Monday, February 21, 2005

Sno Core 2005

Going to a sold out show in Minnesota during February is a sure fire way of catching a cold, which is just what I did thanks to the horrible way that The Quest Club in Minneapolis handles letting people into the venue. There is only one entrance that they use to herd everyone through. Even though they have multiple shows starting at the same time in the same building, they only use this one entrance. This leads to long wait times out in the freezing cold, which is no fun. Since there’s also no coat check at the venue and it’s easily 80-90 degrees inside the club by the end of the night, you don’t want to bring a coat in. I ended up standing in line outside for about 30 minutes in my sweatshirt, and this was after waiting in the skyway by the parking lot next to The Quest for an hour before the doors opened. Even being there that early, I didn’t get in until after the first band, Strata, had already finished their set.

Once I finally got in, I situated myself on the upper deck of the club since I didn’t want to have to put up with all of the 15 year old kids on the main floor. I really detest all ages shows because you end up getting so many little kids there that think they own the place cramming onto the main floor. You either end up having to go to the balcony to avoid them or knock through them during the show, which is kind of fun at first, but it gets old fast.

A few minutes after I got in and up to the balcony, Future Leaders of the World came on. I liked their cd that they released last year well enough, but their live show was, well, to put it bluntly, terrible. It wasn’t just the band, though, as the sound crew did a terrible job of working with the band. The mixing was horrendous with the bass pretty much nonexistent and the vocals altogether too high in the mix, which wasn’t a good thing since the vocals were pretty unbearable. The guy’s voice, as interesting and different as it was on their cd, was really hard to stomach live. Thankfully, for one song the mic went out completely and the crowd didn’t have to be subjected to his annoyingly grating vocals for that small respite.

I wasn’t the only one not digging this band as the crowd didn’t really get into their set at all either, which led the band to just wander around the stage playing while trying to deal with the idiots in the sound crew that were working the show. The vocalist even went so far as to just sit at the front of the stage when him mic went out while the rest of the band continued to play on. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band more disinterested in playing than these guys. I don’t care if the sound crew screws up, at least make it look like you want to play. Frankly, though, I didn’t care that much because no amount of energy would have saved their terrible performance. The final grade for Future Leaders’ performance would have to be a C- at best and really came out at more of a D when you factor in the sound problems that went along with their uninspired performance.

The next band on the bill was Crossfade, who were apparently also the band that the majority of the teens in the crowd were there to see. As they came onstage, all of the kids in the place went ape. I couldn’t help but laugh just a little when I saw all the 15 year old boys and teenage girls creaming themselves over this band. The sound mixing wasn’t any better for Crossfade than it was for Future Leaders. For Crossfade, though, the sound operators mixed the turntables way too high while leaving the guitars very muddled sounding (although that might have been Crossfade playing sloppy, I’m not sure).

It was actually somewhat comical to watch Crossfade play as they managed to look like some of the biggest posers around while still being able to get the crowd to move. I have a few big problems with the band’s live show that most of the crowd didn’t seem to share. First, for one of the songs, the band used pre-recorded guitars for the intro. Let that sink in for a minute… they used pre-recorded guitars when they had a guitar player on stage! Come on guys, play your instruments! I know the DJ doesn’t have that much to do, but for crap’s sake, don’t used pre-recorded passages of instruments you have hanging off of your shoulders—play them! Speaking of DJs, didn’t they go out of style in the late 90’s? I thought that the trend of having a DJ in a rock band ended at about the same time the rap-rock fad did. Well, Crossfade’s DJ didn’t really do much for the band other than spin on his faux record turntable and flick some knobs occasionally. When he wasn’t doing that, he was barking out the rapping portion of Crossfade’s songs and pointing at the crowd with his hand in the form of a gun trying to be as “gansta” as possible by shooting the people in the crowd. He did this every single time he came to a rap section of a song. Someone should tell him, however, that he’s as far from being hip when he does that as is humanly possible.

If you were to judge a band’s success on how well the crowd gets into their set, then I’d have to say Crossfade was very successful, but if you judge a band’s success on how competent they are on stage, then Crossfade failed horribly. Personally, I thought their set was more comical than anything else, and because they made me laugh I have to give them a grade slightly higher than Future Leaders, a C+.

After a long 20 minute setup period, Helmet took to the stage. Sadly, I think the majority of the crowd didn’t even know who they were. They broke into some old tunes right off the bat, which I’m sure only me and a couple of other people in the crowd actually recognized. The crowd got into some of the heavier mosh moments on some of the songs, but I think most of them were just waiting around for Chevelle to come on. It’s too bad that the crowd didn’t get into Helmet’s set a little more because they played a wonderful 40 minutes of groove oriented rock.

By the time Helmet was playing, the sound techs had fortunately fixed the terrible mixing problems they had with Future Leaders and Crossfade. Helmet are an extremely tight live band and it is evident to anyone watching them that they have put in tons of shows together. Their set consisted of a healthy mix of songs from Betty, Aftertaste, Size Matters, and even the title track from Meantime. Most of the crowd was probably in diapers or elementary school when Meantime came out (I was only 11 at the time) so I’m sure a lot of the appreciation for their older stuff was lost on most of the kids there. I was quite happy, though, that most of their set consisted of songs from Betty with their performances of “Wilma’s Rainbow” and “Miquetoast” being two of the more memorable moments of the night.

If I had been down on the lower level, I would have been going nuts throughout Helmet’s set, even though most of the kids were just standing there nodding their heads to the groove of the music. Helmet are a phenomenal and very energetic live band that easily made up for having to suffer through Future Leaders and Crossfade. Their set easily earns an A-.

The headliners for the night were Chevelle, a band I had been a fan of since the release of their debut cd, Point #1. I had spun their live cd, Live from the Road, a few times through and had liked what I heard, so I was really anticipating their set. When they came out and finally started playing, for the entire hour they were onstage, they didn’t disappoint. What really stuck out about their set was how thick and full of a sound they had for being only a three piece band.

Much like Helmet, Chevelle focused a lot on playing songs from a past release, in this case their sophomore effort, Wonder What’s Next. They also played a healthy dose of songs from their latest disc, This Type of Thinking Could Do Us In, making for a good mix of songs. What was unfortunate, though, was the fact that they didn’t play anything off of Point #1. I’m sure they did this because not many people going to their shows would know any of the songs off of it and they have plenty of material to play from their last two discs, but it still would have been nice to have heard “Mia.” It’s quite forgivable, though, as Chevelle put on a mighty fine show, getting the crowd to jump up off their feet and move on almost every song. Chevelle’s songs translated extremely well into a live environment as the many varied buildups and thundering choruses in their songs were perfect for churning up the crowd and getting them to go nuts at just the right time. There were two songs in particular that managed to get just about everyone in the entire venue moving—“Forfeit” and “The Clincher”—both of which have booming choruses that everyone got into.

Even though it was quite late by the time Chevelle got done, the majority of the crowd, including myself, wanted more. I know that whenever I want to see a band play even longer, they must have been doing something right. I’d easily go see them again, especially at an 18+ show so I wouldn’t have to wade through all of little kids on the main floor. In the end, I have to give Chevelle an A- as well. They are a wonderful band to see live, but they aren’t quite lively enough onstage to warrant a full A.

All in all, getting to see Helmet and Chevelle made having to suffer through Future Leaders and Crossfade worth it. I’d highly recommend seeing either Helmet or Chevelle if you get the chance.

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