(No. 3 in a Definitely Ongoing Series)
It is always gratifying to participate in something that will be recounted around the Thanksgiving dinner table in family reunions to come.
I squired Freddie over to Baltimore for a heavy-metal gig at the Sonic Club Friday evening. He's been wanting to catch Protest the Hero for some time, and they were in town on a five-band billing that included The Number Twelve Looks Like You and Fall from Grace.
We entered the joint just as the first act was finishing -- a thoroughly forgettable local fivesome whose function seemed to be to remind us that the acts we were about to see were actual professionals. I took a comfortable spot well off to the side away from the punishing sonic onslaught, made friends with the bartender, and settled in for a long evening of what I anticipated to be benign incomprehension.
The second act, Fall from Grace, surprised me in the most gratifying way imaginable. From the get-go, I detected a fierce loyalty in them to that quality I so utterly miss from these HM acts I keep taking Freddie to see: melody. These guys have clearly been attentive to the music of the past, and it showed; I heard touches of Elvis Costello, Split Enz, the Beatles, Green Day. I might have been at the Mudd Club, circa 1980. To be sure, it was drowned in waves of guitar distortion, but goddammit, at least it was something.
I took a smoke break after their set, and came across the band loading out. The front man (one Tryg Littlefield, it seems) was helping shove guitar cases into their trailer, and I accosted him to tell him how much I'd dug it. He shook my hand enthusiastically, and when I mentioned the word melody, he lit up: "It's because I love everything, man! Ignore nothing, dude!" Wow. Man after my own heart. You keep it up, kid. You may not hit the Bigs, but you'll do it honorably.
As the third band, The Number 12 Looks Like You, was warming up, they broke into a very silly little rhythm-jam that was quite endearing. Clearly the love of music for its own sake was running high in these guys tonight, and I perked up with interest. They broke into their actual set, and I was quite thoroughly blown away. Their Wikipedia page calls what they play "mathcore," which seems to be a highly polyrhythmic, churning thing that suggests Captain Beefheart interrupted by jazzy (think Coltrane rather that Ornette Coleman) guitar figures. This -- this -- I could dig! The vocalist for the most part eschewed the "G'Phwarg-Glarb-Flang" style of HM singing that attempts to reproduce the voice of Cthluhu for teenaged pimple-wallopers, in favor of actual, like, notes-n-stuff. Very riveting stuff, in this environment.
So in the middle of their set, me there off to the side at the bar avoiding the worst of the eardrum-destroying transients, there's a hush between songs. Frontman Jase Korman solicits: "Hey, is there any dude in the audience who hasn't ever been kissed? Come on, let's see you! Any dude hasn't ever been kissed?"
Then he says, "OK, you! Come on up here! Yeah! All right! Never been kissed, huh?"
"All right.. What's your name?"
I leap up on my barstool, craning over the crowd....
Yep. It's my boy. Up there on stage in front of five hundred punters, all fifteen-years-and-eleven-months of him. Black concert tee. Messy, sweaty hair. Sheepish look on his mug.
"OK, who wants to give Freddie his first kiss?"
Quite a few female hands shoot up.
A toothsome profile is handed up to the stage. I never get a look at her, but from later accounts (from Korman himself, also out back as the band was loading out) she was, apparently, fairly smokin'.
The Victorian gentleman in me would love to be able to say I averted my eyes. But of course I didn't. I did have the good taste and discretion not to remember to go for my phone-cam.
He leaned in, grabbed the cutie, and laid a session of osculation on her like Gable on Leigh.
I'm afraid Misery Signals and Protest the Hero were fairly unmemorable after that.