Recap of the first Metal Night at the State Theatre

Wow what a night for local metal! Friday the 20th of August 2010 was the first metal night at the State Theatre in Falls Church, Virginia and it was a pretty fun time. Four local bands played, Invader, Croatoan, King Giant and Timelord, and the event was organized by an employee of the State Theatre, Alan Margazano. Since this was the first of hopefully many local metal nights at the State Theatre, I didn’t really know what to expect. Word from management was that if they could sell 200 tickets the night would be considered a financial success and more metal nights would be scheduled in the future. This meant that it was important that people actually came out to this event and showed that there is a real interest in metal in the area. There was no way that I was going to miss this call for local metal heads to assemble, even if I wasn’t running this blog I’d have gone.

I got there at about 8:15 and the first band, Invader, had already started playing. I didn’t know if there would be like 20 people there when I walked in or what, but there was already at least 75 people inside the venue at that point. Invader had also recently played at the Blood And Fire Festival in July (you can read my review of that here) but they had played before I arrived then. I’m glad I got to see them this time, they put on a fun set of thrashy death metal including a cover a Slayer‘s crowd pleasing classic Raining Blood where the vocalist and drummer switched roles. Even if you don’t include the cover, their set consisted of a lot of mosh-friendly riffs and a ton of raw energy coming from the stage. You could tell they were having a lot of fun and were happy to be playing. Their set was long enough you could get a good idea of what they were about, and they were a great band to start off the event on a high note.

The next band up was Croatoan. I didn’t know much about these guys. They weren’t bad, but they seemed to have not really found their sound yet. Different songs seemed to be in different genres. One more more death oriented, one more traditional thrash, another doom. Don’t get me wrong, they were fun to watch, and they were certainly having fun entertaining the audience. Their vocalist, Emil Poss, had a good banter with the crowd going between songs, and they didn’t lose my interest through their entire set either. I just think a more defined direction would help these guys out. There’s certainly room for them to grow and I look forward to seeing them again in the future to see how they’ve progressed. They did get the pit going a few times, and I have to admit it was kind of surreal seeing a circle pit at the State Theatre.

After Croatoan played there was a long break before the next band, King Giant, started. This made it a good time to get a beer and/or order food from the bar. There wasn’t a whole lot of food to chose from on the menu, pretty standard burgers and fries (there was a veggie burger too) with the only thing a little different being the hummus. I’ve got a pic of the menu here if you want to check it out. The beer menu was certainly more filled out, though there were a couple draft beers that had run out. They did have a decent selection of bottled beer too, including a couple non-alcoholic options, as well as a fully stocked liquor bar too. You can check out the picture I shot of the beer list here. After each band played they’d hide the stage with a movie screen that dropped down and displayed various images on the screen. Often logos for the band playing next, or a funny images from the internet. They would also play samples of music by metal bands selling merch in the back of the room. These were local bands who weren’t playing this evening, but were hoping to play future metal nights. The upstairs balcony seating was closed, so people were confined to the downstairs main floor, which had tables as well as a standing room only pit area directly in front of the stage. Alan would get up on stage before each band played and introduce them as the movie screen raised up behind him revealing the next act.

When King Giant hit the stage the venue was really alive. They had the largest draw of the evening and probably should have been playing last. I won’t get into a long description of the band and their sound here, I reviewed them playing at the 9:30 Club three weeks ago and you can read that here if you want that. In short their sound is a very polished and distinctly southern heavy metal. They have a clear vision of their sound and they bring it to the stage very well, this night being no exception. They were a bit different in sound than the rest of the bands playing, but I think that’s great. Part of the draw of Metal Night, at least for me, is seeing a mixture of bands from different sub-genres exposing each other’s fans to new music they wouldn’t have heard before. I’m sure there were some people who didn’t like the sound as much, there always is, but I talked to several people who were impressed with King Giant and they certainly won some new fans this night. Their set wasn’t as long as it had been at the 9:30 Club, but it still had fan favorites like Solace and Mississippi River in there. In all, it was another good live performance by one of the area’s best unsigned metal bands.

Next up was the final band of the night, Timelord. I’ve seen them on the calendar opening for bands at Jaxx before, but never gotten the chance to see them. Alan introduced them as an Iron Maiden influenced band and he wasn’t kidding. Vocalist Matt Aub certainly has a likeness to Bruce Dickenson in his vocal tone, though he is also playing guitar while singing. These guys definitely knew how to play their instruments and their set was full of killer guitar solos and even a drum solo at one point. I think calling them Maiden influenced thrashy power metal would probably best describe them. Unfortunately, power metal isn’t my favorite metal sub genre and while their set wasn’t bad by any means, it was probably better suited to fans of the genre more than myself. The songs didn’t have a lot of variation, which isn’t always a bad thing, but when paired with my lack of interest in power metal I found myself getting distracted and talking to people. Fans of old school heavy metal, NWOBHM, and power metal in general would probably enjoy these guys a lot more than I did. At one point a couple of the guys from Invader showed up on stage with them and started headbanging. After their final song, Cult Of The Dead, people were chanting for them to play more but the movie screen started lowering and people knew the concert was over.

The first metal night ended a few minutes shy of midnight. Afterwards Alan announced over the PA system that the night had been a success and the next “Monthly” Metal Night at the State Theatre would be held in October. The event was hell of a lot of fun, and I spent a good amount of time talking to people. Throughout the night I saw a lot of familiar faces from the area’s metal scene and got the chance to meet some new people and bands too. I picked up some new music and also got to check out some bands play that I’d never seen before. On my way out the door Alan told me over 230 tickets had been sold, plenty more than the 200 needed to ensure more metal nights at the State Theatre in the future. They’ve got a big stage with great lights and a good sound system too, it’s very cool that they’re giving real metal a chance to use it. It’s really amazing that this all came together from it’s beginnings as a Facebook group page (join it here for updates on future metal nights). They’re already starting the search for the next event’s band line up and you can make suggestions for that here. I’d like to see more genres represented at the next one, maybe some black and doom and a bit less thrash. Also, you can check out videos I shot of each of the four bands who played at the end of this post and view the photos I’ve posted here. The event’s turn out was good and while Alan deserves a lot of credit for putting this all together as well as the bands who played, all the people who got off their asses and came out and bought tickets for a night of local metal deserve a big thanks for making it not only possible but successful enough to ensure another metal night. Lets keep this ball rolling and get even more people to come out to the next one on October!

Review of Cynic gig at Rock And Roll Hotel

Wow, this was one of the best concerts I’ve been to in a while. Sunday the 8th of August 2010 was a hot day, and while I know lots of people were down at Jiffy Lube Live for the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, I decided to stay cool and head over to the Rock And Roll Hotel for a killer line up of progressive metal. I’m really glad I did, this concert was just great. Cynic was the headliner, but I wanted to check out the opening acts, Intronaut and Dysrhythmia also so I got there a bit early.

I got there a couple minutes after 7:30 and the opening band, Dysrhythmia was already playing their first song. They were great when I saw them play at the Velvet Lounge in February 2009 so I knew I wanted to get to the Rock & Roll Hotel in time to catch their set. If you’ve never heard them before, they’re an instrumental three piece from New York City that just shreds live. The bass player, Colin Marston is a member of the band Krallice and he also plays in the current version of Gorguts with Dysrhythmia’s guitarist, Kevin Hufnagel. Dysrhythmia’s songs twist and turn all over the place and rarely do they come back to playing the same riff again, instead their songs are constantly moving forward and evolving. That combined with the fast tempos that makes the music just really fun to listen to live. There are no words and really none are necessary as the music is totally engaging on it’s own. Really my biggest complaint with their set was the short length, but they were the first of three bands so it wasn’t really that surprising. They were a great way to start off this concert though.

Next up was Intronaut. They’re a band from LA that I’m not as familiar with as the other two bands. I’ve heard their 2008 album Prehistorisms and while I do enjoy it, I wouldn’t call it life changing progressive metal. They have a new album coming out soon and they played a couple songs from that live. They aren’t bad live and their rhythm section really kept the songs moving with groovy beats you don’t always get so much of in this metal sub genre. I was certainly impressed by their drummer, Danny Walker, in the live setting too, he really killed it back there. While their music is pretty interesting, they were pretty laid back on stage. Towards the end of their set the lead singer/guitarist, Sacha Dunable, asked the audience if anyone had any weed or whiskey before the Cynic set started. At the end of the song someone had brought shots to the stage for them, haha. Their final song of the night, Any Port, saw the other guitarist, Dave Timnick, put down his guitar at the beginning of the song to pick up a couple of mallets and pound on some upright (conga?) drums. He slung his guitar back on and continued to play the bulk of the song until he joined in at the end for the song’s drum solo. The rest of the band walked off the stage while he and Danny put on a rhythmic drum show that sort of reminded me of that old Sepultura song Kiowas, tho not so tribal sounding. It was a cool way to close out a good set, and I’m definitely going to check out their new album when it comes out. They certainly had left the audience warmed up and ready for the main act who was due up next, Cynic.

When I came from the downstairs bar to watch Cynic the stage looked different. They had their backdrop lit up and they put up a couple of circle shaped screens. They started projecting trippy videos onto these and they turned on some funky lights. One could have mistaken it for a Pink Floyd cover band setting up, but this was much better than that. I’d never seen Cynic before, but everyone has told me they’re good live. They weren’t kidding, what followed was a fantastic set. Definitely one the best concerts I’ve seen in a long time, maybe the best show I’ve seen this year in fact. Cynic formed in Florida in the late 80s during the time the state’s legendary death metal scene was forming. Due to delays caused by two of the members touring with Death and then hurricane Andrew destroying their practice space as well as most of the state, the band only ever released one full length album, the classic Focus, before breaking up in 1994. One of the draws of this tour is that Cynic would be playing that album in its entirety. Since reforming they’ve put out another full length album and an EP, both of which I also highly recommend. For a band that started over 20 years ago they have a very small catalog of songs, which in their case I think worked as an advantage here. Since they have so many really good songs on those releases, the audience was treated to hearing most of Cynic’s songs live, instead of the standard “pick a song or two from each album” approach most older bands must do for their live shows. They started the show off with Veil Of Maya and continued through the excellent Focus album in almost top form. Guitarist Tymon Kruidenier apologized that he had lost his voice earlier that day so was having trouble keeping up with some of the growling. Luckily it’s heavy metal and the vocals are generally not the most important aspect of the music, certainly not in Cynic’s case. On top of that all the clean vocals (sung through a vocoder) were done by Paul Masvidal. Otherwise, the band was spot on. They obviously had played these songs enough to have completely mastered them for the live setting, guitars, bass and drums. Added with the cool light effects, this show was just mesmerizing. After playing Focus straight through, the rest of the band left the stage as Paul pulled out a nylon string acoustic guitar and played the song Integral off their latest EP, Re-Traced. This was a nice little interlude for the fans and a good divider for the rest of the show. When the band returned they played a nice mix of their newer material, and they even threw into the setlist the song Cosmos, which was un-released until it became a bonus track on the 2004 reissue of Focus. You couldn’t have asked for a better setlist for this show, and if you had a favorite song you were hoping they would play, they probably did. At one point Paul had everyone in the audience do a yoga stretch. A bit new age but I’ve got to admit that’s something I never thought I’d see at a metal show, everyone doing yoga. Overall Cynic put on a dazzling display of technical progressive heavy metal and showed that not only are they one of the genre’s older influential bands, but they’re also one of the current leading bands of the genre, even if they took off a dozen years.

I really had a great time at this show. I talked with a fan of this blog, Josh, for a bit between sets which is always cool. It always surprises me when people come up to me and recognize me from the site, I’m glad some of you seem to be enjoying it. I also pulled a promo poster off the wall that I got all of the guys in Cynic to sign for me after the show. I’m not usually a big fan of autographs but I wanted something to remember the show by that was a bit more distinct than a t-shirt (I did buy the sticker pack too). This show was just what I needed, after a few let downs (the cancellation of the Enthroned concert last week as well as the mediocre Iron Maiden show last month) this show really hit the spot. All three bands were excellent and I’m glad I got to be there. Now on to the videos. They’re a bit dark but the sound is decent in them. The first is Dysrhythmia, the next two are Intronaut and the rest are Cynic, enjoy.

Review of King Giant gig at the 9:30 Club

On Saturday the 31st of July 2010 I went to the 9:30 Club for my second metal concert of the weekend. While I went to the Black Cat the night before to check out a few touring black metal bands (you read that review here) this concert was not very similar at all, for several reasons. There were three local bands playing, though I only saw the headliner, King Giant. That’s right, a local metal act was headlining the 9:30 Club, a rare event indeed. These guys are a sort of southern sounding sludge band, I guess. It’s hard to explain their sound perfectly, though I could easily see them opening a tour with bands like Baroness or Down.

Before I even stepped into the venue you could see a row of motorcycles outside, as well as a very strong police presence. I’m not sure if there was a problem there before I arrived, but it was a bit offsetting. Once inside I saw there was a pretty good turn out for a show of local acts. The place wasn’t full by any means, the upper level had only a handful of people, but the floor level was mostly full. I got there about 10 minutes before the show started and easily walked right up to the front of the stage. I’d asked what the camera policy for the night was at the door and they said there wasn’t one, video and pics were all ok. Perfect! I ended up getting what I’d call my best pictures ever at the 9:30 Club. This was a good thing as these guys were very memorable and fun to watch on stage. I can’t remember the last time I saw a band live that had members wearing cowboy hats, but it was a vastly different audience than had been at the Black Cat the night before! They didn’t have much else on stage besides their instruments and amps, tho they did have a bottle of Jack up there as well as some rather randomly placed taxidermy of small woodland creatures. The band’s lead singer, Dave Hammerly, was very engaging on the stage, throwing his hands up in the air, pumping his fists, occasionally headbanging a bit and just generally walking around on the stage like he owned the place. He did a great job of keeping the audience engaged between songs. For example, this concert was on the birthday of their bass player, Floyd Walters, and at one point in the set they poured him a shot on stage and instructed everyone to take a birthday toast with him. Dave even went so far as to apologize to the women and children in attendance before playing the song Mississippi River. This song was the song I had wanted to see them play the most live, and I certainly wasn’t the only one as it got a great reaction from the audience, to which Dave quipped that it was funny how the songs about killing people get the best responses. But this is a band that has quite a few good songs, which is really saying something considering they only have one full length album out. Their music isn’t super complex, but it’s very well polished, especially for a local act, both in the studio and live. The lyrics tend to be very dark and sometimes quite personal, often dealing with personal and inner struggles. I enjoyed the entire set though the songs Burning Regrets and Solace, as well as the above mentioned Mississippi River, really stood out to me in the live setting.

I really didn’t find a single song they played all night to be boring at all, it was really entertaining the entire way through and I could see these guys getting noticed outside of the area. They’ve got some music for download at this location (some is free, some you have to pay for) if you’d like to check them out. The pictures I shot of King Giant that night can be seen here, and below I’ve posted the videos I shot. The volume of the vocals isn’t great on the ones I shot close to the stage, though the Mississippi River song has much better sound since I shot it from the upper level. Unfortunately it has the worst visuals as the lighting didn’t show up as well up there. After all this if you want to see these guys play live (and you really should), you’ve got a great chance coming up on Friday 20 August 2010. King Giant is one of the bands playing at the State Theatre in Falls Church, Virginia for their first ever metal night. I’ve got more info on that, including how to buy tickets, posted here. It should be a great night of metal, and if it’s half as good of a show as this was, it’ll be worth the price of admission. Now here’s the videos, enjoy!