Blood Brothers, Minus the Bear, These Arms are Snakes, and Crystal SkullsPosted 01/31/2006 08:04AM by Rick Gebhardt as Show Review
Seattle is and has always been a leading city in producing talented, original, and inspiring music. The first explosion came in the early 1990s with Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Beck, and other artists who are now considered revolutionary. Currently, Seattle is in the middle of another massive explosion of sensational bands, although maybe the national spotlight isn’t shining quite as bright.
Among said sensation bands include experimental-punks the Blood Brothers, indie-pop-rock supergroup Minus the Bear, post-hardcore stars These Arms Are Snakes, and chipper indie-poppers Crystal Skulls. Well golly, what a show it would make to have all four of these Seattle favorites to play in their hometown! What a great show indeed…
Benefiting Seattle’s Vera Project, Crystal Skulls opened the night with a very upbeat set of indie-pop. While the musicianship was tight and actually better received live that on record, Crystal Skulls were the only band to fail in energizing the sold-out show. Although they are clearly the smallest band of the four performing, they certainly didn’t gain many new fans with their performance. Songs consistently sounded more similar than their predecessors, and generally had the same format to each song; a live performance is generally a great time to experiment and surprise the audience, but Crystal Skulls didn’t take the reins on that one. While Crystal Skulls would benefit from opening for a band like Minus the Bear on tour, this one-off show didn’t gain them much from the audience. They also announced a new album coming in March or April. Performance Rating: 2.5/5
Following Crystal Skulls was These Arms Are Snakes, who have toured relentlessly since their release of Oxeneers in 2004; it definitely shows. The band has grown a lot over the past two years, both as musicians and as performers; their shows are livelier, more entertaining, and more interactive, while at the same time tighter, more experimental, and more precise. These Arms Are Snakes opened with a new track, which by all accounts completely rocks. While distinctly the band’s signature sound, it has more experimentation and is overtly heavier than any previous works. Performing Oxeneers gems such as “Idaho,” “Angela’s Secret,” and “La Stanza Bianca,” and another new track, These Arms Are Snakes concluded their set with fan – and probably band – favorite “Riding the Grape Dragon,” which, is performed differently every time. This time, the band chose to leave their delay pedals on, walk off stage, and have Dave Knudson, Erin Tate, and Cory Murchy of Minus the Bear to take control of the remaining song on their respective instruments, while These Arms Are Snakes took a group stage-dive. It was ultimately awesome. Performance Rating: 5/5
Once again, following a fall 2005 tour, Minus the Bear went on after These Arms Are Snakes, and once again, they have to follow a very tough performance. Although the Bear’s most recent release, Menos El Oso, was ill received by some, the live versions of the album’s songs were performed to near-perfection, which oddly enough were way better live than on record. Drummer Erin Tate tore the place up with his acutely timed smashes, giving the Bear the much-needed boost necessary for Menos songs to sound, well, alive. Mostly sticking to Menos songs such as “Drilling,” “The Fix,” and “Pachua Sunrise,” Minus the Bear threw in a couple surprises for the home crowd, playing “Monkey! Knife! Fight!” and an almost never performed classic from This is What I Know About Being Gigantic, “Pansuit…Ugh.” The band sounded excellent with the exception of singer Jake Snyder’s voice, which sounded weak and strained most of the night. This also marked the final performance by producer/keyboardist Matt Bayles, who will go on to produce Mastodon’s newest in the nearing months. Performance Rating: 4/5
Before the Blood Brothers took the stage, a slideshow featuring the Vera Project’s accomplishments over the years was displayed. An appropriate addition to the show considering it’s a benefit for the Project, but it last nearly a half-hour, killing any and all momentum made by the previous acts. When the Blood Brothers finally did take the stage, it was in normal Blood Brothers fashion: loud, fast, intense, and relentless. They went through three Crimes tracks without break before coming to a halt. While the Blood Brothers tend to have excellent live shows, it appears that on any given show, one member isn’t “on.” In this performance’s case, it was vocalist Johnny Whitney, whose voice was strained, distorted, and weak the entire show. Shockingly and sadly, the Blood Brothers didn’t play a single track from their seminal Burn Piano Island Burn, and played only Crimes tracks; even the fan favorite and often played “Jennifer” from This Adultery is Ripe was missing. However, despite these shortcomings, the Bros performed three new tracks, which are expected to be on their upcoming album that they are currently writing. The best way these tracks could be described is a blend between both vocalists’ side-projects: Head Wound City and Neon Blonde. They were intensely noisy, yet uniformed, with the occasional dance beat, and unwavering screaming by both vocalists. As usual, the Blood Brothers performed each song like it were their last. Performance Rating: 4/5
Overall Show Rating: 4/5