Nick Harvey performs with SOL at the District, located along Johnston Street, Jan. 27. Photo by Karley Nugent/The Vermilion
Friday night at The District, Lafayette’s metal scene peeked its head out of the shadows of the void and raised a defiant fist to the moon-goddess.
The bill had Cosmic Latte as headliners with Mayrunner, SOL and The Links as support. Most of the crowd, however, were there for SOL and left before the galactic milk band took the stage.
With the contrived hip-teen atmosphere of a T-Mobile TV spot (I remember one time I was there they had a smoke machine in the back to, I presume, make up for the lack of true rock ‘n’ roll smokers in the venue), The District is a polarizing place. On one hand, it does a great service for area music — providing a stage for up-and-coming local acts with a better-than-average sound system and ample floor space. It looks like what would happen if PBteen and Vanilla Ice collaborated on making a terrarium for the young rockstar in your life: It’s neutered, smooth and has treaded aluminum plating on things that really don’t need it.
The Links took to the stage a little after 9 p.m. A swirling pattern of golden-orange pyramids on the giant The District decal behind the stage gave an illusion of texture to the otherwise sleek performance-area.
Sonically, The Links are hard to pin down: Moving between the funky basslines, fragmented, scratchy chords and noodling little licks that are almost inescapable in this locale and a definitive 90s alt-rock inspiration that they homaged with a cover of “Cherub Rock.” The Links’ range of influence was inadvertently captured in the space between bassist Luke Veillon’s cascading hair and vocalist/guitarist Jack Morrison’s close-cropped, white-collar day job look. Looking deep into the dripping, moldy barrel of punk, they pulled out a frenetic cover of Germs’ “Lexicon Devil” in a fitting tribute to one of L.A. hardcore’s most influential groups. The band was best when they let the melodies breathe a bit, as well as when they momentarily left the sputtering electric guitar behind and moved into a spacier territory that opened the curtain to a new dimension.
SOL was up next. Out of the peripheral shadows of The District came a swarm of metalheads who had hung back during The Links’ set. SOL’s pummeling set was dappled with the kind of “Eastern-sounding” Phrygian scales that metal bands sometimes use to diversify their sound and superficially aspire for something if not transcendental, then at least above the common thrash.
The Messianic comparisons that come with the possession of long hair and a beard are common, and inevitable when the possessor is in a place of perceived authority or reverence: a courtroom, for instance, or a stage. SOL vocalist Nick Harvey’s shoulder length hair and beard lent itself immediately to the image of a heavy-metal anti-Jesus, as he stood on the lip of the stage and preached a sermon of hell-bound screams into the holy microphone. He was well received by the masses, who had by that time achieved a mass capable of sustaining a moshpit in the front of the stage: waves of headbangers crashed against the standalone stone-faced few who were not yet baptised into the asteroid blender collision center. As their final song slammed to a stop almost before the last note was struck, Harvey was off the stage and booking it towards the exit with the air of a man with a place to be though he knows not where. Such is SOL.
The penultimate act was Mayrunner: a pop-punk quartet that felt a little out of place.
At about 11:45 p.m., Cosmic Latte stepped up.
First things first: Cosmic Latte is, frankly, a terrible band name in the vein of the crush of 1970s groups that sought to shirk their earthly chains by attaching themselves to a shooting star, whether in their names, songs or artistic representation: Jefferson Starship, Deep Purple, Blue Öyster Cult, etc. It sounds like a children’s story about space coffee. “Melodic space core” is how they describe themselves, citing influences from a pretty diverse lineup that goes from lo-fi shoegazers Elvis Depressedly — a point of influence that was very much not in play in Friday’s setlist — to mood-metal heavyweights Deafheaven, who I frequently credit (and you can fight me on this one after recess, by the swings) with crafting one of the most heartrendingly beautiful songs I’ve ever heard on the opening track of 2013’s brilliant Sunbather album.
Clinically speaking, Cosmic Latte is what astronomers have titled the average color of the universe as seen from planet Earth: a kind of beigish off-white. A pretty boring color for what is literally the aggregation of all physical elements. It would be unfair to equivocate this color with the band, but it does invite comparison.
Cosmic Latte’s set was plagued by technical failures: guitarist Tucker Robinson and bassist Asa Grimsley particularly were hard-pressed to stay in the game. When they were on, however, they were really on. A blistering Deftones cover, impressive instrumental prowess and a palpable nervous energy all lent itself admirably to a set list inspired by, as vocalist Tyler King stated matter-of-factly, his “daddy-issues.”
All these bands are online, and I am, too. Pick four to follow and one to harass.