Last night, three of the most talented bands affiliated with Sargent House Records came together for a show at the Troubadour. Adebisi Shank, Tera Melos and Le Butcherettes played to a mostly-packed house of SH fans, many of which were clad in various shades of flannel and/or beards.
Sargent House is a label that prides itself on its eclecticism, and that was no more evident than at this show. Wexford, Ireland’s own Adebisi Shank hit the stage promptly at 8:30 and set the place on fire. Vincent McCreith, Larry Kaye and Michael Roe may have only played a thirty-minute set, but the amount of noise they made in that span more than made up for its abruptness. Strictly an instrumental band, Kaye and McCreith did have microphones with which they talked and cracked jokes between songs (“This is Los Angeles…this is the town Rockabye is about, isn’t it?” McCreith said, referencing the forgotten late 1990s alt/radio hit by Shawn Mullins).
Musically, they were something to see. McCreith wore a thick-looking red wool mask over his face the entire set, which must have been rather uncomfortable, considering how swelteringly hot it was in the Troubadour already. Adebisi Shank bring a certain organized chaos to their live performances; while the music skips around often and its abrasive guitar tones can catch you off guard sometimes, there’s a degree of precision and slickness to the way they play their instruments that makes it impressive. If you think you like experimental rock but haven’t heard or seen Adebisi Shank, you’re missing out. Judging by the big crowd they had as a show opener, it was apparent that a lot of people in the crowd knew about them already, which is a testament to Sargent House’s devoted fan base.
Tera Melos were next in line on the bill, and thanks to a smart stage set up there was only a ten-minute or so break between bands. The noisy Sacramento experimental/math rock band had a longer set than Adebisi Shank, playing for nearly forty-five minutes. While personally, Tera Melos’ brand of challenging experimental math rock music isn’t normally my cup of musical tea, I have to hand it to them. Their songs switch tempos and sounds and tones every fifteen seconds or so, it seems, and yet somehow they’re all on the same page musically. That part is just astounding; I can’t imagine writing music like this, let alone practicing and playing it in concert.
What may sound like chaotic guitar screeches and drum smashing is actually pretty damn intense and impressive. Nick Reinhart, Nathan Latona and John Clardy alternate between slick guitar-tapping, stop-start rhythms, and vocal improvisation in a way that you don’t see often. Their latest full-length album, Patagonian Rats, released last September, is well worth your time; between the challenging time signature changes and spastic guitar licks is an innovative album that demands to be heard. Check them out if you haven’t already.
Last on the bill for the night were Le Butcherettes, a Mexican band whose debut full-length album, Sin Sin Sin, was produced by Omar Rodriguez Lopez of The Mars Volta (and who himself is a member of the Sargent House roster). The album, it should be noted, is one of the better releases of 2011 thus far; its combination of fuzzy garage rock and feisty punk spirit is flat-out irresistible. The band just completed a tour opening for Deftones and Dillinger Escape Plan, a trek that opened a lot of eyes and helped give them a considerable amount of buzz. That buzz brought me to the Troubadour to witness the live show, which was exactly as advertised: completely amazing.
Teri Gender Bender, as she likes to be known, is an absolute dynamite performer. She pranced around the cramped stage with ease; while they were the “headlining” act last night, the drums were pulled over to the middle of the stage, giving the set up a close-knit, intimate feel. Teri slithered onto the stage wearing a blood-covered apron and sparkly red shoes not unlike those worn by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.
The band, rounded out by drummer Gabe Serbian and bassist Jonathan Hischke, smashed the shit out of their instruments all night long; Teri in particular was a beast on her guitar and keyboard, seamlessly transitioning between melodic passages while assailing the crowd with intense, icy stares and support-beam crawling. After mostly staying put for the first two songs or so, she abandoned her shoes and climbed up the support beam to the right of the stage, wedging her feet inside the structure and basically treating it like the monkey bars in a school playground. Onstage, it almost seems as if Teri is having an exorcism during each song; she twitches, scowls, mumbles and screams things in English and Spanish, kicking her feet at the drums. Performers like her are few and far between; she’s a big part of why Le Butcherettes are on their way to carving quite a niche for themselves.
But she’s more than just a flashy spectacle: she can REALLY play. She squeals and screams and sings each song with such fury it’s amazing she can keep up the energy for the entire set. Whereas some female indie rock vocalists such as Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs can be a bit grating over the course of a set because of her cat-like screeching and prancing about, Teri doesn't fall into that category; she dominates the stage with incredibly emotive performing and a total disregard of boundaries that isn't at any point irritating or over-the-top. She hugs people in the front row, climbs up into the rafters, dances around, kicks cymbals with her feet, and gives everything she possibly has into the performance. It slaps you in the face and demands your prompt attention.
After playing most of Sin Sin Sin and presumably some of the Kiss & Kill EP, the set came to an end around 11. Rather than just wave and retreat to the upstairs loft at the Troubadour, Teri saw fit to end the show in a way that sums up her penchant for the zany and memorable: by jumping into the crowd, getting onto her hands and knees and CRAWLING through the sweat and booze-soaked floor all the way out through the lobby to the street. At this point I was fortunate to have watched the set from above in the balcony area, as I had a great view of her antics. The stunned faces in the crowd, shocked that she was crawling about like an animal out onto the street were priceless. It was an amazing way to end a fantastic set. After going outside and seeing fans showering her with attention and applause, it was funny to see her be so humble and react with an “aw shucks, me??” attitude, as if she DIDN’T know that she just won over an entire nightclub with her blazingly intense performance. That was when I realized that Teri is for real; too many times, “super intense” lead singers are moody and brooding, but the earnestness she exuded outside after the show demonstrated that she’s the whole package. If you haven’t yet heard of Le Butcherettes or listened to Sin Sin Sin, you now have no excuse for your ignorance. Get on it.
This was a great night, and an even better showcase for Sargent House Records. They’re home to one of my favorite bands, Rx Bandits, but the talent that comprises the rest of their roster of artists is unrivaled. The three bands that played this show demonstrated that perfectly, and anybody who wasn’t there missed out on quite a night. Stay tuned for big things from Le Butcherettes in 2011, as they’re only going to get more and more popular very quickly.
Enjoy a photo gallery below, even though my camera is ancient. One day I'll take decent concert photos, I promise you...