Friday, September 14, 2012

JJAMZ, Superhumanoids, Red Hands Black Feet and Kristopher Rabbit @ the Venue; Amy Bleu @ Grainey's Basement (9/9/12)

I've never made any secret about how much I love Red Hands Black Feet, but what really attracted me to this show was JJAMZ.  I'd dug what I'd heard from lead singer Z. Berg's previous band, the retro-60's outfit the Like, so I was curious to see what this project was all about.

Regrettably, not many others felt the same way.  This show might have suffered from the Lightning Bolt show at the Shredder and the simple bad luck of taking place on a Sunday.  I counted about twenty-five people there at its peak, including me and a few members of the bands.  So it goes.

First up this night was local group Kristopher Rabbit, whose industrial riffs and beats, tortured lyrics and angsty vocals owed a clear debt to groups like Nine Inch Nails.  These guys looked awfully nervous--I overheard one of them say afterward that they'd only rehearsed a week--but their songwriting definitely showed promise.  If I may be so bold, though, I would offer a piece of advice: it's usually good for frontmen face the front of the stage.

Red Hands Black Feet played next.  The modest crowd grooved out to the blending and weaving guitars, the surging basslines and the ever-more-supple drumming.  Their growing confidence and finesse gave the songs extra power and lyricism.  Another excellent performance.  Yawn.  (Just kidding.)

After Red Hands Black Feet came the Los Angeles-based band Superhumanoids.  Their Facebook page says some stuff about how they employ "summery '60s harmonies" and "the adventurous dissonance of '90s indie-rock," but what I heard was straight-up '80s: some Echo and the Bunnymen, some Kraftwerk, some Georgio Moroder, some Miami Vice soundtrack.  Murmured and cooed vocals, catchy tunes, glinting guitar, smoothly funky rhythms, multicolored synth hooks.  Their luded-out "I Wanna Be Sedated" cover spoke volumes for their brains, good taste and sense of humor.

Last up was JJAMZ.  This group owed a VERY clear debt to Blondie, and I'm not saying that just because Z. Berg was almost a dead ringer for Debbie Harry with her gorgeous cheekbones, breathy/growly delivery and coyly provocative stage act.  This wasn't some cosmetic job, though.  Their bouncy tunes, chiming guitar interplay, charming synth and tough, slinky, swinging rhythm section struck a nice balance between "Heart of Glass" and "One Way Or Another."  Premium grade pop-rock.  It's just a pity that more people weren't there: when/if this group comes back around, everybody else may have to pay double or triple what I did.  So it goes.

I stopped by Grainey's Basement after JJAMZ wrapped up in hopes of catching the set by local experimental duo the Finer Points of Sadism.  Unfortunately, I had to leave before they played (I started my new day job at 7 am the next morning), but I did get to catch some of the set by Portland-based songwriter Amy Bleu.  Her sly quaver, sweet folk melodies and twisted lyrics provided just the right coda to my night.  Highlights included "A Young Man Going to the Movies," a nice little original ditty about a guy who beats to death a couple of jackers (true story, she said), and a brilliant cover of Alice Cooper's "Poison."

You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online.

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