Never having been at this venue before we arrived early. Very early. And when I got there, I felt like I'd gone back to high school.
Brian and I spent the first hour just watching the kids. It was like a hot topic fashion show. One girl was sporting a "home-made" magic marker tattoo on her arm of an upside down cross, all while wearing a Norma Jean t-shirt. Every time I saw her, I wondered if she realized the confused message she was giving. Also, ballet slippers have apparently made a fashion comeback. As far as I can tell, the only thing ballet slippers are good for at a death metal show is broken and bloody toes. One of the teeny boppers commented on my combat boots as I walked out of the ladies room. I got my revenge later in the evening, as I saw them all complaining about their sore feets. Ladies, I know Doc's are still cool. Get yourself a pair.
Fox of See You Next Tuesday at the Old Orchard Inn photo by staff photographer brian rampacek
The show, however was amazingly packed. While the venue didn't offer niceties such as a photo pit, it did have decent sound, and that was all that mattered to me.
Each band's set seemed incredibly short. The show started around 8 and by 9:30 we were already through the third set of the evening. A little taste of each flavor, leaving you yearning for more - so you run out and buy the album.
Daath is a band I was really looking forward to, after reading reviews of them from earlier in the year by Jeff and Tom, and checking out their myspace page. They have a very Seattle thrash feel to their music. Heavy as hell chunk with melodies reminiscent of Testament. Their solos had a polished and almost progressive sound to them. The drums were set a little too loud for my tastes at times, drowning out everything else. It was the guitars I wanted to hear. The solos brought back days of old, when thrash had virtuosos like Alex Skolnick and Marty Friedman. Not as complex, but still in the same vein. They did perform "Ovum" which is off the new album and can currently be heard on their myspace page. Daath was just signed to Roadrunner and will be releasing a new album on March 20 called The Hinderers.
Adam Frappolli of Psyopus at the Old Orchard Inn photo by staff photographer brian rampacek
See You Next Tuesday was up next and it seemed the first night on the road was a bit overwhelming. They had a lot of long breaks between the songs while trying to get things working right. The high vocals came off way too piercing and the low growls were too quiet to hear. I would be interested in hearing a recording and see if I can chalk this up to first night on the tour blues. They do have a new album coming out on Ferret Records in April. The single most entertaining thing was the singer got a kid running the stage through the whole performance. Back and forth. Was pretty darned amusing if you ask me.
To say Psyopus is different is an understatement. The best way I can describe them is free form death metal. At times they are perfectly in sync with each other, and at others, the band as a whole does something that can best be compared to jazz fusion. The guitarist has some excellent technical skills and some insane speed behind those fingers. The 20 minute set was not enough to really get a grasp on the complexity of their sound. In a world where genres are heavily defined and sub categorized, they are bucking the trend and doing something very different. I would like to have heard a bit longer set. Their new album, Our Puzzling Encounters Considered, is coming out on Metal Blade Records on February 20.
Ravi Bhadriraju of Job for a Cowboy at the Old Orchard Inn photo by staff photographer brian rampacek
Job for a Cowboy was up next. I wasn't really expecting that tight of a performance, since they just hired on drummer John "The Charm" Rice in early January. I was a tad bit wrong. Sounding to me as though they came right off the album, JFAC was tight and ready to go. This is straight up clean death metal baby and it was lovely. I did regret once again how short the set was. Playing older songs from the Doom release such as "Knee Deep" along side new songs from their upcoming spring Metal Blade release, such as "Burying the Serpent's Lamp" and "Embedded," they are ready to move on to the next level. I fully expect to see them on one of the bigger tours this summer. I was definitely impressed with their solid performance. Once again I was sitting there wishing for a longer set.
Evan Dando dropped off of everyones radar ten years ago, after a whirlwind career that seemed destined to end tragically like his friend Kurt Cobain. Too much success too soon, and too fast a crowd, left Dando struggling with his own demons long after Kurt was gone. Now after taking his hiatus, Dando has returned to the music scene with the latest incarnation of the Lemonheads. They are currently touring to support the release of their latest album, The Lemonheads.
I had missed Dando and the Lemonheads perform earlier in their career, their rise coinciding with my own hiatus from the live music scene, so I was glad to get an invite from their publicist, Amy, to shoot their show at Emo's this weekend. The Lemondheads, originally from Boston, are probably most famous for their remake of the Simon and Garfunkel classic "Mrs. Robinson," much to their chagrin, or for their single "Its a Shame About Ray." They are a power-pop-meets-grunge trio that emerged during the grunge rock period, with frontman Dando in the role of teen heartthrob. While there weren't many teens in the audience for this show, there were still plenty of women gathered under his microphone.
Dando's latest version of the band was very clean and tight musically. Scruffy and bundled up against the 40 degree temperatures in a thick jacket and ski cap, Evan was nonetheless unhampered in his ability to play, though by the time he hit the stage at 12:30 I had lost all feeling in my toes. After about the third or forth song he ditched his sunglasses to the pre-teen screams of his post-teen audience.
I really liked the Lemonheads' set, and even though they didn't play "Mrs. Robinson," they did play a number of their more popular songs, as well as some of their new songs. Dando was supported ably by Vess Ruhtenberg on bass and Devon Ashley of the Pieces on drums, who seemed to really match Dando's vocals and guitar work well. To see a copy of the set list for this show click here.
Danny Dunlap and The Fall Collection at Emo's photo by staff photographer jeff barringer
Opening the show was Austin's the Fall Collection, a nifty little power pop trio fronted by guitarist and vocalist Danny Dunlap. They have a great sound and lots of energy to their music. This will be an Austin band to watch. Kind of reminded me of an updated version of the Paul Collins Beat, but maybe not quite as hooky. Danny really handles his Rickenbacker well. They were a good match with the Lemonheads' sound.
Vietnam at Emo's photo by staff photographer jeff barringer
The second band on the bill, a band out of New York called Vietnam, frankly was a very odd choice for this set. I think I have to credit Brian Curley of Jerry's Kids and the Delinquents with the best description: Kind of like Country Joe and the Fish meets the Velvet Underground. I would add to that description a bean bag chair, a lava lamp, and some quaaludes, and you're pretty much there. It's not that their music was bad, in fact I heard some nifty guitar runs wandering in and out of their songs, but the music itself sounded like a Led Zeppelin album with the vocals culled, running at half speed on a turntable with a slipping belt. It seemed to slow down, then speed up, then slow down, then slow way down, stop, then speed up again, all in the same song and for no discernible reason. If heavy metal ever had a need for a jam band from the 70s, this is it. It was interesting, it was different, it wasn't unnecessarily bad; it was just strange to see them on the same bill sandwiched between a couple of power pop bands.
This is definitely NOT the Howard Jones lead singer of Killswitch Engage, but rather the Howard Jones of the hairspray eighties with a slightly tamer hairstyle and a much matured audience.
I will be the first to admit, regardless of the consequences, that I love Howard Jones and his music. When I first saw Howard perform at the old Austin Coliseum in the eighties, I took a date who was very much unimpressed. So much so, I am afraid it helped hasten the "I really like you but just want to be friends" buzzkill that occurred during the encore. You would think something like that would have put a damper on my enthusiasm for Howard's music, but since that happened to me at various other concerts with various other dates (The Romantics, R.E.M, Smashing Pumpkins, N.I.N./David Bowie, and the Cranberries, to mention a few) I long ago stopped letting my failed romances impact my musical tastes. I also stopped taking dates to concerts.
I loved Howard's show in the eighties, was much impressed with his lyrics and his keyboard prowess. I never saw my date from that night again (I heard she moved to Florida) but I vowed to see Howard perform once more when I was somewhat less encumbered. Last night, on very very short notice, I finally got that opportunity.