The Hype: Rising from Midway City, Railroad to Alaska are rowdy and unpredictable. After listening to LuckyBearClawDoom, the band's expertly crafted EP released in February, it's easy to understand why singer/ guitarist Justin Suitor might feel so much pent up anger. It's difficult balancing the music's rigid structure intersecting grunge, hard rock, metal and progressive energy. The lineup Friday at Gypsy Lounge in Lake Forest also included Semi Sweet, the Depths, and Pistolero.
The Show: With blustering, lysergic guitar squalls and hard-hitting drum thunderclaps, Railroad to Alaska filled the air with their fierce thrash and equally disturbing lyrics about death and disaster. Flashes of light beamed in strains of purple and white while beer bottles were strewn across the stage. In between sets, some of the band mates were downing the booze and flailing their long manes to the crowd. The band opened with "Little Fuck," which is always how you want a metal show to start--the sound of bass and drums, crazy and snare-heavy. Suitor bounced off walls, throwing himself onto his other guitarist Jeff Lyman. The audience was into it. Front row and center, a drunken attendee bowed his blonde locks toward the ground praising the band like they were the gods of metal, screaming, dancing and throwing groupies everywhere.
For a showdown of amplifying madness, the band came armed with a refreshingly rough-hewn heavy rock set. Played for the first time on stage, the song "The Real Thing" blasted out of the speakers with effervescent fidelity. Dark, convincingly tense song lyrics like "I'll haunt you, I will cut you," exploded from the mic. The guitars pinged out like radar blips, echoing eternally, and bouncing off the stage with conviction.
Fraught with heavy riffing, Suitor's epic jump off stage head first into my back was the highlight of the night. Everyone bobbed and thrashed their bodies into one another. Fingers were raised in the air, pointing straight to the ceiling. Entranced in the music, the crowd bellowed for an encore. Lyman and bass player Justin Morales spit out pithy serrated riffs as Suitor howled in a blunt, declamatory tone to the last three songs, "Learn to Share," "Plague," and "Heavens to Betsy," that capped off the powerful set.
Indie rockers Semi Sweet play it "Paperthin"
Opener indie-rock act, Semi Sweet felt like an outcast. Starting off the show, singer-guitarist Cassie Walters smiled too widely in her red lipstick and claimed, "I know you came to see a metal show...but we are the fluff before--yeah, that sounded kind of sleezy." Walter's voice was like the edge of a sharp knife, cutting ever so gently into a melodic harmony that sounded something like Paramore. She concentrated, softly stroking her long, inky black hair against her pale white skin as she sang the emotionally rich song, "Paperthin."
Raging the stage at 11:00 p.m., heavy metal quintet Pistolero was no fucking joke. These Costa Mesa natives have some major balls and aren't afraid to show their tats and nipples on stage. Lead singer Donnie Deschenes and guitarist Jeremy Munoz had an infectious, crude energy together. Munoz ripped off his shirt, revealing his half-holed Motörhead tank and wailed on his guitar. After playing songs like "Sleep When Your Dead," and "Metal Gold," it was definitely a show to squeal, shout and rage with. They played for the long haul, including an hour set with a cover of Black Sabbath's "Snowblind." An orgy of people got out of their seats to rock out and bang heads.
The Crowd: Rockers sporting frazzled hair untouched by mousse, tight pants, band T's flooded the Gypsy Lounge. Women ranged from 20-somethings to old heads wearing low neck blouses and high heels, dressing to impress the metal head sausage fest.
Overheard: Right before Railroad to Alaska's encore, the fans pleaded and begged to hear more songs---everyone wanted to jam. Guitarist Munoz from Pistolero screamed to the crowd, "play that fucking music dude. Shreddin' and headin' straight for Armageddon!"
Set List for Railroad to Alaska:
1. Little Fuck
2. 2. Details
3. White Nite
4. The Real Thing
5. Sketch in A flat
7. Learn to Share
9. Heavens to Betsy