Three very different local bands close out the semester with a proper party at LaSalles
From my station behind a bank of cameramen, tripods and microphones, I watched the crowd at LaSalles as it moved in waves before me like some bizarre spectator sport.
For its final Friday-night show before Chico State’s finals week, LaSalles booked the three local bands that consistently draw the biggest crowds to the downtown club, and in doing so brought together an impossibly eclectic lineup of players: Surrogate (pop-rock), Armed for Apocalypse (metal) and rap group the Hooliganz.
Some unseen coin toss determining the night’s order placed Surrogate first, and the band listed its way through numbers from its most recent album, Popular Mechanics.
The diversity of crowd members—a heterogeneous mixture of fans and non-familiars (“Who is this?” a college co-ed in knee-high leather boots beside me asked)—made for an interesting sight: dolled-up hip-hop fans, a biker couple in black leather slow-dancing and kissing beside me, and young women and men alike singing along with Surrogate vocalist Chris Keene, who belted earnest literary and emotive lyrics, at once spirited and disquieting.
The sincerity and stunning musicality of Surrogate’s songwriting resonated throughout the group’s set. And, in the spirit of the evening’s somewhat disjointed genre-crossing, members of the Hooliganz joined the band onstage for Surrogate’s “15,” from the band’s debut, Love Is for the Rich, enticing the crowd with a freestyle verse from each MC while the band locked together rhythmically behind them. The unlikely pairing surprisingly gave an impression of being rather well-rehearsed.
If Surrogate’s finale left the audience impressed and satisfied, Armed for Apocalypse instantly dispelled the calm with ferocious pummeling. Marked by frenetic bass and drum-heavy hard rock, the players up front moved in synchronized thrusts while drummer Nick Harris’ head appeared to have broken free of his neck as it rolled in a mace-like flurry of tangled locks, a Medusa head convulsing in time to some other-worldly, heathen death-waltz.
Bassist Cor Vaspra addressed the crowd between songs, grinning and gasping to catch his breath: “We’re having fun—are you guys having fun?” With Vaspra and guitarists Kirk Williams and Cayle Hunter singing alternately, at times simultaneously, the quartet produced an impressive sound, redefining the three-part harmony while the players vocalized and played their instruments in unison naturally with little apparent effort, handling the heavy task as deftly as a smith with hammer and steel. The arrangements seemed to come from each of them in accordance with their own persons, each feeling—not so much thinking—the sounds emanating from them.
The intermission following A4A found the members of the Hooliganz on and around the stage, when at some point DJ Marvel began emitting a continuous stream of beats and samples from his turntables and laptop, setting the mood for the final act.
I had not seen the rap quartet perform since the 2006 CAMMIES, and was surprised to see them take to the stage with a live guitarist—plus A4A’s drummer Harris, who returned for several songs—bringing a live band sound to the group’s normally sample-heavy arrangements. The mixture of voices, live instruments and showmanship of MCs J. Pigg, B. Lee and i2K, was a fitting closing collage for a night featuring such a seemingly random collection of musicians.
The collective audience, in its varying forms and tastes, was dedicated to finishing out the night. In fact, if anything the crowd swelled as the night progressed, as opposed to the usual pattern of a fickle audience thinning and vanishing after its faves leave the stage.
We wandered out into the night after last call with a sense of completion, of whiskeys savored, of having experienced and even enjoyed the improbable coherence of such varying musical styles.