A couple weeks ago, I got to know Danica, the vocalist of Cab Ride Home, through a mutual friend. When she told me that the show at First Break Cafe would be her first show presenting as trans, I was determined to do everything in my power to get out and support her. Never mind that I somehow hadn't listened to Cab Ride Home before (despite having known about them for years) and didn't know any of the other bands on the line-up. The music, while sure to be entertaining, was secondary to supporting a friend and fellow LGBTQ person. Ok, and I was curious to finally find out how Cab Ride Home sounded. (With everything else going on, I didn't have a chance to check them out online before the show.)
Having spent all my babysitting cred on the Within Temptation show earlier in the week, I had to wait till after my kid went to bed to head out to the show, so I missed the first band in the lineup. Luckily, it was kind of a late show, so I did get to see two bands before Cab Ride Home, and actually enjoyed both of them.
Croatoan was playing when I got there. They were dully audible outside the building, and the growing noise reassured me I was on the right track as I headed up some well-lit stairs and down a rather normal-looking carpeted hallway, seeking the elusive First Break Cafe. Once inside I still had to follow the noise past pool tables and the bar until I finally found them playing in the corner of a small carpeted floor, with about ten people standing around in front of them (though a bunch more were listening, I guess, while sitting at the bar or playing pool). They were loud and their sound was surprisingly clear for the sort of venue where the band just sets up in a corner. Pretty soon their fast, thundering sound made me want to push people around, but I felt self-conscious with the small number of people on the floor. No one else was moving much. There was a groovy guitar
solo at some point that was cool.
After they finished, I decided to try to get rid of a persistent stomachache by ordering some food, and ended up with a huge plate of chicken nachos. They were tasty and kind of helped, but I think I was more being gnawed to death by social anxiety than hunger.
I was still sitting at the bar finishing my nachos when Trihexyn started. I was surprised to hear clean vocals wafting up from the floor over a barrage of guitars. The clean vocals had notes of Russell Allen (Symphony X), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) and maybe even a bit of Falconer's singer. Power metal vocals and guitars alternated with growls and jackhammer death metal guitars, even some breakdowns. Early in the set (while I was still at the bar, sadly) they covered Metallica's "Battery." If you ever wondered what "Battery" would sound like with power metal vocals, well, that's what it was. That finally got the crowd moving, though from where I was sitting I wasn't sure if they were just throwing their hair around, or actually pushing each other around. Damn my need for food :( But I did have a chance to see a few songs from the floor. The band had a pretty cool set-up, with a mini light show going on by means of boxes that the guitarists were standing on. If I remember correctly, the vocalist introduced their last song, "All For You" as "a slow one" - it turned out to be the most predominantly rumbling death metal song that they played. There's video of it here if you want to see (well, mainly hear, and get a glimpse of their light show) for yourself.
And then, well after midnight, Cab Ride Home started. I should have been in the front row but I was trying not to completely destroy my ears, so I hung back. (And I didn't want to ruin the sound with earplugs, obviously!) The crowd seemed a bit small, but then again this show was competing with Suffocation/ Kataklysm/ Jungle Rot at Empire the same night. The only thing I knew about Cab Ride Home was "thrash" so I was pleasantly surprised to find their music featured plenty of At The Gates-esque melodic groove as well as
thrash thunder, and sometimes both at once. (I've got to say I headbanged most to the melodic parts.) The song "21 Drops of Rain" had a cool guitar part that was atmospheric but speeded up to death metal pace. The song right before that was extra melodic.
Unfortunately the vocals were a bit buried in the guitars so it was impossible to make out most of the words - but then again harsh vocals are pretty hard to understand live anyway. Danica's stage presence, though, seized my attention. She delivered growls and screams uncompromisingly, all the while bringing audience participation to the max, taking advantage of the fact that the stage was just a corner of the room to run into the audience and throw her arm around people, and even trying to start a pit at one point. (I should have moshed for her, but I was still feeling stupidly self-conscious.)
Danica made a few references to the fact that she's now female - saying something about not being that cisgendered person early in the set, and later saying, "You've probably noticed something different - it's sort of sticking out..." following that up with a comment that someone was missing (I think they were short a guitarist that night). But for the most part it seemed to be a non-issue - both the band and the crowd were more focused on having a good, brutal time. I'm guessing most of the crowd knew already anyway if they knew the band personally. Her presentation wasn't over the top obvious - pants, a girlie shirt - but with a tight, feminine shirt there was no hiding it either. She did say after the show that she had kind of wanted to go "all the way" and wear a skirt, but she didn't have the boots to go with it. Her demeanor on stage meanwhile was commanding, dynamic, bad-ass - she's a girl you wouldn't want to mess with. It took guts to come out like that, in front of everyone at a metal show, but if anyone can handle it, she can.
The best moment of the set was probably the song "Crash the Gate." I couldn't really make out the lyrics, but I got the point from Danica's intro. I wish I would remember some actual words she said, but it was basically a big middle finger to all the people who would tell you what to do or how to live your life. It was something I needed to hear. And since Danica kept pointing at me during the song, I knew she was singing it as much for me as for herself.
There were just a few more songs after that, and for the last song, Danica invited everyone to share the "stage" with the band. So we all kind of stood around awkwardly and tried not to get in the way of the musicians. Danica got two people to lift her up, and later jumped on someone's back, while singing. She was going wild for all of us. I guess we were a bit of a mild crowd for a thrash show. All the crazies must have been at Empire pushing each other around to Suffocation.
It was a fun time though. The three bands I saw were excellent; I'm now a converted fan, especially of Trihexyn and Cab Ride Home (what can I say, I'm just more drawn to metal with melodic elements). And things seemed to go well as far as Danica's coming out - at least, I didn't notice anything overwhelmingly negative. It seemed like the band and the audience were having the same good time they'd always had. Which is what it's all about really - no matter who you are, you should be able to come to a metal show and have a great time.