Metal for vets

Dirty Mick Productions puts on a fun, noisy night at Vets Hall

HEALTHY GLOW The Makai’s Zeke Rogers (left) and Brandon Squyres shake the Veterans Hall Foundation.

HEALTHY GLOW The Makai’s Zeke Rogers (left) and Brandon Squyres shake the Veterans Hall Foundation.

Photo By Tom Angel

The Makai, At Dawn & moreVeterans Memorial HallFri., May 20

Even with only a couple of dozen local punk/metal fans on the floor (most of whom were on the evening’s bill), the Veterans Memorial Hall is an impressive structure—wood floors, a big wide stage and enormously high ceilings, the kind of place where they would’ve held a union rally or an old USO dance. Not to dismiss the fun, solo, acousti-punk of Nothing Left (hey, I said it was fun) or the scum-punk of Sac’s Sophisticunts or the end-of-the-long-night sloppy pop-punk of locals Fingers of Passion, but the heavy metal on the bill was the stuff best suited for the room.

I’m not close to being an expert on the world of serious metal, but it seems like all the requisite technical proficiency and heavy thrust was strong in both The Makai and Yuba City’s At Dawn. I am, however, very fond of quite a lot of noisy music, and in terms of getting the heavy point across At Dawn is a few steps behind Chico’s The Makai.

At Dawn’s front man Sal was scary intense, and he had some great exaggerated stage moves, but the band’s twin guitar attack—while amazing to watch—fell back on mathy-metal wanking a little, and the drums were way too thin and splashy.

The Makai has all the same metal tonal qualities (with a few punk moves in the mix), but the difference is in how the band uses its collective powers. With a focus on using dynamics to their greatest dramatic effect—beginning with a row of flood lights attached to a long sheet of plywood, blasting out toward the audience from behind the band—The Makai were a very effective machine. Brandon Squyres’ vocals have two settings: banshee and Satan. Flipping between the screech and growl at opposite ends of the harmonic spectrum, Squyres and god-of-thunder drummer Keith Vidra led the band through an alternately sludgy and bombastic set of focused drop-D tunes that didn’t have any loose ends veering off into noodle-land (the tight chunk-chunk-chunk trudging in “Frankenstein” could give a person vertigo).

Enough about heavy-metal aesthetics, though, let’s talk about why rock shows have been goin’ down at the Veterans Hall.

One of the more active veterans at the hall these days is 32-year-old Gideon Pendergraft, who along with fellow vet Sean Costello and his wife Melissa Costello has recently been putting on these all-ages rock shows in the old hall under the name Dirty Mick Productions (a nod to the trio’s Irish heritage). After being recalled to service for a stint in the recent Iraq war (Pendergraft served in the Navy previously in Gulf War I, as well as in Somalia, Bosnia and Haiti), he returned to Chico, and with his Dirty Mick cohorts started bringing in touring punk bands (like Trustkill Record’s Terror) and combining them with locals to raise money for the Caring Vets organization and to give the under-21ers a place to rock out.

While the turnout for Friday’s punk/metal bill was pretty dismal (likely due to grad weekend distractions), the first few shows have been bringing in hundreds of young rockers from all over the Northstate. With a low overhead due to his vet status and connections to the hall’s sponsors via his work with Caring Vets and Vectors, Pendergraft is building his dreams of making the massive space a reinvigorated center for veterans—as well as a venue for alcohol-free all-age concerts—on a more solid foundation than the typical local promoter usually enjoys.