Apparently the Obits were in town strategicating with their label about the upcoming release of their debut long player due on 24 March on Sub Pop. They must have been really itching to play because they took over a half-constructed restaurant dubbed Fen’s Party Palace in the ID and threw what to amounted to a big house party. There was no cover, no stage, no bar (bring your own beverage), a single dangling light bulb for light and a fiery, take no prisoners set from the band. Fen’s was very full, especially considering the circumstances of a Monday night, no promotion and vague location details. I’m guessing when they return for their May 16th date at Neumo’s, it will be packed.
Probably the most recognizable thing about the Obits is Rick Froberg’s angst ridden, screaming drawl. Froberg’s former bands, though never insanely popular, each of them (Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes) definitely garnered rabid cult followings with their complex and aggressive sounds. In all of his former bands Froberg’s foil was guitarist John Reis (who also fronted Rocket From the Crypt and now is in the Night Marchers). In the Obits, Froberg’s foil is Sohrab Habibion formerly of Washington, DC band Edsel. Back when I used to live in the nation’s capitol, Edsel were one of my favorite DC bands. They never really fit in with the Slumberland, Teenbeat, Dischord or Simple Machines scenes, don’t get me wrong, they were rooted in the DC scene, but their taste for UK post punk made them stand out from the hard core or indie pop scenes and set them apart in my mind. Edsel was fronted by Sohrab Habibian and Steve Raskin, they both sang and played guitar. The guitars and voices played off of one another whirling it all into tight tense songs.
Going back and listening to both Hot Snakes and Edsel you can really hear the similarities in how the guitars play off of one another. Dueling guitars seemed to dominate in both bands so it’s pretty damn cool that these two guys are in a band together. Last night the PA was non existent so Froberg’s voice was difficult to make out and on the song Habibion sang it was doubly so, but it didn’t really matter, the Obits were lighting up the room with their playing. Froberg’s guitar played the straight man most of the night, while Habibion’s danced around at odd obtuse angles. The Obits’ guitar interplay relies heavily on its super tight rhythm section. Greg Simpson looks like he owns the bass, even when it’s not his own and drummer Scott Gursky exuded power and control even while drumming with a maraca. The set got off to a dubious start when Simpson broke a string during the first song, the Unnatural Helpers (naturally) offered up their bass to set things right again. As I said, the vocals were low in the ‘mix’, but the songs jumped out at you. So much so that they could have all been instrumentals and the set still would have killed. They did both songs from the currently sold out Stint 7 inch which are both excellent, but they weren’t even the highlights of the set. Definitely looking ahead to 24 March when the full length hits the streets!