March 19th, 2005

February and March concerts: Mates of State at Chop Suey, Kinski at The Crocodile

February's concert was Mates of State, Aqueduct, and Smoosh, at Chop Suey. I knew at least one track by Mates of State and I'd been wondering what their other stuff was like. I had no idea they were so popular however; when I arrived at 6:30 there was already a long line to get in (doors at 7), and by the time I finally got into the building, I'd completely missed Smoosh's set and Aqueduct was just about to start. That was too bad as I'd been looking forward to hearing Smoosh live.

The venue was completely packed but I managed to find a decent spot to stand at the back with an okay view of the stage. Aqueduct, sadly, was blah. Mediocre alterna-pop, and the singer sounded to me just like the singer of the Long Winters, another mediocre alterna-pop local band. I was somewhat amused that their last song was the expletive-laden "Damn It's Good To Be A Gangster" - it seemed a poor choice for an all-ages show with the 10-and-12-year-old Smoosh as the opening act. Mates of State I did enjoy. They're a husband-and-wife duo on drums and keyboards respectively, with a lot of harmonized singing. I did not end up buying a CD though.

March's concert was Kinski, Oneida, and Black Mountain at the Crocodile Cafe. This turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable show, and once again demonstrated that showing up for the opening act is always a good idea, because I never know when I'll discover a good new band I'd never heard of before.

Black Mountain is a five-piece out of Vancouver BC, with a guitarist/lead singer, female backup/sometimes lead singer, bassist, keyboardist, and drummer. This band seemed to have been transported directly from the early 70s - the guitarist even had that shaggy hair/beard look. There was a little funk influence in one song, but mostly it was straight-up classic guitar rock, in that style between blues and progressive. Their record label cites Zeppelin, the Velvet Underground, and Meat Loaf among the influences, and it's accurate, but here's the thing: Black Mountain sounds like themselves. That is to say, they're not just copying their influences, they have their own original take on the classic rock sound. And they were really good at it.

From the early 70s, the show jumped to the early 80s with Oneida. A three-piece on keyboards, guitar/bass, and drums, they had the look and sound of nerds for whom Devo and hardcore punk were divine revelations. Most of their songs were fast, loud, and raucous, with unintelligible vocals shouted or mumbled by the guitarist or keyboardist. The drummer also sang three songs, and his songs were slower and more like straight-up hard rock - and less enjoyable for me, as it happened. One thing the band did was announce before each song some variation of, "this next song was written by a band called Oneida out of Brooklyn NY; we're Oneida." It actually got more amusing each time, and late in their set when they paused and didn't actually make that announcement, I helpfully called out, "who's this song by?" They replied, "all the songs tonight tend to be by a band called Oneida."

Finally, the show concluded with the art rock of Kinski. It would be neat to complete the pattern and say their style was that of the early 90s, but that's not really the case; at least, not the early 90s of grunge and Nirvana. Rather, Kinski follows in the traditions touched on by Black Mountain and Oneida: classic driving guitar rock; lengthy instrumental prog rock; loud, chaotic, experimental rock. Don't let "art rock" or "prog(ressive) rock" fool you, either: Kinski are ferocious and overwhelming, not trippy and self-indulgent. This was my second time seeing Kinski, and I was just as impressed by their powerful sound as the first time. I need to buy more of their CDs; I highly recommend Airs Above Your Station, their last full-length album from 2003, and I'm looking forward to their new album due out this summer.