In the Crowd: Bullet Train To Vegas
In The Crowd#15/Bullet Train to Vegas - Tokyo Sex Destruction
Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center - St. Louis
Wed February 11, 2004
The lovely Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center was to host yet another varied bill tonight. For those individuals who have not had the opportunity to embrace the wholly underground atmosphere that is the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center, let me digress a bit. It is essentially the first floor of a two-flat (an old store front) in a mostly residential neighborhood of St. Louis. There are a couple bars here and there close by, one every block or so, but it's mostly residential; and in close proximity to a large, open park and the old Lemp Brewery and Lemp family mansion, which is famed for being haunted. The Lemp family was one of the first brewers in St. Louis (before Annheuser anything), and a string of suicides in the family that occurred in the family manion are legendary around St. Louis. Recently, the Lemp Brewery has started back up production (see more here), brewing a lager that is supposedly reminiscent of the Lemp Brewing Co's beer of olde.
Wow, I really digressed. Anyway, the Lemp Arts Center is basically an old store front that has a bunch of broken couches and chairs where bands of all sorts can play (on the floor) right in front of the audience. All shows are all ages, there is no bar, no food, just bottled water for $1 a bottle. The neighbors sometimes complain, but usually only about where visitors park.
I can only hope my $6 was set aside specifically to aid the purchase of a new PA for the Lemp Arts Center. Every time I've been there, the PA has been this dulled, inaudible wreck of a thing. Fortunately, for what the place loses in vocal amplification it makes WAY up for in ambience/instrument sound. The PA is, by textbook definition, a PA; but you'd think they were using paper cups with the bottoms torn out as megaphones for amplification. No mics to put on instruments, no sound checks. The bands just set up their instruments and play like they were practicing at home. Only the vocals are run through the Lemp's PA. Anyway, aside from that one tiny gripe, the overall vibe of the place is astounding. The energy that comes from bands playing on the floor right in front of you just cannot be surpassed. Every band of the night had a great crowd, and Bullet Train mentioned it was the best show of their tour thus far.
Anyway, on to the show. Riddle of Steel ended up playing first, but there was a really good crowd- especially for 7:30pm. This 3-piece on Ascetic Records play a really interesting variety of rock-twinged material, ranging from all-out metallic punk-edged tunes to more introspective lilting passages; but they always keep the songs interesting and moving, never falling into cliches and tired territory. Andrew Elstner (guitar/vox) has a very distinct guitar tone, often laden with delays that cascade over each other, creating a barrage of sound through which his very powerful voice cuts some instantly memorable melody lines. Jimmy Vavak (bass/vox) has an amazing knack for arranging his bass lines as a totally separate entity in comparison to what else is going on, truly adding a lot to the music. And Dave Turncrantz (drums) always throws in plenty of twists to keep things really interesting and vibrant. The band delivered another killer set, comprised largely of songs from their fantastic record Python and a few new tunes- one of which ("Our Guitars Are Haunted") I believe is slated to appear on the next Ascetic Records sampler called Socomtonar II (ed: the song will be on a limited edition 7" split with Chicago's Dakota/Dakota on Forge Again Records). Even with the aforementioned PA issues, it's hard for a band to take any sort of trials too much to heart with a really energetic, responsive crowd on the floor right in front of you. Especially when your tunes are being danced to with some really wacked-out combination of phattt James Brown shuffles, Irish clod-hopping Riverdance steps, and frantic punk-tapdance duels that sometimes turned comically ugly (provided for all our entertainment by a couple local doodz- at least one of whom may have been from local band Target Market- watch for them).
The Texas Chainsaw Mass Choir, another relatively local St. Louis band (from Columbia, MO, home of the University of Missouri), was up next. They seemed to be a Lemp Arts Center favorite, and they certainly brought a LOT of friends/fans to the show. A rather young band (probably mostly late teens, early 20s), they played a type of hardcore laden with noisy Fender guitars lined through buzzing Marshall amps with pseudo-screamed, over the top vocals from a guy (I can't seem to find any info on them online, sorry to the band) who was all too eager to jump off the drumkit and writhe around semi-uncontrollably. A pretty entertaining band, but this being the first time I had heard them, it was a bit difficult to pick out exactly what was going on musically. They'll certainly warrant another look, and will likely have some things happening for them soon considering the response they got.
Bullet Train to Vegas, from California, played next, holding a backline of more palatable proportions, including a Gibson 'The Paul' through a Marshall JCM900, a Fender Tele through a Mesa Dual Rectifier, and a nice Fender bass through a hefty Ampeg rig. These guys originate from such bands as Adamantium, Give Until Gone, and Collateral Damage, and have a minicd called Profile This on Letterbomb Recordings (which I must say is quite good). Their sound had a pretty vast range, including some elements of post-hardcore/screamo (a la At the Drive-In), some speedy rock stuff (Cosmic Psychos), and even a couple huge, plodding riffage sections (I heard hints of Isis, but I'm crazy). Really well-written songs, and their sound makeup (the instruments mentioned) made it a lot easier to gather what was happening for a first-time listener like me than, say, it was with the previous band (TCMC). Very tightly played, and some really good material- plenty of energy and good riffs. The two songs from the new 7" they were pushing sounded very interesting; a bit speedier overall, and with more interesting parts than some other songs. Definitely worth a listen.
Tokyo Sex Destruction, from Spain, played last, taking the spotlight in their uniform black t-shirts with a simple white monkey and the phrase "Music Is Revolution", and got a fantastic response. They essentially play a punk/rocked-out version of late 60's mutton-chop wearing rock n' soul. A single Gibson SG guitar, Fender bass, drums, vocals, and a ton of handclapping. They were really great at getting the audience into the music; at first, many people seemed a bit hesitant, but after the breakdown in one song where the guitarist put aside his instrument to do some rapid fire vocal lines between him and the lead vocalist (and to lead the audience in some handclapping to get them more into the music), eventually picking back up his gutiar to finish out the song at a high-energy level, everybody seemed hooked. The music itself was not overly extravagant: lots of blues-based rock riffs at some energetic levels, nothing too overly musically theoretic. But it worked well. The vocalist writhed a bit and got into his role as the leader of a soul-based rock group (sometimes to the point of being humorous, if only to me), but everyone seemed into it. Not totally my cup of tea, but to each his own.
Another great show at the Lemp Arts Center. Plenty of young energy there, and it should definitely be a place for touring bands to check out when coming through. They have shows practically every day; you might want to ensure a local band to do some flyering for you and to help ensure a draw, but it's most definitely a place that should not be overlooked.
Note: Images borrowed from Bullet Train to Vegas' website, as they were the most pertinent (although they are from a previous tour stop at the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center).
- Eric Burnley | 2004-02-23
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