Hundred Visions - This two-guitar four-piece comes from Austin to start off tonight's show. I know nothing about them but am instantly impressed with their nice ringing pop-rock sound reminiscent of Sloan with a more driving rhythm section perhaps. I have to say the second song blew me away and had me at full attention the rest of the set. There was a powerful garage-pop feel with driving guitars that reminded me of some sort of Ramones/Wipers hybrid. There is strong lead vocal work on top of the steady throb of a rhythm with good guitar work that is not flashy but extremely effective in their respective parts. The full modern feeling to it also had a bit of the west Texas vibe comes through as well. Rarely are bands as immediate to me as this one was. The good size crowd was sharp enough to let this hard edged power pop work its magic. I wonder if these guys liked the Big Boys? I am sure they did or would like the Zeros, as that may be the closest band I can think of to this mostly original take on a classic form. There are a lot of interesting shifts here, but the core musical themes and structure hold it all together. At set's end, someone behind me said "that's awesome", which is all that was the only needed review for those of us present.
Casiokids - Norwegian synthpop? This was not exactly my idea of an essential show. But with the first band already earning every bit of my small price of admission, I viewed this as a bonus. The band has a standard rhythm section and one additional stand-up percussionist with a number of drums. The other three members rotate steadily with guitar and synthesizers. And two of the guys handle the vocal work. They have just arrived from their long flight, so they admitted feeling strange, but thought that may make for a fun set. Well, if that was any part of the formula, it worked. They were indeed pop oriented with plenty of synth, but there was a krautrock undercurrent and a lot of old-school prog sounds as opposed to modern electronica squeaks and squawks. And they managed to avoid the cheesy 1980s synth sounds that sounded dated by the 1991. There is a rich history of progressive music in Scandinavia and you never quite know what each band from there will take from their folk heritage, metal scene, or progressive history. If you have not explored Scandinavian rock music, you are missing quite a bit of history. Further, it seems every unknown band from Sweden or Norway that comes my way is routinely surprising me with their quality. There are some really catchy songs in this set and the crowd moves more and more as the hour long set continues. Graceful music this, but with plenty of spleen. The only thing I could criticize was a 'samey' quality late in the set, but they blew the doors down with their closer which fixed that quickly. I am so happy that I decided not to take the night off and it was a good reminder to always mix in surprise shows with the known quantities. This band is only hitting a few east coast cities, testing the waters for hopefully more visits. I think they are well on their way to establishing themselves on the east coast and hopefully can find receptive audiences like tonight throughout the US next time.
Quotes of the Night: Considering English is probably the Casiokids singer's third language, I was amused by two of his comments...
"This is our oldest song from our first album. A fun fact is that this son was in a pizza commercial in Hawaii" (anyone who uses a term like 'fun fact' scores lots of bonus points with me)
"In 2012, the Olympics will be in London, so we wrote a song about the Olympics. Hopefully we'll be invited to play it during the opening ceremonies. Plan B (laughter)... will be to play it in a small club in London around that time."