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Live Review: Horizons and The Bunker at the Phoenix Theater

Posted by: Gabe Meline on Oct 11, 2008 | Comments (5)

I’d fully planned to write about the New Trust Record Release show last week, where instead of playing their own material, the New Trust wrangled a handful of local bands to cover their songs. It was a bold idea which turned out to be one of the most unique and interesting record release shows seen around here in a long time. No surprise, really, since the New Trust is known for bold and unique measures—like, oh, say, stealing their best friend’s bass guitar and then writing a song to apologize about it. No shit.

But one thing led to another. Suffice it to say, everyone I saw was not only fantastic; the whole evening made me realize for the trillionth time how music binds people of seemingly disparate groups together—even a local band like the New Trust, who has obviously had an impact on more than just their own friends. Take, for example, the opening performers, James Ryall and Robert McLean, who everybody was talking about at the end of the night.

With just two songs, “This Invitation Has Meant the World to Me” and “The Body and the Brain,” these unknown dudes showed up in suits and ties and killed it. Throwing out the usual approach, they boiled down the former song to a landscape of sparse guitar riffs, making Robert McLean a shoo-in for second guitarist should the New Trust ever need one again; the latter’s sailing celestial vocals solidified the suspicion that if Josh Staples is ever done off by hit men, James Ryall could easily fill his shoes in the absurdly upper-register requirements for the job of New Trust singer.

Everyone was agog, and rightly so. Who the hell were these guys?

I went to the Phoenix Theater last night to find out. There’s not much that’s more refreshing to me than going to the Phoenix on a night when there’s six new bands playing. Most of my friends are jaded about this stuff, but man, I love it. Brand-new effects pedals just out of their boxes, moms in the crowd filming, awkward announcements about the exact URLs of MySpace pages. New spirit. New sounds. New blood to fuel our future heart.

Horizons headlined this lineup, and even though there were only about 50 or so people still around at 11:30pm, the band repeatedly expressed genuine surprise at the size of the crowd. As such, they played their guts out, even though James’ vocal chords were allegedly shot; he sucked on a plastic-bear bottle of honey between every song to salve his throat, prompting one audience member to quip that he’s “going to be shitting bees tomorrow.”

But his singing was great, and the band occupied this weird area between the Mars Volta and Muse. Parts of songs would flow together for no reasonable purpose, but then by the end, the arrangement would somehow make sense. All three members moved and swayed along to prerecorded electronic beats, or sang off-mic in a tagged-on coda, all the while playing music that could be easily suspected, it must be said, to have been made under the hazy influence of the reef.

The Bunker played in the lobby beforehand, who apparently are good friends with Horizons but have a way different style. Incredibly tight, pensive pop songs played amongst Christmas lights, a dance-club light ball and a fog machine. The singer Spike has that deceptively plain kind of voice reminiscent of John Darnielle, and the drummer Sam—it was his second show—could easily get a side job playing in a jazz combo.

But it was the Bunker’s songs that were the highlight; just really well-written jams from a talented mind. (Sample lyric: “It’s a quick draw, where I drew too fast and far too soon / I’m going crazy, but don’t mind me, ‘cause tonight it’s a full moon.”) Good shit; let’s hope there’s more where they came from.

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Coming Full Circle: a quick jaunt over to the Bunker’s site reveals a cover song: “Holy Wars,” by—you guessed it—the New Trust.

Details: Robert McLean isn’t in Horizons; he actually played in the band In Diana Jones, who broke up. You can download both the In Diana Jones EP and the Horizons EP for free by visiting this site: This Is Our EP.

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