Holy Mtn - Not the Jodorowski film here, but rather a four-piece featuring guitar, bass, keyboards, and keys/electronics/vocals. The first song was a real grabber as they had a great balance of old-school progressive sounds, modern electronics and a British postpunk vibe. Great complexity and a strong sense of motion came through. They then mixed it up a bit, to somewhat of a lesser effect to my ears. They got a bit more rhythmic in a ska-like fashion, but it was not ska. The vocals were decent, but they had a bit of that strong David Byrne/Ric Ocasek sound which can be a bit tiring without some variance. Some of the songs were decent and had a nice flow to them. The closer was a rouser and it shows me that they probably understand their best material. It is now a matter of playing and writing and they may do just fine.
Ice Cream - A three-piece is next with guitar/vocals, bass, and drums. They use samples and some tracks underneath their playing which really muddied up their sound. They got a little better as the set went on, but their sound was highly distracting. They played indie rock and nearly math-rock (I really don't like that term) at times, but it was hard to really hear what they were doing. Precision and fuzz are an intriguing combination if you can pull it off. It didn't happen in this set. I think the soundman didn't help matters, but it was more a matter of the underneath sounds and the feedback and reverb choices the band made. And apologies if I linked to the wrong band, but there is more than one Ice Cream, let alone all the other search results that are going to come up. Hopefully they will keep working. I advise honing down their skills on vanilla first.
Dirty Beaches - This is just one guy from Canada with a guitar, microphone and some recordings. A spotlight hits him as the music starts. He holds a microphone for his vocals and puts it down when he plays guitar. The background loops are mostly guitar with some rhythms at times. As simple as this approach is, the effect is amazing. He instantly reminded me of Suicide (the band, fortunately) with a bit of Nick Cave intensity. He even had some of Alan Vega's high pitched yips in his second song with nice jangly psychedelic guitar underneath. It was very much like Suicide's "Ghost Rider" but not in an obvious derivative way--well maybe a bit. He did a cover of a Portland musician known as Mattress, who no one admitted knowing. The happy crowd had swelled from the 20-40 earlier to well over 60, as the backroom was nearly 2/3 filled. He ended with a couple of crooners which reminded me of Dean Stockwell in David Lynch's "Blue Velvet". A different kind of psychedelia here, with an arresting low-key performance. This was very interesting and unlike the first two 30-minute sets tonight, this one flew by and had the crowd wanting more.
Quote of the Night: From the Dirty Beaches guy who said good-night, started to unplug, heard the cheering, smiled and played one more... "I am never comfortable with encores. People tell me I should leave the stage, but that is so stupid."