So, three Berklee College of Music graduates, a jam-metal power trio, a violinist and a cellist all walk into a bar, right? And then – well, I don’t have a punch line because this isn’t exactly a joke. The previous setup was a real event that went down last Tuesday at Velvet Jones when bands Abandend, Waking Thoughts and VAST came out for some mid-week rocking. Unfortunately, their performances fell on a day that exists in a sort of entertainment doldrums as far as downtown SB is concerned, which turned what could have been a pretty kick-ass show into a much more routine affair.
Despite the less-than-capacity crowd, it would be unfair to say that the bands lacked enthusiasm, at least initially. Abanded opened the show; saying that their group dynamic is unique might be a bit of an understatement. It consists of three MCs who met each other at the prestigious Berklee College backed up by a drummer and electric guitarist. DC raps every few breaks or so, Danny Williams and Q alternate playing the keyboards and they all sing. This show was their first west coast performance, which seemed like it gave them a boost of energy.
Their sound has a pleasing, eclectic power. It ranges from gritty, Rage Against the Machine-inspired rock to a neo-soul mix of rhythm and bounding beats in the same realm as Mos Def or The Roots. They dub this sonic mixture “Urban Rock/Alternative Soul” and it worked surprisingly well, except for some rhythm confusion by their guitarist and a couple of galactic keyboard solos that felt a bit cheesy. Overall, they played a very well-rounded show that would have really got everyone going on a Friday night – they just played the wrong day.
Enjoyable as their style is, it might not be so hard to believe that Abandend turned out to be the best act of the three even though they were billed as the openers. Local band Waking Thoughts relied on sheer amplitude to get through their set. Their guitarist used several delay pedals to create some impressive solos, but they played without vocals and their wall of sound lacked substance.
VAST, the headliners, proved to be the least interesting act of the night. This might have been due to a lack of motivation due to the scant crowd. Lead singer Jon Crosby mentioned his displeasure with little subtlety when he said, “I think everybody in the crowd found about this show through us … kind of interesting.” That sentiment created a sour mood from the get-go that sweetened only when their guest violinist got to shred a bit on songs later in their set. They ended an otherwise good show with a disinterested performance that could have been vastly improved. Hey, I got a punch line in there – ha, I kill me!