Saturday, November 1, 2014

Henbrain - Slim's (Raleigh, NC, 10/17/14)

As many good local bands as there are around here, it's impossible to keep up.  I see a fair number of shows, but I had yet to get around to seeing Henbrain.  I had the impression they were, well... off-beat?  Weird?  All good things in my book.  But there were mentions of prog-rock, post-metal, gongs (yes, gongs).  All fine and good, just not usually the first things go for in live music.  Then there was the two-bass (no guitar) setup.  Can be kinda limiting.  So I maybe expected something likewise limited, a little retro and heavy, maybe with a novelty element. 

Nope.  Nope.  Nope.  While retro-influenced, and a bit prog, these guys are definitely forward-leaning.  Maybe, like, outer space forward?  "Weird" and "off-beat" are apropos, but not "limited".  I'd place this band in the same local grouping with Whatever Brains and Waumiss, in approach and mindset if not musical style. 

First, the basses (bassi?).  "Jazz" bassist (as they called him) Zach Hargett keeps it heavy with the more typical prog-rock groove.  But "Other" bassist Michelle Sontheimer takes her bass guitar into strange territory, basically playing lead guitar.  A very creative, warped lead guitar.  Then with added keys (Evan Ashworth) and great driving drums (Keith Cannon), you have something that, rather than being limited, pushes limits. 

Oh yeah, then there's singer Erika Libero.  She has a very strong voice, and fronts the band with a vengeance.  She belts it out, running all around the stage (and crawling all over the floor, etc.).  Her vocals remind me of New Town Drunks singer Diane Koistinen... they're both operatic, with Erika's being a little more melodramatic.   And I remember Koistinen's voice... it stuck with me for a couple of decades since I used to play her Houston band De Schmog's CD all the time on college radio in Baton Rouge (and then, upon settling up here, was pleasantly surprised to recognize that same voice fronting a local band).  Erika's voice is similarly memorable, and is about the only kind of voice that could front such a bombastic sound. 

Bombasitc, yes.  That's a good word for Henbrain.  And unapologetically so.  Henbrain plays a record release show for their new 7", Hang Glider, at the Cat's Cradle Backroom this Thursday (Nov. 6th).  It was recorded with Mitch Easter at his Fidelitorium Studio in Kernersville, NC.  It's some sexy looking red vinyl, so go and pick up a copy!  Here's some photos of the bombast.
Yes, there was a gong.  And yes, it was banged.

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