Monday, September 13, 2010

Battle of the Bands @ DNA Lounge

THE SOOTHING SOUND OF FLIGHT was the first band I caught. While their name may sound like one of Adam Young's countless muzak projects, these guys were anything but light. Hailing from Santa Clara, this group mixed aggressive deathcore with elements of post-rock, often breaking down into soaring instrumentals and using screams for background texture rather than putting them front and center.

Next up were AMERICAN ROYALTY, a Vallejo-based hard rock quartet. Their set was filled with tight songs and duets between the group's male and female frontpeople. After a finale that alternated between fairly nondescript power-pop and full-out death-metal freakout, the band members all simultaneously collapsed onstage and headed off to mingle with the crowd.

DOWN FOR THE COUNT claimed to be bringing back "real punk" and not that "Blink-182 shit." Messianic or not, Down For The Count played almost exactly the sort of blindingly fast hardcore Emilio Estevez used to steal cars to. Appropriately enough, the group ended the set with semi-recognizable covers of songs by Johnny Cash and John Fogerty, two of the truest punks who ever lived. Long live rock n' roll.

Clean, well-dressed, and full of hard-rock machismo, the three dudes in THE FIRE SAIL seemed deathly serious about their music and played with chops and precision. Handshake's Devin Clary claimed to be terrified of them, in part by their skill and in part by their normalcy. And while these guys played a solid set on the basis of their prowess and sharp hooks, they were one of the less musically distinctive bands that played.

THY WINTER SHADOW came across as a bunch of dudes having fun with extreme metal and letting the audience figure out how serious they really are. Through songs like "Death By Shark," portly singer Brian Oafo (yes, that's what he calls himself) screamed like a schoolgirl getting stabbed as the band ground mercilessly in the background. Halfway through the show, Oafo decided to toss a T-shirt into the audience, which ended up getting stuck on a stagelight and had to be pried loose by a bouncer with a very long stick.

HANDSHAKE, the headliners, took to the stage in suits and well-polished shoes, looking more like a '50s doo-wop group than a modern rock band. They didn't give any bombastic shout-outs, they kept their shirts on, and they didn't even ask the audience to participate. Handshake won the crowd over solely on the merit of their pastoral art-rock and the suave harmonies of frontmen Devin Clary and Evan Greenwald, both of whom employed equally remarkable, tasteful, and (at times) seductive vocals. The band seemed to be a huge hit with the girls, who shrieked their heads off after every song ended. By the time the band left the stage, there was little doubt they would end up in the top three, although who the others were nobody could say for sure yet.

The Fire Sail
Thy Winter Shadow

Thy Winter's Shadow

After the members of those bands had gotten their congratulatory hugs (in Handshake's case) and noggin-bumps (in TWS's case), the DJ fired up some old Fifties dance tunes, and everybody danced in circles. It was just like back in '58, when I took Laura Lynn to see Eddie Cochran at the old Pavilion... but that's a story for another time.

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