Review: Hanni El Khatib, Bass Drum of Death, The New Highway Hymnal, Future Spa @ Middle East Downstairs (10/9/13)

Bass Drum
Flyer from Middle East Restaurant and Night Club

Bands: Hanni El Khatib, Bass Drum of Death, The New Highway Hymnal, Future Spa
Date: Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Venue: Middle East Downstairs (Cambridge, MA)

Future Spa – I can’t say this enough, but my ears are slowly plunging into their watery graves. I’m seriously relying on the capabilities of future technology to preserve what remains of my hearing so I can slop, rock, and roll till the day I die. Somerville’s Future Spa aren’t helping my case right now because they are dishing out a hefty amount of damage on my ears with their rough noise fused garage onslaught.

We first caught these dudes at a toasty Mark Sultan show last December at the Starlab – going to miss that place! As with that show, Future Spa produce a quick slam in the bread basket with piles of noise rock, early 80’s hardcore, and plenty of shrieks and screams alike.

Future Spa show off their No Age and Sonic Youth influences in songs such as “No Age” and “Sonic Youth,” respectively. You can hear all of their garage punk anthems on their bancamp here:

Set – List:
“My Aunt Brian”
“No Age”
“Turn On The Action”
“Surf Song”
“Sonic Youth”
“Fucking Mick Jagger”

The New Highway Hymnal – Shit, it’s been two months since I’ve seen these dudes. Last time was here at the Middle East Downstairs for the Boston Fuzzstival. That was a grand show, but this performance is superior and one of the best I’ve seen from the trio.

The set begins with an ear splitting batch of guitar feedback coming from Hadden Stemp’s amplifier and shortly thereafter the band kicks into Whispers staple “Hey Kid (Gotta Run),” a song typically whipped out towards the end of the set. The fiery tune gets me really amped up (amped up? whatever…) for the rest of the set and while the crowd is still building up, a few attendees are more than enthusiastic in their appreciation of NHH.

To the left of of me stands The Lysergic Factory Light Show’s Peter Colpack, a rampant supporter of the band, and while Mr. Colpack provides no acid trippy visuals tonight, he frenetically dances his ass off instead. His primitive, out of control style of dancing is akin to a one man mosh pit; it’s as if he’s possessed and fighting off a vicious army of fire ants crawling down his shaky spine.

The New Highway Hymnal’s sound runs through the rock ‘n’ roll gamut, splattering together the likes of The Doors, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Grateful Dead, The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre among other forms of music. It’s freak out music for the freaks and therefore you never know what kind of behavior may spew out during a NHH set. To the right of me are two more characters. One kind hearted old timer cheers the band on in his thick Boston accent as he brandishes his Boston Red Sox hat. Another woman shakes her booty rapidly to the band’s swift psych delivery. When they ask the sound guy how much time they have left? This woman hollers “How long is it going to take for you to fuck me?” Much to the band’s surprise/amusement.

The set crashes to its close in classic New Highway Hymnal fashion with Amelia and Hadden producing vast layers of screeching feedback from their guitars and Travis making a mess of his drum kit by smashing his cymbals into the snare drum and making use of anything and everything in front of him as a means of percussion. This conclusion is a microcosmic trance within the larger trance that is The New Highway Hymnal. Sit on that mind blowing piece of information while you pass time in work/school/church/ waiting in line for the post office.

Bass Drum Of Death – Here’s a band whose material I am not overly familiar with, yet I have kept them on the back burner for a couple of years now. Bass Drum Of Death are a heavy, pummeling garage rock band that most garage, punk, or simply garage punk fans would dig, but I’d go even further and state that fans of more general rock or other genres may also enjoy their music as well. And that’s certainly not a trait that can be applied to any old garage band. With Bass Drum, the music is more fine tuned, crisper. At the same time, there is still plenty of that slimy, sleazy element that we gunk punkers all know and love.

As I said before, I am not a huge fan of this band, simply because I have only heard a few of their songs, so seeing Bass Drum Of Death is comparable to seeing a sweet band, but not like waiting all year to see BASS DRUM OF DEATH!!! Though, this is not the case for much of the dudes in attendance. And yes I stress the word dudes, as I feel this set is filled with plenty of sausage and that’s okay, but I tend to prefer seeing an equal balance of the genders, damn I don’t how you metal folk do it! Anyway, much of these dudes are heavy duty Bass Drum Of Death folk and a small, but steady mosh pit explodes in front of the stage. Kids smashing into one another and screaming along to their favorite Bass Drum Of Death tunes and unleashing all of that teenage, hormonal frustration. It’s a lot of fun.

Hanni El Khatib – Now, with Hanni El Khatib I am totally unaware of their discography, having vaguely heard of the band a few times in the past. For this show, I came mostly for the local bands, and yes Bass Drum Of Death is a treat. Hanni El Khatib, I am not as impressed with – don’t get me wrong, they are fine, but I just don’t feel it as much as the three previous bands. Hanni appears to be more in line with blues and classic rock or I am just a crazy bastard and I’m hearing weird noises.  In either situation, they don’t floor me enough to stay for the second half of their set. Not a bad band, but just not the band I would go out of my way to see live. Lastly, I am not sure why they were paired with Bass Drum Of Death for this tour, given that their sounds are very different. Then again, that can be an immensely positive thing, hopefully bringing together fans of both styles of music and introducing new bands to both parties.

Here’s a sick video of Bass Drum Of Death from Joanna Trachtenberg!

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