Live: Red Sparowes/Doomriders/My Education

Red Sparowes pic #1
Red Sparowes.

RUDYARD'S -- 4/3/2010: The first Saturday in April brought a tour by Los Angeles instrumental metal band Red Sparowes to the cozy environs of Rudyard's pub, where they were joined by Boston tourmates Doomriders and Austin's My Education. The tidy three-band bill made for an odd juxtaposition of musical styles but still managed to yield moments of great beauty and not a little brutality.
My Education opened the show. They were augmented by Henna Chou on synthesizers and an electric cello and assisted by a pinch-hitting, mohawked drummer, as regular skinsman Chris Stelly had a prior engagement. They turned in a steady set of long-form, post-rock songs that married the churning, high-Romantic chamber punk of The Dirty Three (thanks to the stirring melodies coming from violist James Alexander) with the the dynamic crests and overdriven abandon of Mogwai, a sound they have come to define in their own right in the past decade. Many of the pieces were highly cinematic in nature -- as I later learned, they originated as the score to a silent film. My Education's set culminated in a three-guitar catharsis, with Alexander, Brian Purington, and Chris Hackstie spilling overdriven psych riffs all across the stage.
They were followed by Red Sparowes' touring partners, Doomriders. A quick survey of the band's members read like a metalhead's March Madness scorecard -- Converge bassist Nate Newton leads the band, with Cave In's JR Connors taking up drum duties. Where those bands have pushed prospects forward from within the realms of metal and hardcore, however, Doomriders seem to be keenly intent on trawling through the archives.
Newton's Orange cabinet and their extensive skull/East Bay thrash font collection of t-shirts and posters certainly hinted at this beforehand, and the neo-hesher amalgamations that followed only proved the point. Sabbath riffs rode menacingly atop D-beats, inciting many in the crowd (including a not insignificant amount of ladies) to throw up devil horns with unironic glee. Elsewhere, searing guitarmonies between Newton and Chris Pupecki added more evidence that Thin Lizzy LPs continue to influence an entire crop of young shredders.
Unfortunately for Doomriders, Rudyard's is not well-suited for arena-style crowd provocation. Newton's entreaties to "MAKE SOME FUCKIN' NOISE!" seemed contrived, especially when delivered between two introspective instrumental bands. Additionally, the mock-meathead dedication of one song to "EVERYONE WHO RIDES A FUCKIN' SKATEBOARD!" seemed more apropo to a wild bacchanal of Municipal Waste cohorts rather than a venue with not one but two rooms dedicated to dart throwing.
Headliners Red Sparowes hewed much closer to My Education's aesthetic than they did the hectic riff-and-destroy approach of Doomriders -- unsurprising, given the participation of Isis guitarist Cliff Meyer. Wisely, the band brought along a white sheet and DVD of appropriately surreal video art, interspersing abstract expressionist color palettes with, among other things, a sequence of images from the human brain. Such images lent their atmospheric, introspective shoegaze-metal a sense of narrative. Like other variations on ambient music, audience members were free to associate a variety of emotions with the songs, including the unsubtle slow dance/makeout session of at least one couple in the corner of the club.
Also like ambient music, there were few definite beginnings or endings to particular pieces. The set passed imperceptibly, nimble basslines making their way beneath gauzy swaths of synth patches from a laptop and the sure swells of guitars heavy with reverb. Thankfully, a pedal steel was introduced in the middle of the set, adding a tonal dimension dear to any Texan's heart and eliciting fantasies of a guest spot from Houston pedal steel expat Susan Alcorn.
As the DVD looped over a second time, with the last consumers of the night perusing the impeccably-designed LPs and tshirts draped over one of Rudyard's pool tables, Red Sparowes gave the crowd a droney coda, setting fire to flames one last time before the night was over. END