After seeing a black metal show last weekend at the Phoenix Theater, I found myself returning to the historical Petaluma concert venue for a seven band metal and punk show. The night’s lineup was quite diverse compared to the show from last week and the bands who played all had their own unique sound.
When I arrived at the Phoenix Theater, I was glad to see a decent amount of people already inside waiting for the first band to set-up. Getting people out to these local metal shows can be a challenge like getting my nephew to eat his dinner. I think the people who put this show together came up with a unique lineup that at first seemed questionable in my opinion, but ended up working out. Most of the acts on this bill happened to be young groups who are just starting out. Actually, the opener Stained Humanity would be playing their first live show. Again, I think the talent that these young musicians had to offer simply took me by surprise and there are a few who have the potential to really make an impact not only in the local scene but on a larger scale with their music.
Starting the show off, Stained Humanity looked confident as they cranked on their amps and unleashed some brutality onto the crowd. For their first show I liked how the band sounded by mixing different elements of thrash and death metal. You could tell they have been practicing to where they did not look overwhelmingly confused on stage. There were moments where I could tell they are still working on getting the timing of certain songs down, however, that comes with playing practice and playing more. The band’s bass player and vocalist did a solid job handling the frontman position, which with time and more gigs will become stronger. Also, they had a good two guitar attack that could really lay down some wicked guitar riffs and the leads sounded not too shabby. Stained Humanity, welcome to the Sonoma County Metal community and keep it up, we need more bands like you on this planet.
Taking the second slot and always entertaining me with their onstage comments and cheerful metal personalities, Gangrene from Petaluma began their set on the Phoenix’s side stage. Last time I saw the band they were a five piece and this time they were acting as a four piece with their guitarist Bailey Quecke handling bass duties. I always have felt like Gangrene improved each time I saw them before, and tonight they built upon that by coming up with a skull crushing solid set. The vocals are sounding even more down right brutal, while the skillful drumming adds extra emphasis to the group’s vicious sludgy hardcore style that throws in a splash of gory death. They played a new song which I think they are still working on getting the flow and timing down, but overall their set was enjoyable and I do like how they interact with the audience.
Third up and on the main stage was the band Alien Riot, a three piece from Santa Rosa. I can say I had not heard any music from them before the show, but after seeing them I can honestly say that I can’t wait to see where they take their music in the future. I would describe their sound as a return to the early 90’s when a group called Nirvana decided to take a baseball bat to Hair Metal by coming up with a simple mix of punk and rock and roll. Alien Riot’s first song just struck a chord in my brain that reminded me of how a simple song with raw emotion can be the greatest form of musical expression. Forget fancy solos and playing technical compositions, Alien Riot demonstrated how catchy song structures and straight forward chord punching riffs can make for an awesome sounding live experience. The guitarist and singer to my surprise not only sounded a bit like Kurt Cobain, but even had a similar stage presence. A few of the songs I felt could have used a little more variation, however, Alien Riot for a young band sounded very impressive. To finish the set the guitarist/singer broke his guitar and handed a piece to the crowd. Now that is what rock and roll is all about!
Next up was the extreme sludge, doom hardcore and unforgiving sounding trio know as Amnesia. I liked how Amnesia was playing the side stage, because I felt like their style of music needed to be closer to the crowd for that in your face up close and personal experience. I remember when I saw them play their very first show back in March, and sure enough in a short amount of time they found ways to improve and offer up an even better sounding live performance. Singer Alex Hernandez started the set off by sitting down on the stage as guitarist Luis Olguin hammered away on his guitar to a malevolent sounding doom riff while drummer Chris Olney Burnett pounding away on the kit. Then Alex stood up and became a wild man up on stage by feverishly yelling into the microphone. The band had great energy during their set and the crowd was digging the vicious sounding tunes. I felt like the vocals at times were not loud enough, which was due to whoever was mixing. One moment that stood out was when Chris’ cymbal fell and he was still able to play on without stopping the song. Alex seemed extremely comfortable on stage and even decided to jump off stage and run around the pit for a bit. In the end, Amnesia was getting a loud and positive response from the crowd. I think the hard work and dedication is paying off for these dudes.
Taking a moment to catch my breath from Amnesia’s exciting and intense set, I watched as the fifth band called The Leaders set-up on the main stage. This three piece group had an odd stage set-up with manikins on the stage as props. Also, as the guitarist and drummer started their set off by doing a very basic sounding instrumental jam, the bass player came out of a moveable closet with his sun glasses on. Well, the epic intro was soon cut short, because the closet started falling apart. I definitely would call that I Spinal Tap moment. To be honest The Leaders seemed to play the same song for their entire set. The group has this funky sounding metal style that could use some more dynamics. Also, I do believe the guitar soloing seemed to be very out of place and did not compliment the rhythms very well. I respect them for getting up on stage and putting on an interesting performance, but I believe there are some areas that need some fine tuning.
Once The Leaders finished and the band and manikins made their way off stage, everyone returned attention to the side stage for the young punk trio, R4ID. Coming from Ukiah, these dudes brought great hardcore punk energy to the Phoenix. The entire band played with such enthusiasm and always looked like they were having an enjoyable time. I mean, their entire vibe carried into the crowd and the pit was moving and the people in front of the stage were banging their heads. I think as R4ID gets older and works more on coming up with solid catchy and aggressive sounding punk songs, they will definitely be a top act Northern California act. Right now I think they are still working on crafting that distinct sounding identity, but the energy they bring and hard work on stage is unbelievably impressive for such a young act.
Ending the show was yet another trio, Heap of Stone, a local act who I would be seeing for my second time. Their style of doom rock is quite enjoyable and they incorporate some other elements at times. I would say that the riffs are nothing that has not been messed around with before, however, I like how they take their compositions in a variety of unique directions. One of my favorite songs of theirs is this instrumental piece, which they played towards the end of their set. Each member seemed to be on the top of their game as they ripped through each song and crushed the minds of the audience with megalithic sounding riffs. Also, for their last song they played a cover of Diamond Head’s, “Am I Evil?”. The crowd definitely reacted well to the song and even though the guitarist was a bit late on the solo, the cover still happened to be the best way to close out the show.
After watching seven bands I was dog tired, yet still I was impressed by what these young local acts had to offer musically. As I said before, there is potential and all they need to do is focus on working hard and bringing that relentless energy each time when on stage. The Phoenix Theater is a great venue for these bands to work on their performance skills and hopefully we can get more shows with some of these groups. However, I am going say that any band who wants to come out of a closet while up on stage be careful...closets can attack without warning.