By Jonathan Smith
NEBULA with THE ENTRANCE BAND, SKULL, and EAGLEFIGHT @ THE CASBAH, August 19, 2009
It was a hot and humid night in Hamilton on August 19th when local venue “The Casbah” hosted Los Angeles-based psychedelic band Nebula along with a slew of guests. Arriving at nine, I was greeted with a more or less vacant venue that wasn’t quite prepared to accept anyone at that point. After a surprisingly long quest to find a decent take-out cup of coffee in the area, I returned to find that while the doors were open, the floor was still deserted. Taking my position as “the writer” at the bar with cardboard coffee cup, notebook, and pencil at my side, I settled in for the opening performance.
Eaglefight are a local four-piece band who unfortunately ended up playing to about as many people as were standing on stage. Featuring clean male vocals and a fuzzy, “fat” distortion blasting from their amps, the quartet have a sound that’s rooted in a more eighties ‘rock-and-roll metal’ feel. It’s heavy without being overly thrashy, a mid-tempo sound that wouldn’t be out of place on that dusty mixed cassette you found under your car’s front seat a few summers ago. Despite the fact that they seemed to be playing only to crew, bar staff, and one stoic reviewer, the band maintained a good sense of humor and energy as they made their way through their set list. After blasting out a few songs, the band paused for a moment to revel in the fact that by that point, the audience had grown to “like seven people now! Yeah!” When Eaglefight’s set ended, the humidity engulfing the venue ensured that any afterglow occurred outside.
Next up was a second local outfit, Skull. It was my second time seeing the band live, and they did not disappoint. They crashed their way through a three-song set composed of their trademark long, droning doom sound complete with its incomprehensibly guttural lyrics and dirty power chords. Vocalist Chris Logan appeared (understandably) listless and over-heated in-between songs, but this didn’t stop him from delivering a strong vocal performance. In fact, the sheer temperature on and off the stage only emphasized the band’s music as a potential soundtrack to a hot and sweaty apocalypse featuring a sun-blasted landscape. Possibly on purpose, Skull’s set was well-matched by a playing of George Romero’s “Day of the Dead” on the television over the bar. With the band’s final chords fading into a sustained hum, it was time once again to take it outside.
The Entrance Band are a psychedelic group from Los Angeles, and with the trio’s combined collection of long locks and their mixture of metal and electric “hippie” aesthetics, they look the part. In some ways a major shifting of gears from the previous act, their sound was a mixture of heavier music with a jam band’s more drawn-out and improvisational feel. Having just recently heard some of their more ambient soundtrack work on Canadian performer Melissa Auf der Maur’s upcoming “Out Of Our Minds” multimedia project, it was a treat to see the band in the flesh. A little movement here and there on stage kept things from getting too laid back, and vocalist/guitarist Guy Blakeslee’s position on the side of the stage ensured that he wasn’t the only focus during the performance. A bass solo interlude from Paz Lenchantin and strong time-keeping from drummer Derek James helped highlight the band as a whole.
Finally, well into the evening, Nebula took to the stage. By this time things had begun to cool down on the floor despite the fact that the crowd had actually thickened to a good turnout for the late hour on a Wednesday night. The band was set against a bright backing light placed on the stage and played amidst a good amount of swirling fog. While still fairly “psychedelic” in both appearance and sound, Nebula brought a rougher and more road rock edge to their live performance than their more ambient fellow Californians. The songs were shorter, and at times sounded almost as though they were about to veer into more groovy, rock-radio friendly territory. It was a necessary shot of adrenaline after a fairly long and sweaty night, and the band ensured they kept things moving. Vocalist and guitarist Eddie Glass repeatedly thanked the crowd for sticking around for the band, and a late-set drum solo from Rob Oswald (who was frequently barely visible through the fog) was a welcome surprise. It was one of the last moments to be added to the long list of musical variety that the whole night showcased from start to finish.