By: Kyle Cavaness
Railroad to Alaska
August 3, 2013
Railroad to Alaska's Saturday night out at La Cave was promoted in part as a celebration of lead singer/guitarist Justin Suitor's birthday, and the band bashed through their eight-song set with an efficiency that suggested much, much drinking was sure to follow.
Squeezed into the subterranean confines of Costa Mesa's favorite underground restaurant/bar/venue, Railroad's complex metal noodlings tightened into a more streamlined, punk-ified sound. Away from the larger stages the band has commanded recently – including a brief stint on the Warped Tour – Suitor and Jeff Lyman's guitars blended into a buzzsaw that cut through the Costa Mesa crowd.
The secret weapon that sets Railroad apart from mere mortal metal bands – and a trait that helped earn them Best Live Band at last year's OC Music Awards – is, well, sex. The band sneaks in beats that can make an audience shake its hips as much as bang their heads between drummer Derek Eglit's double-bass pedal work and Suitor's guitar solos. Some of Railroad's grooves, stripped of their down-tuned ferocity, would be right at home in a Prince song. Bassist Cory Blaine somehow managed to walk the fine line between booty-poppin' and thunder-chuckin'.
It's the non-metal moves that Railroad makes that helps keep their music so interesting – the danceable-but-not-quite breakdowns, the odd-meter, prog-infused song sections, three-headed vocal parts, and informal indie-rock presentation adds dimension and depth to what could otherwise be a one-dimensional metal show. Suitor's voice has progressed with the band's sound, moving away from comparisons to Serj from System of a Down into a more controlled and confident tone.
Railroad's arena-ready, riff-laden shreddery all but blew the roof off the underground club, but the crowd remained stationary and respectful as only OC crowds can, despite the band's invitations to move closer, move around… just move, at all.
The locals-only, fans-and-friends atmosphere of the show seemed to add to the crowd's 'respectful' standoffish-ness. The band ran through several new songs for the local crowd, though Suitor acknowledged, "If you've seen us play [recently], these songs might not be new to you.” This was a crowd that had seen Railroad before, knew what moves were coming, and while they were happy to cheer after each song, there were no elbows-out mosh pits to fight through.
Fellow metal peddlers Tyranis and Darkale closed out the night.
The Crowd: Evenly split between flannel-wearing, shaggy metalheads and polished, slightly confused OC clubsters.
Critical Bias: My band, The Vespertines (shameless plug alert!) has shared the stage with Railroad something like a half-dozen times.
Notebook Dump: Railroad has more, and better, hair than any three of your other favorite OC bands.