SubRosa, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Lesbian, & Eight Bells – 7/18/15

Subrosa Flier

In an odd twist of fate, my return to writing for my geeky craft beer blog comes in the form of a concert review for a show sponsored by beer giants Pabst. There’s an entire music festival here in Portland called Project Pabst, the majority of which is of little interest to me, but when I realized they’d partnered with Nate of Nanotear Booking to get this line-up at the Ash Street Saloon, I knew I needed to attend it at any cost. While it wasn’t quite as sweet of a corporate sponsored deal as when a certain car company allowed me to see bands at multiple venues for free, this was still well worth my twelve bucks.

While I’ve had many opportunities to witness local trio Eight Bells (including a gig which I documented here last year in some small capacity), this was the first time things aligned properly with my day job for me to actually catch them. Their unique blend of progressive heavy psychedelic metal (is that a valid descriptor?) translated wonderfully in the live setting, with the band balancing aggression and subtlety skillfully and with cohesion. Eight Bells’ proficiency in building tension is their greatest strength and it’s a delight to witness them perform, as they clearly have fun while playing together. Lots of strangely empty moments in their set, intentionally crafted to build up from nothing, stood out to me as moments where an audience could have been lost, but instead carried just enough weight to keep the crowd alert and connected. From here on out, I don’t think I can justify letting outside forces prevent me from attending an Eight Bills gig.

I’ve kept up to some capacity with Seattle-based enigma Lesbian since their psychedelically overwhelming debut Power Hor, and after nearly eight years of appreciating their odd take on all things metal, I feel my expectations were met quite nicely. The band’s music in the live setting comes across like a beast with many heads, each reaching out screaming in a different direction, yet all centered in the same place. From vocals that alternated between power metal falsettos and shrill shrieking to compositions that stretched endlessly without becoming tiresome, Lesbian kept things playful and intriguing while remaining heavy and memorable. They also get extra points for having one of the most animated drummers I’ve seen in a while, as he managed to steal the show from behind a constant cloud of smoke that accompanied the band’s set.

I’ve tried drafting about half a dozen different introductions to Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, but this newest project of the mighty Tad Doyle simply speaks for itself, especially live. Their set was by far the most focused of the evening, riff-forward and constant without becoming monotonous or falling into generic “hard rock” territory. Doyle’s prowess with the guitar is hard to put into words, as he manages to find the simplest, most direct ways to impress himself upon the audience. The sparseness of composition, however, does not equate to a lack of sound. Between the bass guitar shaking in my chest throughout Brothers of the Sonic Cloth’s entire set and the ringing of each note, I felt like the band was slowly destroying me with their music, only to leave me on the side of a country road to rot.

Closing out the night was Salt Lake City’s most well-loved metal act, SubRosa. I’ve been sporting a SubRosa hoodie constantly for the last number of months, as the band’s music is dear enough to me that I felt the need to constantly represent them, so my anticipation was at a peak tonight. I’ll admit that anticipation of this nature has often caused me to experience great disappointment at such shows, but again, this was a set I’d watch again every day if I could. After dedicating their a capella opener “House Carpenter” to Nate Carson of Nanotear, the band tore into and through a set of consistent heavy glory. To describe the SubRosa’s sound would be to fall short entirely, as the individual musicians each thrashed about wildly while conjuring emotive, crumbling melodies and building layers of heft and chaos. The band’s violinists moved in convulsions while creating haunting harmonies with each other, adding a density and ethereal quality to an already tight musical backbone. The overall effect was a gripping, passionate performance that seemed to capture the bodies of the band and crowd alike despite the late hour. The band’s initial close of “The Usher” making way for an encore of “Cosey Mo” was one of the most thrilling things I could have witnessed. While I could’ve easily watched them play for an hour more, I couldn’t have asked for a better time. Between the brilliant performance and a brief conversation I was fortunate enough to hold with guitarist Rebecca Vernon (and my friend Greg from Invisible Oranges) about literature after their set, I geeked out as much as I possibly could. If you’ve even had a passing interest in SubRosa’s music, their moving live set is worth your time. I hear rumors of a North American tour with Cult of Luna and Minsk in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled.