In the build-up to last night's show at The Rogue Bar in Scottsdale, Phoenix rockers Packrat bragged that they had assembled some of the noisiest local groups in town.
Three hours later, the ringing in my ears (despite using ear protection) gave some credence to that claim.
Most of last night's performers describe themselves as making some kind of noise with their music. That got me thinking of a Noise Fest the Perihelion Arts hosted five or six years ago at their old location next to the Bikini Lounge.
I remember reading the New Times write-up about how the event promised to showcase avant-garde musical acts that used homemade instruments in their music. It sounded so freaking cool, but the noise that evening was anything but musical. The cacophony of static, murdered stuffed animal dolls, and bondage show left me kind of weary of any band that talks about noise after that.
Fortunately, last night proved to be nothing like that noise-fest that left me scarred oh, so long ago. (Maybe it was too cerebral for me or maybe I'm just an asshole, but I didn't get it.)
Filling in for Marriage of the Decade, Scottsdale-based Call Me Old Fashioned got things rolling with a spunky set. The animated instrumental trio laid down some rocking tunes anchored by Nick Medlock's funky bass plucks and intricate bridge work by guitarist Josh Ehlers. The jam session blasted for just 30 minutes but got the handful of bar patrons riled up.
Amid the noisy chaos, Cassiopeia's sound was probably the most palatable of the night. Following CMOF's shred-fest, the Phoenix quartet directed their attention to the ground, weaving waning shoegazing landscapes. "I can't tell if someone's about to die or if someone's being born," a buddy who joined me at the show said.
Providing the slowest melodies of the night, Cassiopeia also dispensed with any pesky lyrics and kept it instrumental in their space-age soundtracks.
Next up, Avondale hip-hopper Faces, along with drummer Yawning Boy straight killed the 15 minutes of play time they had. Pacing back and forth, the baby faced lyrical assassin provided a tempo change-up, rapping over prerecorded sounds while Yawning Boy maxed out a stripped down drum kit with rat-tat-tat snare hits. "I'm at the point of no return, so I suggest you take a step back," he warns. "Get a better view of the destruction of my life's path."
The laid-back beats gave the Rogue a cool throwback hip-hop vibe that was quickly ruined by two drunken buffoons bromancing over the pool table.
Headliners Packrat took the stage around 11:30 to close out the show with the kind of calculated recklessness I expected to hear at that noise fest I mentioned earlier. The most polished musicians of the evening, they played songs from their six-song EP Overwhelmed in its entirety, plus a new untitled track for good measure.
Creating complex and aggressive rhythms, the sound was reminiscent of recently reformed post-hardcore rockers At the Drive-In. Bassist and vocalist Rodrigo Ibieta growled in "Empty Walls" while drummer Emmit Thatcher and guitarist Brandon Wilson soared in the apocalyptic track "The Point of Vacation had Almost Escaped Me."
The oft-changing time signatures, angular melodies and warbled screeches that Packrat put together delivered on the promise of a noisy and raucous good time.
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(No stuffed animals were harmed during the writing of this review.)
Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Packrat at The Rogue Bar The Crowd: Skinny jeans and drunkies. Overheard in the crowd: (Cue thick Russian accent) "If I was man I was 20 years ago, I break your fucking neck. Now come here and give me kiss."
Packrat Setlist: 1. Empty Walls 2. Contaminated Liquid 3. I Am A Method Actor 4. Calm Yer Language 5. The Point of Vacation Had Almost Escaped Me 6. Overwhelmed 7. Untitled