Obits | Lights | Unnatural Helpers at Neumo’s | 16 May 2009
Neumo’s felt like a greenhouse Saturday night, partly from the 75 degree day we had and partly from the blistering sets from all three bands which kept the temperature quite tropical throughout the night. I arrived mid-way through Unnatural Helpers‘ sweaty opening set. The band just singed to Sub Pop spin-off label Hardly Art but have released an album and single on Seattle label Dirty Knobby. The band do post punk/hard core that reminds me of bands like Holy Rollers and Candy Machine from back in the 90’s DC/Baltimore scene. Guitarists Leo Gebhardt and Brian Standeford do time in Idle Times and bassist Kimberly Morrison has another gig in the Dutchess and the Duke, leaving drummer/singer Dean Whitmore the defacto head helper.
The Lights were very good, so good, I wondered as they steamed through Victims of the Pleasure of the Sense of Hearing from their first album if the Obits could match the intensity of these Seattle angular noise-nicks. The Lights played mostly all new songs, with a few old favorites thrown in to string us along. The old songs weren’t really necessary to keep me interested, but everyone, myself included certainly appreciated hearing the afore mentioned Victims, probably their most straightforward pop song. I shouldn’t have really doubted the Obits’ ability to rock. Their pedigree for rocking is unmistakable considering Rick Froberg’s former face blistering bands Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes. I mentioned how it was hot, well at least hot for Seattle. During the Lights’ set there was a woman at the front with a hand fan that she waved the entire set. The Lights played faster, she danced and waved the fan faster. I don’t think it was doing much good, and she was probably making herself hotter as fast as she was waving it. I lost track of her during the Obits set, but I’m guessing she may have passed out sometime during their ripping, heat inducing set. The Obits started off a bit wobbly with the first two songs not really hitting on all cylinders, but they owned the room by third song. Oddly it was the only one in which former Edsel front-man Sohrab Habibion sings lead. Something seemed to click with the band at this point, whether it as them just taking a couple songs to get warmed up, or if it was the first song in which Froberg and Habibion combine not only guitar but voices as well for the chorus. From then on the band were on it with lightening hot Pine On, the tense eeriness of Light Sweet Crude, and the just plane fun Back and Forth. Now that the album has been out for a few months I had a better familiarity with the songs that I was missing last summer at SP20 and earlier this year down in the ID. My familiarity also made the way Froberg’s and Habibion’s intertwined guitar riffs play off each other become much more apparent. Their styles are different, Froeberg delivers his surf-punk licks juxtaposed with Habibion’s post-punk, but they combine to create a tense wallop. The other half of the band are no slouches either, bassist Greg Simpson drummer Scott Gursky laid down some pretty amazing riffs as well, the best being the intro to Two-headed Coin which starts with Simpson’s bouncing bass line over Gursky’s shaker’s and drums. The way these guys play together you can tell that they’re totally digging and exploring their sound, It seems like a simple straightforward formula, but the Obits add an experienced complexity to it that is easy to miss because they make it look so easy. It’s almost as if they rock without even trying.
mp3: Obits – Military Madness (Graham Nash cover found on their Record Store day 7″)
Here are the rest of the Obits’ west coast dates with the Lights:
May 19 – Blue Lamp, Sacramento CA w/ The Lights
May 20 – Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco CA w/ The Lights
May 21 – Cellar Door (CA), Visalia CA w/ The Lights
May 22 – Spaceland, Los Angeles CA w/ The Lights
May 23 – Casbah, San Diego CA w/ The Lights