Bands I Saw Last Week


Finn Riggins (local)

Boise's next big thing. Their name is tossed around the scene like a frisbee on the beach. But for whatever reasons I hadn't gotten a chance to see them until The Bicycle Block Party last Friday. And honestly, I'm still sorting it out a bit in my head, which for the most part is a good thing.

I was excited by the prospect of keyboards in place of bass and their reversed triangle placement on the stage. Switching up instrumentation is an easy way to guarantee a fresh sound.

But their first song, "Pancakes"—muttered binary code lyrics over steel drum, fuzzed-out electric piano, and a dance beat—was terrible. Bad enough that the guy in front of me who had just been gushing about how much I was going to love the band turned around to say, "Actually, this song isn't very good."

However, things turned around quickly, with the second song playing heavily into the keys' ability to carry a chord progression. It was a bit like Ben Folds, but more upbeat and danceable with less "soul." Imagine the Charlie Brown theme as covered by an indie band that intersperses effect-laden noise breakdowns between verses.

Then it got heavier, fuzzier, faster; both punky and poppy without being pop-punk. From there, a wipe-out beat on the toms beneath spacey delayed guitar that rested halfway between surf-rock and the riff for "Detachable Penis" by King Missile.

If nothing else, Finn Riggins gained serious points for switching things up track by track rather than trotting out the same ol' style and tricks to the point of tedium. Their willingness to branch out and explore new ground near familiar territory was refreshing. But I don't know that I'd call it enjoyable. Challenging might be a better term. The music is well-played and orchestrated and clearly has a lot of thought put into it, but it's not instantly likable like a radio single or a standard. It's something of a pop equivalent to free jazz or math rock, where it can take some acclimation to really appreciate the sounds, multiple listenings in which an appreciation is gained as the subtle complexities become more apparent.

One might say Finn Riggins is the escargot of the Boise music scene.

Lots of f@#$ing metal

Metal is violence. And that has nothing to do with lyrical themes or the behavior of its fans. Metal is a sonic attack against consciousness, an aggressive blow dealt to rational analysis in an attempt to break it down to base instinct wherein one doesn't think about the sounds so much as experience them directly as primal emotion. Headbanging isn't a dance. It's an autonomous reaction, a survival mechanism to channel the savage raw energy a listener is being bombarded with. People who think all metal sounds the same are wrong. Like getting punched in the nose, the brass tacks bottom-line practical effect is the same. But there's a huge difference in delivery between the cold efficiency of a boxer's jab, the grace of capoeira and the sloppy savagery of a drunken haymaker. That said, here's a breakdown of how all the metal bands I saw this week kicked my ass. All of these shows were at The Red Room.

Gride (Czech Republic): A drunken biker pounding your ass for looking at him wrong. Artless in its brutality. Inexplicable in its motivations.

Krystos (local): Kung fu. Badass and beautiful to watch executed. Krystos' falsetto high notes, super-fast synchronized guitar lines and super-tight arrangements seem effortless in the same way that Jet Li dances across rooftops in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon as if it were second nature. Easily the best metal band I've seen in a long time.

Hummingbird of Death (local): Boxing. Nothing fancy. No triplet runs, finger-tapping solos or surprise changes in time signatures. Just the direct effectiveness of a thundering riff pounding on your eardrums.

Toxic Holocaust (Portland): The bum's rush. A balls-out berzerker rage of overdriven guitars and calls to action like, "Let's gather our troops of evil and march through hell!" or "This song is what you all are: wild dogs!" There wasn't anywhere to run because it just kept coming. Savage, unrelenting and all-encompassing.

Vagefly (local)

Vagerfly is a local electro-punk two-piece in the vein of Le Tigre, though their gloriously crude lyrical content speaks more to Kathleen Hannah's days in Bikini Kill.

The band took the stage at Neurolux wearing torn jungle-skin costumes and smeared with fake blood, the kind of attention to performance and appearance that not enough bands bother with anymore. When I saw them, it was immediately clear that they were a band, united, in the weirdness they were about to unleash.

And it was great. Short stupid songs with titles like Genitals that made no attempt to be anything grander than they were.

If there was a shortcoming, it's that Vagerfly is a two-piece that could really use a third. The chemistry between the duo is clear, but it's an obvious sonic limitation. Places where the songs could easily expand or be augmented were apparent, but the lack of a third instrument kept them caged from reaching their full potential, making some of the tracks sound more like demos, experiments that songs will be based off in the future than full songs.

Still, a lot of good strange fun that I highly recommend. BW video report will be up later in the week.

Starfucker (Portland)

The first time I saw Starfucker, the show was so boring that their set was halfway done before my friends and I realized they were in fact the band we'd come to see. They were mannequins, timidly offering songs they themselves didn't appear to believe had any real value to the audience. Their set was almost more of an apology.

That was not the same band that played the Neurolux on Friday.

Starfucker blasted though an electro dance rock set with the swagger of genuine stars, rather than their fucker counterparts. Big sounds, tight execution and hooks that stick in your head as if they were lyrics. It was a great show, something that will be obvious when the BW video report on them goes up in a few days.

Don't miss em' next time they come through town.