Last night was a disappointing turnout for Hot Flash Heat Wave and its line-up–though not a surprise, given the last-minute change of venue, from 333’s all-ages, punker paradise, to the Astoria’s 19+ wasteland.
Trash Bait is the all-girls, brat-punk group that started the night off with a handful of simple-chorded hate songs. Their sound was of a harsh, angry nature, and a quality that one might assume that these songs had been thrown together just prior to the show. Their presence wasn’t much better; the most effort made to engage was during a long period of dead-air, when the drummer asked, “How does it sound? Are we good?” I felt compelled to scream, “No!” Despite changing vocalists throughout the performance, their yelling and screaming stayed pretty one-dimensional, and even with two guitarists, their sound remained thin and scratchy. All in all, Trash Bait delivered a less-than mediocre start, and as you might expect, most of the crowd stayed seated.
The Woolen Men followed up with a completely different vibe; one that entailed much happier progressions and upbeat tempos. The indie-pop rock trio got people up and moving with both singer and bassist jumping to the beat and attacking every next chord with absolute confidence. These guys were committed to their sound, and as a performer, myself, I appreciate it when another artist owns their shit up there in the spotlight; there’s nothing that turns off an audience more than the half-ass scream or awkward off-beat notation, as was the case with Trash Bait. Overall, The Woolen Men’s music was of a softer, indie-punk sound that I’d heard before, but I was charmed by the quick, catchy riffs and simple melodies that brought the mood up a few notches.
By the time Hot Flash Heat Wave hit the stage, I was coming down off my Red-Bull kick, pleasantly mellowed by the sweet major-tone strums of their infectious beachy-boy single, “Gutter Girl.” The San Francisco surf-rockers rolled into the Astoria wearing a questionable array of costume-ish attire. The two singer-guitarists stuck out the most, one rocking Macklemore’s signature “Thrift Shop” style fur jacket, and the other in an oversized mechanic’s jump-suit and chunky gold bling. But any contempt I had toward these guys was quickly washed away by the wicked, smooth blend of honey-sweet vocal melodies and on-point backing rhythms by the rest of the band.
The inconsistence and poor responsiveness of the sound guy had not only the bands frustrated, but the crowd too. One thing I don’t agree with these days is live-sound management made portable on your ‘iProducts.’ It risks too much error of what could be a great live jam, and in one swift accidental stroke of the hand, destroy the bands’ sound–unfortunately this was the case throughout the night. My suggestion: leave the sound board in one spot, and for god’s sake, don’t shove it in you f***in’ pocket and sit on it.
I left the show shaking my head, thinking, how can these bands be playing such a shit venue? And, Why? I’m new to Vancouver’s music scene, but I feel like Woolen Men and Hot Flash Heat Wave have done themselves an injustice, lowballing for a spot in the downtown east side’s gunge-pits. To see those bands, ten bucks was a fair price, but a better location would’ve brought in the crowds.
It was worth sticking it out to see Hot Flash Heat Wave, and I’ll be first in line to see them when they’re back in town.
I bid you good night,