Red9, Slime Kings, Death Hymn #9, Snakebit Drifters and Railroad to Alaska
Tiki Bar, Costa Mesa
Jan 31, 2012
Night five of the OC Music Awards saw the most consistent lineup of bands in the series thus far. That's not to say there weren't a few dips in what proved to be an exciting evening, but there certainly weren't any stinkers.
The night was capped with a performance from last year's winners for best new artist, Railroad to Alaska. True to form, they commanded the stage with a formidable presence and rocked their eclectic metal sound with thrashtastic energy while shooting wide-eyed, maniacal glares at the crowd.
Death Hymn Likes Tamborines
There were moments when the small Tiki Bar riser was a jumble of black jeans, kinky hair and guitar strings. Singer Justin Suitor demonstrated his remarkable vocal range, which ran the gamut from a low rumble to a high shriek. Meanwhile, guitarist Jeff Lyman put his axe to efficient use rendering haunting, howling sounds and a vibrato so sharp it threatened the structural integrity of the building.
Those in the packed room crowded the stage and extended devil horns, while mouthing the words to every song. Bras and panties soared through the air.
But as good as Railroad was, the best band for my money was Death Hymn Number 9. With their faces slathered in zombie grease paint, the band looked like the "I like turtles" kid, but they played like apoplectic mental patients. Though some may disagree with me, their sound can be likened to the Misfits, with more lo-fi garage goodness met with a vintage stomp.
Guitarist Troy Bootow ax rang hummed with reverb laden distortion and singer Paul 'e' wog busted out a Glen Danzig bellow, but with way more shrieking. Throughout the 25-minute set, he screeched and glared and did his best to fellate the microphone. It has to be said shrieking properly is an art, one which old Paul 'e' wog does expertly.
Meanwhile Bootow, who was sitting in a folding chair for some reason, rocked back and forth wildly, occasionally smacking his hand against his forehead. There were moments when it looked as if he were riding a mechanical bull. In a weird way it reminded me of a scene from the incredibly bizarre 1997 film Gummo. If you don't know what I'm talking about, Netflix it.
Death Hymn was preceded by rockabilly trio Snakebit Drifters. While their bassist had the chops to play the bass upright, and guitarist/singer Tim WIllis played his guitar competently, the virtuosic showmanship that makes the greats of the genre so compelling just wasn't there. It's not enough to coif one's hair with grease and don a string tie. I can go see Reverend Horton Heat do that, and be blown away--not just by his insane skills with an ax--but also by the fact that a man in his 50s can shriek like a pterodactyl. Willis's voice, though rough and gravelly seemed more caricature than character.
Prior to Snakebit Drifters was a neat little throwback: A bonefide ska band called the Slime Kings. So many years after the genre has faded from glory, one might expect a bunch of kids playing their father's music to be the equivalent of a sonic abortion. On the contrary, the audience was treated to a high energy, catchy collection of tunes that no doubt reminded older audience members of the glory years of ska. I for one suddenly had flashbacks of Fullerton's Ice House--a now defunct venue located across the tracks from the train station--back before a guy was stabbed there at a Vandals' show.
The Slime King's singer shimmied, bounced and high kicked while working the crowd from one side to the other. Comely young lasses pressed in close. And people in the crowd were actually skanking frantically.
Kicking the evening off was neo-grunge band Red9. The thing that came across was this band's attention to its gear, notably bassist/singer Jeff Lyon's rig, which was reminiscent of the sound rendered by the band Tool. Lyons demonstrated his talent playing complex bass lines while singing. But looking at the then-sparsely crowded room, it seemed Lyons' multitasking drew upon energy that might have been budgeted toward charisma--a trait the band sadly lacked.
The Crowd: Eclectic, young. Much like the last showcase.
Random Notebook Dump: These shows take a lot out of a person. Thank god for the Wahoo's taco truck and Farmer John's samples.
Overheard: "Your tacos are ready."