Well, tonight begins my ever-ambitious attempt at seeing a show every night this week -- Fucking Champs et al. tonight, Endless Boogie tomorrow night, Los Straitjackets on Wednesday, Dinosaur Jr Thursday, Clientele with Beach House Friday, and maybe USAISAMONSTER Saturday and Melt Banana Sunday depending on how shitty the weather is. Since I've just recently started a pretty rigorous (for me at least, c'mon) daily workout regimen at the gym, we're going to have to see how my back and legs hold up over the next few nights. Should be interesting/virtually impossible. And, yes, I'm still incredibly pissed off that I somehow missed out on getting tickets for tomorrow night's Interpol show at Bowery. BOOOOOOO!
That being said, if the rest of the shows I see this week are as good as Monday night's, then Interpol can suck my ass. No, wait, scratch that, because that would be impossible, since tonight was unexpectedly one of the best shows I've seen so far this year. How rare is it that all three bands on the bill wind up, well, totally rocking the fuck out? I mean, usually at least one of the opening bands is horrible -- hoo, boy, not mentioning any names, but I've seen some dreadful, limpwristed, poser bullshit passing for opening acts this year, especially at Bowery. Making tonight's show all the more remarkable is the fact that I'd never even heard so much as a single note by any of the three bands on tonight's bill. What I wound up with was definitely among the top five shows I've seen so far this year (ranking only behind Arcade Fire night three, Deerhunter, Raveonettes night one, and the Oxford Collapse show I caught at Glasslands). For the record, this is the 25th show I've caught so far in '07.
First up on the Bill was Red Fang, from Portland Oregon. Four scruffy dudes and probably the most bad-ass beat-up Telecaster I've ever seen. I enjoyed these guys' hardcore-flavored stoner style; they play some righteous shit that pummels yet still makes you wanna dance. As their set went on, the overall ambience morphed into some kind of SST-era Soundgarden vibe, complete with plenty of blatantly unabashed Sabbath-worship. Fucking fantastic, indeed! Beginning a theme that would be echoed by the evening's other bands, these guys were no amateurs: fantastic drummer, dual synchronized rhythm guitars, and nimble basslines highlighted by a brief "WOOOOOOOOO!"- inducing bass solo . Great, great fun and highly recommended.
Birds of Avalon followed. Their style is based on '70s style prog rock riffing in the vein of Fly By Night-era Rush, with quieter, noodly sections (reminiscent of, say, Gentle Giant) joining the pieces together into lengthy suites. But despite the obvious technical prowess at play, the stage show didn't suffer as all five members got down and dirty. Visually, it all starts with the singer; he's rockin' a kind of part Robert Plant, part the dude from Dungen thing, but way more manic than either. At one point, force from his gyrations sent his harmonica hurtling into the crowd, where it landed at my feet. I returned it to its proper place atop the keyboard which was sitting at the edge of the stage, and he kindly mouthed a "thank you." From the outset, it was obvious that these guys had no qualms about showing off their 60's/70's RAWK influences, quoting Creedence ("leave the sinking ship behind") and, later, inserting a feisty, amped-up cover of The Who's "Armenia City in the Sky" within a lengthy instrumental passage. The set's highlight came during the final song, a minor key number reminiscent of the two chord pre-solo segment of Rush's "La Villa Strangiato," during which bandmembers took turns whispering/chanting "the one..." Sonically, these guys were incredibly tight, and visually, they were super-busy, projecting a looped film of a flock of birds (of Avalon, get it?) on their white paper-covered amps. Yowza, someone was in the AV club growing up! Lots of shit going on here.
The Fucking Champs, up last, did not disappoint, either. When was the last time I saw classic metal riffs played with this level of chopsmanship? The only show I can think of that compared in that area was the 3 Inches of Blood/Early Man slugfest I saw a year ago at Knitting Factory. (Unlike that show, however, noone pissed on my leg during this set. And no, I don't particularly want to talk about that.) Also, mad props to the drummer - I've seen all kinds of renowned percussionists perform live (Peart, Carey, Lombardo, Stanier, Vinnie Paul, Billy Martin, tons of others) but I have to say this dude can hang with any of 'em. Although many of their licks would sound right at home on Rust in Peace or ...And Justice for All, The Champs are by no means a simple Mega-tallica thrash ripoff artist, however, as their stop-on-a-dime prog chops add another dimension to their formidable virtuosity. The set's highlight to me occurred about 6 songs in, when the sweat-drenched drummer lumbered out from behind his kit, picked up a Les Paul, and led a beautiful three-part harmony piece that could have been mistaken for a Satriani studio jam. A triumphant, ascending, major-key melody, over which the dude with the custom 9-string (!) laid some flash-fingered brilliance before the drummer returned to his stool to rip shit up on the skins. The remainder of the set continued in a vein similar to the the first several songs, revealing an overall same-ness to the sound, but with an hour-long set you really don't have much time to get terribly bored. Either way, I was too busy banging my head and trying to figure out the time signatures (impossible!) to experience anything remotely close to boredom.
Having had my ass sufficiently rocked, I began to exit before being stopped by a member of Birds of Avalon, who kindly thanked me for standing up front and rocking out. (I tend to be very, um, "demonstrative" during shows, and since I'm like 270 I also tend to stand out). I thanked him for putting on a great set (good dude), before heading to the merch table and picking up Red Fang's CDR EP. I wish that I had bought a copy of the Birds of Avalon disc, but I took a gamble that it would be available on eMusic, which I discovered to not be the case. Meh, I'll just order it from my local independent record store. [Edit: done.]
So, yeah, to recap, I'm pretty glad that The Fucking Champs exist, and I'll get out to see 'em any time they come around. The only attendee that might have had as good a time as I did was the whirling dervish, metal horns-flashing headbanging retarded dude that was standing near me throughout most of the show. Right on, man! Fortunately, said Champs seem to eschew surrounding themselves with the typical hesher audience that would undoubtedly worship them, instead seeking a home amongst hipsters, which is just fine by me. As embarrassing as it may be to admit it, I'd rather see a metal show with a bunch of puny hipsters than with a bunch of scary-ass bikers and construction worker types. (Call me a pussy, but I'd rather be able to completely rule out getting my ass kicked.)