Prisms - We begin a night of local music with this four piece from Alexandria. They line up with two guitars, one of whom handles all the vocal duties. Immediately, a lush UK-styled shoegaze rock sound comes forth with a bit of pace. The music is pretty muscular and reminded me of Ride and the more rocking songs of Adam Franklin (Swervedriver). Vocally, I am also reminded of Salvation Army (actually the Three O'Clock, renamed after a certain charity objected). There were enough pop hooks and quality vocals to keep pretty much everyone focused and into their sound. I enjoyed the set and the nice shoegaze-psyche freak-out finish on one number was something that really opened my eyes to their potential.
Rival Skies - This band lined up with a couple of guitarists, rhythm section and a female vocalist who added keyboards on occasion. It was nice to see the crowd expand from about 30-40 people to at least double for this set. They heard a tribal thump and surprisingly murky guitar sound to get things started. The vocals cut in at the high end and the music continued to be both mysterious and accessible--no small feat. The vocals continued to be flatly delivered (not off key, just straight) while the guitar work had a unique low-end swampy sound with some subtle high end coloring at lower volumes than one would expect. Overall, I would say it was dreamy pop-rock with a touch of shoegaze, but they did a nice job of creating their own sound. The songs were good and they varied a few things at the end. One guitarist warned us about the next song, which as I expected went into a faster and louder style. It was as if the Avengers had merged with Radiohead. A powerful combination for sure. Very nice set, well received by the crowd and I don't see how this band can't help but do well in the future (well, actually I can because I've seen it before, but if they keep working hard, good things should be happening).
Modern Man - Another five piece lining up like the previous band, but with a male singer on keyboards. One guitarist did harmony vocals and a couple of leads and both singers worked well together. The sound was the most straight ahead rock sound of this evening. There were plenty of creative moves in many of their songs which kept things interesting throughout the set. I found many of the early songs reminded me of the late 60s and early 70s era where bands where blending soul styled vocals with heavier rock sounds (and equipment) into some interesting rock jams. Possibly the San Francisco scene was closest to this type of sound, but Modern Man is still rooted in the present and not a nostalgia band. They rocked steady and had some catchy thoughtful songs which composed a fun, successful set. The club was filled with over one hundred people by now and it was refreshing to see that sort of support for the final high quality local music this area can and did provide (just get there a bit earlier next time!).
Quote of the Night: from Modern Man... "If you enjoyed that song, you might not like this." as they proceeded to go from a creatively dissonant alt rocker into a more straightforward feel-good rock classic sound. Ha, but it all worked and variety is the spice of life.