Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Red Hands Black Feet and Iconoplasty @ the Crux; Icarus the Owl and a.k.a. Belle @ the Red Room (8/11/13)

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Red Hands Black Feet.  Indeed, I've probably written more about them than any other band.  So of course I was gonna see them at the kickoff show for their and Iconoplasty's West Coast Tour.

Sidenote: They've been on tour for a couple of weeks now.  It's gone pretty well overall, but it's also had some hardships and difficulties.

I counted twenty-three people when I got to the Crux.  When Red Hands Black Feet played, I counted about seventy.  A very respectable crowd.

Iconoplasty opened the show.  Josh Gross certainly sounded raring to go: his guitar playing was sharp, his layering of riffs, licks and beats was precise and confident and his transitions between passages were smoother than ever.  It might have been nice if he'd stretched the individual passages out a little more, but then again, the quick change-ups were a good way of keeping people on their toes.  Figuratively, anyway--no one danced, but most everyone watched the stage.

This set featured a booming cameo from Jessica Johnson and a brief section where Gross invited people to say what they thought of the music.  Three people did so.

Jake Myers: "I like it!"

Dillon from San Francisco: "Although I like your music, it makes me feel like a I'm in a Beverly Hills nightmare."

Eric Gilbert: "More rock, less talk."

After Iconoplasty finished, I headed over to the Red Room.  Heather Roberts's Ten Gallon Cat had set up an intriguing bill featuring a.k.a. Belle and Portland rock band Icarus the Owl (she's actually been setting up quite a few interesting shows lately).  I can't lie, though: part of what attracted me to this show was the chance to see Roberts and the Fiddle Junkies' Austin Clark as Bette and Yvette, a.k.a. Belle's two "dancers."

a.k.a. Belle played first and sounded as strong and swinging as ever.  Chris Galli and Louis McFarland's smooth, assured grooves carried along Sam Merrick's screeching guitar and Catherine Merrick's warm, lovely voice.  Once again, it occurred to me that the touch of jazz in this group's sound helps make it a bit sexier than your average Americana act's.  This set featured a brooding new number entitled "Crooked Path" and a clever little quotation from "Like a Hurricane."

And yes, this was about as awesome as I'd hoped.

Icarus the Owl played soon after a.k.a. Belle.  The slight emo whine to Joey Rubenstein's vocals was counterbalanced by the band's rippling guitar licks and angular, disorienting tempos.  Conversely, the emo elements of the music helped keep the math-rock stuff from feeling too arch.  Sharp as a razor and chops to spare but not so's they'd brag about it.  Good stuff.

I would've liked to have stayed for Icarus the Owl's whole set, but I wanted to get back to the Crux in time for Red Hands Black Feet's set.  Walking over, I could hear them from a block away.

Red Hands Black Feet sounded more than ready to hit the road as well.  The material from their upcoming EP sounded as roiling, majestic and achingly beautiful as their older stuff.  The crowd did the expected whooping and nodding to the beat.  During one lyrical guitar intro, Jessica Johnson jumped offstage to hug people in the audience.  Then she got back behind her drum kit and bashed away.

You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Heather Roberts and Ten Gallon Cat.  And in case you didn't click on the link earlier, go here to learn how you can help Red Hands Black Feet get out of the red.

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