07/03/11 – Midnight Eye, Windhand, Guzzlemug, Ilsa @ The Quarry House


by Salmon C. Firefly
Arts Desk 

It was a scorching hot July afternoon in DC/Silver Spring, and the sun was unleashing its own brand of justice upon the pallid, pale skin of the handful of stoners metalheads who got up to see this phenomenal concert. The show started at 1PM, but nobody was there, so the promoter generously let the first band start later, around 2 or so. The Quarry House, a dive-bar near downtown Silver Spring, has a long room in the back,  shaped kind of like a tunnel, at the end of which bands set up and play. Where they set up somewhat obstructs the path to the ladies’ rest-room. Inconvenient, to say the least, but at least a line to the bathroom means the bands have an audience (just kidding! it was a metal show).

First up was Midnight Eye, a.k.a. the Eye. I feel like Midnight Eye has been around forever, but they’ve actually only played like 3 or 4 shows and those just over the past few months. This is because they have had interesting line-up changes and power-moves taking place behind the scenes, though as a project they have been germinating steadily for at least 5 years at this point and have a full-length about to come out in a month or so. It actually began as an off-shoot of C-Fort Dylan’s old band, Empurious, a side project meant to write accessible beautiful music which would unite the plebes and proles, and bring together East Egg and West Egg (the Midnight Equalizer!).

A lofty ambition, and totally un-scene, but sonically it comes close. Musically, it’s very epic, catchy, handsome, ambitious technical arena metal. But it is also endearing and charming in a way that touches people’s spirits — and all without being a cheesy “quest” band, or power-metal. It has a little of the Mustaine sarcastic spice, the Paul Gilbert humor, and the musical intensity of Fates Warning or Death. The stage banter was definitely above average; the frontman did a good job of warding off constant heckling from the (sun)baked crowd.

Windhand are a snazzy band from Richmond who haven’t supplied as many tours as their thirsty three-digit fanbase demands. Always keep them wanting more — or so we old-timers used to say to performers, back before online piracy liquidated all non-live music profits.

Windhand plays down-tuned, fuzzed out, heavy-as-the-dickens melancholy, melodious bluesy doom metal. They are good, and while some bands are heavy, and some bands are dirty, Windhand is heavy and dirty. Their quality riffs are further colored in with crooning vocal hooks, sculpting nice well-rounded songs.  A purple retro-horror motif in their artwork goes beautifully with the vibe of their live performance. They have an EP or full-length coming out soon, but until then, snag a CD demo and check their tracks up online.

Windhand are really nice people too – they generously backlined the whole show. This band is highly accessible and has the potential to go all the way to the top… of the metal scene.

Being a proggy+ band like Guzzlemug (Chicago) is a tricky card to play. The music is unpretentious, but may seem extremely pretentious to the uninitiated because it’s very honest about being badass-weirdo-hip. Prog(ressive) bands always seem to have lofty concept albums with profound titles to their songs, or they have to take the other presentation  and just forget it and make everything downright silly. It’s very difficult for a prog band to just call their songs by “normal” names.

In short: prog bands sort of look like assholes no matter what they call their songs. The inverse effect of this is that hipster indie-rockers or crusty scene bands can call their songs whatever the fuck they want and get interpreted as brilliant artists who have any clue in the world what they are doing (this was the main artistic joke being played, maybe unintentionally, by Anal Cunt who — while terrible internet trolls ahead of their time, did out-Dada the scene Dada-ists: the ppl taking grindcore/crust really seriously).

But Guzzlemug is most exquisite – a fine upcoming proggy-sounding morsel of a band. Heavy prog is all hip right now, what with the appearance of technical deathcore, mall-metal and djent amongst teens, bands like Cynic/Necrophagist/Meshuggah granted upper-crust metal status, and bands like Obscura and Animals as Leaders on the hip bandwagon. There’s a lot of people who also hate that jazz (metal), but Guzzlemug is interesting and out there enough to have something for everyone without threatening them: fans of jazz, metal, grunge/garage-rock, noise; gearslutz, pedal-fiends, poly-rhythmic nerds, groupies scoping hotties, etc. They will most definitely interest any serious musician with a goofy sense of humor.

We all know Ilsa by now. I’d write more about them but I’m super jelz of how hip and scene they are. But they pull punk-scene cred with a metal sound like I could never do. Their music is unhappy sounding, but they are really funny, on-point guys with moral fiber, so I dunno what the musical transformation process is here.

This was a great show. It had an alright attendance, bands got paid decently, it ended on time, and the people of Silver Spring slept safe and sound for one more night. Of artistic importance: every single band on this show was a great band with a heavy acoustic aesthetic, and each with a completely different and unique sound. This may not seem like such a big deal, but considering the difficulty of coming up with original artistic ideas at this stage in the cultural game (culture seems stale), the fact that a group of inspired and unique bands pulled this off in front of people on a Sunday afternoon on a holiday weekend in DC (a city never known for metal music), leads me to believe that whoever put this show together is a real craftsman/woman deserving of a paid job in said field.

Oh yeah. Scene celebrities. Well, there was Tim (the Colts), Matt Wood (scene badboy who has played in too many bands to count: Attrition, Storm Petrel, Timber, The Deads, Fell Types…. this guy is everywhere), the infamous KCDC, psych-shoegaze-indie rockers Last Tide, Alvin Martin, Metal Chris, and numerous others.


Midnight Eye @ Bandcamp
Windhand @ Reverbnation
Guzzlemug @ Bandcamp
Ilsa @ Reverbnation

Live photos courtesy of DC Heavy Metal.

Editor’s note: I told an Ilsa about this review, specifically that Psi says he’s jealous. Brendan replied, “I’d be jealous too, if I was as talented as he is and put as much into a band as he does and got as far as he has compared to us deadbeats.”

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