Known mostly for the fact that singer-guitarist Dregen was one of the founding members of Sweden's hard-rocking Hellacopters, the Backyard Babies have a new claim to fame. According to a vague report issued by the band's PR firm, one of the members (who wasn't named) was arrested for public fornication (the specific nature of the deed was not disclosed) at a tour stop in New Orleans. Publicity stunts can't make up for the fact that the Backyard Babies, who are just the latest Swedish rock act to hit American shores (but they've got nothing on Meshuggah), aren't really any more innovative than D Generation or other neo-punk/garage rock acts out there.
Tattooed and pierced to the gills, the band played with reckless energy and was loud as hell (a stack of Marshall amps will do that). Sounding a little too much like Social Distortion (especially on "Ghetto You" and "8-Balled"), the band rifled through some 12 songs in the course of an hour, working up a monstrous sweat along the way and getting the audience to do some serious head-bobbing and fist-waving. Bassist Johan Blomquist started every song with his arms upraised and legs spread, but he looked too much like a caricature. Leading the crowd through chants such as "Lemme hear you say "yeah.' Lemme hear you say "fuck yeah.' Lemme hear you say "fuck,'" the Backyard Babies were ultimately as boneheaded as the silly press release that hyped their decadent tour stop in New Orleans.
Openers Quazi Modo are fast gaining a reputation as Cleveland's best garage rock act. The band's brief, 20-minute set didn't exactly give it time to justify the claims, and the fact that you couldn't hear the keyboards didn't help matters. Still, the band -- which was reportedly hurried off the stage by those damn Swedes -- was hitting on all cylinders by the end of its six-song set, rumbling through an appropriately ragged cover of Alice Cooper's "I'm Eighteen." -- Jeff Niesel
If there is one band that should be seen live to be fully appreciated, it's the Aquabats. From the minute the octet took the stage, they engaged their diverse audience and managed to pull off a hard-rocking show while performing the crazy stage antics for which they're known. The lead singer, who calls himself the Bat Commander (mild-mannered Christian Jacobs by day), had the audience jumping, clapping, hooting, gesturing, and pretty much doing whatever he wanted it to do. It was an energetic show on the parts of both the Aquabats and their allegiance of fans, who call themselves "The Super Rad Squad" (taken from the Bats' first commercial single, "Super Rad," one of the favorites of the performance).
The concert was well-received for a good reason -- the band put on a great show. As drummer Gabe "Dr. Rock!" Palmer furiously pounded his kit, guitarists Chad "Crash" McLarson and Courtney "Chainsaw" Pollock built walls of sound. The theatrics were just as impressive -- several times throughout the night, the audience was "saved" by the Bat Commander and his crew of Aquabats from evil monsters and villains. At one point, a giant pink one-eyed beast was beaten into submission by each of the band members. Crash McLarson nearly lost his life in the process, but each time there was a conflict, the Bats prevailed and were thanked with shouts and applause from the crowd.
The Hippos proved to be a worthy opening act. Their rendition of Naked Eyes' '80s hit "Always Something There to Remind Me" was a highlight of the set, and "Lost It" -- the first single from their album, Heads Are Gonna Roll -- also fared well. Locals Par 5 appear to need more practice and learn how to properly mix their sound. After the first two songs, the audience gave up on hearing the lead singer, and the rest of the band played with too much dissonance. A cover of Blink 182's "Dammit" was a crowd-pleaser, but the set dragged on for far too long. Too bad the Aquabats couldn't save their fans from this sort of evil. -- Brad Walsh
Party of Helicopters
The Avenue, Kent
Abracadaver, the Party of Helicopters' first CD, introduced listeners to the band's unique blend of intricate fretwork and full-throttle drumming (executed at decibels that bring to mind Japanese hardcore groups such as Gauze and Lip Cream). Last Wednesday's show at the Avenue suggested that the "party" isn't over, as the Kent-based band took its engaging style of rock and roll deconstruction to new heights.
In the opening number, "Pounding for Vipers," guitarist Jaime Stillman's new fascination with combining traditional heavy metal hooks with his own patented "emo-violence" shredding was apparent. This unusual mixture resulted in catchy hooks with a sense of immediacy. Joe Dennis's guttural vocals resembled early Bjork mixed with the Electric Eels; his body jerked and shook with spastic bravado. Instead of simply pounding out the beats, drummer Jon Finley propelled the band with complex rhythms accentuated by frequent, unexpected rolls, while bassist Ryan Brannon flawlessly executed his complex fingerwork. The set ended with an improvised yet expansive noisefest, over which Dennis made expressive, if unintelligible, sounds.
The Mathletics, also from Kent, took a different but equally enjoyable approach, playing leftist pop in the vein of Wire or Let's Active. Tim Harrison's crisp guitar notes created a melodic clang that complemented Kenny Crookston's throbbing bass progressions. Ben Baigneau's drumming carried the tunes, which took on a go-go feel during "Smitten." The vocals, which were reminiscent of the Promise Ring, worked only part of the time. More often, the Mathletics' driving compositions called for busier vocals instead of the sparse harmonies dispersed by the singer.
Steep's rather eclectic set suffered from the band's lack of stage presence as well as its formulaic song structures (up-tempo melodies almost always devolved into open chords and monotone growls). -- Matt Trahan