Seattle’s Amazombies conquer the Riff Raff
By the time of the group’s count-in to its third number of the evening, “Thumb War,” from Bitches and Stitches, its debut CD on X-Communicated Records, Seattle trio Amazombies had the crowd in the palm of its collective hand.
The high-energy and quite melodic punk rock band appeared at the Riff Raff Rock Bar in downtown Chico last Saturday night. Comprised of guitarist-singer Kim Kelly, bassist-singer Noriko Kaji and drummer-singer Josh Kramer, the band laid down a relentless rhythm from the second it hit the stage, never letting up until an hour later when its set slammed to a stop.
While aspects of the Ramones and L.A.'s X are readily detectable in the group’s sound, it still manages to utilize these elements in a mostly original way. Speedy little numbers like “Lost Girl” carry pointed messages demanding introspection:
“When your heart races/ Is that how you feel?/ When your stomach drops/ Does that make it real?/ Lost Girl—trying to find her way ….”
Even with a wealth of its own material at hand to fill an evening with compelling, propelling punk rock, the Amazombies were not beyond throwing in that old Leiber/Stoller number originally penned for the Coasters, “Riot in Cell Block #9.” Only, when handled by this band, the thing practically launched itself into space after the pseudo-Dragnet intro, it gained such velocity so quickly.
Kramer is a powerhouse of a drummer, slamming out great tom fills and kicking out a hard, steady beat on his bass drum. He’s not a bad backing vocalist, either. Bassist Kaji was so delighted by the crowd’s response, she couldn’t keep from leaping up onto the Riff Raff bar (mere inches from the edge of the stage) whenever the opportunity presented itself. She’s a good vocalist and musician, as was Kelly, who kept her cherry-red SG guitar solos stinging and to the point.
After their set, the members declared they loved Chico and expected to return soon.
Prior to the Amazombies were fellow Seattle-ites The Hollowpoints.
These guys offered a tightly performed, fast bunch of songs slightly reminiscent of the material cranked out by popular “punk” bands like Green Day. Decked out in what seems to suggest a kind of “frat boy punk chic"—backwards baseball caps, T-shirts and shorts—the three band members plugged into their amps at just after 11 p.m. and jammed through a 45-minute set. I didn’t catch any of the song titles, but the group generally laid down some interesting rhythmic patterns beneath its serviceable melodies. Perhaps my Green Day assessment was hasty. The group might bear closer consideration.
Opening the evening was Take the Wall, led by former Union of the Dead member Cliff Greenwood. The four-piece’s sound was punky with undertones of ‘70s heavy metal—kinda like Black Sabbath on speed. Those half-step chord riffs were compelling enough, but the howled vocals sort of wore thin after a while. As debut performances go, however, Greenwood and company generally presented themselves well.