Candiria / Burnt By The Sun / Caste / Yakuza in Raleigh, NC

21.04.2002  :: АрхивАрхив статей Автор: Chris Alfano

Live show review: Yakuza, Caste, Burnt By The Sun, Candiria.

Good gigs can be tough to come by, so whenever a venue finds it in their hearts to host one, I instinctively want to applaud their efforts. Thus, it bothers me to start off this review with anything but positive comments. In the fine spirit of progressive journalism, however, I must report my observations exactly as I witnessed them, and with as much objectivity as possible. With that in mind, here we go…

The Brewery, as its name implies, strikes me as more of an after-hours bar than anything else. When you get a chance to analyze the layout, it seems that the original owners probably bought the building for that very purpose. At some point, I’m guessing that the place was sold to some younger entrepreneurs who decided to start booking bands. A stage was propped up against the front wall, most of the tables were removed, and most of the wait staff was fired. Of course I’m only speculating, but I think my proposed «history» will give you some idea of the type of venue we’re dealing with.

There must have come a time when the Brewery experienced a significant increase in patronage, and this probably coincided with the decision to start booking gigs. As a result, the inexperienced owners were dealing with larger crowds on a nightly basis. Hence, some difficulties arose, and their response was to institute some rather trite rules. For example, there’s the parking situation. The Brewery has a rear parking lot that is designed to hold no more than 20 or 25 cars. Rather than designing it more efficiently (i.e. so it will hold more vehicles), the staff advises that the «overflow» (which would account for about 80% of their customers) park in a garage down the street, which is affiliated with North Carolina State University. While there is no charge to park here, people who are forced to use it must walk down a long, poorly-lit street in order to get to and from the venue. As college towns are notorious for their high crime rates, there are few of us who appreciate the inconvenience.

Secondly, there’s the issue of the Brewery’s «no re-entry» rule. Once you enter the venue, you are stuck there for the night. If you venture outside for any reason (be it to walk around a bit, run across the street for sundries at the local College Mart, or simply to escape asphyxiation from the heavy fog of second-hand smoke that infiltrates every corner), you are made to pay admission a second time in order to get back in. Why would such a rule be instituted? Is it to prevent non-paying stragglers from sneaking in? I doubt it. Is it to make life easier on the bouncers, who would otherwise have to check each re-entering patron for the appropriate hand stamp? No, I tend to think that such duties are part of a bouncer’s job description. When all possibilities are considered, it seems most likely that this restrictive policy has a lot more to do with the aforementioned College Mart. Why would anyone solicit the bar for overpriced beer or soda if they were allowed to exercise their right (as free-thinking adults) to walk across the street and buy this stuff at a reasonable price?

Now that you’ve all had a hefty dose of my bitching and moaning, I’ll move on to the good stuff. The evening’s opening slot was taken by a band called Yakuza, who hail from my original hometown of Chicago. They started the show with an interesting atmospheric piece that included guitar, saxophone, and Tibetan chanting over a layer of ambient synth effects. The next couple of songs weren’t nearly as compelling, but Yakuza’s mixture of odd riffing, alternately crooned/ shouted vocals, and John Zorn-influenced sax blares kept my attention for a considerable period of time. As their set neared its end, however, things started rolling downhill. The band’s repertoire became increasingly dull and uninspired, and when their singer announced that they had recently signed with Century Media… let’s just say that my interest waned even further. I wish these guys the best of luck, but on the night in question, Yakuza’s performance wasn’t nearly enough to warrant any hype. Check out Century Media’s website for the latest developments.

Maryland’s Caste hit the stage next, and served to brighten my mood with their punishing brand of melodic metalcore. Although regrettably short, their set was exciting enough to get a pit going at nearly full capacity. As musical comparisons go, the closest I can think of is Poison The Well, although Caste’s more «catchy» or «tuneful» moments bear more resemblance to the emo/indy rock leanings of Drowningman. Vocalist Durv seemed to have some trouble staying in key during these subtle sections, but his strong stage presence were ample compensation. Check out http://www.castemusic.com for more info.

As Caste and crew finished tearing down their equipment, the venue’s atmosphere began to swell with anticipatory noise and chatter. Burnt By The Sun was slated for the next spot on the bill, and I apparently wasn’t alone in my excitement over seeing these guys for the first time. As I was hurriedly jotting down notes on a folding metal chair, a kid of about 16 or so approached me. At past gigs, people have asked some interesting questions about my note-taking habits, and this guy wanted to know which magazine I was writing for. I’m always tempted to have some fun with such inquiries, like the time I told a group of drunk teenagers that I was on special assignment from Terrorizer. Apparently, my failure to adopt a mock British accent did nothing to blow my cover. However, this kid seemed sincere and genuinely interested, so I couldn’t help but be truthful. At one point in the ensuing conversation, he asked me to describe Burnt By The Sun, as he wasn’t familiar with their music. When terms such as «math metal» and «organized-chaos core» failed to prompt any acknowledgment, I could only advise him to listen and learn.

Soon after, guitarists John Adubato and Steve Procopio entered the venue from directly behind us. As they stepped up to the stage and strapped on their guitars, bassist Ted Patterson made his entrance and followed suit. Once the trio completed a quick sound check, drum legend Dave Witte took his seat behind the kit and began warming up with some intricate fills and double-bass patterns. Vocalist Mike Olender was the last to appear, with his few precursory words serving as the band’s cue to commence Armageddon. For the next 40 minutes, Burnt By The Sun engulfed the audience in a sonic hailstorm that included material from both of their Relapse releases («Soundtrack To The Personal Revolution» and the self-titled debut EP). The performance’s focal point was undoubtedly Olender, who continually ran back and forth as he clutched the mic with both hands and spewed his emotional diatribes against conformity and submission. In fact, Olender’s vocal performance was so impassioned that he later admitted having a headache from the constant bellowing! Songs from BBTS’s split CD with Luddite Clone (on Ferret Records) were conspicuously absent, but I was too flabbergasted to care. It seems that the action on stage led me to temporarily neglect my note pad, but I do remember the set’s highlights, which consisted of such notable tracks as «Famke», «Soundtrack To The Worst Movie Ever», «Dracula With Glasses», «Lizard-Skinned Barbie», «Human Steamroller», and «Shooter McGavin». Sadly, BBTS suffered an inexplicable loss of treble response from their amps after the first 25 minutes. While the bass and drums continued to sound impeccable, the guitars became weak and nearly inaudible. Given that a good amount of the band’s riffs are played in a higher register, it quickly became apparent that this technical problem might considerably hamper their sound. I found a partial remedy in standing closer to the stage, but it was far from perfect. Just the same, BBTS finished their set like true professionals, and the crowd seemed very appreciative of their persistence.

To be perfectly honest, I was expecting a good set from Candiria, but not a great one. I had seen them perform once before, when they were the opening act for Hatebreed and Earth Crisis on the latter’s Breed The Killers tour. Candiria proved to be rather tight and focused on that night, but they also seemed nervous and ill at ease. There were only about 25 or 30 people milling about in the audience, and most seemed more interested in socializing than in checking out the amazingly talented quintet on stage. But Candiria’s unprecedented hybrid of jazz, metal, hardcore, and hip-hop won me over almost immediately. Warp back to the present…

As Candiria’s road crew was assembling their gear, I came to realize that the anxious noise which greeted Burnt By The Sun was only one-third the intensity of what I was feeling at that moment. People were crowding the floor from every direction, and if their t-shirts were any indication, this was indeed a very diverse crowd. Only at a Candiria show is one likely to see fans of Slayer, Mr. Bungle, Napalm Death, and King Crimson happily standing side by side. After a wait that seemed a lot longer than it probably was, a roar of approval burst forth to announce the band’s arrival. An intro tape started rolling, and the stage went dark to reveal each band member’s silhouette against a dimly-lit back drop. Just as the intro began fading out, the opening riff from the song «300 Percent Density» erupted through the venue’s PA system, crushing all onlookers into a state of frenzied submission. Vocalist Carley Coma vigorously snatched his mic and began spitting out the lyrics as his shirtless, muscular frame jumped to and fro like a deranged circus clown on a pogo stick. Coma’s delivery ranged from belligerent snarls to euphoric shouts while his band mates flawlessly kept pace on their respective instruments. One factor that distinguished this version of Candiria from the one I had seen several years earlier was their sense of confidence. Each member seemed perfectly comfortable during the performance, and even went so far as to let their personalities show a little. For example, guitarists John Lamacchia and Eric Mathews appeared to be the stoic ones, as they studiously picked through a smorgasbord of complicated riffs without the slightest hint of strain. In essence, they were two separate bodies playing as a complementary whole. Drummer Kenneth Schalk exhibited a similarly «concentrated» demeanor, with the only exception being his explosive cymbal crashes. Schalk accentuated each of these metallic poundings by using his massive arm span to nail two cymbals at once,on opposite ends of his kit. The resulting sound was something between an amplified rattlesnake hiss, and a pile driver being dropped on a moving freight train. Michael MacIvor appeared to be Candiria’s silent comic, and even Carley Coma’s animated histrionics did little to detract from the bass player’s discreet, yet entertaining presence. MacIvor accompanied his smooth, articulate jazz/funk phrases with a variety of subtle dance moves, some of which seemed to have been inspired by John Travolta during the Saturday Night Fever era. Whether strutting back and forth, rolling his shoulders, or swaying his hips, MacIvor kept the more attentive audience members laughing and yelling out for more.

Candiria’s set list was comprised mostly of songs from their latest release, «300 Percent Density». In fact, the only material I recall hearing from an earlier album was «Temple Of Sickness», which appeared on the «Process Of Self-Development» disc. There were too many highlights to mention, but some of the more memorable ones included «Without Water», «Signs Of Discontent», and «Constant Velocity Is As Natural As Being At Rest». A surprise bonus came in the form of «Words From The Lexicon», which featured Carley rapping over a cool jazz break. I wasn’t sure if this one would go over well, but a brief scan of the crowd revealed quite a few people contentedly bobbing their heads. After an extended improv jam that invoked such influences as John Coltrane and Mahavishnu Orchestra, the show was over. As the band members waved goodbye and shook hands with the fans, I understood that to witness such a performance is a privilege. It’s not very often that a gig becomes a source of both catharsis and spiritual invigoration, but this one rose to the occasion.

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