June 18, 2006

Concert Review: Audible Thought w/ Xoch, Ugly Friend, In Anchorage on 6/17/06

I am willing to bet that many of you reading this have never heard of any of those four bands in the title. Even more surprising is that you are taking the time to read about some bands that you know nothing about. I thank you for that, and the bands would appreciate the attention if my words intrigue you. It was an evening of local music, four bands, four different styles, all of them successful to varying degrees. Three of the bands were celebrating CD releases, so this was a big night for them, getting to show off some new cuts to the hungry fans.

I arrived at The Chance Theater about 8:45. As I approached the doors I saw Jim Norton, bass player for the headlining Audible Thought. I went over and said "Hi," we have met at a few shows, and he is a great guy and a hell of a bass player. Standing with him is another old friend, Steve Williams, aka Stickboy. I talked to Steve for awhile about the demise of his last band, 8 x 10, a very good straight up rock band that I had seen perform many times over the years. We also got into his new project, Stone Devil Hill, rising from the remains of the previous band. They are getting a CD together and are preparing their return to the stage. Be prepared to hear about them in the coming months.

We made it inside shortly after 9:00, the first band was a song or two into their set. This was the first time I had ever heard of them, they were called In Anchorage. Their music was sort of alternative rock sounding, and not terribly great. It was interesting to watch and listen to them, because as much as I was not moved by the music I found things to like about certain members of the band. Their sound was hampered by a poor mix, but I'm not sure a good mix would have won me over any more. Let's take a look at the good things. First up is the singer, his vocals were very good, a mix of raw and clean with some nice vibrato. He has a voice I would like to hear with music that was a bit more aggressive. Then there was the bass player, he had some nice licks, despite the difficulty in hearing him. Lastly, the drummer was excellent, he was doing a lot of interesting transitions and fills throughout the set. It was interesting to watch a band whose music did not affect me much, yet had some clear strength on some of its parts.

Next up was a band called Ugly Friend. I had seen these guys once before, but I could remember any of the specifics. As soon as they started playing, I remembered why I couldn't recall the details of their performance, it was what they played that I had blocked from my memory. Ugly Friend plays a rather bland form of Green Day inspired punk. The performance was tight, and there were a few down in the pit who were into it, but when I hear a 30 minute set that essentially sounds like one long song, I have a hard time getting into it. The one good thing I can say is the drummer was very good. His timing was spot on and he had plenty of interesting fills and transitions. It was his playing that kept me into the performance at all. There was a point when the singer/guitarist broke a string and, while he was switching instruments, the bass and drum players kept the music going with a nice groove, again with some nice fills, until the guitar was able to rejoin the fray. I am sure there are people who like these guys, but I am not one of them. One more thing, please no more massacring of Johnny Cash songs, your performance of "Ring of Fire" was not good, I don't care who tells you otherwise. The only reason it had a reaction was because people knew the words. Also, was the "fan" request a plant?

Now it was time for the first of the co-headlining acts, Xoch was taking the stage. They have been making quite a name for themselves over the past few years, but this was the first time that I have gotten to see them. However, I did see them a few times in their former incarnation, The Fuzzies. Rising from the ashes of Fuzz, Xoch has risen up and seems to be doing quite well with their sugar pop sound. Their popularity was attested to by the group of teen girls that took to the pit for their set. The rest of the audience seemed a little of sorts, waiting for the metal to return. I admit that I was suckered in by the sugar pop sounds emanating from the clubs sound system, no, this is not really my forte but there was no denying the catchiness of the songs. The lead singer, Xoch (yes, her name is the same as the band. Sort of like Alice Cooper used to be, but not really), had a charismatic hold on the stage and possesses a strong voice, but her incessant between song banter may play well to the teen set, but in this setting came off as a little too sickly sweet. The band’s performance was tight, it was a little bland, as the songs were squarely focused on her voice and the pop radio mentality, so we didn’t really get any standout instrumental performances. This is the kind of music that I can see playing well on pop radio, but wouldn’t get a lot of play in my system. I feel conflicted writing this, as I enjoyed the high energy and the pure pop experience they were delivering, while at the same time I look for more aggression and intensity. I think they will do well for themselves, and I wish them luck. Lastly, please lay off the South Park interpretation, it was not all that good and went on way too long. Sure, you will get a crowd recognition pop, but that is about it.

Finally, the moment we all were waiting for, it was time for Audible Thought to deliver their brand of metal. The band seems poised to create a shift in the local metal scene, these guys are good and getting better, each of the three times I have seen them has shown a marked improvement upon the last. The start of their set didn't go off without a hitch, as their were some technical difficulties in getting the curtain to go up as the band played behind it. Once the fabric lifted, we were face to face with this new metallic force. Their sound is in the vein of Sevendust and Godsmack without being a dupe of their style. Audible Thought is forging forward in their own musical direction, and the new material played tonight shows that, there is definite growth in the complexity and diversity in their sound. They are not a strictly heavy band, they have their lighter moments, and each turn is handled with equal aplomb. I have not yet gotten a handle on the song titles, but that will come with time. A couple of tracks whose names, and performances stuck out include "Games," "You Know," and "Speed Demon." Jim Norton was an imposing presence onstage as he prowled the stage, on the otherside Ryan Cady evokes compasions to Johnny Kelly of Type O Negative in his stage presence while he amazes us with his guitar wizardry. In the back is Carl Fogarty on the skins, I recall the first time I saw them writing about how I wished his sound was bigger, well, the months since that show have been very kind, his sound has gotten much thicker and really holds the rhythm down. Fronting the band is Lou West who has a very good voice for this material, but I think he could be a better frontman, he lacks somewhat in the charisma department, fortunately Jim and Ryan pick up the slack. Back to the performance, the highlight of the night was, without a doubt, "Darkness." The song was incredible, it covers all the bases, great vocals, heavy riffs, smooth solos, altogether a great song. On top of that, they had a guest guitarist, a young girl, I would guess in her teens, Kristen Capalino. She played along doubling Ryan's rhythm section, until she broke into a solo later in the song and proceeded to blow us all away, her playing was absolutely incredible! Besides the great solo, her presence also showed how a second guitar player helps to thicken the sound, I would not mind seeing them add a second guitarist to the band. Their sound is thick to begin with, but to see what a second guitar adds, the mind boggles. In any case, this band has a bright future, good songs, ability to put on a great live show, I look forward to seeing what they do next.

This was a spotty night of music that ended on a high note. Both of the headliners have bright futures, although I am more interested in one over the other, if you couldn't guess. If you get the chance to see them, do so. Be sure to check them out, buy the CD and be amazed.

Categories: , , , , ,


Post a Comment