After passing by the merchandise table stocked with vegan cookies and DIY ‘zines, the first thing that hits the olfactory receptors is the smell: sweat. Then the noise: loud, disjointed, primal and, at times, pretty damn catchy. It must be Biko.
Last Friday, four bands graced the red shag carpet at the Biko House in Isla Vista: Pillowfight, Concrete Straight Jacket, Disconnect and End on End. The bands ranged from tribal-dance-punk to metal-thrash-punk, filling up most of the light and dark spaces in between.
Pillowfight opened the show with a quick four-song set. The three-piece cello, drum and guitar/keyboard combo maintained a steady level of schizophrenic spunk and energy. Most of the vocals, unfortunately, were inaudible after the drummer’s flailing cast his mic stand well out of arm’s reach. Between the ballistic snare/kick-drum/hi-hat beats, the resonant and screeching cello (the cellist was the only female musician at the show) and the crunchy guitar, Pillowfight effectively engaged the audience in some butt wiggling (which is always impressive for an opening act). True to its name, a pillow fight broke out for the last half of its set, during which giant stuffed teddy bear smacked me in the face and knocked my glasses off.
Concrete Straight Jacket took the stage next, switching gears to a darker, more hardcore punk. The vocalist put lots of lungpower into his performance, but was still lost under the massive guitars. While I typically appreciate music of a more melodic, decipherable design, I was still able to enjoy Concrete Straight Jacket’s solid bass-driven progressions as well as the preciseness of their drummer.
Disconnect was lighter than Concrete Straight Jacket, and appeared to be influenced by the first wave of indie garage rock of the late ’90s. They band played some of its older songs, which sounded somewhere along the lines of At The Drive In or The (International) Noise Conspiracy: complex, layered and with gurgling guitars. And, yes, I was duly pleased with the ass-shaking drum solo towards the end of the set.
The final band, End on End, arrived later than expected due to car trouble; even after 15 quarts of transmission fluid, they worked the crowd well, eliciting response from even the most deadpan of music addicts. The drums were tight and calculated, complimenting the fast, shredding guitarists. End on End put on an impressive punk show, including an attack against the exclusivity of what it means to be an American today.
Technical mastery and professional musicianship aside, I give the best set of the night award to Pillowfight, a new band comprised of Isla Vista natives, who were more raw and less derivative than the other acts.