The door of the downtown club swings open, and the arriving hardcore fan is greeted by a rising mist of fog that starts thin on the ground and transforms into a thick, soupy substance at about eye level. It's freezing outside, but the heat generated by the swarming bodies within the club is of a tropical nature. It's a fitting setting -- so dramatic, so metal -- for what's about to go down.
"All right, new rule. Everyone in the front row here has to stage-dive during this next song. This ain't a poetry reading, you guys. It's a hardcore show!"
Indeed. Every Time I Die singer Keith Buckley didn't lead his band back home for three sold-out gigs inside Mohawk Place to get all sensitive-guy on his fans. Not that doing so would have flown, anyway. It was so hot in the packed club that stripping seemed a viable option, and the crowd assembled before the earth-shattering PA system didn't need much urging to go nuts in the first place.
Throughout ETID's show on Tuesday -- the middle gig of its three consecutive Christmas parties there this week -- crowd-surfing, stage-diving, and a general frenzy that made the assembled seem to pulsate and transform collectively, like some sort of single-minded protean beast, were the order of the evening.
Since dorming in Buffalo in 1998, at the insistence of singer Keith Buckley and his guitarist brother Jordan Buckley, Every Time I Die has grown into a hardcore institution. Watching the band perform, it's easy to understand why. Calling the outfit "tight" doesn't quite do it justice. ETID is a machine moving in lockstep, its riffs falling upon listeners like a particularly aggressive avalanche, while Keith Buckley holds court atop it all like some sort of mad carnival barker suffering from a testosterone imbalance.
In lesser hands, this might all come across as much sound and fury signifying nothing, but ETID knows that a song -- no matter how heavy, how dense and cacophonous -- needs a hook. Bringing in elements of Southern metal and "mathcore" has helped the band trim away the excess common to much hardcore, and emerge with something that shines, that moves lithely precisely because it's fat-free.
This is best exemplified by the band's 2009 effort "New Junk Aesthetic," a record which solidified both the ensemble's streamlined (but not slick) sound, and its audience, which at the Mohawk shows, was comprised of intimidating "straight-edge" dudes, skinny jeans-adorned punkers with emo haircuts, and girls in Dillinger Escape Plan hoodies. All of the above intermingled with vigor in the mosh pit.
One of these lucky folks was pulled onto the stage to handle a high-velocity duet with Keith Buckley during the torrid "The Sweet Life." One got the feeling that, had this guy blown the gig, he might have been tossed into the pit like a Christian to the lions, to be torn limb from limb. But the ETID maniac nailed it, and having done as much, promptly tossed himself into the melee headfirst. This, naturally, urged the assembled to go that much crazier.
That's the key with ETID -- there is no barrier, implied or otherwise, between the band and its fans, who are as much a part of the proceedings as the musicians themselves. It was obvious that the mostly young punters at this 16-and-over show take ETID to their hearts and hold them there as their own band. This was pretty cool to realize.
So, guys, see you next year? Or maybe sooner?
A considerable Feat
Little Feat just can't keep still.
Losing leader, singer, guitarist and general lifeblood-of-the-band Lowell George way back in 1979 didn't stop them. The death last year of drummer Richie Hayward -- a legend, revered as one of the finest and funkiest drummers in the world by musician-peer and fan alike -- didn't make them stop for long either. This music -- an elegant and heady blend of New Orleans funk, with elements of jazz and blues and progressive strains of southern Americana -- seems to demand to be played.
That's what will happen on Saturday, when Little Feat will be chasing away the New Year's Day cobwebs with an 8 p.m. show inside the Bear's Den at the Seneca Niagara Casino.
All of this began some 40 years ago, when Feat formed out of the ashes of the original Mothers of Invention. Lowell George and keyboardist Bill Payne had performed together in a '60s band known as the Factory, before Frank Zappa culled George from that band for his own Mothers. Payne could have made the leap too, but opted out. When George left the Mothers after a brief tenure, he took Zappa's bassist Roy Estrada with him, called Payne, and rounded up stickman Hayward. Little Feat was born.
The band has never made a bad album in the time since, but one of them -- the live document "Waiting For Columbus" -- stands today as one of the towering achievements of genre-bending '70s rock. It's a masterpiece, and both fans and the musicians who have been influenced by it know this in their bones. This point was driven home this past Halloween, when Phish performed its traditional "costume set" -- a Halloween show feature wherein the band surprises those in attendance by covering a revered album note for note, from start to finish. In Las Vegas on All Hallows Eve, Phish tackled the double-LP in its entirety, and as recordings of the show make plain, had one hell of a time doing so.
That may be the ultimate testament to Little Feat's music. It still sounds ahead of its time today. And it's as fun to listen to as it is to play.