Monday, February 17, 2014

The Casket Girls - The Stargazer Lilies - Creepoid - Dreamend -- DC9 - Feb 16 2014

reviewed by: Kyle Schmitt

Dreamend - A disembodied, otherworldly vocal dominated Dreamend's mix, despite no one in this trio standing within five feet of the two stage-front microphones. Eventually, it became clear that these vocals - which sounded as if they were coming in via CB radio from another dimension - were emanating from guitarist Ryan Graveface. Clad in a creepy black-and-white striped mask, Graveface achieves this sound by singing into a mic that was taken from a drive-in movie theater and is now embedded within the headwear itself. Those vocals were deployed as the main melodic force in Dreamend's music, complementing a consistently driving rhythm section while often drowning out the guitar. This band is musically ambitious, building dramatic instrumental frameworks around an impossible-to-ignore primary element.

Creepoid - This four-piece Philly group was "introduced" by a punter who yelled, "They're fuckin' awesome if you haven't heard 'em!" at the end of Dreamend's set. And indeed, their brand of catchy, resilient hard-rock - two guitars, bass, and a spare drumkit featuring only one tom - was well-received by a crowd clearly familiar with their music. Their two final songs combined heaviness with atmospherics, showcasing an impressive second-gear to their sound. The band also makes good use of well-placed vocal harmonies, and scores points through drummer Pat Troxell making PA announcements such as, "If any of you are experiencing warm beers, we have cozies." Solid and likable, Creepoid has a new album scheduled for release next month.

The Stargazer Lilies - The stagelights came down, the drummer busted out mallets, and ambient noise filled the room as the Stargazer Lilies began their set. Their shoegaze-infused sound featured the two rhythm section members of Dreamend (bassist John Cep moved to guitar), with a female singer/bassist. Cep did most of the heavy-lifting here, utilizing many of the 20+ effects pedals in front of him during their set. He transitioned effortlessly between tremolo-heavy droning and synth effects, even employing a bow to strum his guitar midway through the set. The Stargazer Lilies impress when the bass is most aggressive (more of this would have been welcome), adding a menacing quality to an already-potent sound.

The Casket Girls - This group charmingly huddled up with their front-row fans before the show, combining for an all-hands-in-the-middle "1-2-3-(imperceptible)!" chant typically seen during basketball games. Twenty seconds later, they launched into "Sleepwalking", a meditation on the inevitability of death which begins with the lyrics, "There will be no starting over/it'll just be over." This mixture of sunny and spooky defines the Casket Girls' ethos. With their blonde hair and big sunglasses, sisters Elsa and Phaedra Greene proudly show off their influences, ranging from the Shangri-Las' tart 60s pop to the southern gothic of their infamously haunted home base of Savannah, GA. Their reverb-drenched vocals are unabashedly powerful, at times expanding to rival the sound of a full choir. Graveface's synths provide understated backing for the Greenes' dominant vocals and dance moves, while bass featured on roughly half their songs. Much credit goes to drummer Peter Seeba for retaining danceability even at his hardest-hitting (even more impressive considering this was Seeba's third set of the night). His stickwork and the Greenes' presentation ensured that even the weightiest lyrical content elicited joy and dancing from the crowd.

Esoterica: Graveface Records brought a makeshift record store to the venue. Their bazaar included three boxes of vinyl, assorted CDs, cassettes, buttons, and posters. There were also two unwrapped DVDs awaiting play - John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness and a partially obscured box promising "Cannibal Cat People from Outer Space" …  As the label's namesake and founder, Graveface thanked his fans for coming out both before and after Dreamend's set, which was remarkably polite and business-savvy for a man still wearing an ersatz executioner's mask … Visuals augmented each band's performance. Dreamend and Creepoid's sets took on a more sinister tone when accompanied by film clips of deranged sociopaths such as John Wayne Gacy, Jim Jones, and Bill O'Reilly … There was a kid who looked uncannily like Jason Mewes - to the point of paying unwitting homage - in his blond pig-tails and blue ski-cap. He air-drummed enthusiastically to Minor Threat's "Guilty of Being White" and David Bowie's "China Girl" in the DC9 lower-level area before the doors opened.

Editor's note -- I want to welcome Kyle Schmitt to what now is a DC ROCK LIVE team as he will assist me in reviewing the many shows happening in and around DC. Kyle brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm into the local music scene and as you can see above, will give a vivid account of it all.

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