Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bat Fangs / Pipe / Solar Halos at the Cat’s Cradle Back Room - 2/3/2018

Bat Fangs
With Pipe & Solar Halos
Cat’s Cradle Back Room
2/3/2018

Bat Fangs were one of my favorite new acts from Hopscotch 2017, and when the pseudo-local duo (drummer Laura King is from Chapel Hill, best known for her work with Flesh Wounds, while guitarist Betsy Wright, also of Ex Hex, is from the DC area) announced this record release show I bought a ticket right away.  And a good thing too, because the damn thing ended up selling out!

I got there in time to see the last couple of songs from Solar Halos, one of those local groups I've been meaning to check out for ages but, you know, laziness or something prevented me.  I liked what I saw - the three piece was doing sort of a space metal thing (is that a thing?), and I recognized one of the members as being from Fin Fang Foom.  Minimal (and non-Cookie Monster) vocals, good guitar work, heavy but not overbearing.  I'll have to make more of an effort to catch them again, or at least not drag in late if they're opening a bill I'm already planning on attending. 

Much to my great delight, I got to see Pipe again.  Much to my even greater delight, they're still the same band playing the same songs I've loved for the last 20+ years.  They really don't need a review at this point - the gist as always is catchy, sloppy punk with a charismatic singer (Ron Liberti) who is damn funny.  As always, Ron is very quotable - he kicked off with "We’ve got 12 [songs] tonight - pace yourselves accordingly!"; at some point he commented out of the blue "I heard Buddy Holly died last night"; and then for reasons that likely only make sense in his brain, he let everyone know "If you don’t love the moon, get the fuck out."  I need to remember to write down his nonsense every time I see these guys. This was just the tip of the iceberg. 

If Bat Fangs aren't already sponsored by Adidas, they should be - between the matching shoes and their love of the brand's signature track suits, you couldn't ask for better advertisement.  Given this was the release of their debut album, you can probably guess that most of their set was them playing their new self-titled record.  Betsy Wright is a natural as a front woman - tons of stage presence, a boatload of charisma, and, as always, bonus points for looking like OG Pat Benatar.  At some point a shitload of balloons got released into the crowd, so it felt like we were celebrating catchy-ass songs and a winning election at the same time.  They closed the evening in grand fashion - a cover of Poison's "Talk Dirty To Me."  You might think that an odd choice, but go back and give that song another listen - hairspray and ridiculous spandex outfits aside, that's a fuckin' gem of a pop song. 

Howard Ivans / Skylar Gudasz at the Cats Cradle Back Room - 11/17/2017

Howard Ivans
With Skylar Gudasz
Cats Cradle Back Room
11/17/2017

The name Howard Ivans might sound familiar - supposedly he's the long lost twin brother of Rosebuds singer Ivan Howard, but I have a sneaking suspicion they might actually be the same person.  It's unclear what the status of the Rosebuds are these days and if they'll ever make any more records, but this alter-ego allows Howard to explore his more sultry, soulful side.  The vocals might be mostly the same between the two outfits, but the music is...slinkier?  Sure, why not.  His debut solo record was recorded with the help of Richmond's Spacebomb Collective, but live he had a trio of local lads backing him up (Rob Lackey, Mark Paulson, and Brian Weeks)...all of which are my friends, one that might have even been my roommate years ago so I'm definitely not being biased here.  Obviously.  And my totally unbiased take is that while more stripped down than the record, they were really great live.  Rob and Mark held down the backbone, Ivan handled the rhythm guitar, and Brain spent most of the night playing a bunch of solos and leads that were straight out of the score from an eighties Michael Mann movie...given his hair metal background, it was a gig that well suited him.  I was way into all of it, and my only regret is with Ivan living in Portland now these shows will be few and far between. 

The opener this evening was Skylar Gudasz, who I've reported on a few times.  I don't have anything particularly new to say here on her, just know her voice is one of the best in the business (not just locally, anywhere), and it's always a joy to hear her live.  She had a four-piece backing band this time, made up of four well-traveled local musicians sporting four high-quality beards.  Skylar had no beard, which might be a sign she's not a very good team player.  We'll monitor this situation in the future and see if she gets on the beard program, or continues to flaunt the best interests of band unity. 

Hot Snakes at the Chapel - 11/10/2017

Hot Snakes
The Chapel
11/10/2017

I didn't necessarily travel all the way to San Francisco to see the recently reunited Hot Snakes play, but I did choose this particular weekend to take a trip I had been wanting to make all year because of them.  After having now seen them perform for the first time in probably a decade, it actually would have been entirely reasonable to make that cross-country pilgrimage based on the performance they gave at the Chapel.  The place was packed, the show sold out long ago - I actually bought my tickets to this gig before I bought my plane ticket, because it was the much more important purchase.  The sausage party levels in the club were off the chart - from where I was standing, I couldn't count more than a half-dozen women in the crowd, and three of them were from the opening band.  I'm not entirely sure why this is, as I've known a number of women who like Hot Snakes, but the facts remain that most metal shows I've attended were more diverse than this one. 

The whole band is great fun to watch, but I had forgotten just how amazing it is to see John Reis on stage.  He is truly possessed - prowling the stage like a wild tiger in a small cage, a crazed look on his face, spitting everywhere, and mixing it up with the crowd constantly (those interactions include occasionally berating them for their lack of energy).  He has a smile on his face almost the entire time, but it's the type of smile you see on a demonic toddler after they just decided to dump all of their food on the floor while staring you straight in the eye.  They were also touring with both of their drummers - the first half of the show was with with their original drummer Jason Kourkounis, the second half with Mario Rubalcaba, and then Jason came back out for the encore.  Given we're all getting older and how hard they play, two drummers might not be bad idea for any band that's been around this long. 

Other than them not playing my favorite song "Mystery Boy," I have zero complaints about this performance and I'm so glad I made the trip for it.  Word is this reformation isn't meant to be short-lived - a fourth record is on the way for Sub Pop, and a tour in support of that album to hopefully/probably follow.  I'll go pretty much anywhere to see them again, though financially I wouldn't be mad if they decided to play closer to my home.