Across Tundras' Tanner Olson, as well as their full-length LP The Aviary as soon as it gets finished mixing and mastering. Til then, stream this:

Third up were the local gentlemen of Debonair. Blake from Brother Ares had talked these guys up to me for a while now, so I was excited to see them. Maybe everyone was; it might have just been my imagination, but the air seemed full of anticipation while these men who appeared stylish, good-natured, and perhaps actually debonair set up. At least two of the members sported well-groomed mustaches after all. Sadly neither of the two bass players had a fuzzy caterpillar-esque upper lip, but I won't hold that against them, as their playing more than compensated. Like, way more. These guys rocked the house and sent all kinds of great vibes through the audience. I have in my notes that these guys have elements of post-hardcore and math rock in their sound with a touch of post-rock, but really these guys have a sound that's all their own.

Still, there's a few influences I think I hear; at some points they remind me of a deranged Slint. I even heard some Filter in there, before they got all unbelievable and wanted you to take their picture and shit (not like they'll remember anyway.). No, Debonair play their own brand of space math rock with two bassists, a guitarist whose vocals remind me a touch of Knoxville's Billy Castro, and an absolutely manic drummer. These guys get to a level of interesting that my notes say is approaching Mike Patton levels. With lyrical content pertaining to safe words and space camp, this disquiescent quartet may seem disingenuous, but their musicality is anything but a joke. Between tremolo-picked segments and at least one incredibly satisfying sludgy bit, I was not disappointed. Until I wrote this review that is: these guys have way too little material on record. Best I can find is some live-recorded audio tracks set to single-picture videos. Until they do me, gentlemen everywhere, and really everyone in the world a favor by recording, sate your Debonairish hunger with this:

Finally, last up was Laser Flames on the Great Big News. Here's a rundown of what I imagine to be the average thought process of a person hearing this band for the first time: "Laser Flames on the... dang these guys have a long name. I heard that one guy is in Rwake though, so I bet they're good. That Stevie chick is pretty cute. This first riff is pretty nice, and now they're... singing country style. Huh. Wasn't expecting that. Not bad though, fits the riff I spose. Nice vocal harmonies. Huh. Country metal? I guess I can dig iHOLY SHIT did that girl just scream? Shit, I just spat a mouthful of PBR all over this guy's patch vest in front of me. Better edge away. But jesus, that was one helluva scream that came out of that woman. And now with shredding and blastbeats to match. What an about-face. And now... damn, those are some tasty doom riffs. I'm gonna need another beer for this."
LFotGBN play a variety of styles from country metal to stoner metal to black metal to jesus how much else do you need to read to know that these guys kick ass? They have no respect for what's kosher in a genre and play what they want. Both guitarists John Judkins (who also plays bass in lovely sludge outfit Rwake, formerly of Today is the Day and Christine) and Stevie Bailey sing and scream in turn or together, all while strumming and shredding and god knows what else to those poor guitars. The rhythm section was just as dynamic, with drummer James Turk (bassist for local black metal outfit Enfold Darkness) and bassist Brian Myers are just as dynamic as Judkins and Bailey, shifting styles and tempos with apparent ease. They make each style and mix of styles their own, tweaking formulas when necessary. Even if you're too ADD to take your adderol properly, these guys keep things fresh and full of enough curveballs to not just hold my attention, but keep me on the edge of my seat in anticipation of what they're going to play next. If you like ever wondered "hey I wonder what black metal and country sounds like" then I think you'll enjoy Laser Flames on the Great Big News. Stream their ep right here, and look for a new record in the near future!

And that's a wrap. Thank you dear readers for bearing with me and being patient as I churn out yet another late blog. With classes coming to a close at the end of this month, hopefully I will soon have more time to spend reviewing come May. Going to try do some new and long overdue album reviews soon in addition to shows. Until then, enjoy this biology fact I learned recently!

"Eagles and boobies exhibit "obligate siblicide," in which the larger chick invariably kills its smaller sibling. For example, of more than 200 records of two-egg clutches followed in the Black Eagle of southern Africa, only one record exists of both chicks surviving to fledging. Obligate siblicide also occurs among pelicans, owls, and cranes. In obligate siblicide, which occurs even when food supplies are abundant, the second egg serves as insurance against loss of the first egg from infertility, predation, or damage, rather than as a means of rearing two chicks."

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