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They can't all be winners: Neon Reverb, Sept. 15

The Witch Was Right (photo by Max Plenke)
The Witch Was Right (photo by Max Plenke)

Saturday night was a little disappointing, especially if you chose to patronize Tequila Azul and Bunkhouse instead of Beauty Bar or The Joint, and especially especially if you don’t like teen pop punk or industrial metal.

Azul opened its Neon Reverb showcase with Acton Town, a local three-piece whose age added together couldn’t have been over 60. They had the problem, if you want to call it that, that most fresh bands have: They have no idea what the hell the want to be. Some songs sounded like Green Day, others like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, others like The White Stripes, all suggesting singer Cromm Fallon wishes he were from Liverpool. All of it felt unrehearsed and nervous, missing cues and falling behind. We could blame that on shortage of practice. Or how cruddy the sound was back there, monitors clicking and peaking, leaving Acton Town aurally in the lurch.

We arrived at the Bunkhouse in time for A Sinner’s Confession, an obnoxious but high-spirited screamer metal band with some Deftones stuff going on, albeit sort of muddled and convoluted without nearly as much creative ingenuity. But looking out on the audience, that didn’t matter. They danced. The slammed. They growled. They were, per headcount, one of the most supportive groups of the weekend. And they only got more supportive as their numbers rose for The Witch Was Right, a creepy industrial band fronted by Suffer Well/Imperative Reaction/Combichrist’s Trevor Friedrich — which is probably why, days after the band’s debut show this month, it’s already on tour with Black Lights Burn, the Wes Borland (Limp Bizkit)-fronted headliner. Regardless of how you feel about industrial music, and guys in eyeliner, The Witch Was Right’s set was beautiful. Heavy attention to production, immaculately timed samples, demented inter-group stage interaction. Exactly the place you should’ve been for industrial music last night.

We skipped back over to Tequila Azul to see Silverlake, L.A.’s United Ghosts, a Neon Reverb return, play for what may’ve been 20 people. And maybe it was just because of the contrast to the hyper-crunch of Bunkhouse’s bands, but the super-echoey, cerebral indie rock was a breath of British-sounding air, but also weirdly reminiscent of the 1990s, like something you’d listen to if your The Verve album had cracked. It was a bit of an eyelid-dropper. Not because of boredom, but because it was 1 a.m., toward the end of Neon Reverb. Maybe we wouldn’t pick United Ghosts to get revved up for a boxing match. But definitely for sleep and a drive along the ocean.

We probably could’ve ended the night there. But we went over to Bunkhouse to catch the aforementioned Black Lights Burn. Because really, we wanted to see what Wes Borland was doing, if not doing it for the nookie. And the project’s actually pretty cool. But it leans bizarrely into Korn territory, with that nu-metal, Fieldy Arvizu-thwacking bass and more boom-clack punk drums than rap-influenced rhythms. Also, it wears suits. But its biggest shortcoming is its famous frontman. For one, Borland just isn’t much of a singer, sounding like Johnny Depp’s Hunter S. Thompson doing an impression of Heath Ledger’s Joker. He has the lung capacity of an asthmatic 'tween, not finishing words to take breaths. And he was, well, kind of a dick. After asking the crowd what they wanted to hear, he scoffed and said, “I’m so glad no one said the song we’re gonna play.” It was at this point in the show we phased out and instead wrote a haiku. And it went like this:

Nookie’s all gone now

Dressed up with no place to go

Just one of those days.