Show review: Your Fellow Rebels, Stifling, Cough.
First was Cough, playing their first show. This is kind of a local Richmond supergroup, though naming the members probably won't mean anything to people from anywhere else. I'm gonna do it anyway though: David Cisco plays guitar and Chris Kirby sings. Both of them play guitar and sing in The Setup, and Chris used to play guitar in Light the Fuse and Run. Parker [whose last name I don't know] plays bass--he sings in local drum-machine grind act The Tenth Key. And finally, Joey Arcaro plays drums, something he also does for Sword, another local stoner rock band. In fact, I made a joke immediately after the set that Joey must be the only stoner rock drummer in town, which was heard by everyone in the room and greeted with a chorus of "oooooh"s. Oops. Cough were similar to Sword in some ways, playing slow, swampy stoner rock with a noticeable groove to it, but where Sword seem to take more inspiration from modern bands like Electric Wizard, Cough drew straight from the boogie bands of the 70s with a sound that I feel comfortable calling retro. It was their first show, so they only played three originals, plus a cover of The Melvins' "Night Goat" that Joey was obviously a bit unsure about. Their songs were so long that the set still lasted a half-hour, which I guess is a nice bonus to playing stoner rock. My new band is playing our first show in a month, and if we continue writing at our current pace, we'll be lucky to have 10 minutes of material. Anyway, Cough were incredibly loud, with David playing through two half-stacks and Parker playing through two bass amps hooked together and powering two 8x10 cabinets. As a result of this, Chris's vocals were all but inaudible, especially from where I was standing. Eric is on tour right now, and should be bringing some PA speakers back from a friend's house in Delaware after the tour. This will be good, because the PA at the house right now is not loud enough. Chris was probably not too bothered by his vocals being inaudible, though--he'd had to get quite drunk just to deal with his nerves about singing (something that I've found is far scarier when you don't have a guitar in your hands), and continued drinking like a fish throughout the set, even pulling out a flask and chugging some sort of liquor at one point.
Though Cough were nothing outstanding, I enjoyed their set, and thought it went quite well for a first show. However, the evening went downhill from this point.
Up next were the out-of-town band, Stifling, from somewhere in the Southwestern area of Virginia, which is like a different state from the rest of it. For that matter, so is the part of Virginia immediately outside of DC, which everyone calls NoVa these days. Anyway, Stifling were yet another two-piece band featuring bass and drums with no guitar. This lineup has become so common in recent years that it may actually be losing its gimmicky status in the eyes of some, but if that's the case for others it's not the case for me. I still find it to be an idea with limited potential that requires harder work in order to achieve success. Of course, with all the trouble I've had finding bandmates over the years, I can see an appeal to this sort of lineup, so I can't really begrudge it to anyone. That said, I didn't find Stifling to be, specifically, too good. They had some good riffs at points, especially the rare moments in which they'd play at a more uptempo pace. Most of the time, though, they were grinding out the sort of slow, sludgy riffs that can be done well but quite often are just boring and seem to go nowhere. Stifling's riffs were mostly the latter, and I specifically noticed a lack of songwriting chops. They seemed to not know how to write transitions from one section of a song to another, and would continually break up the flow with repetitive sections that served only to build up to the next section of their song. If I were in the band, I would have wanted all of those parts cut. It would have helped with song length too, as most of the songs they played seemed about two minutes longer than they could justify being. On the whole, I'd say that they are not without potential to be good, but it's the songwriting that needs to improve before this will ever happen, and that's often the hardest thing to change in a band.
Last up were Your Fellow Rebels, a reasonably new local band that are gathering a following rather quickly. I realized as they started playing that I'd seen them once before and forgotten about it. The last time, they'd been too drunk to play their music, but this time they didn't have that problem. The problem they did have was being the third band in a row to be playing slowed-down stoner rock. I heard a lot of people leaving the show later in the night talking about how awesome it was that it had been an all-stoner show, but I personally can't agree with that train of thought. For me stoner rock gets boring after a while. I can't just sit around listening to stoner rock album after stoner rock album; I have to vary it up to keep it interesting, and this show could really have used some variation. That said, Your Fellow Rebels were probably the best band of the night, musically, adding a lot more blues than most bands of that style incorporate, and mixing their stoner-rock sound with sung vocals that helped move things more into the territory of dark, melodic alternative rock.
What sucked was that the fans they'd drawn to the show were drunken, obnoxious idiots. Kids were blowing whistles and spraying silly string everywhere even before they started their set, and by a minute and a half into the first song, someone was crowd-riding, which made no sense in light of the fact that the basement has a 7-foot ceiling with pipes running along it. When I saw one of the crowd-rider kids hanging onto a couple of the pipes above his head, visions of said pipes bursting and flooding the basement immediately popped into my mind. I don't live at Eric's house, but I'm there a lot and everyone who lives there is someone I'd consider a friend, so I am about as territorial with it as the people who do live there. I didn't want to flip out on anyone for being idiots and taking risks with a house that wasn't theirs, and I knew I would if i stayed in the basement, so I went upstairs and sat on the back porch for the rest of Your Fellow Rebels' set. I could hear their music coming up through the floor pretty well, but when you're not in the same room as a band, it's easy to tune them out, which for the most part is what I did. I'd like to see them again, though they played for a bit too long (they did this last time I saw them too), but hopefully next time it will be at a club or some other place I don't care about.