Burning from the inside
Drama, energy and great music at 1078 Gallery
The four-act show at 1078 Gallery on Saturday night (Nov. 16) was an excellent example of both Chico’s eclectic music scene (three of the acts were homegrown) and the willingness of the Chico Area Punks booking collective (not to mention the host gallery) to embrace creativity of all stripes.
A self-described “gothic/underground” one-person band from Orland, Mercury’s Butterfly opened the show with a dirgey set of atmospheric synthesizer-based songs highlighted by singer/composer Feywer Folevado’s dramatic vocal delivery. Standing behind his keyboards and other electronics in a cloud of fog with hair teased and frizzed to fantastic heights, Folevado brought an undeniable goth spirit to the proceedings that drew enthusiastic support from the mostly young crowd, many of whom were similarly decked out.
The fairly new quartet Shadow Figures is one of the more interesting examples of Chico’s constantly recombinant musical DNA, featuring ace Hot Flash guitarist Tom Little on keyboard, Severance Package guitarist Josh Indar on drums, punk madman Cody Kay on somewhat melodic shouting and guitar, and Elliot Lang on bass and singing backup vocals. Pre-show publicity summed up the group as “spoopy punkers from beyond,” yet live it was less “spoopy” (i.e., spooky) than a high-octane jolt of garage-rock energy reminiscent of The Stooges, The Fleshtones or The Cramps. A 30-minute rush!
Upping the ante of visual and sonic weirdness, Oakland’s “post-punk freak-deathrock trio” Moira Scar took over the stage in horned headdresses and face masks. Synth player/singer LuLu Gamma Ray sported a black latex cat suit, and guitarist/saxophonist/singer Roxy Monoxide was in what might be termed Klingon casual wear, with drummer Aimee S. choosing a more utilitarian sleeveless look well-suited to her energetic task. Musically, the trio blended tight, electronically enhanced instrumental arrangements with primeval rock beats and dramatic vocals.
Despite the “deathrock” descriptor, Moira Scar delivers music that is very much alive. Monoxide created all kinds of dark dramatics thanks to a wide range of guitar effects—from harsh noise to spooky reverb and chorus-drenched atmopherics—and Gamma Ray’s synthesizer takes over the role of bass while also adding ambient sound effects. I particularly enjoyed the climactic song of their set, “NightBite,” which ended in a chaotic swirl of synths over which Monoxide blew a saxophone solo that brought to mind some of Nik Turner’s free-form blasts on early records by seminal space-rockers Hawkwind.
Up last was another new Chico act, Desperate Hell, playing its second show. The “new dark punk/deathrock” crew features members of Iver and Rogue Squadron, and the music lived up to the description. To these ears, the tightly arranged and well-played songs came off as examples of excellent pastiche but lacked the experimental creativity evidenced by the preceding acts. Howls of approval from the audience belied my personal perspective, however, and the that’s part of the beauty of live music in Chico. The impressive range of personal tastes and artistic approaches is a big part of what makes the local scene so invigorating.