Post-something and red lights
Writers can be a pretty lazy and unimaginative crowd. Case in point: the current trend of putting the word “post” in front of any existing musical genre and thereby creating a “new” but nonetheless derivative style of music. Hence, we have “post-folk,” “post-bop,” “post-minimalist,” “post-grunge” and “post-punk,” just to name a few. (Of course, all of these are so terribly postmodern.)
Nonetheless, such tags can be useful, particularly when dealing with a band like local trio Brilliant Red Lights (BRL). There are elements of BRL that put the band pretty squarely in the general punk-rock category: vocals that are essentially shouted and a sense of fiery aggression in the band’s performance style. But these same elements also veer strongly away from the generic punk-rock label. Aaron Davidson’s vocals, for example, owe more to the Cure’s Robert Smith than to the spit and snarl of Johnny Rotten, and the structure of the songs veers more toward the sort of prog-punk of late-model Fugazi than to the straight-ahead guitar rock of the Clash.
At its recent show at the Capitol Garage, though, BRL displayed how a young band can take those influences and make something interesting. It’s not exactly new—the Fugazi influence is particularly present here, as is the influence of At the Drive-In and, in terms of the vocals, alt-metal band System of a Down—but BRL is such a solid band that it manages to utilize these influences to make some pretty listenable music. Furthermore, the band has remarkable stage presence for a young band (these are all college students), with Davidson (vocals and guitar; English major), Evan Michalski (bass; managerial-econ major) and Jon Roberts (drums; philosophy major and therefore the member least likely to have a job after college) leaping about in sweaters that might seem more at home in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood than on the stage of the Capitol Garage. Somehow, though, it all seems to work.
Also noteworthy is the fact that BRL is championing a free compilation of likeminded bands, most of whom are from the greater Sacramento area. The Sea Beast Comp consists of 18 tracks, by bands including such locals as Playing to the Grandstand and An Angle, and fans are encouraged to copy and distribute it as they see fit. (Interested parties should visit www.seabeast.org for more information.)
Incidentally, the show was opened by Modernstate, a one-man, loop-based “band” that was surprisingly interesting given the limitations of loop-based music. Modernstate is at the forefront of a burgeoning movement of one-man bands in the Pacific Northwest. With a little luck, perhaps it all will be known one day as the “Modernstate sound.” The band (his name is Sam Schauer) will be back in Sacramento in March and is worth a listen.
Sacramento’s blues scene is one of the healthiest in town—so healthy, in fact, that fans can enjoy live blues virtually every night of the week in and around River City. For 25 years, the Sacramento Blues Society has championed the cause of, in its words, “preserving and promoting blues music as an art form.” The society’s Web site is an excellent clearinghouse of blues-related information, featuring an up-to-date calendar on blues jams, open-mics and live blues shows throughout the Sacramento area. Readers can point their browsers to www.sacblues.com.