Sunday, August 2nd proved to be a significant night at St. Vitus club in Brooklyn as Hellbirds presented their wildly ambitious studio creation Pet Peppers to a live audience.
Already well known on the scene for dramatic professional live show lighting (both their own and other events for hire) this night would continue that already established standard of excellence.
The band emerged from murky darkness to an exploding visual tour-de-force.
To the uninitiated, Hellbirds is an ongoing alternate outlet project of Vandelles creator Jasno Swarez.
The evolution of the bands lighting comes via direct input of core bandmember Nick Foligno, who designed and built its components. Nick also contributes Tenor Sax and keyboards to the live show and recordings.
In addition to two other essential core members of the group - drummer Abdon Valdez and bassist Neko Soto - this night also featured a number of guest musicians like Brandon and Charles from The Crocodiles.
As well as Ethan Miller on primary keyboards.
The level of inspiration and impeccable execution surrounding this project cannot be stated enough.
"Pet Peppers" is an incredible 12 song blending of the Beatles' "Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" and Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" arranged and completely re recorded by Hellbirds.
The brilliance of which can be heard in it's entirety (and downloaded for free) right here:
The attention to detail within these re-imagined songs is striking on both a technical and creative level.
The live show proved to be just as mesmerizing as more guest musicians made their way to the stage.
Individual moods were continually re-set for each subsequent song.
Dee Dee from The Dum Dum Girls also made a guest appearance on one song.
Making a distinct impression in a spotlight moment with Jasno
The finale was a brilliant explosion of sight and sound that perfectly capped off a celebratory atmosphere.
Social Media continues to provide avenues of recognition.
* * * * *
On Thursday August 20, another special event occurred when four emerging bands came together to deliver their own ruckus rock n' roll show.
Featured act Baby Acid capably handled the organizational aspects of the night while putting on a killer show of their own.
Lindsey, Vadim and Johnny have been honing their sound for a while now.
Their live performance shows a band that continues to evolve as they develop new material.
State-of-the-art studio recordings of those songs will soon be released, and these live shows sustain anticipation to hear them.
. . . and post-show revelry
* * * * *
Also making a featured appearance on this evening was the madcap party atmosphere of The Teen Age
Self described as "Do Wop Garage," the music they make shares similarities with the upbeat guitar and bass interplay of local scene surf pioneers Beach Fossils - and the offshoot success of Diiv.
A prime example being their track "Low Cunning" which comes complete with the catchy vocal hook "it's a race I'm losing now."
Another notable band on the bill was the reinvented sound of Dinowalrus
Earlier live shows featured a looser, more rambling concept, emphasizing extended psych jams over formal song structures.
Their 2014 album "Complexion" showed the band embracing more defined songcraft, although still very much steeped in late 1960's era psych-pop.
The songs presented on this evening however, were very much an 80's synth-pop feel.
It will be interesting to see how Dinowalrus progresses in the coming days, and if new recordings solidify this directional shift.
* * * * *
Opening the evening was the trance/drone of Heavy Birds
This music moves at a more deliberate pace, with minimalist percussion and simpler guitar lines.
The less poppy, more experimental aspects of The Velvet Underground appear to have provided inspiration for these sonic explorations.
* * * * *
A simmering dark menace pervades the latest release from Massachusetts ex-pats, now Brooklyn-based Boom Said Thunder, who've been active since the early '10s. Their deep and heavy guitars share a similar sonic texture with fellow Brooklynites (and champions of the current noise rock scene) A Place To Bury Strangers. Most notably when their sound focuses primarily on the lower guitar strings.
Those similarities end with female vocalist Abby Bickel, who’s overall timbre are closer to Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries.
Their two latest tracks, “Summer Twin” and “Carnivore” were recorded at Converse Rubber Tracks, successfully merging a live-in-the-studio feel (frequent loose drum fills) with state-of-the-art sound quality.
* * * * *
Aptly named NJ psych punks Psychiatric Metaphors released their first full length album “33 Thorne Street” earlier this year. Opening track. “Stone Bros Knows” is driving three chord rock with basic beat under shouted tandem vocals. We soon learn these “bros know” that “she’s so cold.” There’s tension in the held chord before the verses, the way Sonic Youth frequently elongated moments within a song before dropping the hook.
Title track “33 Thorne Street” has cleaner, 60’s sounding bright guitars. Vocals come off a tad more “sneering” this time, with an appealing amount of guitar noodling over the basic chords and simple drumming. The resident of the titled address is (also) a girl: she’s “inside getting tight” but “no one’s got a key” to get in. Metaphor indeed! “Sleep Deprivation” continues to mine the quarries of 60’s psychedelia that current like-minded locals Golden Animals have delved in to. “She’s So Fine” goes deeper into the caverns of early garage rock, conjuring up the spirt of Moby Grape and their classic track “Omaha.”
* * * * *
Opening track “Curtains Of Zagra” establishes a twangy 1970’s era Spaghetti Western theme, effectively creating a cinematic basis for this particular story. Allen’s sonic expertise allows Mikey’s voice to stand clear within this ornate environment, leading to the ultimate (and eternal) search to “catch the breeze in your soul.” “Sometimes” moves introspectively with waltz-time pacing. Mikey leans heavily on his deeper baritone voice while orchestral strings provide a lush backdrop. An unexpected change occurs when a quickly spoken word passage appears designed to sandwich as many lyrics into as brief a space as possible. The ending segment uses horns and dramatic vocals giving it a 1960’s Burt Bacharach sensibility. Madmen’s Don Draper would love this.
The album title “blood and brambles” turn up as lyrics within the song “Blackberries.” Handclap percussion early on in (and throughout) the track provide hooky counterpoint against bright acoustic guitar. Forceful violin strings emerge where guitar power chords traditionally reside. Politically themed lyrics make reference to the UK’s current society managers as “gamblers” of “highline angles.” The concerns of being a parent are additionally explored as “any self-respecting father” would present the value of accumulated wisdom to their child. Princesses wait in castles and other fairlytale like imagery emerge in the waltz tempo “Turn For The Worse” Passionately delivered “Bowie-esqe” vocals provide necessary range for this otherwise subdued (especially instrumentally) track. “My Heart Bleeds” benefits from a big studio production, taking what might be a straightforward acoustic number and supercharging it with wildly inspired electric violin and guitar work. The lyric “they call me a songwriter” sheds light on how a multi-media artist may have to deal with being defined by others.
“One Last Dose” (alternate title “My Heroine”) is expectedly clever and exceptionally hooky. Along with the distinct stand-out punctuating guitar line, delightful horns add bounce to rockabilly instrumentation. Just prior to the chorus comes an amusingly endearing munchkin-like “gimme, gimme, gimme” vocal bridge. “I See What You Did There” is epic in proportion, weaving an adventurous story while referencing an amalgam of classic 60’s pop and even a touch of 70’s prog-rock progressions. “Briony” comes off as a trance-inducing psychedelic piece that echoes the acid influenced compositions of Syd Barrett or even John Lennon’s playful studio loops on The Beatles White Album.
A truly creative album from start to finish.
* * * * *