Monday November 21, 2005

I've said it before and I'll say it again - The Khyber is a total dump. If the band you're seeing has no fans and the place is empty, it's alright. But if you see any group with some popular support, you're fucked. It's a stuffy, smokey hole in the wall that punishes you at every step. Why do I keep going back?

I went on Friday to see a couple of bands I passingly enjoy : Kayo Dot and Starkweather. Kayo Dot, formerly known as Maudlin of the Well, is a group of many people trying to make modern classical music in the post-rock idiom. Their music is heady and sometimes inscrutable, and honestly, I don't much enjoy listening to their albums, but there's something very appealing to me about this band. On friday, they played in a seven piece format : three guitars, bass (upright and electric), drums, horns, and violin. They only played two songs, but their set was at least 25 minutes long. I especially liked when, after the first song, the horn player Forbees Graham announced that the next song would be their last for the night. Funny! I would have really enjoyed Kayo Dot's set, had they perhaps been the headliner and the crowd a little more polite. This music is very dynamic and sometimes very quiet, and between the thumping bass from the dance music upstairs and the loud talking of the drunken sods around me, it was hard to concentrate on the music. The best setting for a Kayo Dot show would be something more like a classical concert. While the band is playing, no one should be talking. Oh well. It was still a good performance, and I enjoyed it. Nancy, it should be noted, did not care for Kayo Dot at all.

We timed the whole evening badly. We got to the Khyber early enough to see most of the first band, Gregor Samsa, before Kayo Dot played. Then we stayed at the club while waiting for Starkweather, when we really should have found something else to do in old city for an hour or so while The Bad Vibes played. This band sucked a dick. They're a totally generic NY-style hardcore band playing music that would have sounded sloppy and amateurish in 1986. The drummer broke a stick a few songs into their set, and apparetly he didn't have another one! Unfortunately, he played the rest of the set with a broken stick. Moron. There were a surprising number of people at the Khyber apparently into this band, but the crowd was painfully lame. It was a gaggle of hipsters, bearded oafs, and fat skinheads. Not a good scene. At least someone had the sense to heckle The Bad Vibes, repeatedly demanding that they announce who they were (which they never did. Presumably they're too fucking hardcore for that.)

Starkweather are a recently reunited Philadelphia group that I saw a few times "back in the day." I have their two CDs, and I remembered them being pretty good when I saw them in the mid 90s, but I'd hardly call myself a Starkweather fanboy. And frankly, I was surprised to see so many of what I can only assume were Starkweather fanboys! When the band went on, the crowd in the main room swelled like a sponge tossed in the bathtub, and in a matter of minutes, it was so crowded that I couldn't even stand next to Nancy because someone had wedged themselves in between us. Listening to Starkweather, I had to marvel at how clearly ahead of their time they were - they sounded like the primal archetype for pretty much all of the mathy metalcore that's sprung up in the last few years. I had always attributed that phenomenon to The Dillinger Escape Plan, but now I'm pretty sure that The DEP owes their existence to Starkweather, and the screaming/singing duality of frontman Renny has become de rigeur in the last couple years (see: Into the Moat, Between the Buried and Me, every band on Tribunal Records, etc.)

The guitar sound was atrocious, but the band was pretty insane nonetheless, and I was VERY impressed by the rhythm section (especially the bass player in the too-cool vintage Thought Industry shirt.) About five or ten minutes into their set, the band blew the main circuit, and everything went dark and quiet. Pretty cool! It didn't take long for the sound guy to get everything back up and running, but by that point, I was pretty exasperated with the general conditions in the club. It was hot, cramped, smokey, and smelly, and while I was enjoying Starkweather, the sound was too bad and the audience too dense for me to really have a good time. After about a half hour of music, I pulled the plug on our evening of entertainment and we bailed. Because they're a local band, I expect I'll have more and better opportunities to see Starkweather again under better circumstances. And hopefully then they'll have their new album for sale.

The best part of the night was the slice of mushroom pizza we got from the new place just next door to The Khyber. There's nothing like a half-heated slice of pie when you're tired and cold, let me tell you! Ah well, another Friday, another show, another frustrating experience in another divey hellhole. This is my life!

Posted by Matt at November 21, 2005 09:34 AM


I was gonna go to that show, but it occurred to me that I'd be paying the cover just for the chance to get the new Kayo Dot record a couple months ahead of time. I knew seeing a band with their particular range at the Khyber on a Friday night would not work out so well, and Starkweather was the only other band on the bill I was even vaguely interested in. Sounds like skipping it was a good decision; thanks for the validation!

Posted by: Rob Weychert at November 21, 2005 10:16 AM

I thought blogs were supposed to provide validation to the authors, not the readers! I feel gypped! But yeah, you made the right decision.

I picked up the Kayo Dot disc and listened to it the next day while cleaning (and by "cleaning," I mean putting away all of my CDs while Nancy did the actual cleaning). I can't say I like it any better than the first one. If anything, it's noisier and screamier. I wish they'd abandon the vocals altogether.

Posted by: Matt Johnsen at November 21, 2005 11:24 AM

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