Sunday, October 14, 2007

Only Ash Remains with My Pet Demon, Emily Russo, and the Haverhill P.D. Extravaganza [Haverhill Elks, 10/12/2007]

I got in about doors, but initially thought that the show was bagged or something, because there were originally five 'band' bands on this bill besides Emily's Mambo Kurt schtick, and when I got in, there was a total of one drumkit kind of set up, and a couple doods sitting around noodling on acoustic and lap steel guitars. Apparently, most of Broken Banner (those who were not also in Only Ash Remains) did not show up, and Even The Ground seemingly disappeared (their guitarist did show, and did the Sublime covers, but the rest of the band was not in evidence). So people slowly filtered in, and we drank beers and listened to acoustic-rock (from Broken Banner's bassist/Only Ash Remains's non-Mark guitarist) and Sublime covers and piano renditions of classic-rock hits and ate ten-cent Frostees (hails to Matt from MPD, who probably made almost as many fans at this gig by giving away ice cream that he got at ten for a buck as they did playing music to the people who didn't manage to get free foods), and watched the Red Sox knock the stuffing out of Cleveland. Nothing to argue about; the team was winning, the music was decent, and the company was as cool as could be desired, but if the Sox weren't on, this could have gotten old, boring, and ugly real fast.

Exactly why the first two bands mostly bagged is unknown, but at the risk of generating scene drama (which I hate more than death), there is the possibility that this was a "book us above the puppet show" incident; while Emily plays a good set, it's understandable that aspiring rock bands wouldn't want to open up ahead of her. Understandable, yes; reasonable, no, not really. If you're going to hang around in local music, you need to get used to promoters making weird decisions, and you really need to take and show up for any non-P2P shows that you can get.

Soon enough, though, the metal bands started.

My Pet Demon [6/7]
I know they've done better, which is why this one didn't go higher. Otherwise, wow. They opened with "Expiration Date", which was a good song before, and is light-years better now, a theme which is going to come up again and again with the Raise The Flag material. This set was kind of short, and almost all new material, the exception being "Ace of Spades", which they've been playing since about forever; hopefully, they'll be able to do a full-length set at their release show, as there's still a lot of good material from their earlier records. They closed with a somewhat surprising rendition of Neil Young's "Rockin' In The Free World"; it's difficult in the normal course of things to see this tune as a metal song, but that's certainly how it came out here; we'll see if they end up B-siding it somewhere in the future.

Only Ash Remains [5/7]
These guys started kind of slow, but were decent once they got going; unlike last time, either the sound was better or I was just standing in a better place, and I heard a little more Pantera and AAF-core in their metalcore sound. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of this sound, but they had decent execution...until the plug got pulled.

Here comes those unintentional headliners; Indignation was supposed to top this bill, but a little after 11, the cops came in with a directive to turn down. This was not met with an immediate reduction in noise output, so the PA plug got pulled. Things snowballed from there; the cop pushed, Mark (the organizer and the guitarist in Only Ash Remains) pushed back, and the po-po called for reinforcements and shut the show down. This was, of course, bullshit, but hopefully the mostly temperate and restrained reaction will prevent this cool venue from getting shut down. This could be a blip, or it could be the beginning of the end; hopefully not, but local venues continue to go down for crummy reasons all the time.

This brings us to the moral of the story: because the police have, essentially, arbitrary power as long as they don't physically harm anyone, the right thing to do in a situation like this is to bite your lip and go yes-sir-yes-sir, then agitate for better police oversight after they get out of the situation where they might start the ball rolling to get the venue shut down. A good all-ages venue, especially with a bar, is worth more than any single set from any one band for what it contributes to the scene and the opportunities that it gives to local bands, and these do not grow on trees. There's Welfare Records in Haverhill now, but it's better if we have both Welfare and the Elks; the one does not make the other dispensible.

With that in mind, I'll wind it up with this observation from Philly thrash-punks Rambo (available as "Skate, Bike, Mosh" on their sweet LP Wall Of Death The System):
kids, experiment with drugs
there's nothing you can do
giving them nothing
is not a solution
bikes and skateboards and dancing at the shows
if we do not have these things where are we to go
we the kids, have found something to do
but it's always ruined by those without a clue

It's a little trite, but it's certainly true; if you kill off venues for physical activity and creative expression, you shouldn't be surprised when kids turn out sedentary, surly, dumb, and chemically addled.

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