The Bled at The Underground, 6/3/11

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The Bled 
The Underground in Mesa 
Friday, June 3

There's something to be said for metal bands who can make the most of being buried underneath a booming rave. That's what happened on Friday, as the three local bands who tore up the stage at The Underground -- The Author, The Fair and Debonair, and The Bled -- had to deal with the sound of a massive rave upstairs in the Nile Theater.

The first band, The Author, didn't acknowledge the unce-unce-unce beats that thumped in-between every one of their songs, but the singer of The Fair and Debonair threw a glow stick into the audience and made some comment about fucking young girls. The Bled singer, James Muñoz, also commented on the party above his head.

"The Rapture's happening tonight, and it's right above us," Muñoz told the crowd of about 100 in The Undergound. "If you're not a teenage girl in short shorts, or a young boy with a big boner, you're not going to heaven."

But the all-ages audience downstairs was in its own sort of rapture, partly from the screaming loud metal music, and partly from being packed into a hot, stuffy basement. I wasn't impressed with Mesa quintet

The Author

. I had a hard time telling their songs apart, as they were all full of rapid fire drum beats, relentless single chords, and screeching. They did try some timing changes, but stumbled and trudged through the transitions. A couple of their songs have potential, even if the lyrics (when discernible) are full of angst. "Biography of the Youth," from their split EP with Fair and Debonair, is an ultra-loud adventure in screamo thrash metal, while "Insanity, Always Checking Twice" has some slower, mosh-worthy breakdowns sandwiched between breakneck drums and more screaming. I thought their best song was "Enslaved," and it was the only one that had anything resembling a guitar solo -- and it was a creepy, high, simple chord progression reminiscent of Dead Kennedys riffs. But in the end, The Author just screeched and screamed too much.

​Chandler hardcore outfit The Fair and Debonair sounded similar to The Author (the two groups do play a lot of shows together, and have comparably weird names for metal bands). But The Fair and Debonair was a bit tighter musically, and had a sort of rowdy crust punk edge to some of their songs. The rhythms weren't so snare-snappy and the backbone of the music was made more beastly with roiling, low bass lines. They had some surprisingly nice guitar melodies wedged in the sonic storm, and singer Alex Arvizu had some bizarre introductions to songs he didn't name: "This is a song about comic books"; "A song about rugrats?"; "This song is about a preacher who gets the word of God and meets him, and a cowboy comes into the picture and just shoots him."

But again, there was just too much screaming for me. And when Arvizu tried to actually sing, it sounded weak and off-key. But you know what? The rest of the crowd at The Underground seemed to love both opening bands. A few people even started a mini mosh pit.

The Bled started playing at 9:15, and everybody in the venue moved toward the stage. The five-piece hardcore band from Tucson is one of Arizona's prominent metal bands. Their 2005 album, Found in the Flood (Vagrant Records), made it to #87 on the Billboard 200, and they subsequently played the 2006 Warped Tour with bands like Rise Against and The Used, and the 2007 Projekt Revolution Tour with Linkin Park and My Chemical Romance. They released their latest album, Heat Fetish, on Rise Records earlier this year.

But they opened with an older song, "Sound of Sulfur" (from their 2003 album, Pass the Flask). As James Muñoz belted out the lyrics (one of The Bled's strong points), the audience clapped along. "Is there a reason why?" Muñoz wailed, with his crazy, curly mop of Weird Al hair flying everywhere. "The funeral needs a star."

The mix sounded good, and the guitars were crisp and heavy, weaving through the songs in epic bridges. "The Last American Cowboy" (Found in the Flood) sounded great, and the audience bounced to the catchy beats and swayed to the psychedelic, math rock breakdowns in the song. Muñoz had trouble hitting the high notes in the song, but the crowd didn't seem to care because he was so full of manic, red-faced energy.

"I'm eating my own goddamn hair," he said at one point. "I mistook it for spaghetti."

By the time The Bled finished their set, Muñoz had eaten plenty of hair and the band had charged through songs both new ("Smoke Breaks," "Crowbait") and old ("Daylight Bombings," "Spitshine Sonata"). Everybody in the venue was covered in sweat, half-deaf, and ready to razz the ravers who were on their way upstairs.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: The Bled at The Underground

The Crowd: On the younger side, and mostly male. There were lots of knee-length shorts and baseball caps, and a handful of flannel, too. Oh, and one fanny pack! (On a skinny dude in an "I ♥ Haters" ball cap whose knee-length jean shorts kept falling and flashing his ass crack).

Overheard in the Crowd: "Why would The Bled play such a small venue?"

Personal Bias: No beer.

And another thing: There was a raver kid in green monkey pajamas outside in the alley who hocked a huge loogie way up in the air and then caught it in his mouth. That was right before one of the guys from The Author yelled out to some raver girls, "Don't take ecstasy and do anything that'll end up on the Internet! I'll be looking for you."

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