Sunday, November 9, 2008

Jucifer @ Sonar - Baltimore, 11/1

A week overdue, but alas.

Last saturday we went to see Jucifer. I was hipped to this band around 2000. At that point, they had only one album to their credit, Calling All Cars on the Vegas Strip. I took to them immediately, mostly because of the contrast of very dense, heavy music and alternately abrasive/delicate vocals.

I also have a troubled history with the band.

In the summer of 2002, I drove to Cleveland to see them at the Grog Shop. I'd wanted to see them live for some time, and felt it worth the trip from Pittsburgh. I don't remember much about the opening bands then, but I do remember being blown away by Jucifer. Records are one thing, but the sheer density and power of their music impressed me, especially for having only two members. I should also mention that Jucifer is among the loudest bands I've ever seen. So loud in fact, that a mere 12 minutes into their set, they blew the power out in the building. After waiting a bit, we were told that the problem was not a simple fuse replacement, but something "in the walls" and the show was over.

Later that year, they were to play a Pittsburgh venue (the 31st Pub, I believe). Weeks earlier, I'd been in contact with one of their promotion people to set up an in studio interview at the station. They were way down with the idea - I was amped. The band and I kept in touch all that day, and then their van broke down. The chances of the interview narrowed and then disappeared. But at least I'd get to see them live. That didn't happen either, though. They never made it to Pittsburgh.

A few months later, they did end up playing at Laga. However, they were opening for Local H, a curious match given the latter's pop-punk sensibilities. Jucifer played well, but it felt as though they were very much out of their element, and I'm pretty sure only myself and a friend actually had interest in them.

A few years ago I debated about driving from Iowa City to Cedar Falls to catch them, but decided against it given my track record with Jucifer.

So I had to see them upon learning they were to play Baltimore. There were three openers.

First up were locals Isthmus. Not bad. Sort of a mathy approach to metal. Their drummer was pretty impressive, seemlessly flowing between awkward time signatures. Also, Kate and I agreed that Jucifer aside, their bassist won the award for "most rocking out." Good local band, was pleased.

Isthmus on Myspace

Up next were Salome. They were doing soundchecks and I heard this intense scream over the PA, just a quick "yeah!" but very intense in its timbre. I assumed this was on the PA music, because I didn't see anybody on the mic. Then I realized that the screams were coming from a rather petite female, Salome's lead singer. These guys were fucking great. They played maybe a 40 minute set of three epic EPIC songs. Had I an extra five spot, I would have bought their LP. Alas, I spent my cash on the new Jucifer cd.

Salome on Myspace

Lastly, there was Internet. There wasn't much to them musically. In that aspect I was not very impressed. However, they had a great sense of humor, which made their set a worthwhile spectacle. Also, they covered Beck's "Fume," which was unexpected but welcome.

(can't find their myspace page)

And finally, it was time for Jucifer. I don't know if it was the band's choice, or the soundman's, but I was pleased that Wu-Tang's "Bring da Ruckus" played over the PA before the band took the stage.

As expected, they were incredibly intense. It could perhaps be described as an assault on the senses. Although I've (sort of) seen them live before, I was taken aback at how dense and loud they are, given that there are only two members. Guitarist/vocalist Amber Valentine rocked the fuck out, showcasing both her gritty growl/scream and her softer, delicate melodic vocals (both were basically impossible to hear, however). Drummer Edgar Livengood remains one of my favorite drummers currently playing. He not only has speed, but power. I also love that he uses a bass drum turned on its side as a floor tom. He's fascinating to watch - particularly in strobe lights. The lights! In addition to strobes, they also had fucking high calibre blinding lights atop their wall of amps. This combined with the music just felt like being repeatedly sucker punched in the best way possible.

They played mostly newer material. Admittedly, I'm not as into their more recent records as Calling All Cars on the Vegas Strip and The Lambs EP (the latter being my top pick from their catalog). Not that their recent material isn't good. It fucking rocks. Especially live. I just have an affinity for the music that hipped to them in the first place.

All in all, a great show. They played for under an hour, with no encore. However, they never stopped playing, and they probably can't go longer than that given the physical exertion each of them puts into playing. And I'm being completely serious.

I recommend checking them out if they come through your town. Brace yourself.

Check them out on myspace.

And though it isn't indicative of most of their material, here's an old favorite from their debut LP:

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