The Down House
Aug. 27, 2014
Most activities at equivalent decibels, like using a power saw or a pneumatic riveter.
Here’s a short and approximate list of reasons you would be forgiven for describing Philadelphia’s Creepoid
as a stoner-rock and/or stoner-metal band: the huge, bright green, slowly flickering marijuana leaf on the kick drum; the ropy strands of feedback not so much overlaid on their set last night at the Hemlock as hydroponically grown into it; the lead guitarist’s habit of dreamily caressing his whammy bar and the appealingly queasy pitch-blend that came with it; the rhythm guitarist who’s pretty much just a wall of hair; the song called “Blurry Slumber”; the fact that one of the tags on their Bandcamp page is simply “weed.”
And yet! I bring this up by way of wondering why this classification hadn’t really occurred to me before last night. At one point mid-set, bassist and singer Anna Troxell explained that someone had once told the band they were “secretly heavy” (this disclosed in response to an audience comment about drummer Pat Troxell’s Eyehategod
hat, so I guess add that one to the preceding paragraph). But if Creepoid turns out to skew heavy — and they genuinely are much of the time, for example closing last night with roughly seven minutes of old-fashioned stomp-und-drang, culminating in Troxell bursting through his drum kit and storming off the stage and out of the room — there’s also something unusually human and user-friendly about their snarl and bluster.
On last year’s self-titled LP, say, or this April’s Wet
EP, the snarl and the bluster and the sludge (the sludge!) are dialed back to the point where they seem fundamentally well-meaning; singer Sean Miller’s vocal lines are practically choral, all the more so with Anna’s accompaniment or counterpoint; all told the whole package sounds less like Kyuss than like, say, Black Mountain
(who, to be fair, do have a song called “Druganaut,” but you may have heard it most recently in a J.C. Penney Father’s Day commercial
). In person it’s not harsh or antagonistic, really, just more muscular, less approachable. Not a complaint.
Which brings us to Creative Adult
, the recent darlings of the North Bay post-punk/hardcore scene who obliterated the tiny room with a litany of badgering, declamatory herky-jerky rhythm under a thick slather of distortion. Even the most strident parts of last October’s Psychic Mess
felt like shallow preparation for the aggregated intensity and, well, mess of the set: the lack of audible space between instruments, let alone between songs, funneled the screaming of five separate instruments (of which singer Scott Philips’s vocals were arguably the gentlest, not that that’s saying a ton) into an undifferentiated mass that was somehow more powerful for it.
Each Adult played his part with enormous energy, but it was a trancelike, slack—jawed, head-hung kind of energy. Philips, barefoot, spent most of the set writhing and pacing under a single beam of blue, the only lighting from above; occasionally the light would change to red or green, and the tableau would shift from a sort of brutal martyrdom to the menacing vibe of a grainy underground terrorist video. The experience, on the whole, resonated somewhere between those extremes with equal fervor. Philips did tell us at the end that he loved us.
Before that was a tastefully concise set from The Down House
, a five-person Santa Rosa band that play bludgeoning, shoegaze-like noise, reaching the occasional peak of mealymouthed transcendence. It was muddy and lacking in definition, sounding mostly like the over-amplified sirens of vehicles passing by on their hasty way to the rock hospital, but, judging by the number of times bassist Ross Farrar (also of Rohnert Park hardcore band Ceremony
) asked for more reverb and delay during soundcheck, this was all according to plan. Even drummer Chloe Connaughton’s countoffs echoed.
Opening were Oakland quartet Mall Walk
, whose name conjures a tour through a shopping center whose stores are primarily other Bay Area bands. On the surface there’s not too much to their mannered, agreeably brittle concoction of rumbling desert mist and surf shuffle, but now and then the simplicity gives way to moments of greater complexity, most often in the form of elegant squalls that appear to be spearheaded by the member whose penchant for hitting his microphone stand with the most reverberant parts of his guitar suggests he’s the group’s “noise guy,” whose influence will win out by around the third or fourth album. May they stick around that long.
What was new about any of these bands? What would set this apart from an evening in a small room like the Hemlock Tavern in, say, 1995? Is this what it’s like to realize you’re getting old?