24 March 2012

Saturday March 24

Dream the Hero, This Moment of Grief, ???, Invengence and Demise

The Vortex Concert Club and Lounge. Akron, OH

I’ve been meaning to visit the Vortex in Akron for a while now. I’ve noticed that a lot of my friends’ bands have been playing there and as a person in a band it’s always a good idea to check out new clubs before booking them. My first impression left me a little puzzled. It’s not one building, but two. I entered a bar that resembles a strip club set up for open mic night. A small stage with a pole, stool and microphone was backed by a wall of mirrors to my left and the bar was to my right. A closed circuit TV showed what was happening in the other room, which was separated from the bar by a narrow alley that doubled as the smoker’s patio.

The concert club resembles the kind of building you’d rent out for your kid’s birthday party. It was filled with plastic chairs and tables, black and white checkerboard floor and the bar was not opened. I’m sure they were hiding balloons and a clown down one of the long corridors. You had to go back to the lounge, order a drink, and then pour it into a Solo cup to be allowed to take it with you to watch the bands. I’m not sure why they did things this way, but I’m not an expert on alcohol laws so I’ll just assume they had their reasons. With the bar deserted the stage was the only source of action, I guess it’s a plus that the bands didn’t have that distraction, but I hated having to leave the building to refill that cup. The place did have a really nice green room. Most bars local bands have to play in either don’t have one or it’s so small that you’d rather stay out. This place is perfect for the stuck up types that would like to hide from their fans and make a grand entrance at the end of the night.

I missed Dream the Hero. I had wanted to catch their show to check out what their like because I’m going to be playing with them next month; plus they’re friends of friends. Unfortunately my Saturday afternoon nap lasted a little too long and I arrived as they were carrying equipment down the alley to the parking lot. It must hand it to the Vortex for starting the show close to the advertised 8pm start time. Usually you get there and mill about for an hour before any bands play, which is why I’ve taken to showing up about an hour after the doors open.

This Moment of Grief played one of the best sets I’ve seen from them yet. They started off as a band sounding too much like Bullet for my Valentine for my taste but are quickly developing a unique style. They definitely had the highest energy levels and the largest crows of the night. And it’s hard to dislike a metal band that runs out on stage like athletes while Katy Perry sings “California Gurls” in the background. Jimmy B’s amp was sounding a bit off, but I won’t hold that against anyone. Amps tend to do that; a faulty tube, a weird outlet or even a room’s acoustics can throw them off. They’re the touchiest pieces of equipment we poor guitarist have to deal with. I’m not sure what to think of their cover of Stone Sour’s “Say you’ll Haunt Me,” but I appreciate that it was something different. While it wasn’t a spot on cover, the artistic liberties taken did not take away from the original composition and it was still a rockin’ tune. Plus I’m getting sick of “Your Betrayal” and “The Bleeding.” I like hearing covers, but I’m getting bored with Five Finger Death Punch and BFMV for a while.

I’m not sure who the next band to take the stage was. Not that I didn’t watch a few songs, I just didn’t catch their name. It isn’t a big loss. They would be great on the coffee house scene but they were completely out of their element at a metal show. The Affliction wearing Guido played his PRS finger style very well, the ambiguously gay guitar player had some cool riffs and the black drummer was spot on with the beat, but I couldn’t get the question of how these guys came together out of my head. If they just had an Arab and a policeman they could have been the new millennium’s answer to The Village People. And while I respect them for taking the stage (it took some balls to hop up there with their material after TMOG) I hate not seeing some kind of amp behind guitar players. I learned from the sound guy that the skinny lead player in the “To Write Love On Her Arms” t-shirt was going directly into the sound board. I’m always arguing with people about the value of having a large amp behind you onstage. Sure they’re a bitch to haul around but they add a lot in the way of presence and make you look COOL! Would Slayer, Lamb of God or Black Label Society have the same presence without their giant painted plywood that looks like a wall of Marshalls? I think not.

I was disappointed when I saw Invengence. Not because they put on a bad show, they had good energy and some great thrash-metal tunes, but there was no audience for them. It felt like a waste that more people weren’t there to check them out. At least they had a sense of humor about the lack of turnout. The singer joked about the slim crowd from the stage and what could have turned into an embarrassing prompt for self-loathing became a special shared experience between the few of us in the audience and the band. I’d keep an eye out for these guys.

Demise was obviously the big band of the night. It was easy to see that by the black t-shirts with their logo on them being worn all over the place. The headliners did have a few advantages over the other bands; they had some smoke machines, a light show, two singers and rap metal. I hate rap metal. I’ve heard people say it’s coming back, but I don’t really believe that or care. Metal has always been about NOT being cool and I don’t think trying to be cool is going to help anyone. Plus, I’m tired of the male/female duo vocals. The only band I’ve ever heard do it well was Meatloaf and every time I mention that to someone in one of these bands they laugh at me like I’m an idiot. I just don’t see why nobody uses harmonies and always relies on a call/response technique with dual vocals. Also, I don’t want to hear a chick that just sings all of the high notes but would rather hear someone soulful like Amy Winehouse or Adele. The best female singers, just like the best male singers, are able to channel emotion into their voices (i.e. Fiona Apple). I’ve never cared for the high pitched weak sounding girly voice any more than I have the constricted throat growly scream. Demise was not the first time I saw someone yell into a microphone and then need to have it turned up, but it was the moment I realized how silly that is. I only stayed for a few of their songs. I don’t want to say they were bad, I saw a lot of people there that were into them, but I wasn’t one of them. Plus when I drink too much I get a little catatropaphobic and there were mirrors everywhere. I took off a few songs into their set.

Another strange thing I noticed about the night was the groups of people hanging out in the parking lot. I wish we could get people into the clubs watching each other’s bands and supporting the local scene so we can have a scene and not just a loosely aligned assemblage of bands. I can only assume that much of the crowd was under the age of 21 or completely uninterested in watching music. Either way I’m sure they could have found cheaper entertainment on a Saturday night. The XXX video store next to the club was advertising viewing booths. It wasn’t a bad night. I showed up to support my friends in This Moment of Grief (even though I still maintain that the name is stupid) and managed to see another good band in Invengence. I’m not sure if it was worth the $8 but it got me out of the house for a few hours.