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My Night in Exile: The Church of Philadelphia, The Jealous Girlfriends, ¡alarma!, & Kvalla [2/09/2008 03:32:00 PM]:
Well, I pretty much lucked out, I think, this past Thursday. The wife was having a moms' group thing (something involving chocolate & a lot of women) at our house, so the munchkin went to Grandma's for the night & I was banished temporarily from the premises. And lo and behold, in spite of it being a weeknight, there seemed like a wealth of shows to check out.

I took a bit of a walk down Memory Lane first, since I had some time to kill. After a quick stop at the Bellaire Broiler Burger, I headed on over to Montrose, stopping at Diedrich's to sit outside like I used to back in my Montrose-dwelling days, drinking iced mocha and reading a bit of Rory Stewart's The Prince of the Marshes (which is good, by the way, if a bit on the pro-CPA side). Then on up the road to Soundwaves, which I still can't help but thinking of as "the new Soundwaves," despite it being at its current location for, what, a decade now? Picked up the awesomely good soundtrack to the movie Once (yay, Netflix!) and proceeded to cruise around listening to that the rest of the night.

HPIM0213 On up to Walter's -- God damn, there are a lot of condos up there now. The 'hood seems far removed from the days when friends would get mugged walking back their cars from a show at the Abyss or Fitz or Mary Jane's. Now there are winebars, "urban housing" showrooms, swanky restaurants, ultra-high-end furniture stores, and block after block of townhouse/condo/whatever things. Granted, I've never yet been a Heights resident, but it still feels a bit like visiting an alien planet these days.

Anyway, I got there just in time to see The Church of Philadelphia do a short set, which is good, considering that they were who I really wanted to see; the last time I tried to go see them play, I ended up having to stay home to tend to a sick wife & midget. I'm still amazed at the way the C of P crew can so blithely switch instruments up there on the stage, seemingly without even having to worry about tuning or whatnot; one of 'em will just drop the guitar, and the other'll pick it back up and start playing. And the singing -- oh, man. It's enough to make me want to start going to church (well, almost).

HPIM0214 Plus, I love how each of their songs starts of unassuming and delicate and steadily builds and builds to an Arcade Fire-like crescendo. Not every band can do that, and it takes something special to really pull it off. The band hit all my personal high notes, including "This Time Around," "Recover," and "Never Give Up," and even "Kingdom of Hearts," which I'm not as keen on on the CD, worked really well live. Oh, and it was nice to see the harp onstage, despite the snickering of the near-teenage brats to my left. It takes cojones to have a harp in your band these days, people.

(Apologies for the craptacularness of my photos, by the way. I am too damn chickenshit to get right up at the stage and have this irrational fear that if I pop a flash in somebody's face, they're gonna drop their guitar and pound me one, art or no art. This, coupled with my fumbling ignorance of how my camera works, means that most of the photos I get turn out washed-out and trippy at best. Sadly, I am no rosaphoto, Jordan Graber, or Ramon. I am but a schmuck with a cheapo digital camera. More online here, if you care.)

HPIM0215 I'd intended to bail right after the Church finished playing, figuring to head on down to Rudyard's to see Kvalla play, but it was barely 9:30 when they started taking their gear off the stage, so I decided to stick around for at least part of Brooklynites The Jealous Girlfriends' set. And I'm glad I did, actually -- the band was really, really good, kind of drifting and dreampop-y at points and late-'90s indie-rock at others. For some reason I kept thinking of Space Mtn, but that might've been because of brunette lead singer Holly Miranda (who I thought looked oddly like a skinny Jennifer Connelly). Her voice, though, hits notes I can't put my finger on -- raspy and sweet, growling and sultry at the same time, like an old-school blues belter fronting an nu-shoegaze band. By the time I had to leave for Rudz, I was really regretting it and wishing I'd gotten more cash out of the bank so I could pick up a CD. Damn...

On to Rudz -- south and a little bit east, and here I am again, back in the old neighborhood. Oddly, even though I was psyched back when I moved to Montrose proper, prior to the exodus out to Meyerland, thinking "hey, this is awesome -- I can walk to Rudyard's!", guess how many times I actually went to Rudz in the two years or so we lived at the house on Willard? Answer: zero, nada. Didn't go there once in all that time. Sad, sad, sad.

I made it to the bar intact and headed upstairs to find a mostly-empty room; I'd kind of figured that'd be the case, despite the 10PM start time, since nothing ever starts early at Rudyard's. The only people there were members of & friends of the bands (and the bartenders, naturally). I planted myself at a table and checked my email via phone -- god damn, sometimes I love modern technology -- hoping to get in touch w/homeboy Mel, with whom I'd been tentatively planning to meet up that night, and lo and behold, the poor guy was home sick with something SARS-like. Mel, if you're reading this, I hope you're doing better, man...

Just as I was finishing the phone-surfing, the members of ¡alarma! meandered onto the stage, grabbed their gear, and silenced whatever conversation was going on in the room with an explosive "is this thing on?" guitar noise. Frontwoman april5k apologized sarcastically (I'm assuming, anyway) for interrupting everybody studying for their midterms, and then the band launched into some interesting proto-punk-sounding rawk.

HPIM0220 They didn't get real far, unfortunately -- it took 'em a little while to find a groove, partly because they're still working in new drummer Noah, but right after they did, as bad luck would have it, guitarist Ryan broke a string. He didn't have a spare, and attempts to borrow a guitar from headliners Shat seemed to backfire, so the band called it done and ambled back off the stage the same low-key way they'd come.

Next up, Kvalla, the band I'd come to see. And holy fucking shit, were they something else. And loud. Looooouuuuud. Like, literally the loudest band I've ever experienced in a small(-ish) room. There was one note the bassist ("Fosterdad," per the band's Myspace?) would hit that made the fillings in my teeth vibrate, to the point where I was worried they might start coming out. I mean, damn, y'all.

Luckily, they were not only loud, but good, to boot. The songs tended to bounce between Mastodon-esque crunching metal and ISIS-like slow-roiling turbulence, both of which I dig in general; I've got no idea what "Mouse" was singing about, but hell, I don't care. This isn't Ronnie James Dio "devil-woman-look-out-tonite!" metal, but rather the kind where you just sit back and let it wash over you like building-sized ocean waves. My eardrums hurt afterwards, even though I did keep the earplugs in the whole damn time for once. Nice.

HPIM0217 I feel I should mention, by the way, that if Danny Mee hasn't yet been nominated for "Best Drummer" in the Press Awards, he really, really needs to be. I dunno how the whole anti-nepotism thing works there, since he freelances for 'em these days, but still -- anybody who can play fills and rhythms that intricate while playing that freakin' loud really merits at least the nomination. And that's on top of his stellar work with The Jonx. Danny, you're The Man (on Drums, that is).

(In the case of the Kvalla pics, I was less afraid of being beaten up by the band & more afraid that sheer force of The Mëtäl stripping the skin from my eyelids or something if I got too close. Oh, and I'm lazy. Therefore, all pics were taken while sitting in my comfy chair about 10-15 feet from the stage. A few more pics here, for all you foolhardy souls with more time and bandwidth than sense.)

HPIM0219 About one song from the end of Kvalla's set, the wife called out of the blue -- all the ladies had left, the chocolate was making her sick, and there were creepy noises coming from the back of the house, so could I please come home soon? (This always happens when she watches that damn Paranormal State show...) I promised I would as soon as the band finished, so I headed back in for the rest of the final song, then made my goodbyes. And dammit, I felt like the biggest heel ever, 'cause it sure seemed like nobody was going to stick around for out-of-towners Shat, on tour from Jersey and apparently prepared to do evil, evil things to all our moms. While somewhat intimidating, with lots of tats and muscles -- if I hadn't known better, I would've thought they were some Sick Of It All-style hardcore band -- they were really friendly, nice guys, so I felt like a jerk for bailing. Gotta do what you've gotta do, though; I packed it in and blazed on down 59 to home, yelling along with Glen Hansard the whole way.

Postscript: Apparently all was not lost for Shat, in the end. According to Danny, the Rudz folks opened up the upstairs area, which brought about 30-35 people in for the band's set. They apparently paraded through the downstairs wearing, um, dildo helmets & such, which I can imagine would've been more than enough to entice the average Rudz-goer to follow them, Pied Piper-style, up to the second floor. Glad to hear it, y'all.

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