Monday, April 25, 2016

Intronaut, Scale the Summit, and North – Skyway Theater – Minneapolis, MN

This show opened with a local band called Red Shift. They’re a fairly young/green band, so they’ve got some stage presence issues (like looking at each other when someone misses a note, and also their stage banter). But on a plus side, the bass player plays with his fingers, instead of a pick – kudos to you and awesome for showing off some natural bass playing skills. The drummer has also got some mad skills. I couldn’t tell if the guitar player had skills because he had pretty bad guitar tone that didn't cut through – this is a regular issue I have with bands. Drop the mids out and it sounds great in your mom’s basement, but doesn’t cut through in a crowd setting. Bummer. The singing wasn't my favorite – there was a lot of singing, an most of it wasn’t confident enough to pull it off successfully. Their yelling vocals were actually really solid, so I was a bigger fan of those parts. The guitarist moved around on the stage, but the bass player didn’t. The music had good timing stops and change ups, which is only going to get better. They’ve got a talent for writing music, but details like the non-confident singing and guitar sound hurts them a little bit.

North was up next. They’re sort of a slow sludgy metal band from Tucson, Arizona. Normally, when I see that many guitar and bass pedals, it means they aren't going to move. Generally. And in this case, it was pretty accurate. The band plays with lots of delay with held out chords to make it sound full, which it did. The sound was massive. Just a little un-interesting to my ears. Really great drumming and quality guitar sound, though. A crusty guitar tone was perfectly suited to this style and there were no pedal mishaps. (8 pedals per player means 8x – times two – the chance something will go wrong.) The bass sound was also super full with a little bit of crunch. Drums sound was actually awesome and I was impressed with his set. I wish everything wasn’t the same speed, but that’s sludge metal for you. Not my style at all. But they are good at it. I’m glad I got to see these guys.

Scale the Summit was the third band. I’ve heard of them, but hadn’t really listened to them. I found it amusing that they were selling guitar tabs (presumably from their own songs) at their merch booth. They took forever to set up – the guitarist had a computer and large rack system which took too long to set up. The drummer had a sample-machine and a large trigger system, which took too long to set up (and then the drums didn't sound great during sound check). The best part was they got frustrated at the sound guys before they even started. My solution? Don't have so much shit and the sound guys will be able to help you. Even before they started, I knew these guys were bitchy and pretentious (I just call it like I see it – you want to write a nice review, start your own stupid blog that no one reads, like I did). Once they started, it was clear these guys were incredible musicians. Like Berklee School of Music incredible. Like practice scales and sweep picking and arpeggios all the time incredible. Even the bass player was top notch and clearly comes from a jazz background. Always right in the pocket and tight with the drummer. But he was sooooo loud it overpowered everything. I tried near the stage and back further in the crowd. The bass was just so loud. They bring their own sound guy which usually means the mix is good, but I think the house sound guy could have made it sound better. The guitarist with the normal guitar (the guitarist with the computer set up had a headstock-less sparkly small guitar that looked like a children’s toy) is the underrated hero of this band. Super solid skills and took him almost no time at all to set up his rig. But the entire band was playing a game of Arpeggio-Hero. So much noodling and no actual songs. It seemed like they played forever, but also the same song. I wish they would have used the pick sometimes, but most of what they played was tapping arpeggios out on the fretboard (look at the photo above, where everyone has both hands on the neck of their instruments). It’s very gracious of them to offer tablature on how to play their songs (yes, that was sarcasm). Clearly, these were four soloists from Berklee School of Music, but for my money, I’d rather see Animals as Leaders, The Contortionist, Born of Osiris, or even Joe Satriani (he's playing in St. Paul, by the way) – at least there’s an actual song. Oddly, the crowd was really into these guys, I guess they like the noodling. Hell, I’ve got a degree in music performance and I rolled my eyes through most of the set.

The best part of Scale the Summit’s set was right after they stopped playing. Someone next to me said "Shit. Those guys played ALL the notes. What's Intronaut going to do." Hahahahaha. Brilliant.

The band I was really there to see was Intronaut. They’re considered a prog metal band out of California. I’ve seen these guys quite a few times and they kill it every time. I’ll be honest, I’ve totally got a man-crush on the bass player, Joe Lester. He plays a fretless five string (left-handed) bass, using his fingers, and everything he does is magical. I was on the left hand side of the stage right in front, so every time he looked at his fingers, he was pretty much in eye-line with me. Like a complete dork, every time he played a walking bass line, I smiled. I got a head nod or two, since he knew I was watching him. I truly believe he’s the best bass player in hard music. Seriously. He’s up there with Robert Trujillo, Steve DiGiorgio, and Stephan Fimmers. Both guitarists do an amazing job of both playing actual songs, but also setting a mood. The group’s last album has steered toward the sing-y side of the spectrum, but it fits them so well that I don’t hate it at all. Last but not least, the drummer doesn't have a non-badass switch. He plays crazy fast during some slow parts and doesn't ruin the feel. He’s ultra-solid and despite playing incredibly intricate drum parts, I can’t ever tell if he loses a beat or gets off course. A true professional. I love seeing these guys play live.

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