Review of Ilsa gig at Hole In The Sky

Sunday night, the 9th of January, I got to see my first metal show of 2011. The show was local death/doom band Ilsa playing with the lo-fi doom duo Olde Growth from Boston. There was another opening act, a new local band named Spirals but I didn’t get there in time to see them. I’d never been to this DIY venue in DC, Hole In The Sky, which just started hosting concerts in June of 2010. They seem to get more shows that are punk and hardcore, but they do get some metal too. Ilsa is a band that seems to bring metal to people who aren’t really the typical metal head. The audience was different than what you’d see at a typical Jaxx show, but a fan of metal is a friend of mine. The set up was interesting, you have to walk down an alley to find the front door which is rather nondescript, a small wooden sign above it lets you know you’ve found the right place. You go up a dark flight of stairs and open another door and you’re in what is basically the large common area of an apartment. Instead of a lot of furniture, they’ve got a nice open space set up in the corner for bands to play. The walls are covered in spray paint and other designs, and there’s a corner with a place to hang bicycles. They also have an outdoor rooftop that people can smoke on, but I didn’t spend a lot of time out there cause it was cold as shit. It’s probably much nicer in the summer though. There were a couple of the local neighborhood kids who had wandered in and were running around underfoot for a bit, even playing with some of the instruments between bands. A small table with merch was set up too. Someone came around asking for $5 donations to the show, but the exchange was very friendly. The place was pretty welcoming really, and while I didn’t really know anyone there, I did find a few people to strike up conversations with.

The first band to play was named Spirals, but as I said before they had finished playing by the time I got there. Olde Growth was setting up when I walked in, and I didn’t really know anything about them. Usually at these DIY shows there’s at least one touring band, and a couple local acts to help draw people to the show. Most of the money collected goes to the touring bands, even though the local acts tend to get the better draw. This might seem unfair, but ideally they are trying to help pay for those bands to tour, so people can see bands they wouldn’t normally get to, and ideally the local bands will be able to use the same network when they want to play in other cities. This show was no different, and since I didn’t know anything about Olde Growth other than what the flyer stated I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wouldn’t call them the best band I’ve ever seen but they were worth getting there early enough to watch. They are a very bassy doom duo. Their songs weren’t overly complex, but they did have a sort of epic feel to them. They really brought the tempo down to a crawl but still managed to bring things back up. The set seemed really short though, maybe the songs were long so it seemed that way, but I think they only played about four songs total. Still, it was a pretty entertaining set and they were a good act to play with Ilsa.

Ilsa was playing last, and they were the main reason I was there, and you could tell by the size of the audience that I wasn’t the only one with that sentiment. I’d been meaning to catch them for a while, glad I finally got a chance to. They’re called a death/doom metal band, but I think they’re more on the doom side of that with some sludge in there too. Whatever they are, they’re really heavy. They’ve made a name for themselves in the local DC scene, though they seem to be known more in the world of local hardcore fans than the typical metal circles. I think that’s starting to change as their latest album, Tutti il Colori del Buio, is starting to get noticed, and for good reason. The show was a bit different than their studio work. The songs are a bit dirtier sounding, and a bit more energetic live. The cleaner studio production gives way to a more raw vibe, and honestly I thought it was great. Plus really feeling that heavy distortion shake through you is just something ya don’t get from a recording. I enjoyed the songs that I recognized as well as the older material from their first album, which I don’t know. And while half the band had their backs to the audience most of the show, the crowd seemed pretty mesmerized by the performance. Really it’s not so much about the band’s stage presence as the sheer crushing sound they produce. Ilsa finished their set but they were talked into playing another song before calling it a night, which was pretty cool of them. It was a good show and I’m glad I made it out to see them play. They’re a great local metal act and I can’t wait to see them again, it was a hell of a lot of fun. If you haven’t seen them yet you should, they’re quickly becoming one of DC’s must see acts. I did get a few videos, posted below, one of Olde Growth and three of Ilsa, but they’re all pretty dark. The audio is decent, but Charred Resistors should have the audio from the entire show posted soon. I’ve got more pics on my Flickr page too. It was a great way to start off my year of metal concerts, a cool local act I’ve been meaning to check out in a venue I’ve never been to before. Lets hope the rest of 2011 is as fun.

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