The Buttertones With Matter Room, Espresso, The Violet Mindfield, Silent X, At The Hi Hat, Friday April 28th 2017
Friday night was a busy night at the Hi Hat and there was a very long line of young people outside the Highland Park club…. The Buttertones had announced a show at the Hi Hat a few days ago, and despite very little publicity about it, the gig sold out very fast as I had expected. The Buttertones are a must-see band and these good-looking guys are becoming the young girls’ favs, they were getting completely crazy about them! When I entered the club, there was already a long row of girls installed, sitting on the stage, ready for the Buttertones’ set, although it was only 7:30 pm and 5 bands were performing the same night.
I had already seen Matter Room once and I once again got this strong ‘Explosions in the Sky’ vibe, when they played their expansive and tumultuous instrumentals. The quartet played in a semi-obscurity, while navigating through dark psychedelia and even heavy-metal-like riffs. However, the vocals finally came out, dark, morose, cold and angry, surging above this perfect synchronization of guitars, as the musicians were balancing together while playing, looking like trees beaten by a sonic tempest. They were so dark they could have been a hidden track of Chelsea Wolfe, and I would say there was something organic about their explosive and changing music, as if natural elements were taken control of their thunderous sound, sounding as moody as mother nature.
Espresso was much more light hearted, with a sort of funk-dance-disco-rock as their first song could have been a slow-down and funk-up Blondie tune, at least this is the vibe I got. They turned to be quite elusive producing abrupt changes from funk to 60s retro tunes and even ska, with irresistible grooves and a restless bass. They brought a trombone player on stage, which is quite unusual for a young band, and then played an aggressive number, with more distortion and an infectious bluesy wah-wah pedal… overall, their funk-punk-rock was very playful and received with enthusiasm by the very young crowd.
The Violet Mindfield had a sound dominated by the nasal delivery of their frontman who was holding his guitar very high and tight, but I really liked their dark psychedelic sound. Their music was somehow retro but haunting and triumphant, building a badass and bluesy kaleidoscope of guitars with great use of pedals in the backyard of the Velvet Underground. I know many bands have been there, but they had punch and their frontman played so hard he broke two strings and finally continued playing through the set, in an even more raging white-noise way.
Then it was finally time for the Buttertones and their local Beatlemania, I can assure you that these girls really like them, I even spotted one removing her bra before they came on stage, as it was showing up below her low-cut shirt. But the Buttertones make great and empowering music, it shakes, it gallops like a wild animal and brings back memories of the darkness of the Cramps and the sunshine of the great California surf bands. A sort of retro-gothic sound on the beach with a new album titled ‘Gravedigging’. The show was high energy from start to finish, and the room transformed right away with a few stage dives and a lot of powerful dancing in the pit. At the top of this, the Buttertones bring charisma to their cuteness, they dress up and they have a sax on stage, a bit like the Black Lips do it but with much more class, at this level they are closer to the proto-punk Sonics. But it was also the crowd enthusiasm which was remarkable, I was looking at the lips of all these girls standing front row and they were not missing a lyric. The music sounded very retro at times, but nevertheless so entirely embraced by these 2016 kids that the scene looked magical. The Buttertones’ violent outbursts of electrifying energy were like violent whiplashes on the crowd, which screamed ‘one more song’ at the top of their lungs when they were done,… but they obviously had to come back.
I feel bad for the last band which had to follow this effusive demonstration of love, but Silent X were great rock ‘n’ rollers and obviously not silent at all. They were burning some oil, midnight oil may be, they were a bit trashy and angry, a vibe especially coming from their frontman’s loud and strained scream. There were traces of punk, plenty of distortion, mad pure rock energy and I almost smelt black leather and smoke. Yeah they were smoking rock ‘n’ roll till midnight, and ended the show with a even more furious mayhem of guitars. As usual I came for the Buttertones, but stayed for all the bands.