By: Matt Bemer, Staff Writer
For the past two weeks the members of Vagrant Beat have been up until the early morning recording and practicing down the hall from my room, filling the hall with echoing sounds of reverb and phaser guitars. Last night at the Smiling Skull, I finally got to hear all those sounds come together live.
Vagrant Beat may have been the opening act, plagued by technical difficulties, broken guitar strings, crappy mic stands and wasted biker folk; but the 4-piece post-hardcore act couldn't have had more energy. What really impressed me was the lead singer's willingness to get into the crowd and jump around. Their sound was impressive: obvious At-the-Drive in influence mixed with lots of effects-driven guitars and an occasional Ian MacKaye-esque scream from the lead singer, Ryan. Overall, I was impressed by the sound and quality of the live performance they gave, given the rough start they had.
Following them was an Athens garage rock band called Damn Animals. There's not much to say about their performance. Outdone by the opening act, they just sounded generic. For a moment I thought they would break the mold and play something unique when their guitarist brought out an auto-harp, but disappointment ensued.
Zapaño closed the night. I have heard a lot of buzz regarding the jazz fusion/progressive rock quartet and I must say I was very impressed. They sounded a lot like The Mars Volta with some stoner metal influences. Frontman Sean really got the crowd into the music with his impressive vocal improvisation. The band as a whole is tremendously talented and it definitely showed throughout their solos.
The incorporation of a saxophone into their music definitely brought a fresh angle into their music and I really enjoyed the show, until I got a half hour into it.
Repetitive bass lines combined with similar breakdowns and song structures made the show drag, and I was actually glad that they ended close to 1 A.M. and did not go until 2.
Although the Skull may not be the best place to hear a band, last night was definitely a great night to see Vagrant Beat and Zapaño put on a show.