You know, with the exception of a few bands like Deep Purple or The Apes (I'm sure there are more, but those two popped into my head first), I'm used to seeing and hearing keyboards and organs -- oh wait, I forgot Journey; you can't forget Journey -- played as a support instrument, or as a principal instrument that gets steamrolled by the guitars. Admittedly, a lot of my perspective is rooted in my past as a guitar player. Perhaps I've been remiss, maybe I've been missing out.
Friday night I saw Vinyl Orange Ottoman and I saw the light -- I heard it, too. It all started with the band's stage plot. The Monty's Krown Stage is abbreviated and a little springy, like a boxing ring. The palookas in VOO solved this problem by taking up space next to the stage, as well as on it. Keymeister JJ Stashiw's entire rig took up the whole floor directly stage left, and directly where I had parked my ass to dig the impending show. Consequently, as the band whirled and pumped and ground through its mid-tempo, nouveau blues, I got a double-dish helping of the keys mere feet away. It was incredible, and an incredible eye-opener. The band raged with an unstoppable fortitude that leaned on classic strains without relying solely upon them. It was familiar yet new -- and beautiful. Praise the lord, I have heard the light.
Following my Vinyl Orange epiphany, Heatseeker got up and cleared out the cobwebs and dancing girls in my head. It was a twin-Gibson, twin-stack attack all the way. The band has a positively brilliant tone: thick, thonic, and thunderous, yet agile. Float like a bearded butterfly sting like an SG turned up to 10.
I try really hard to keep an open mind, but I've been doing this critic thing for a while now and can kind of tell when I'm not going to enjoy a particular band. I've seen Ice Nine Kills before and was privy to the band's standard chugga-chugga-squeal guitars and the dramatic vocals, instructing the audience how to behave (i.e. make some noise, give it up for whoever, or make a circle pit). It all had struck me as predictable and uninspired.
So imagine my surprise when the band knocked me out Saturday night at Water Street Music Hall. The intro was full-on rock-star cool. The energy was genuine. Perhaps more emotion played into it, as it was the bass player's last gig (and yes, we were told to give it up for him), and the guitarist dragged his girlfriend up on stage, dropped down on one knee, and popped the question. She said yes. The crowd went nuts. And that time, nobody even had to tell them to do so.