Bands go boom at Riff Raff
In need of a break from secret genetic experiments, I left the lab early Friday night to catch some local rock. Walking downtown to the Riff Raff club, I was accosted by familiar panhandlers (both real and grossly overfed) repeating their tired jokes and pleas for “money for crack.” But even more irritating were the packs of backwards-baseball-cap-wearing young drunks, howling at the moon between exploits at the local meat markets.
I watched with private fury as these young men mocked me, a poorly dressed scientist—these punks who would probably spend the night swilling cheap spirits and drooling over tightly clad women with thongs bursting from their pants like prematurely blown party favors. When one of the brutes thwacked my ear and knocked off my glasses, I shook my pen and warned that he “wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
The concert began around 11 p.m. A small crowd was scattered about the narrow, red-lit room that felt like a vacant Amsterdam brothel. A snaking, stainless-steel bar was overseen by a leather-clad, buxom bartender with striking red hair. Wary of her charms (and the glowing bottles behind her), I retreated to the balcony for an overhead view of the small stage in the front window.
Openers Bear Hunter began with a heavy dose of sonic atmospherics that reminded me of The Flaming Lips via The Cure—as well as a number of other indie bands. Throughout its melancholy set, the trio displayed mature confidence with minor-chord melodies and shoe-gazing, instrumental breaks awash in digital delay, reverb and distortion. Vocalist Maurice Spencer (of Synthesis fame) led the way on bass and guitar, belting out strongly projected vocals on songs like “Jim O’Rourke,” after the famous indie producer. Veteran local drummer Clint Bear (Incredible Diamonds) kept the beat expertly, allowing the others to explore the ethereal stratosphere of emo-land head space.
Next up was the raw, psychedelic rock of the Terminal Waste Band, a local collective utilizing an array of musicians (minus bassist Barbara Manning, who is touring Europe) for a loose, exploratory sound much to my liking. Full of interesting originals, the band nailed songs such as the hypnotic slow rocker “Dial M for Monkey,” which ended in a heavy two-chord jam worthy of the Velvet Underground’s best, and the lovely ballad, “It’s All Over Now,” featuring restrained folk vocals from guitarist Scott Derr (with an added trumpet solo).
An unusual highlight was the rousing cover of folk duo Richard and Mimi Farina’s “Bold Marauder,” a mystical tale built around a repetitive Celtic-like chorus ("It’s hi, ho, hey, I am the bold marauder! It’s hi, ho, hey, I am the white destroyer!") and dark lyrics ("And I will take a Fury to wife and I will be your father/And Death will be our darling and fear will be our name"). I enjoyed the band’s unique set, but it needed to shape the sound better. It was difficult to discern subtleties within the songs—the volume was loud and vocals were mixed unevenly.
As the Waste Band peaked into garage rock frenzy, I could feel my brain burning—the frenzied pain shooting down my back, rattling my ribs. I would soon be out on the streets again surrounded by drunken frat boys and I could feel it happening. “No,” I said, crumpling to the ground. “Not here!”
ARRRRRGH. (Riiiip) HULK MAD. HULK SMASH DRUNK WHITE TRASH. HULK’S EARS STILL RINGING. HULK SMASH RIFF RAFF. HULK RECOMMEND CHECKING OUT CD’S BY TONIGHT’S BANDS. HULK SLEEPY NOW FROM STRAINED CREATIVE WRITING. Argh.