Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Live Review: Kylesa at The Southern, Charlottesville, VA 2011

Kylesa | Fight Amp | Rosetta

The Southern - Charlottesville, VA
January 28, 2011

On the road again...
I recently read that the number one reason fans don't see a band when they're in town is due to not even knowing said band was in town until the show was long gone. I fell victim to this rookie mistake when Kylesa played in Chicago with High On Fire. I was especially pissed because Kylesa released what I consider the best album of 2010.

As luck would have it, I was visiting Audrey while Kylesa was visiting Virginia. She suggested we take the short road trip to see them and after some initial hesitation about the two hour drive, I relented. It was a good decision.

Charlottesville is a quirky little college town that seems like most quirky college towns. A cool "center of town" epicenter with shops and restaurants; with equal parts college students, affluent citizens, and the meth head townies. We grabbed dinner at a nice place and headed to the venue.  I had a cool fanboy moment as I waited in line for the bathroom and Laura Pleasants (singer/guitarist) came up behind me. I told her about my love for the album, missing the show in Chicago and a bunch of other drunken ramblings and she was genuinely appreciative. Audrey claims her appreciation of me didn't have much to do with me being a fan, but I'm going to stick to my belief that as an artist, it's cool to have your talents appreciated.

This show marked the third time I've seen these Southern Rockers and I like them more each time. They're one of those few bands who use double barreled drummers with successful results. They propel every song with their contrasting styles and really use their instruments independently for maximum effect. Speaking of effects... The room was flooded with a swirling light show mimicking the visuals of the Spiral Shadow album cover and we were off to the races. I later found out that The Southern had the distinction of being the lone show on this Canadian/East Coast mini tour to not sell out. Bummer. But the enthusiastic crowd made up for the lack of bodies.

It needs to be pointed out that no matter what city or state you're in there's always some dude in a Pantera shirt trying to start a pit. But it was cool to see the enthusiasm and action right from the opening song.

Kylesa has been touring nonstop for months now, and it was evident in the performance. Not because they were sluggish, but because they played so tight, so driven, and so well. A Swiss watch could only hope to function as well as Kylesa. The band's Prog elements managed to transcend the club's limited sound system and its two singers and guitarists, the aforementioned Laura Pleasants, and Philip Cope, sing and play in opposite tones and styles, drilling hybrid textures into every song. Cope goes monotone with vocals and trebly with his guitar. Pleasants goes dynamic with her vocals and delivers crunchy, reverb filled riffs. It works beautifully well.

The second song "Unknown Awareness" showcased the bands huge "wall of sound" that is an all out assault on the senses. Corey Barhorst (bassist) had two floor toms and a snare on his side, as did Philip Cope - and while Pleasants held down the groove, they drummed along in unison with the two other drummers. Just as you begin to feel your molars come unhinged, they take mercy on you finish the song. The bassist also utilizes a keyboard, but not in some synth filled 80s crapfest. This is subtle, and especially cool between songs when these short effects driven trippy interludes fill the space. Pass the bong.

We were also treated to a five minute drum solo, which is usually a signal for more drinks, but the tribal theme worked well. It's exciting and keeps you engaged in the experience.

My favorite song of the night was Scapegoat, however, the really mind blowing moment of Kylesa's set came when they encored with an awesome version of the vintage Pink Floyd song 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun'... HOLY SHIT! I was floored and then bummed when I remembered the song winds down towards the end and I realized this would be the last song. I prefer encores that leave you devastated, wondering what the fuck just happened. Still, it was an unexpected treat and 100x better than the insanely long, self-indulgent version I suffered through when the Smashing Pumpkins did the same cover a few years ago.

Kylesa (and openers Fight Amp) are the kind of bands that make you want to buy their shirt after the show to lend support. And that's just what I did.  So, no fights...no getting urinated on...no drama. I don't think tomorrow's Death Angel show, or this weekend's Interpol concert will feature many bodily fluids either, so here's hoping for some madness at next week's Motörhead concert.

Hollow Severer
Unknown Awareness
Running Red
Crowded Road
Tired Climb
Distance Closing In
Bottom Line
Descend Within
Don’t Look Back
Said and Done
Drum Jam
Set The Controls For the Heart of The Sun (PINK FLOYD COVER)