King Cat “Hosts” a “Metal” Show

by Isaac on 02.06.2012

On the strength of one cover song by one band on this bill, I was enticed back to the King Cat Theater for the second time in a week, to witness high-intensity, technical metal done right. What I got was disappointment with a dash of genius, and my first full-blown insecurity pangs about my age.

C.J. Jenkins, Lead singer of A Sense of Gravity

The first few opening bands were not bad. No, you can not say that they played their instruments poorly. In fact, everybody on this bill was refreshingly light on the fuck ups. They were all proficient and confident with their instruments. However, the substance of their music was what I had a problem with. It was all really hard on my sensibilities. It makes it difficult for me to be objective in this review. On the one hand, I want to praise everybody for being such damn good musicians. On the other hand, I want to punch 80% of what I saw in the throat for what they put my eyes and ears through. I started to wonder if I was being “punked.” Luckily, the night was not a complete waste of time, and I will cover the saving graces in great detail.

Tomorrow May Fail

Tomorrow May Fail warmed up the crowd with a display of pop-metal, straight from the demographic that the genre serves. Okay, I can be completely wrong about this, but each band member looked under 18 years old. Add to that the fact that they describe themselves on their Facebook page as “Metalcore,” and I don’t think I’m far off with that estimation. A quick Google search of “Metalcore” has proven, I guess, that it’s a legitimate genre closely associated with bands like Atreyu and Nightwish; bands I have only previously heard about in the punch lines of jokes. Tomorrow May Fail is a high school band with a growly cookie-monster lead vocal. The instrumentals were excellent, skill wise, and I must admit that I was surprised to hear this sound come out of a group that looked this young. Their stage presence was great. They all had charisma and had choreographed all kinds of little flare such as jogging in place and synchronized head bangs. I got the sense that there was either some heavy coaching involved, or they spent hours on end watching various music videos of other successful Pop Metal bands. I assume this because nothing really set it apart from all of that other schlock. It certainly pumped up the teenyboppers in the crowd, though. With any luck, they even got to first base with some of their classmates after the show!

Santos Camara of Tomorrow May Fail

Okay, that kind of commentary is cruel. Fact is, I know that this blog’s demographic is not anywhere close to this kind of band’s target audience. I see the search criteria that gets people here, and I’m pretty sure that only a search term as generic as “music” would lead to any kind of crossover. So if it helps you sleep, assume I have a bias against this entire genre. I have a problem with seeing skilled musicians putting themselves in a box that matches the complexion and proportion of every other brown cardboard cube that sits in the warehouse. Tomorrow May Fail is a technically talented group of musicians, and a functioning band with potential. I just can’t say it’s good and recommend it to you, my readers, with the expectation that you would thank me and give me a high five for turning you on to it. If I had to describe in one word why that is, that word would be “unoriginal.”

Rory Peterson of Anchor the Tide

Unfortunately that trend continued through the next band, Anchor the Tide. Again, really strong on the instrumentals and technical ability. These guys are playing with the goal of becoming the next big thing on MTV. It looks just like everything else on there. Still, their music is lowest common denominator. It’s all stupidly simple arrangements and the voice is that of a pop star. It’s not hard at all, but just a little tweak away from being totally badass and evil. I almost expected some christian imagery. Unfortunately, with the state of the music industry being what it is, that’s the formula for selling out. I guess this, too, would fall into the “Metalcore” genre. Their amplitude was epic, though that may have had a lot to do with the fact that we were in the mostly empty auditorium of the King Cat Theater. The small crowd of teenyboppers were in heaven, while those of us that were old enough to retire to the bar stood in the back and looked confused. The one cool thing about their stage presence were these home-made light boxes that they stood on. It not only made them taller, but they had discovered what every 5 year old with a flashlight has: under-glow makes cool shadows. I spotted a guy in the back running the lights, looking quite intense throughout the show. Overall, every song sounded the same and I got bored. It’s the kind of music that made me imagine a 16 year old kid, with shaggy black hair and 1 red highlight, would crank in his room, as he cried into his pillow, after his mom told him that he was grounded because he got a C on his report card. Still, I might recommend you get your parents’ permission to crank it in the car, once you get your learner’s permit.

Anchor the Tide...somehow.

After Anchor the Tide ended their 25 minute set, I started wondering who had masterminded the show. My notes have a bunch of questions and comments from a confused me to myself. ‘Is this a happy-metal show?’ ‘Do these musicians have souls?’ ‘I feel creepy standing next to this 9 year old kid as his mind gets blown.’ ‘I feel old.’ ‘How can a place this big stay in business with a crowd this small and a staff so large?’ Looking back and reading these, I realized that I was getting close to questioning if I was having some kind of nightmare. What was I doing there? I was just so heartbroken that this kind of thing had an audience. However, the place was mostly empty, so who knows? I went back into the bar between each set, and that was a good indication that I wasn’t going crazy. Some of the bands were back there. A lot of moms and dads of the bands were back there. There were conversations of confusion happening between people that had probably done what I did, and assumed they were going to a metal show. “Metalcore” is not metal. I felt comfortable paying $5 for a HALF-pint of obscure, shitty beer (no cans) and listening to the chatter. A friend of mine came with me and helped me solidify some of my thoughts on the show. Yes, the bar was [mostly] my scene. I felt like watching the show was a chore, despite the horribly bloated prices and garage-like decor of the bar. I just wanted to hear something worth raving about (I’m getting there).

Prepare the Bride

Prepare the Bride was not bad. They partially satisfied my lust for some doom. Still, they were all pretty young. I liked the lead singer’s fashion sense. He had “blinged” out earings and was wearing a plain grey puffy sweater. The guy strutted around on stage, growling and screaming like he just didn’t care. I definitely smiled more during their set than the previous bands, and got a couple good photos. Once again, great musicians. I was turned off by the fact that most of their songs repeated the same riffs until they got boring, and consisted of anywhere between 2 and 3 chords in total. It was a little reminiscent of Korn. The crowd refused to mosh and move. I was screaming in my head at the audience, “You bounce around and giggle for the first couple of bands, but you don’t burn a single calorie for something that actually has rock-out potential!? What the FUCK is going on?” These guys didn’t do any choreography or hyper flair. It was all straight rocking, and they could pull it off. They brought some much needed contrast to the show. I wasn’t totally blown away, but I did enjoy their high-intensity set. They also win the Most-Awesome-Band-Name-Of-The-Night award.

A mustache forged of sheer awesome.

Another wallet-raping bar break and I was back on the floor for the true highlight of the night, A Sense of Gravity. It was only their third show in Seattle, but they were pros. They were highly technical and extremely loud. I was very happy to be there, seeing it live. They had originally sold me on the strength of their cover of White Christmas, WHICH THEY PLAYED LIVE, but they are so much more than that. Every song is tightly composed, hardcore, and turns on a dime. A Sense of Gravity is Progressive Metal done right. They built a landscape of sound that had infinitely expanding horizons. Their Facebook page says, “Six polite, well educated gentlemen that make Metal.” Perfect description. They didn’t putz around with choreography. No, they were much too busy shredding arpeggiated lightning storms out of their instruments to be bothered with trying to convince you that they were awesome. They’ve got some excellent recordings on their Facebook page that I highly recommend checking out. I really don’t know how the masterminds behind the band were able to find such a good ensemble of musicians all in one place without the aid of some ultra-connected producer. I intend to use some of their songs for my own personal drum practice, though the drummer did appear sleepy throughout the show. I just assumed he was concentrating really hard.

Brandon, keyboard and guitarist for A Sense of Gravity

The teens in the audience were confused and didn’t know where to look, but the real tattooed metal heads were rocking out. This band has strong speed, math, skill, presence, energy and just sheer power. The keyboard and guitar leads smelled like Yes, Rush, and King Crimson, though I would say they were much harder (as in more metal) overall. There were a couple of breakdowns that they played that I would say go with the other bands on the bill, but they were mostly more original than all that other riffraff. Their compositions were too well written and played much too epically in comparison.

After the show, I had a little conversation with the members and picked their brains. Brendon Williams (Guitar) is the main composer/director of the band and is finishing up his final semester at Cornish College. He and David McDaniel (Guitar) are the founding members. The sort of liaison between me and the band was Brandon Morris (Keys, Guitar) who had originally contacted me and tuned me into their music. In talking to them, I got the sense that these guys are bright, talented, and easy to get along with. I kind of wish they were a little more evil in person, though.

Brendon Williams, the mastermind.

Unfortunately for them, the sound man at King Cat flubbed their mix. The keyboard would really shine through because it had such a different timbre, and the drums were quite present. However, with 6 band members, I imagine it was a challenge. I couldn’t hear the lead singer’s vocals 90% of the time and the guitars kind of blurred together. I walked to the back and center of the auditorium to try to see if it was just the sound system, but it was without a doubt the sound guy. More vocals, please!

As the next changeover happened, I talked to my friend just to confirm that A Sense of Gravity didn’t, in fact, suck. Yes, he had heard the same things that I had, and we both agreed that A Sense of Gravity stole the show. However, I believe a majority of the teenage audience would have probably disagreed. It’s not the kind of band they would gush over. No Sense of Gravity posters were purchased and hung on the ceilings above beds this night.

If I Were a Gladiator

If I Were a Gladiator was up next. Hate to be the master of the obvious, but the first thing I noticed was that there was a girl at the microphone! That is always a refreshing sight in the metal world. She could sing sweetly one second, then become abrasive and evil the next. It was colorful. AND YET AGAIN, the musicians were great, but the overall performance was not up to snuff. Their stage energy seemed low and they lacked charisma, as if they were just running through a practice. They didn’t appear totally into their own music, so the audience reacted the same. At one point, Emily (lead vocals) asked the audience to move around. She should have demanded it, then lead by example, because the crowd didn’t even shift their weight. Still, it was one of the stronger acts in the show. They were not “Metalcore,” my new favorite word. They were much more metal than the first three acts, but if you were watching the show on mute, you’d have thought they were grooving to smooth jazz. If they had sold it with their own body language more, I think I would have been more into it. If I Were a Gladiator’s music is chuggy, constant and percussive. It’s easy to headbang to and has interesting hooks and riffing. The songs are a little bloated, but that’s really just nitpicking. Overall, they were good, but belonged in a smaller, more intimate venue. I also feel like I may have caught them on an off night.

Emily Ruth of If I Were a Gladiator

It was at this point that I took a look around the venue and did a loose headcount. 60 people. Some had materialized for the headliner. That’s enough to fill a smaller venue. This bill would have been okay at a place like Neumos. Hosting this show at the King Cat (with a capacity over 1500) was baffling, unless they really thought the place would fill up. Also, when it’s that empty, it’s cold and drafty in there. But enough about that sob story, on to the headliner.

Cody Freiburger of Keeping Secrets

METALCORE! If the other bands were just trying to be Metalcore, then Keeping Secrets was gonna take them to school. The lights went out, the amps went on, and a veritable laser show was engaged. Ok, there were no lasers, but there was an over-the-top lights display. Yeah, these guys were definitely headlining. They were older than the other bands and had custom labeled gear that was painted white. The teens were suddenly very animated by this and started jumping all over my foot. I took a couple of pictures, then moved away to a safe distance; easy to do in a venue the size of a Disneyland parking lot. This band was playing the high-school anthem. I likened their vocals to that of Blink 182 rockin’ hard, but the rest was straight forward, overproduced commercial bullshit. Lynch me if you can find where I live. I dare you. Every song sounded exactly the same as the one before it. They had charisma, I think. I could sort of tell when they were lit up enough by their seizure-inducing stage lights. I had to look up some of the lyrics, because I just knew they were gonna be clowny. Sure enough, either these guys are big into David Lynch or their lyrics were written by a middle-school poetry student. Here’s a highlight from what might be a christian rock song, taken from their Reverbnation page and edited for punctuation: “When I close my eyes I can’t see the light that used to be the only thing I’d ever need.” It’s all vague, and emo, I think. I’m not sure what they are trying to say. I just don’t get it. But hey, you don’t have to know what they are saying to enjoy their live performance. It’s a spectacle, and that’s all the teens came for. You’ll kill me for saying it YET AGAIN, but the musicianship was great and the arrangement just sucked. It’s just pop music disguised as metalish…stuff…I don’t know. I don’t get it. I saw a few songs, made up my mind that I had seen everything there was to see that night, and bailed.

Nathan King of Keeping Secrets

I’ve struggled through this entire article. These bands are not my genre, and I would never willingly have seen most of them. However, it was an all-ages show. It was never meant for me anyway. If it was 21+, there would have been 10 people there, which includes the people running Merch tables, the parents of the bands, and me. I was awed by just how polarized the show was. When I and my demographic were digging something, the kids were confused. When the kids were rockin’ out, I felt old. It was a very split audience.

I really don’t know how the King Cat theater could have purposefully justified such a small show in such a large, staffed venue. It leads me to believe that there was mismanagement and poor communication through the entire process of booking these clowns. It was a circus. There was no hand stamp. At first, we just walked right into the venue without paying or getting checked at the door. Later, they kicked everybody out and then checked them at the door, or forced them to buy $15 tickets. The bar was overpriced and the bartenders looked dead in the eyes. I just…don’t know…how…it happened.

If the bands, Prepare the Bride or If I Were a Gladiator were playing a smaller, cheaper venue, I might go see them again and give them a second chance, but the only band that really stuck with me after I left was A Sense of Gravity. It was my first time seeing them, and it won’t be the last.

Bonus Picture Gallery (158 Photos)


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