Before we get rolling I’d be remiss if I didn’t use this opportunity to thank The Ultimate Warrior. I don’t know if this comes through or not in my writing/to those who don’t know me personally, but why I put such a high price on live performance comes from my love of pro wrestling…
These entertainers are THE BEST LIVE PERFORMERS, IN ANY MEDIUM, OF ANY ART.
They know that everything done on stage has a meaning, a purpose to connect with the crowd and receive the reaction that the performer wants. The Ultimate Warrior, as a character, made me believe anything is possible and is part of the reason that I believe so strongly in the power of performance. Thank you for making me a believer!
BUT FIRST…some full disclosure…(First thing, Devin from Y-Axes is a regular at A Balanced Breakfast which meets in SF every Thursday morning at 8 am and in Oakland every Friday morning at the same time. Anyone interested in seeing what Balanced Breakfast is about you are more then encouraged to come, We are really trying to get the music scene together. Second, I asked KiWi TiMe if it was cool if I reviewed the show, and they were kind enough to put me on the guest list. A big Thanks to them for the hook-up, but know that I will do my damnedest for YOU, the reader, to not let this influence my reviews of the performances that I witnessed. Ok!)
This Evening’s openers…The Y-Axes
The Y-axes want to let you know they “are not the future of pop music, they are pop music from the future” (I love that line)
The show was scheduled for 9, which usually means 9:15, but turned to 9:45 with a late sound check being rushed because a sound person for the venue no showed and B&M had to call in someone who had the day off…yadda yadda yadda.
I didn’t mind waiting around for the show to start, but I mention this to let you know the smell of “technical difficulties” were in the air. Sometimes the stage gods have their way of messing with an opening act. Testing their will through misfortune. The positive side being “how do we, the band, rise to the occasion in tackling these problems?” When the crap hits the fan, how do you respond to a broken guitar string/pedals not working/stepping on a phone and crushing it on the first song, and NOT lose the crowd?
(If you can get over these hurdles with a smile and no anger, take it with a grain of salt and keep people intrigued you are comfortable in your setting of the stage.)
The Y-Axes handle these problems very well. (The second song in Devin, the guitarist, broke his string, ended up switching to his back up guitar in the middle of the song while not missing a beat and the band kept the song going a-ccapella! BRAVO Y-Axes!!!
The first 2 songs of the set had the band looking a little bit like a deer in the headlights.(crazily enough on this evening, it took EACH band a few songs to get into the swing of things) I’ve seen these fine folks play before and the energy I’m used to, at first, wasn’t quite there. (Again, who could blame them? If you’ve ever played in a band you’ve dealt with these things and know the feeling” BUT fear not, because by the 3rd song in, things clicked and the band started firing with all the space-pop power that they possess…. Well mostly all space pop-power…
…On stage the vocalist does a good job working the crowd with a voice will inevitability draw comparison to Paramore. The guitarist absolutely shreds with finger tappy skills reminiscent of Minus the Bear/At The Drive In, and the two have a great chemistry together. The drummer was incredibly solid, playing good dance beats through the entire set keeping legs moving.
Maybe its how the band was arranged on stage, maybe its because there is still some new blood in the band (having added a new bassist/keyboardist only a month or so ago), or maybe just maybe the start of the night slightly got under their skin, but you could feel a bit of hesitation to really let loose from one half of the stage. This isn’t bad. The two new additions did a great job musically. Especially for only being in a band for that short of time, you’d never HEAR anything was off. However, as far a performing goes, I could see the potential once the familiarity and comfort was there and it made me just want to pull a “Water Boy” moment and yell “YOU CAN DO IT!”
I love the Y-Axes and having seen them before I know we didn’t get the full experience on this evening. This just means I’ll have to go see them again in the future when the comedy god of follies doesn’t struck them down.
Keeping that in mind here come the ratings…
First we have the Rocket Fuel Rating based on how well things were firing…I’ll give them 83% fuel efficiency
Next up is the Dancing Shoes rating. I give The Y-Axes 4 out of 5 comfy moon boots for dancing around in…
and finally, I give the Y-Axes an honorable Cookie Monster Award because sometimes when you play live thats the way the cookie crumbles.
Dangermaker got right to business in an almost abrupt way. This four piece ain’t much for making wise quips and banter with the crowd, but not every band needs that. Dangermaker doesn’t and I didn’t feel like they needed to. The sound is familiar but not comparable to anything. They do a great job of balancing on the tightrope between power anthems meant for arenas in the 80s and poppy rock. Like I said, it sounds familiar but you cannot quite place it, and that is a GREAT thing for this band. It lets you get in to the songs easily. That and the fact that they had their act DOWN!
Dangermaker had a little bit of everything. The keyboardist went from playing simple melodies on the keys to complex syncopated playing and you’d never know if you weren’t looking. He also pulled double duty and pulled out a violin for a song or two and was moving around feeling the music. The guitarist/singer had a good voice and let his guitar blend in with everything else being played. So much so that you almost forget the guitar was there it was so well placed…until towards the end of the set when from out of nowhere he ABSOLUTELY KILLS A SWEET ASS GUITAR SOLO that made you stand back and say oh wow, this guy knows what he’s doing!
The Drummer, was maybe my favorite part of the evening. He played with passion and fire that was highlighted by the red LEDs the band had on stage with them. But here was the best part, if you weren’t paying attention you wouldn’t think anything special was going on other then you knew he felt what he was doing. IF YOU WERE PAYING ATTENTION you’d see this man was keeping time to fast beats while twirling his drumsticks in his hands. Not in an obvious way you’ve all seen cheesy drummers begging for attention do, but in a subtle “I’m doing this because its fun and I can and I doubt people will notice because I’m keeping the beat” way. GREAT JOB…
And then there was the bassist…
I overreached when I said the drummer was my favorite part of the night. Folks if you have never seen Dangermaker play before (it was my first time last night) GO TO SEE THE BASSIST. Sweet sassy molassy this man had IT! He had the moves (all over the stage exploring the space), the style, the grace, he had a fan blowing his hair majestically that fit exactly what the band was going for, and he sang. 10 times over go to watch this man have fun perform!
So off to the ratings…(and on to the TRACK! thank you The Rapture!)
I’m giving this band straight out the gate the always desired “New Britches Award” for knocking my old ones off. Dangermaker know what they are doing, who they are, and how to present it to an audience. Its always refreshing to see a band know what it is they want to get across to an audience and succeed in doing so.
Dangermaker are also getting the “The Bob Ross let me teach you something” award. If you are in a band trying to figure out a good example of a band who has their shit together in a totally package. Music/presentation/performance/ambience go see them and learn something….
….finally I’ll award Dangermaker 10 out of 10 “Ultimate Warrior running clotheslines” because you knocked the photographers literally “on their knees” during their set (aaaaaahhhhh thank you SeanHolmes)
The Main Event..its time… its time…its KiWi TiMe
Kiwi Time are another example of a band who knows the formula that works for them. This four piece band know when to give a song a “false finish” as it were, and bring a song back to life for another round of sing alongs and hand claps. When one of your front persons has a keytar as their weapon of choice, you know its going to be a hit or miss with nothing really in between. Kiwi Time had a hit. Each member had a good presence on stage. The keyboardist switched back and forth between keys and guitar a few times keeping the formula feeling fresh.
The dual vocals between the keytarist and lead guitarist played well together and each had a great enthusiasm. Popping around on stage like fresh kernels of Popcorn and smiles a mile wide, you can tell Kiwi Time are having fun. (This is so important if you want an audience to do the same) I don’t remember names of the songs, but Kiwi Time did a FANTASTIC job of working the song titles into the crowd banter. If the song was called “Killing Me Baby” they’d set it up with something like” We’re having so much fun, thanks to all of you for coming out tonight, but now is not the time to be…Killing Me Baby”. I LOVE IT!
Each song had great hooks, easily picked up on sing along melodies (in fact ALL bands this evening had fun sing alongs), beats to keep you moving (not to mention the drummers secret weapon ala Pavement “did you see the drummers hair?” It was a perfect metronome to follow for dancing), and breakdowns to allow for a build up of handclaps. Yes Kiwi Time had a rhythm to their set that let you pick up on what was going to happen so you could participate if you wanted to, and it was nice to see that the crowd tonight wanted to have some fun….
so lets rate this sucka and go home…
Kiwi Time gets 7.9 out of 9.1 in “Crowd Participation” like I said, ample opportunity to join along and be a part of the show with these performers.
In the“Performance Milkshake Rating” Kiwi Time obviously get 6 kiwis, 5 apples, 4 bananas, 3 oranges, 2 pears, and 1 celery stick to round off the texture/flavor
Finally I give Kiwi time a vaunted “Back to The Future” award. Kiwi Time have taken performance queues of successful bands from yesteryear, dusted them off ,and updated them for present times. It was a real pleasure to be apart of the experience and wish more bands worked the crowd as well as they did!
In closing I would recommend each and every one of these bands to you. If you want power pop from the future go see The Y-Axes. If you’re looking for a professional set, get off your asses and see the pros in Dangermaker. If you want a fun “let me be included” experience go see Kiwi Time!
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