Heavy winds tossing around sand and litter. Grey clouds that made good on their threat of rain around 6:30. Not exactly my ideal spring weather, but appropriately dramatic for a Red Hands Black Feet show.
I was stoked to see how this gig would turn out. The band has headlined a couple of shows before, but they've been on a roll since they finished recording their first album (which they say will hopefully be out sometime this summer). They'd also played three of their songs live on Radio Boise earlier in the day, so I was curious to see what kind of crowd would turn up.
When I got down to the Neurolux, I saw some of the usual wastrels and idlers, a handful of folks that I recognized from other RHBF shows and a decent number of unfamiliar faces. The place was far from jam-packed, but it still held a pretty respectable crowd for a Wednesday.
First up this night was Fountains, a guitar-synth-drums trio from Caldwell, ID. They're a young band (their Facebook page says that they formed last spring), and from what I heard, they're off to a good start. Between Mason Johnson's skipping, cascading guitar riffs, Brandon Mills' chirping, squeaking synth parts and Matt Stone's lightning-fast drum fills, their catchy instrumental tunes split the difference between Gary Numan and the music from the old 8-bit Nintendo games. Their playing sounded a little stiff at times and didn't quite seem to mesh on some subliminal level, but I think that just means that they need to play some more live shows. Once they really get into their groove, they'll be darn impressive. They're already 75-80% of the way there.
Next up was Stargaze Unlimited, another instrumental trio from Caldwell. This band formed even more recently than Fountains did (they played their first gig last October), but their groove is already stronger. They go for a heavier, grungier sound with their music--I heard a little Pixies, a little Built to Spill, maybe a little Melvins. Kurtis Beckwith's trebly, surf-tinged guitar rode atop Travis Gamble's stolid, twangy bass and Richard Metzger's solid, Sabbath-style drumming. They may have sounded kinda loose at times, but as with Fountains, that should clear up with some more gigs. Regardless of that, their alt-rock molasses went down just fine.
After Stargaze Unlimited came the headliners. I chatted with some of RHBF's members before the show. They griped a little about being tired, being slightly injured or having to work later that night. Once they took the stage, though, none of that seemed to matter.
It did my heart good to see people move right up to the front of the stage once RHBF started to play and some more move closer as their set progressed. I sat a few feet back and watched with a friend who hadn't seen them before. She told me how lovely their clean guitar tones were, which I'd already noticed, and how they sounded "kinda jam-bandy," which I hadn't quite put my finger on before. She had a point: I've noticed in their more recent shows how each member has tried something a little different each time out. This night, for instance, Jake Myers slipped a sharp little solo into one song, and Jessica Johnson's extra fills throughout showed off the increasing fluidity of her drumming. Regardless of who does what in a given show, though, these four musicians are all growing confident enough in themselves and their material to experiment and still slam it home. It's very exciting to watch and to hear.
You can find info about all of these groups on Facebook. And when RHBF do release their album, I'll let you know.