Four square rock

Seattle’s Schoolyard Heroes has ‘got next’

MY HERO <br>Schoolyard Heroes, (from left) guitarist Steve Bonnell, bassist Jonah Bergman and lead singer Ryann Donnelly mop up the Riff Raff floor.

Schoolyard Heroes, (from left) guitarist Steve Bonnell, bassist Jonah Bergman and lead singer Ryann Donnelly mop up the Riff Raff floor.

Photo By Tom Angel

Schoolyard Heroes
Riff Raff Rock Bar, Sat., March 20

I gotta say it: “You missed it.”

One of those kick-you-in-the-head live rock bands in the vein of The Makeup or The Murder City Devils, passed though the Riff Raff in a puff of electromagnetism last Saturday night.

Set up at eye level on the floor where the Riff Raff’s stage used to be, Seattle’s Schoolyard Heroes released a trap door and dropped a ton of rock into double-time metal-meets-the-Ramones for the intro to “Dawn of the Dead” from their debut The Funeral Sciences. This three-minute, three-part rock bomb encapsulates the Heroes’ approach perfectly: Speed metal heart attack makes way for sing-along Riot Grrl anthem that drops down into a swampy garage rock riff.

It’s tough not to just say, “They rawked,” and as with most great rock shows, in the end that’s all that mattered. Almost. Schoolyard Heroes might actually deserve to be called something new. Where a lot of bands will ease their way into genre blends, Heroes grabs at metal, punk and even opera dynamics with both hands and crosses in and out of each with gusto. There are for sure comparisons to be made—blending styles in a vaguely Pretty Girls Make Graves or even The Rapture fashion—but the bluntness of the concoction is jarring and, in the end, largely indescribable.

As impressive of a sonic expression as the rest of the band has come up with, consider that the voice of 18-year-old front woman Ryann Donnelly carries, on its own, as much weight as the rest of the band put together. In terms of natural ability meshing with creativity, Donnelly could hold her own against the likes of Bjork or even Diamanda Galas, but it’s her ability to evoke the pop of Debbie Harry or the punk of Sleater-Kinney that makes her total approach so stunning.

In fact, on my favorite tune of the night “The Mechanical Man Vs. the Robot from the Outer Limits,” Donnelly synced up with the mad hen-pecked noodling of guitarist Steve Bonnell in one part of the song, moved to sounding exactly like Tia Carrere doing “Ballroom Blitz” in Wayne’s World in another, and finally segued into in an operatic medieval-sounding yowl! And it all worked. Really.