Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Outsider Introspective: Jan 24th

Rosetta, Battlefields, City of Ships, Mill Bastards, Makeshift at The Haunt 
by Bobby Jackson

Upstate New York is generally frigid with a wintery gelid in January, but in an odd mix of coincidences I was walking around with a sweater avoiding the rain to the best of my cognitive ability. Journeys anywhere in the state would have been super perilous with icy roads, cops attempting to bust you for whatever they can to compensate for their low paychecks, and the malignant motor vehicle operators sharing the road. Despite the grey and melancholy atmosphere, our day was sweet with serenity and wrought with ease. Past the countless miles of lakefront realty and wineries on route 89, I wondered what to expect out of the upcoming event. Rumor had it that the show was going to be an intense conglomerate of sludgy hippy metal if one could even make such a genre of musical endeavors. I had listened to some of the bands previously so I would subsequently be prepared for the upcoming onslaught of music. I enjoyed the dirges of Battlefields, City of Ships, and Rosetta based on previously being exposed to them via Ithaca Underground, but the question that remained was whether the serenity of the endless lakefront drive would be reticulated or preserved during the event. My trip was to be something memorable, and I hoped it would enlighten me to new delicious music.

I arrived at The Haunt somewhere in between the times of 5:30PM and 6:00PM. I know this because I was able to swill a beer or two down before the first band was to up to play at 6PM. The first thing I noticed while walking in, was the countless amounts of diverse people and I was immediately intrigued. Wool hats, long hair, beards, dread locks, and Vans sneakers were a commodity among the crowd. At first, there were few and then they metastasized into larger subversive cliques and groups. What was more is that the crowd epitomized in its growth the notion that "hippy" has a completely different connotation in our year 2010 than in the past. The general overview isn't cliché anymore; rather it's a conglomerate of appearances and thought.
Also, I noticed that the staff on duty took far more interest in Sunday night football than the central point of the event -- music. Although, if you're a sporting fanatic, I could relate with being excited for the playoffs. Right before Makeshift took to the risen stage, the New York Jets lost to the Colts by thirteen points -- a shivering defeat for some of the staff.

The stage was paired with a disco ball that I was disappointed in due to its stagnation, but that mood soon passed as Makeshift began their set. Their music reminded me of a Genghis Tron type of feel, yet had a different crunchy and rhythmic sound that separated it from that similarity. The music would go from nasty flurries of notes and then flip to another end of the musical spectrum to ambience and that was a very similar theme that other bands followed. I found myself laughing at certain points and not to the humiliation of the band rather the song titles. One such song that stuck out in my head (which I also believe was a song owned by the band's side project) was called Fecal Paradox. It was played with what looked like a skeleton of a cello, guitar, and drums if my memory serves me correctly. At this point in the night, I had come to the realization that breakdowns should, if at all possible, be played with a cello. I began thinking about other musical groups that could benefit from such an instrument and who are very adamant about the playing of breakdowns. Brutality would certainly ensue.

When Makeshift left the risen platform, there was a lull of sorts which is typical while bands were exchanging the ownership of the stage. Drums, cords, amps, speakers, and other miscellaneous equipment needed to be loaded on and off the stage in a relatively rapid manner. This is a violent necessity due to wanting or needing to have five bands play in the short time of four hours which, depending on the quantity of material a band has, can make for an invigoratingly tight squeeze.

So, while this was occurring, I took the time to fetch another beer and watch the intriguing crowd. Their mannerisms were much the same as any other humans you would entertain yourself to watch at a bar event on a Sunday evening anywhere else in the world. There were the ever-so-typical couples standing or sitting together. They held hands and gazed longingly at each other and I found myself wondering if kissing a significant other during the playing of live dissonant chords was a signal of true love or maybe true heart-felt lust. Needless to say, I also thought I'd love to try it. There were the old, the young, the poor, and the downtrodden. Many aspects of life were engaged in the ever widening crowd.

In my notes, which due to increasing consumption of beers could be inaccurate, I determined that Mill Bastards were playing around 7:09PM. I was immediately drawn to the punk band and the nature of their raw musical prowess. In addition, beer drinking was another large factor in my growing list of pros toward the band for it was occurring on the stage. Not only was it beer, it looked like good hoppy beer. The kind that beer snobs would never quaff unless in dire situations and always enjoy. I use enjoy with the utmost humility because to enjoy a beer, to some, would lead to chugging, however enjoying a beer of the caliber to which I thought was being consumed on the stage took more of a lengthy sipping and smelling ritual to enjoy. Ultimately, I think I was envious at best because I was drinking Labatt due to being respectfully impoverished. The power chord punk music was stringing my thoughts along into rather perverse thoughts. Socially acceptable behavior was soon to be unheard of. Noticing food in front of a young girl, I remember thinking something like, "Oh sweet Lord in Heaven, I would love to eat that girl's chicken fingers and I know it's wrong to steal them, but they look so delicious. It would go amazingly with the beer, as well. Just a nibble?" This kind of mindless blabber went on through my skull more often than not during the set and soon after I found myself ranting and raving about the mindlessness of power ballads due to a particular phrase blurted from the PA. Punk induces this behavior in me and it made me feel like Matthew Lillard in the movie SLC Punk!.

Soon after power ballads were ridiculed, a circle pit broke out and I was rather entertained by it. I gulped down the last sip of my beer, and soon after the band parted ways with the sad disco ball and the stage. Everything was becoming hazier by the hour and my reconnoitering became more sadistic and frenzied.

At this juncture in the evening, my memory began to fail miserably. Amongst yelling at friends and strangers attempting shallow conversation during the high decibel event, I became aware that the next few bands I would be taking pleasure in would be nationals. Particularly, a band named City of Ships would be expressing themselves on stage and more importantly all members involved took residency in other states. This fact combined with many others, greatly advanced my respect for the group because they were incredibly scrupulous about the music they shared. The singer had a voice that mildly resembled Norma Jean and the band's music reflected that. It wasn't hardcore by any means, but it struck a certain chord with me. Tapping was an added bonus that was done rather well, and reminded me of Minus the Bear. I remember thinking during the set that this band had the best ambience of the night so far and it was mainly because of the way they molded the heavy metal riffs into an allegorical juncture for slower more melancholy music. A D.A.R.E shirt was donned by the singer and this induced plentiful thoughts of wrong doings with particular substances. Scratched incredibly sloppily in my notebook during the set, is a note about attempting to calculate the alcohol content that my blood had succumbed to at that point. I'm fairly certain that it went poorly because I remember vividly having beers later while the last two bands played.

City of Ships played for some amount of time that was indeterminable because my cellular phone, which doubles as my watch, died. Thus, I was forced to use a Budweiser clock on the wall and I wasn't sure of its accuracy. I wrote down 7:30 PM in my notes, but again the precision of the chicken scratch written down on the page is questionable. There was an hour time span between when City of Ships played and when Battlefields went on, according to my notes, and I have no idea why or if there was some kind of scene that prevented music playing. Before Battlefields went on, I remember the odious smell of bacon filling the air and attempting to find its origin. I was terribly hungry, but it would have to wait.

The performance was dark and full of poignant actors with instruments and the masses loved it. I remember thinking that the music tore the general serenity from its hinges that night. Every band had written incredible eerie parts that folded my thoughts into perversion where this powerful music ceased my downwardly spiraling cognition. Due to the undeniable heaviness and brutality that ensued, the crowd was taken back and for good reasons. The singer doubled as a keyboard player, which brought a strong level of fullness to the music. Slipping ever so gently through grungy guitar riffs into ambient emptiness made for a visceral, yet tantalizing set list. Each song had similar elements, but differentiated themselves in the chronology of notes.

Before long, I required more drink, and the cognizant bartenders had committed my drinks to their highly retentive memory making the process very easy. Soon after, Battlefields completed their set list and thanked everyone for coming out and a considerable amount of citizens did for this particular Sunday evening event. The equipment swap seemed more rapid than the others, but it was refreshing. The general populace in the building I think began to notice my observations, and the reaction seemed suspicious. Who was this odd fellow with a notepad and a beer; scribbling sweet nothings down for no apparent reason? Could he be trusted? I think I was clearly an out-of-towner -- a man on the brink who needed a break from his ever deepening unemployment. Despite the shifty looks and increasingly slurred speech, I sat and watched. Waiting. I was exhausted and I attempted to bury my yawns into my sleeve, but it was apparent to all the others.

For this reason, I discontinued my alcohol consumption and began to chug water. It was necessary for my general well-being. I needed to sober up because I knew the night wasn't complete. After Rosetta played, I was going over to a good friend's house to share stories, ideas, and be in cahoots with some of the bands that needed hospitality, as well. Water consumption was necessary, as well, due to the writing in my note pad being sloppier than normal and almost to the point of being unreadable.

After speaking to a friend about something that my memory does not retain, Rosetta hit the lights and began their set. I found myself particularly drawn to the singer's fade feature that felt distant and particularly epic. It was oddly quite interesting and effective. During the set, I began to sober up or at least what I felt was sobering up. I didn't have a beer in my hand, at the very least. The set was going quite well for Rosetta, and the screams were captivating. The darkness that coveted the stage only amplified the mood that the music had already set. At this point in the evening, I was completely captivated by the stage. I'm not sure if it was the music, the crowd, the general mood of The Haunt at that particular hour that caused my complacency, but the night was coming to a close with a very epic band playing. People loved it, and it's hard to describe the reaction due to the dim lighting and because I was so entrenched in it.

Complacency. It ravaged my soul like the destruction of a first innocent love. The mob had completely let go and they performed a ritual of humans in their most primitive state. These were American savages around the proverbial fire, but they danced to no god. They didn't even really dance at all rather, like an amoeba, shifted and conglomerated. Rosetta was certainly enjoying being the fire to the populace's ritual. The guitarists were flailing and the singer shifted into proportions that supported the mood. However, certain events caused my complacency and my hypnotized state to be shattered. My notes speak of a dreaded woman, which is rather ambiguous considering plenty of girls had this hair style, and of avoiding her. If I have retained the information correctly, I remember being somewhat attracted to the woman and finding out, due to my examinations, that she had a husband. Thus, I gave myself stern warnings through my notes to avoid eye contact and concentrate on the task at hand.

Not only that, but the dirges Rosetta strummed for us that night induced highly frantic thoughts and my mind began to wander shattering the complacency. I don't remember much else. Rosetta played well, and I can attest to that, but the crowd and the staff and the environment were completely alien to me at that point.

Before long, the gig was up. People clapped and hailed the big players of the show, and soon after, young girls with black baggy pants with chains attached began walking in. They danced to this sort of dark vampirism-type music that reminded me closely of werewolf or vampire movies where the main characters dive into a club of sexual freaks while similar music played.

My concentration on these subjects, however, was interrupted when my friend began proselytizing to the exiting patrons for the next Ithaca Underground show. Taking a flyer would save these people two dollars on the next one. I almost took one, but I knew I wouldn't be there due to the extensive distance between Ithaca and myself. People left rather rapidly, and the bands packed up their vans with their equipment and other belongings. Friends of mine spoke with the bands that would be heading back with us, which happened to be Battlefields and City of Ships.

After a little deliberation with said band members, we decided sustenance was necessary before closing the evening. So, we left with everyone, and followed the only ones who knew the area, which just so happened to be the ones that had offered up their home to us for rest. The two owners of the Pirate House in Ithaca were who we followed to a small sub shop on a road whose name slips the confines of my memory. We all ordered and ate similar yet different combinations of bread, deli meat, and assorted toppings, which didn't last long because it became gradually more frigid outside where we were consuming.

We left soon after everyone at least got a bite of their sub, and then left for the Pirate House. The trip there took a matter of minutes, and the others began pulling out pillows, blankets, and in one case a cot, which I thought was a particularly good idea for traveling. I offered a hand, but nobody seemed to need it. So, I went inside the colorfully decorated homestead. Pink fuzzy chairs were the first item that caught my attention and I immediately wanted to test it out. I don't think I ever did, but the temptation was certainly there.

Everyone piled in, sat down, and began speaking of a random assortment of topics. We were offered home-made cider which was rather tasty and then moved on to absinthe later in the evening. Between the cider and the absinthe, I went with a few band members outside to have gentlemanly conversation about nothing in particular. We started talking about what we both had in common. I had previously been a vocalist for groups in Rochester, New York, which failed miserably mainly because of the location. I began deliberating upon the reasons that the Rochester underground music scene is so pathetic, and soon after I began speaking, I became completely enthralled in what was being said around me. City of Ships and Battlefields began talking about their European tours and the treatment they received while there. I could almost not believe the lavish treatment they claimed, and was absolutely baffled by the statements. Although, I've never been overseas and no less as a band member, so it could all have been a huge bold faced lie. But, I was fairly sure it wasn't.

I returned inside after hearing this due to the lowering temperatures near the lake and I didn't have my coat close by. This is when the absinthe began being consumed by members of the band. I shared a sip but didn't have much because I was already at my breaking point for rest.

For whatever reason, my mind went completely south at this point during the night. I was silent. My mind was raging with so many different flowing thoughts that I couldn't keep it together. I remember seeing looks like I was crazy. I probably was. I stared at the floor and my eyes moved back and forth. Looking back I probably looked like a murderer contemplating his next victim. Regardless, I was in no position for more drinking, and when our good friends at the Pirate House started getting ready for sleep I was elated.

The night ended in a fiendish introspective nightmare induced by exhaustion and too much booze, but the general aura of my experience was good and I was introduced to some very solid upcoming talent. I cast a long hard reflective look at the night on my early morning drive home. I was there and gone like an apparition, and felt more so like one due to my silence during the whole event. I was a sleuth, and I felt I had enough to write a decent enough story on the evening due to it. Regardless, I felt that the band members that I spent time with were a rag tag group of musicians exploring the world and sharing their music with as many humans as possible. Good people. Unlike other musicians and groups I know, however, they were actually attempting it and making it happen. They were traveling to places like Ithaca and Europe; sharing their art form anywhere they could just to enlighten people to new music. And so, with a bit of luck, the young, old, and downtrodden populace of Ithaca had been lifted into some new level of musical taste or appreciation from that night. Even if they hadn't, they had ambient thematic grunge metal to get drunk to, or loiter with friends to. Due to this resounding conclusion, my drive home was happy and full of laughter at the human race and its oddities.

For more pictures from the evening click here.