Just a quick note for posterity's sake
Chasm opened the night a bit latter than advertised, but when it's your basement you get to make the rules. The three-piece doomy punk band played a short set that seemed focused on its faster songs, rather than its sludgy material. Guitarist Danni Parelman still brought the heavy, slow doom during breakdowns, but this wasn't the Sabbath love-fest that some of the band's past sets have become. The sound was loud, but not particularly muddy which is generally good, but hearing Parelman's vocals without impossible layers of distortion was a bit of a shock.
Nature Boys followed about fifteen minutes later. I hadn't seen the band in a while, and had forgotten just how good it is. The guitar work of Danny Fischer was just wonderful with strong melodic leads and dexterous solos all laid over punk rock that emphasized the rock. Vocal duties were shared between Fischer and bassist Suzanne Hogan, with two coed vocals often overlapping successfully. While the d-beat-styled drumming of Aaron Rommel seemed a little ham-fisted at times, it definitely reminded the audience that this was a dangerous band that comes out swinging.
While outside temperatures remained in the 90s long after dark, the basement was not the hot box I expected. Of course there is no ventilation down there, but the stone walls and a couple of large fans kept things surprisingly pleasant – certainly no worse than outside where dozens of fans sat around the (mercifully) unlit fire pit.
Oklahoma City's Cherry Death were up next in one of those "the headliner isn't the headliner" bills. This was my first experience with the band, but I understand the size of this musical collective shifts regularly. While always led by guitarist and sometime-vocalist Tim Buchanan, on this night the band lined up with Lacey Elaine Tackett on bass and vocals, Lenora Lavictoire on (occasional) sax and backing vocals, Kilyn Massey on guitar, and Brent Hodge on drums. Together the quintet began the night with an extended messy jazz instrumental that brought both Buchanan and Lavictoire's saxophones front and center. Soon the band shifted into its traditional set that mixes lo-fi '90s indie rock (say Dinosaur Jr.) with the power-pop of obvious influence Big Star. In fact, the band covered "September Gurls" from the latter just to drive its devotion home. How the band was able to hear each other to nail the harmony backing vocals is a mystery, but there was no question that Buchanan felt comfortable leaning back into the guitar solo written into each of the band's songs. The twenty-five or so people in the basement called for an encore, and the band returned with a quiet but satisfying pop song.
Locals Warm Bodies must have liked Cherry Death's set as the quartet began with an impromptu jam of its own. Only this cacophony served as a siren call to those outside, and when the basement was packed (but not too tightly) the song was over. As was the case throughout the night, there was very little dancing, and definitely no moshers. A single (very drunk) girl thrashed around a bit, forcing her friend to offer up apologies as he scrambled to keep her in check, but after vocalist Oliva Gibb gave the girl the evil eye (Gibb has a low tolerance for audience members crashing into her), the girl vanished, presumably, into the back of the basement or further outside. This left the band to rush through a short set that combined hardcore intensity, post-punk ingenuity (particularly the screeching guitar heroics of Ian Teeple), and just enough structure to earn my devotion. My position directly in front of Teeple's amp meant that I lost most of Gibb's vocals, although even in pantomime it's obvious that Gibb's presence grows with each performance. And since the band plays a half-dozen shows a month, the band's potential is joyfully limitless.