Wednesday, January 16, 2013

ACRN Presents: Child Bite, Frankie Teardrop & WHRL / January 15, 2013 / The Smiling Skull

By: Ryan James, Contributor
Photo By: Ryan James

My trek out to The Smiling Skull on Tuesday night can only be described as wet. The rain was really pouring down by then. Most of the streets were deserted. I’ll admit that I was concerned. Would anyone even be there to see Child Bite play? As a musician myself, I can attest to the letdown of driving many hours to play for a crowd of eight. I get it, though. It was only the second night of the semester. Nonetheless, I maintained hope and pushed open the door.

The Skull is a venue that’s not really a venue. If it feels like anything, it’s a barn decorated with several hundred neon signs. I glanced over at the bar, which was populated with the usual townies. A mound of equipment was accumulating in the corner, and students seemed to be slowly trickling in. It was a good sign.

WHRL performed first. The Columbus duo creates soundscapes using an arsenal of synthesizers. I remember thinking how bizarre the tiny stage looked with all of those gadgets on it. The pair projected a flickering image onto the wall behind them. The sound was immense, and certainly not for the faint of heart. I closed my eyes to take in the reverberating drones. When their set ended I let out a sigh of relief that The Skull hadn’t collapsed from decibel overload.

Frankie Teardrop, a new local act, was next. This was my first time seeing them play. The trio has a traditional set-up of bass, drums and guitar. The sound is definitely less traditional. With a collection of fuzz and loop pedals, Frankie Teardrop crafted textures using alternate tunings and white noise. Unfortunately, it just didn’t seem to translate well. Now I understand that this is noise-rock and incoherence is part of the point. The songs didn’t seem to have any shape. Every so often I could find a melodic point of reference, but that would sink back away into static. Maybe it was the cement floors and poor acoustics. I walked away wondering what those songs really sound like.

After fixing a microphone problem, Child Bite ended the show with unrelenting fury. The Michigan art rock band pounded the audience--which was actually quite plentiful by this point--with blistering guitars and intricate rhythms. I could feel the sound moving through my bones courtesy of the band's wall of amps. Child Bite played songs from its entire discography, yet some of the highlights were from the forthcoming record entitled Vision Crimes. Frontman Shawn Knight told stories about past shows in Athens, and waxed poetic about staying true to your character. The band ended the night with the riotous “The Nab Munch is On.” I headed back out into the deluge feeling satisfied, and caring very little about the ringing in my ears. 

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