Live Review: Now Archimedes!, The Protoculture, Bombardment Society, Brilliant Red Lights; X vs. The Stay Awake tonight…
It was hot, it was smoky, it was sweaty, it was loud. O’Leaver’s looked, sounded and smelt like a rock club last night circa 1995. Appropriate considering the line-up that drew one of the largest crowds I’ve seen down there in a long time. No idea as to who was the main draw, maybe all the bands equally, considering that the crowd was large from the start and stayed even through a fourth, unbilled band.
Now Archimedes! is Bob Thornton‘s trio that includes former members of Fischer, Solid Jackson and Raymond Nothing. As heavy as they were the last time I saw them, they were even heavier and more confident last night. What they do is what I love, which is play a searing brand of ’90s Omaha punk that takes me back to an era of bands like Mousetrap, Culture Fire, Ritual Device, all the usual suspects. And they do it unbelievably well, probably because these are the guys that were part of the group that invented that sound in the first place. I can’t get enough of the extreme distortion, the screeching guitar, the throaty, thick-limbed rhythms, a sound that is brash and painful, raucous, dirty fun.
Their take on punk is so wonderfully dated, that I don’t know how it’ll go over to anyone other than those of us there last night who absolutely thirst for this style and continue to wonder why it never exploded during its original era. I always thought that it was only a matter of time until Mousetrap and Ritual Device and all the others would be featured on the cover of national magazines, but it never happened, probably because people didn’t “get it” back then, and the bands themselves could only do so much with their limited resources. Now I have to scratch my head and wonder if that time is long past, except for the fact that, other than a small circle beyond those at the show last night, few have heard this style of music, and to a new, young generation, it could very well be viewed as being as fresh and new as it was when it first was heard on the stages of The Howard St. Tavern and The Capitol Bar & Grill and The Cog Factory and the various hall shows back in the mid-90s. In this era of prefabricated, overproduced, supersweet pop-punk that the mall youth consider to be daring and rebellious, imagine how a gritty act like Now Archimedes! would go over… Maybe huge, or maybe not at all. Will we get a chance to find out?
Next was the new version of The Bombardment Society, featuring The Monroes’ Lincoln Dickison on bass. How different did they sound? It’s impossible for me to compare the two line-ups as the band was playing all-new material and I haven’t seen Bombardment in over a year at least. That said, Dickison doesn’t just play an incidental rhythm line — he makes his bass as prominent as any guitar in carrying the counters and energy of the songs. It seemed to overpower (in a good way) everything, including the drums which needed to be brought up in the mix in a show of punk one-upmanship. Guitarist Jason Ludwick’s vocals are just as intense as I remember. Providing more of a chopping bark than a melody, it becomes another layer or rhythm in a band that’s already whiplash raw.
The Protoculture continue to get stronger and stronger and tighter and better, playing the same songs every set, but more confidently, more cohesively. Like Now Archimedes! these guys are a throwback to an Omaha sound that thrived in the late ’90s, but taken to another level thanks to blending new (at the time) influences from bands like Lawrence, Kansas’ Zoom (one of my all-time faves). Can they make a run with a modern audience? Time will tell, but wouldn’t it be great? The highlight for me: a flawless version of “My New Laugh” where nothing got broken or lost.
Finally, added to the night’s lineup at the last minute was Sacramento band Brilliant Red Lights, who stayed in town after playing the night before at O’Leaver’s. The trio is centered around their crazy, Animal the Muppet-style drummer — a tall blond guy who thrashes his kit with absolute gusto, a blur of hair, arms and drumsticks. Their sound was all about those drums along with the frenetic bass lines, while the frontman/guitarist/vocalist added mathy guitar lines and punk vocals. The post-hardcore sound was complex and calculated but always willing to jar with a quick u-turn or break-down. Thornton, still in the lovely dress he wore on stage at the beginning of the evening, said they reminded him of long-forgotten Chicago band Trenchmouth, yet another band whose heyday was in the mid-’90s, and whose style hasn’t been heard since — a fitting capper to an evening devoted to making the old new again.
I talked to more people last night who are going to see The Stay Awake along with The Photo Atlas and Hot IQ’s at O’Leaver’s than people going to X, Rollins Band and Riverboat Gamblers at Sokol Auditorium, which isn’t surprising considering the low-rent clientele that O’Leaver’s draws. Both shows are worth their respective ticket prices ($24 for X, $5 for The Stay Awake). You can’t go wrong either way. Me, I’ll probably just stay home and recover from last night…
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