November began as October ended – sitting outside a venue in nice weather, editing photos on my laptop. I watched the Farewell door in anticipation. Regulars came and went. Smoke of all flavors wafted by. The exhaust from the truck next door was so bad I put my mask back on. The crowd was small at 8pm but the opening band took the stage on time as if duty bound. Bless them. So, I put away my computer and went into the club.
Joust is a new band. Maybe born early this past summer. The foursome contains some familiar faces, some new to me. I keep hearing genre is dead, but I refuse to give up the concept, or the conceit that I can assign bands into buckets. But I wasn't prepared for Joust – not for the sheer ruggedness of the foursome. I expected punk, but I didn't expect the crunching and pounding hardcore that crept into every song, and that comprised the entirely of the finale. This charged lead guitarist "Hop" (Dekota Trogdon). From his post in what would have been the pit, he spent a half hour racking his guitar back, holding it aloft, jumping, and stomping. Bassist Claire Delaney took the opposite approach. She played a subdued set, moving little, and smiling wryly. Drummer Brad Highnam's energy level fell between the two. His swinging arms delivered the quick and simple hardcore pattern, but there was no acknowledgement of the audience or his role as a performer. Vocalist and guitarist Kat Plank passed on the jumps, conserving all their energy for the angry shouted vocals that added the sharp barbs to each song. While the audience wasn't ready to mosh, when the word gets out about this band, and they've got a record out, that pit will be a sea of destruction. I want to be there for that – just, you know, safely in the corner taking pictures of it all.
There was a 40-minute lag between bands. Because I wasn't inside to track the progress I can't say if DFITD won or lost "The Faint Game," but I do know their set was 35-minutes long, so it was probably close.
DFITD is a duo except when it is a trio. Tonight, it was a trio. As always, Josh Hobbs sat at the back of the stage behind his drum kit. He's an active player. Really active. Like Neil Peart active. Thankfully his kit is smaller or we might still be waiting for the band to start its set. He also dabbled in vocals, though my ear plugs were jammed in too tight to make any observations about that. In front of him was Dallas Uhrich. Uhrich generally plays bass (a dreaded one with five strings), though he occasionally relapses to guitar. Sometimes he passes by a microphone for a shout or moan or some another intonation. I don't think there are lyrics. He's also in charge of the synthesizer that holds the spotlight between songs but becomes just another layer when added to the compositions. Together the two have been creating this chaos for five years. Twenty-five years ago, I would have signed them to my label, and we'd have put out a CD that only 43 people bought yet somehow made the best-of lists of high-profile magazines in Sweden and Austria. That's because when you take the time to peer through the noise of DFITD, there is structure. It's complex and mathy, and littered with constantly changing bizarre time signatures, but it's there. And because Uhrich can find and deliver grooves. When he locks in with Hobbs, the two build songs that grow and mutate in lovely ways. Although nowhere as clean and mechanical as early-aughts buzz band Battles, I suspect fans of one would enjoy the other. But the band was a trio on this night. Guitarist Ben Kuder (from the band Ozersk) joined the fray providing texture more than riffs, and certainly no melody. He did provide vocals, but they were obscured by the cacophony much like his long hair obscured his face when standing at the microphone. But he didn't usually stand – sometimes he lay on the floor, sometimes he knelt, playing the guitar with one hand, while spinning knobs on his pedals with the other. This was particularly true when Uhrich switched to guitar, freeing Kuder to layer on pulsating, repeating noise. But truth be told, as a guest member, he had few responsibilities other than to color outside the lines. DFITD is an acquired taste, but I'm ready for a second helping.
Brooklyn's Venus Twins was sandwiched in between the locals for reasons of attendance. Some nights that's important, but on this night the intimate audience was in for the long haul. Venus Twins is a duo comprised of identical twin brothers – Jake Derting (drums) and Matt Derting (bass and vocals). The pair bring an awesome amount of energy. Jake Detring's drumming was frantic with constant fills. His elastic face did just as much work, moving from shock to a smile to intense ecstasy. His cymbals had done too much work already and were battered, cracked, and sounded awful. Awful in a way that added character to the noisy act. The samples he triggered between songs also added to the fun. Matt Derting strummed his bass. Quickly. Frenetically. He staggered around the stage, and sometimes off the stage, fretting his bass against the door damper during current single "Return to Dust." This terrified me because if the door would have opened, it would have snapped the headstock of his instrument. The door didn't open. Everyone is fine. His vocals were shouted – spit out quickly to keep up with the breakneck speed of the band's ping-ponging songs. Lightning Bolt might be a good touchstone for this act. Like his brother, Matt Derting gave the audience a catalog full of facial expressions throughout the short 25-minute set. After they cleared the stage, the amiable brothers returned to the crowd to watch the headliner just as they had the other local acts. That's class.
The night ended with Big Water. The band has been around since 2018 yet still feels new to me. Maybe I'm just behind the times. Or maybe the band has always taken a backseat to drummer Matt Perrin's other band, Bummer. With Bummer recently calling it quits, perhaps it's Big Water's turn in the spotlight.
Like the acts before it, Big Water was chaotic and bombastic. Most of the energy came from Perrin – from his crashing drums delivering syncopated rhythms, and from his throaty screamed vocals that were no match for the headset microphone he wore. To his left was guitarist Stephen Pellerito. He offered a smorgasbord of chugging hardcore, wiry post-punk riffs, and intriguing solos. Bassist Morgan "Punch" Mabrey glued the band together, adding rhythmic structure when Perrin's drums became too lyrical, and holding the melody when Pellerito's guitar went too far astray. With musicians given so much room, compositions yo-yoed between noisy nadirs and the tight apexes where the trio came together punctuating big moments.
The audience watched the nine-song, twenty-minute set stoically. There were no dancers, and no stans screaming along. If they were like me, they were engaged by the band's complexity, and invested in untangling its knotty guitar lines. Or maybe they were hungry like Perrin, who stated he wanted to get the show over quickly so he could go to Poncho's for a late meal. Thus, after finale "One More Sip" from the band's 2021 album …And I'm All Out of Shit to Fuck Up, the trio packed up hastily, and presumably headed for tacos. I headed home, with even more photos to edit.