Sunday, February 10, 2013

New York City Queens, Fort Harrison, St. Helens and Iconoplasty @ the Shredder (2/7/13)

If you're a band from Texas, it takes some chutzpah to call yourselves something like New York City Queens.  That and a couple of songs that I'd heard by them got me interested in checking out this Shredder show.

Unfortunately, nobody else seemed to share my curiosity.  I counted five people when I got to the Shredder. That number included me, Josh Gross's ladyfriend and Bubba, the guy taking the money at the door.  When New York City Queens played, a whopping ten people saw them.  Most of them were members of the other bands.  Oh well.  Hopefully, the people who could've been here were over at Sammy's for their relaunch celebration.

Iconoplasty a.k.a. local writer/musician Josh Gross opened the night.  His stomping 4/4 beats and tapestry of  looped riffs and licks sounded as enjoyable as they did at the San Francesca show back in November.  The various elements didn't always hit exactly on the beat, but that just gave the music an agreeably human feel.

Up next was new local group St. Helens.  This trio's groove was impressively assured, especially considering that this was their second gig ever.  Gentle melodies, lovelorn lyrics and clean, soaring vocals blended with anthemic choruses, quicksilver guitar and muscular, effortlessly intricate drumming.  They had enough chops to maybe give prog a go, but their songwriting was pop-wise enough to keep things from feeling too noodling or indulgent.  The meager crowd called for an encore at the end of this set, but lead singer Mark Jensen reminded them that they were just the openers.  If they keep playing and writing at this level, however, they might not be for too long.

Local band Fort Harrison played next.  I've known of this group for a while, but this was my first time seeing them.  They made quite a first impression: gritty, raspy vocals and harshly elegant guitar fused with sly basslines and nimble, hard-hitting drums.  Their reggae groove was no less impressive than their metal barrage, and their throat-shredding shouts didn't conceal how catchy their tunes were.  They got some well-earned whoops and cheers from the audience.

New York City Queens closed out the night.  Out of the many 60's-70's appropriators that I've seen lately, this group has to be one of the shrewdest.  Their chiming, jangling, clanging, buzzing wall of guitars was equal parts Phil Spector and Sonic Youth.  Their dreamy melodies and angelic harmonies floated over it, their bass wormed under it and their drums punched right through it.  Thunderously fragile--an odd yet beguiling mix.  Even better, their lyrics held up pretty well when I listened to their recordings afterwards.  The only potential liability, recorded or live, was lead singer John Stephens's pinched, affected delivery.  Sometimes, it seemed to suit the material perfectly; at other times, it felt so smarmy that I gritted my teeth.  Regardless, I hope that this group comes back around sometime and plays to a larger audience.

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

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