SHiNDiG (Night 1)

So as previously advertised, last night was the first night of SHiNDiG 2003. Which was a good thing, because I like a free night out with friends, and as a judge, it’s a free night out (plus Ben was nice enough to put me on the guest list last night to skip the cover too).

So generally, I’m pretty happy, and predisposed to be forgiving to whomever may be playing that night. Last night, however, I have to say, was disapointing.

The first band, Fiction, was so close to being good. They started off in this fun new-wavey style, with some Joy Division-like sounds in there. The lead singer had this semi-charming awkwardness about him, although I think that may partially have been that he was uncomfortable in his ‘rock-star’ clothes (nothing fancy, they didn’t seem to sit right on him). And the problems just compounded to there. The band, a group of older guys, were individually each very skilled musicians. However, they just didn’t go together at all, making them appear more like a solo-artist and some session musicians than a band. The songs, while quirky, had quite sophmoric lyrics which did nothing to further their cause, but with a bit of work, would probably go over quite well on pop radio play. The final problem was that the lead singer, when playing guiter, looked terribly unsure of himself, and was quite obvious about it when he screwed up — never a good thing. Despite all this, they were the most pleasing to the ear of all the bands that night, and I suspect that were they to revisit their songsmithing, they might return as a pretty decent new-wave act.

The second band, Letters to Grace, should have been right up my alley: I grew up listening to folk-rock. I dug on Buffalo Springfield, CSNY and of course the Grateful Dead. These guys were seriously channelling the late 60’s folk-rock thing, down to the long frizzy hair and bizarre mustache/goatee thing of the time (for the bassist). However, all this did not lead to a great retro-rock act. Somehow, it led to a rather painful mining of the genre – like robots playing the music, but lacking the soul. Maybe they all just needed more confidence (there was a certain unsure mousiness to them all), to really give the soulful calls the genre requires, but I think it may really just be that they are not terribly gifted songwriters. I will admit a personal bias here, in that I was quite concerned for a while that they were a christian rock act, all earnest about Jesus and the like (which turns me off) (oddly I love soul & quite a bit of gospel, which is of course religious too, but chrisitan rock just gives me the howling fantods). They get some bonus points for not being a christian rock act, and specifically for referencing the devil (in one of those ‘temptation’ songs that were really quite popular back then). Fortunately, these guys only got through 3 or 4 songs. Unfortunately, they were all 8 or 9 minutes long. I will say, in their defense, however, that their harmonies were really quite nice.

The last act, after the first two, really only had to be competent to win my vote for the night, and The First Day was definitely that. A true-blue punk-metal act, in the Slayer genre (they in fact covered a Slayer tune near the end of their set), they sounded like any anonymous punk act featured on those ESPN X-Treme sports shows, while showing the skate/snow boarding highlights. They ran through a dozen or so songs, which is easy to do at 1 to 2 minutes apiece. Most songs sounded the same, although there were a couple of standouts, wherein the sound was distinctive. They won the night in my books mostly because they had a song whoe lyrics included a chorus of ‘Kill! Kill! Kill!’ and ‘The Church must die!’ (or something along those lines — it’s hard to tell what they’re saying in that gruff-shouting style of metal), which I just found funny.

The Jokes for Beer section, was as usual, fairly painful, but I did like Davie’s (a regular attendee and heckler of Ben’s) joke about SHiNDiG:

Q: What’s the difference between SHiNDig and the Titanic?
A: At the least the Titanic had a good band playing when it went down.

I don’t actually know who won the night in the end as I left right after handing in my judging sheet (the night was running late and I was really tired), but my suspicion is that Fiction will have carried the night. I’ll update once I know the final answer to that one.

UPDATE: actually, my own instincts were right and First Day won the night. huzzah.