Monday, October 12, 2009

Overtime, under budget

The town I live in has a ridiculous surplus of bars, licensed restaurants, and other places to get a drink, nearly all of which are within easy walking distance of my apartment. It also has about two bars that regularly have live music in, but in each case, the music is consistently terrible and ruins the atmosphere in what would otherwise be a nice Irish bar. In particular, there are too many sports bars; these three factors, though, have led the newest of the sports bars to branch out, put in a Club Hell-style semi-stage, and let local bands play.

While I've been skeptical of this venue in the past -- previous bills have included a lot of tribute bands and more Scarecrow Hill than is really warranted on the North Shore -- this weekend was a critical point: two shows back to back, one of which featuring a surprisingly underground lineup for a sports bar just getting its feet wet. If the Overtime starts to put on more shows and become the venue between Boston and Manchester that this slice of the scene has been looking for, in the future, this is the weekend that will be pointed back to as when it started.

I - when the lights go out

Autumn Above [Overtime, Beverly, 10/10/2009]

I got a) lazy and b) bogged down in other stuff, and wasn't able to make it out to Worcester for Todesbonden and Gwynbleidd, but the night wasn't going to be a total loss musically, as Autumn Above was playing a block and a half from my living quarters. Accordingly, I stumped up the street, got some beers, watched the end of the Bruins game, and waited for the band to start. Then, unexpectedly, between their soundcheck and actually taking the stage, the power went out.

Not just the venue, blocks on blocks in every direction. It was good for the ability to stand outside with a beer and cool off without getting hassled by police, but not so hot for sitting in a very dark bar trying to see a band. There was a bit of a kickup while they decided to play on completely acoustic -- turning off the amps to prevent their loss in case of a power surge, everyone popping the mutes out of their guitars, and the bouncer digging up a conga drum from somewhere for Sean to play so his kit wouldn't kill everyone else's sound -- and as soon as the Bruins game went final, Ryan was back to lead the band out.

Autumn Above [6/7]
You'd think that an acoustic-guitar-playing band with significant pop tendencies would play a less metal show when deprived of electricity, but this turned out not to be the case. For the most part, this was the same general kind of highly aggressive Autumn Above set that audiences normally get, and if some of the leads were practically inaudible due to the difficulties of hearing a single-picked acoustic guitar when two others are being strummed really loud and people are stamping on the floor, that was the price to be paid for an energetic set in which the guys tried to the limits of their ability to project volume and keep people's attention. Ryan, Chris, and Jim (when he wasn't standing on or jumping off speakers) took advantage of being untethered to do extended tours through the crowd, and though he couldn't use his electric bass after blowing his D string, Tone did a field repair on the acoustic and came back in time to reprise his Aura of Aquila days in the later parts of "The Hanging Ghost" -- with Ryan and Chris out in front of the monitors, the 3/5 of Autumn Above left on stage also covered 2/3 of a very good Aura of Aquila lineup, screaming their lungs out, stamping on the floor, and generally channeling the quintessence of Satanpure dark spirit of black metal. All in all, this set wasn't as long as originally planned, and there's no saying that it wouldn't've been as good or better with the power on, but for what it was, it was pretty cool, and definitely one of the most memorable shows of the year.

Unfortunately, though the power came back before their set, the next band, The Bitch and the Bastards, was not really ratable in the sense that they played only covers, and no metal at that. Decent '90s radio rock reprised, and several people dancing around to their Paramore closer that may not want that fact revealed to the great wide internets, but not really comparable to the experience that came before, nor really germane to being written up here. I finished my last beer and walked back down the street to my place.

II - even more in the dark

Rohirrim with Old Code Faith and Lethal Design [Overtime, Beverly, 10/11/2009]

So the next night rolled around and after most of the football finished, it was time to head back up to OT for, debatably, the first real metal show at the place and likely the first metal show at a licensed establishment in this town in the current scene's memory. I was a little uncertain about this; there's a fair number of metalheads in the region, but it doesn't take a lot of extremeness to have a sports bar decide to stick with their regular clientele. On the other hand, Rohirrim was active again, and I'd heard a lot of good stuff about Old Code Faith, so I wasn't going to miss this, and hopefully, a good attendance and a fair share of drinking would encourage the bar to keep going with occaional metal nights.

So I got in, met up with my NEET brother who I'd dragged out here to discourage his hikkikomori tendencies, got a beer, and waited a bit. There were a fair number of people in costume, as this had been sold as a Halloween show -- it'd make the metal go down a little easier to the normals, and as a plus Rohirrim got to come out in corpsepaint without anyone blinking at it. There was a brief delay while Pete (guitars, Rohirrim) fixed one of the stage lights; someone else was bringing over a barstool to get up at it, but Pete, being like seven feet tall, had no need of this and got it wired up correct just standing feet-on-the-floor like a normal person. Fuck chairs!

Lethal Design [5.5/7]
I'd never heard these guys before, but that wasn't the last of the "never heard"s that went into their set. Though the balance wasn't super great where I was standing -- an occupational hazard of going to DIY shows where everything but the vocals and maybe some of the drums are just coming right out of the cabs -- Lethal Design did a nice, solid power/thrash set of three good originals and three rare covers; you don't normally pull "Invaders" out of the hat when covering Iron Maiden, but their take on "Fast As A Shark" was the first time I've heard Accept covered on this continent, and this may be the only time that anyone in attendance hears "Trapped Under Ice" live at all. They've definitely got some potential, and I'll be watching out for them in the future, but as indicated above, there's not a lot of venues in this area that bands can start out at before moving on to Ralph's and O'Brien's.

Old Code Faith [6/7]
I'd heard of these guys before, but not actually seen them; they've cropped up on a couple bills around the region that I wasn't able to make for one reason or another, so having them play for free on my own street was an excellent inducement to get out for this one. They backed up the good press that they've been getting lately with a powerful thrash/death set, including (despite my whinings in other fora to the effect of it being a lost art) a fair amount of NWOSDM, with a great and monstrous sound that really should have gotten more people moving for their large number of really good originals. The most, though, came on their covers of Pantera ("Strength Beyond Strength", neither typical nor deliberately obscurantist) and Testament, but these were also delivered with pretty much the same power and fire as their originals, even if their treatment of "D.N.R." wasn't quite to Method's standard. Hell of a good set, all around, and those into brutal thrash metal could do a lot worse than continue to watch out for this band.

Rohirrim [6/7]
This was the acid test: while the other bands on this bill are fairly accessible by normal standards, Rohirrim normally isn't; founded on fundamental black and death metal principles and stirring in folkic elements in a way that isn't usually done in this country, nor appreciated by many outside the true black hordes. The bar was full almost to Metal-Thursday standard, though, and not many left during their set, which even despite the prevalence of covers has to be deemed a success. While there was more of other people's music than I'd've ideally liked to have seen, they did play a bunch of originals (if not "A Greivous Gift", which was a shame), and they were both knocking the rust off after nearly a year of inactivity and bringing Jim (Aura of Aquila, Autumn Above; normal-sized-person-guitar) up to speed.....and playing a show in a sports bar to a bunch of people who were nearly as pasted as they were -- and you've got tae be pretty fuckin' pasted, as the band admitted, to fuck up "Last Caress". Plenty of good music, a lot of it relentlessly true, and even if there were some fuckups, it's probably the first time that Manowar and Type O have ever been covered within the same set by the same band.

Soundwise, this was a great Rohirrim set, and even though there wasn't anything really wrong with Rohirrim's four-piece setup, adding Jim is, from this sample, a good step in the right direction. He's a quality lead player and good songwriter with a style that complements Pete's without cutting against it, and his presence in the band -- and contacts elsewhere -- may help them get out of the North Shore rut.

On the other hand, if Overtime emerges as a legit venue -- to be defined as when they, like O'Brien's, have bands in six to seven nights a week, between varied genres -- it's quite possible that said "North Shore rut", primarily a problem due to an absurd lack of venues that will bring in DIY music, may become a thing of the past, and that, arguably, is a clearly better outcome for metal as a whole. We'll see; at any rate, it's good to live down the street from even an occasional music bar, and having more bands in this area being more aggressive about gigging -- and more importantly, actually getting shows -- is always a positive.

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