Last Band Standing – Week Seven, John Henry’s May 13, 2011

Posted: May 15, 2011 in Eugene Band Reviews

NOTE:  All references to music genres have been (or at least attempted to be) removed there will be no future references made.  Evidently it causes too much confusion for those reading the reviews – ed.

CORRECTION on the specific song reference for Gladhander within the review – the fourth song was “Brothers” and not “Escape” as previously noted.  Happy, Mitch???  =)~  sheesh…

UPDATE MAY 17, 2011:  TMs set list (and I guessed the last song right – woot!) was: Grid, Erosion, Entitlement, Seraphic Reality

I love Friday the 13th (for one thing, it’s always payday for me!) and tonight was NO exception – the show at John Henry’s absolutely rocked with two outstanding bands playing extended sets (due to the other two bands scheduled having to cancel due to unforeseen circumstances).  While only one could advance to the semi-finals, they both gave amazing performances.

First Up – Transcending Maya

Transcending Maya - John Henry's May 13, 2011

I chatted briefly with lead singer Bowie (“Boo-ee”) before the show, and asked him what he thought set them apart from other bands, and what they were looking for in this venue.  He laughed, stating their music doesn’t fit easily into any specific “genre” as it really is a mix of tribal/world fusion with an almost heavy metal foundation.  The result is that they have a really hard time getting local venues to book them with other bands – they are either “too heavy” or “not heavy enough,” depending on who else is playing.  So besides the ultimate prize (32 hours studio/pre-production time with Don Ross Productions), they are looking for more local exposure.  Here’s to hoping at least one of those happens!

Transcending Maya, John Henry's May 13, 2011

Before the show, I listened to the songs they have posted on ReverbNation and their myspace page and honestly wasn’t all that impressed – I would say “Seraphic Reality” is their strongest recording.  While their scope is adventurous, the sound tended to be sloppy and difficult to follow.  I was therefore really pleasantly surprised by their live performance.  If I had to compare them to a major label band, it would be Incubus or 311.  They have time signatures that bounce wildly back and forth, but they nailed every switch flawlessly.  While Bowie’s lead vocals could have been a little stronger on the house PA system, what I could hear was lovely – hauntingly and deceptively simple.  Craig Sorensen on the drum kit was totally solid, working with Josh Wilson on bass and Cody on rhythm guitar, while Jason Femrite danced around them on lead guitar.  Bowie’s samples were a beautiful counterpoint that wove cool effects through the mix.

Cody - Transcending Maya, John Henry's May 13, 2011

It’s hard to keep this kind of music from sounding sloppy, especially in a live venue.  The online song clips don’t do them justice at all.  Even more difficult is getting the audience involved – it is such an introspective affair.  What was really great was just how tight they played, keeping everything together.  Craig’s drums were excellent, flying from toms to snare without a hiccup through the different time signatures.  It was nice that Craig and Josh laid such a solid foundation for the rest of the band to play with.  Cody’s backup vocals fit smooth as silk with Bowie’s lead vocals.  How Cody manages to bounce from guitar to the tribal drums while keeping the backup vocals strong was nothing short of amazing.

Bowie - Transcending Maya, John Henry's May 13, 2011

I also loved the stage effects which included swirling lava lights – it felt like the stage was almost too small for them.  Bowie, as front man, is almost more a conductor, especially on their closing song which I think was “Seraphic” (I’m still waiting on that set list by the way).  Not that he isn’t amazing in his own right, but you could literally see him stirring the dark chaos energy like a magician, bringing everything to a climax of light that was almost orgasmic.

Everyone who loves Incubus needs to listen to their online song clips and then contact your favorite club venue and ask to have these guys play – seriously.  It was a great show – four stars and our vote for the night!

Set List: Grid, Erosion, Entitlement, Seraphic Reality

Second Up – Gladhander

Gladhander, John Henry's May 13, 2011

I got to talk with front man/guitarist Mitchell Chamberlain before the show, and asked him straight up why they were here, considering their have already had quite a bit of local exposure (including airplay on NRQ’s Native Noise), a professionally-produced video (“Tooly”) and one studio album already released.  Mitchell told me they are no longer with the previous label, so they are looking for opportunities to get their music out there and make their name (and music) more widely known.  He added, “mostly, we’re here to have fun!”  They definitely delivered on that.  =)

I also did some sampling of the songs posted online for this band, and was especially looking forward to hearing a live performance of “Tooly.” I was disappointed that they did not perform that song but you can find it here:

Mitchell Chamberlain - Gladhander, John Henry's May 13, 2011

At a minimalistic three members, this band kept the energy high with solid musicianship throughout the set.  Mitchell’s lead guitar wails, while David Ghelfi (their most recent – and as he states “LAST,” bassist) kicks a$$ on bass guitar – his hands literally fly.  Kasey Waite on drums pounded a continuous and wicked foundation.  We were bludgeoned – heads were banging sans a mosh pit – perhaps because their weren’t enough people on the floor?  There just weren’t that many people attending the show actually, which was a shame.  You all seriously missed out!

David Ghelfi - Gladhander John Henry's May 13, 2011

I would have liked to see more contact of the band with the audience, but it was nice to see TM’s Bowie and Craig out on the floor, setting up their own mini mosh on the second song, “Bad Things.”  A really tight band, they were complete locked into each other and spot-on with timing and performance.  Unfortunately, what was really missing from their songs was more variety – the set started to sound like repeated performances of the same 3 minute song.  They were good, but not amazing.  By the fourth song (“Brothers”) (see their complete set list is at the end of this review) there was hardly anyone on the floor at all.

Mitchell’s guitar work was amazing, running from a solid foundational rhythm to crying lead riffs, but his vocals tend to growl (as photograph Jeanice Marvel mentioned) without a lot of enthusiasm, at least in this particular live performance.  They did end the set with an excellent performance of “Before,” with hard-hitting instrumentals and Mitchell on roaring vocals.  A well-presented set in total – 3 1/2 stars.

(Set List:  Come On, Bad Things, My Way, Brothers, Escape, Back to BT, Alison’s Gunbelts, Taking My Soul, Make Me Scream, Let Me Know, Before)

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