Imperial China - I believe I have said this before, but any show with Imperial China on the bill is going to be a good show. And tonight was further proof of my axiom. This local trio were able to bring their loud powerful sound into the living room stage at the Paperhaus (our gain, neighbors' loss). They move quickly from post rock precision to electronic melodies and lightly treated vocals, all while keeping an intensity throughout. They struggled a bit with the sound, but that bothered them far more than the assembled listeners. If I were in the band, I may have agreed, but as someone who has seen them a handful of times over several years, I had my usual great time digging into their set.
Alexander & the Grapes - This twin guitar four-piece hails from St. Petersburg, Florida and is southward bound on their east coast tour. One of the guitarists handles the lead vocals which are key to this band, as they are very song structured as they vary from power-pop to indie rock to shoegaze pop and a bit of Americana. Well not too much Americana, as the lead guitarist handles a lap steel with enough creativity and versatility to move well beyond the cliches of that instrument. i thought they were at their best when they had songs that reminded me of the Posies or Sloan and added some killer psyche/shoegaze leads. Maybe a little too much style shifting, but I think multiple viewings would cure me of that. All in all, a good set by a balanced, talented band.
Les Rhinoceros - The living room is packed, so my visuals were not too good, but this instrumental quartet seemed to feature drums, bass, guitar, and violin (maybe more there). But knowing the instruments is only slight assistance in trying to uncover this band's sound. I am immediately thinking these guys could be the sons of 50-Foot Hose, a strange psyche band that I will not name-drop often. These guys really hit the math-rock/prog sounds hard with a pummeling bass line, crisp inventive drumming, guitar jabs, and ethereal violin. Time signatures and quick pattern shifts do not phase these guys at all as they are not only locked in, but able to shift in a jazzy sort of way. And unlike a band I saw recently, they added some reggae which I thought was going to be ridiculously out of place, until they managed to twist it around to their style, while keeping listeners well advised that they were hearing reggae. This was transformative stuff here. They are off on a tour and hopefully will find an audience as they have a lot to offer.
Presto Bando - It was their side project 'Estoban' that played tonight as their bassist could not make the show. That is my made-up name and not something that will likely become routine for this trio, but this is a house show, so they went up and had fun with a set of stripped down Presto Bando songs. All the instrumentalists are excellent, but without a bass, I focused a bit more on Evan's drumming. Not only was his crisp delivery still present, but he had a little extra power that I may not have always realized before. He jumped up on guitar a couple of times allowing Brandon to go extra-crazy on vocals and add a bit of drumming as well. All the energy was there, and things were as fun as ever even as the hour was getting late (and some of their friends could not last out the evening). Another fun night at the Paperhaus where you can see great sets and chat with some sharp musicians of many genres.
Quote of the Night: A guy who I eventually learned drummed for Les Rhino... "Hi, I think you reviewed my band Me & this Army. You hated my drumming." This is reason number four of why I limit my bad reviews. He was quite friendly and we chatted a bit, as I recalled his drumming as being overwhelming, although technically awesome, stylistically fitting Opeth more than supporting the one guitarist that night. If their bass player had been present, it may have worked more. Anyway, he was awesome tonight and had a couple guys from Imperial China along with some other musicians raving about his playing later that night. And he's in 'like seven bands', so I was happy to see him use his extraordinary skills to full advantage tonight.