Last Night: Rx Bandits, Tera Melos, Polar Bears and Peba Luna at Chain Reaction.
Better Than: Most of the shows you go to see at Chain Reaction.
Download: "Live From Bonaroo" (2007) on MDB/ Sargent House Records.
Anyone who frequents the storied all-ages venue Chain Reaction can usually look forward to a double dose of a great band once every couple months. Last night, as cars cruised past the intersection of Euclid and Lincoln in Anaheim, it was obvious that something big was going down.
Almost ten years to the day, Rx Bandits frontman Matt Embree remembers Chain being the first venue they ever sold out. And at the close of a crazy weekend with two sold-out shows back to back, it seems that things have only gotten better. The Bandits took the stage alongside Peba Luna, Polar Bears and Tera Melos for a sweaty, enthusiastic and largely underage crowd.
Customary to most RX Bandits gigs, the opening turnout of the show took a little while to develop. While many fans were in their cars "preparing themselves" for a mind blowing Bandits experience, Lauren Coleman aka Peba Luna was unfurling her acoustic driven soul music for a gathering audience. Joined on stage by Embree, Coleman's classically powerful tone weaved through a 30 minute set of jazzy seduction and the occasional old-timey folk of songs like "Tonight you belong to me." It was great stuff, though incongruous with the insanity of the bands to follow.
The first of those bands was Polar Bears from Santa Rosa, Ca. The group's three piece blend of hardcore energy carried an interesting experimental tinge, adding some layers to their sound. However, the house speakers didn't seem to do any favors for their vocalist who was barely audible except for a few throaty screams. A good dose of oddly timed riffs took their more interesting songs through some pretty cool sonic territory and even though most people in the crowd had no idea who the hell they were, I'm sure they won over some new myspace friends.
Similarly, the start and stop action of Roseville math rockers Tera Melos probably got some local love for their performance. Sporting an almost indecipherable code of sampler effects, intense guitar tapping and alternating time signatures, the band showed off their music lessons for the entire set. Each song bled together with abrasive distortion and a sack full of rhythmic odds and ends. Though at times it bordered on musical masturbation, anyone who listens to "math rock" enjoys a little sonic circle jerk, it's part of the reason you go see those bands in the first place. In any case guitarist Nick Reinhart, bassist Nathan Latona and drummer John Clardy are obviously good at what they do. And in case they are wondering, I'm sure the members of Hella are very impressed.
By 9:45 p.m., the thick aroma of THC spread over the crowd like a woolly blanket as RX Bandits sauntered on stage. Unfortunately, trombone player Chris Sheets was absent due to illness, robbing a few tunes of some much needed "hornage". But nevertheless, Embree, bassist Joe Troy, guitarist Steve Choi and drummer Chris Tsagakis took the stage with full force with a roaring pit of fans at their feet. In very appropriate fashion Embree's lips let out the opening verse of "Overcome (The Recapitulation)" as rabid fans sang in chorus. That's probably one of the best things about going to a Bandits show, the fact that you may not know the person next to you but you know they know the words to all the songs. Throughout the entire set as the band charged through pieces of "Progress", "The Resignation" and "...And the Battle Begun", the crowd noise filled every inch of the place with lyrics, cheers and call and response.
Besides hearing crowd favorites like "To Our Unborn Daughters", "Who Would've Thought" and "In Her Drawer", we also got a taste of the bands upcoming release slated for July 14 of this year. From what we heard, it seems the band is improving on their tradition of expanding their musical terriotry with each record. Above all, it's gotta be comforting to hear that new material is finally on the way.
The night ended with another hallmark of a Bandits performance. After coming out for an encore, Embree took a few seconds to rally the troops and get his fans revved up with a heartfelt denounciation of the recently passed anti-gay marriage law Prop 8. Though a lot of the people in the room probably weren't even eligible to vote, inspiring the youth has been and continues to be what makes the Bandits relevant after more than a decade. As hundred piled out of the sweaty hall it seemed likey that the band's cult following will sell out Chain again in another 10 years.
Critics Note Book:
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Personal Bias: Props to the Bandits for coming down and doing this show, not only is it cool to have a good excuse to visit the venue where I spent a good chunk of adolescance, but it 's good to know that Chain does book something other than hardocore bands these days.
Random Detail: On one of the songs I noticed Matt was singing in Spanish, yay for bilingualism!
By the Way: Keep an eye out for the Rx Bandits new release on July 14, if we're doing our job, we'll probably have some coverage on them.