I love shows in Frederick. I can roll out after my kid goes to bed and still get there in time for most of the bands, no guilt, no hassle, no long drive in traffic (not to mention Sheetz snacks after the show!). Case in point, on Saturday I caught a show at Cafe 611 that I probably wouldn't have been able to get to anywhere else.
One of my friends had been talking up local band Flag of the White Rose for some time, but I hadn't managed to see them. (Last time I tried, when I took my kid to a show called Face-Melting Friday at Sidebar, she got tired and we had to go home before they came on.) This time, S and I got to Cafe 611 in time for their last 4-5 songs - we came in to see a tall woman with a four or five inch mohawk stomping about the stage, belting out vocals while the guitars and drums galloped and thundered. I thought I had seen them described as melodic, but they actually had more of a heavy metal sound, with several galloping Iron Maiden moments. Kerri's vocals were powerful, with an old school vibe, and they were very refreshing compared to the simpering singing style (usually with insipid lyrics) that's popular now (I've been spending too much time lately in coffeeshops where bland pop is blasted so loud I'd have to destroy my ears to drown it out with good music on my headphones). Anyway, Flag of the White Rose covered a Judas Priest song, "Heading Out to the Highway," and it was quite obvious that Kerri follows in Halford's footsteps, with her brash, high-pitched vocals. (Someone knowledgeable about the band later confirmed that Halford is Kerri's biggest influence.) I enjoyed the Halford-style clean vocals, but their set did also have some moments of punkish shrieking that made my ears cringe. Kerri's look was also quite punk with the mohawk, a tight leather outfit, multiple metal-covered belts, and high boots draped in more metal. (Overall, I saw more mohawks in one place that night than at any other metal show.) The bassist was also dressed up with a police cap and studded belt, with the rest of the band appropriately, though less flamboyantly, dressed in black and bands shirts. I liked their look, and their overall stage presence was very energetic and cohesive. I was surprised to hear they've only been playing for a few months; they look and sound very together.
Later on, we met and talked with Kerri, and she was actually very jovial and friendly.
After Flag of the White Rose was another local band, Serpent Witch. I saw them, for a few songs, at Face Melting Friday, where I was not too impressed with them - slow and with a stonerish vibe, which is one of the few metal genres I can't seem to get into. Indeed, they started out their set with a slow doomy vibe. They sounded much better and clearer than at Sidebar, but S and I both thought they should have a thicker, heavier sound to enhance the doom atmosphere. The (small, female) singer's vocals were also very strong and clear, rather strident for a doom band, and she was moving about vigorously. As the set went on, though, they picked up the pace and the doom vibe lessened until they were playing something more like heavy metal. S compared them to Pentagram - read his review for his full analysis of which old school bands each band sounded like. By the end of the set, I was actually enjoying their music since the whole band seemed to have picked up on the energy of the singer. Also, they had an old guy drummer whose delicate movements in the slower segments were amusing to watch.
The headliner was a band I had never heard of, Stitched Up Heart. As were all the bands in the venue that night, they were hanging out with the crowd in the back bar room, which was open this time (the front bar was closed). Unlike the other bands, they were attempting to smear everyone with the black face paint that they had daubed all over themselves. From their look - streaks of black paint, mohawks both stiffened and floppy, (old school) Hot Topic-esque outfits - I guessed they were going to play some sort of angsty music for teens. The drummer telling us about his adventures with Butcher Babies (and the fact he was wearing a Butcher Babies t-shirt) made me further uncertain about how much I would enjoy their set.
But they were actually a lot of fun. Perhaps not the way a band that courts darkness wants to be described, but that was my overwhelming impression: fun. They were catchy and dynamic, with perfect delivery and stage presence - lots of jumping and dramatic guitar swinging. At the start of the set, the bassist (and perhaps also the guitarist?) somehow flung baby powder into the air, maybe from his hair, which created a cool effect, like he was emanating smoke, though the smell lingered for a bit. The band's sound was heavy with an insistent beat - suitable for dancing or headbanging - but not very audible guitar, save for a few solos and bridges. S critiqued the guitar; personally, I thought it was passable, especially since it was obviously not a prominent part of their sound. They turned out to basically be screamo but with bearable vocals - clear soulful pop vocals with occasional harsh screams, and not an overload of whininess. When she addressed the audience, the singer used a sing-song, mechanical, doll-like voice as did the singer of One-Eyed Doll when we saw them. They played a somewhat short set, and at the end, the singer sprinted to bathroom while the rest of band hid behind their merch table as the crowd chanted "encore!" There was no encore, however; that was the end of the show.
I was very glad I went. I finally got to hear (and be impressed with) Flag of the White Rose, I improved my opinion of Serpent Witch, and had a great time during Stitched Up Heart's highly energetic set. I can't say I've become a converted fan of any except the first band, but at least it was fun.
Next show: Tomorrow! Primitivity. Playing Megadeth on four cellos.