Somehow I’ve avoided going to the Hemlock for a show. Perhaps it has something to do with my experiences at the bar there- a smug hipster meets rocker meets marina preppy joint where the bartenders act like it’s a pain in the ass to get you a drink. But they do host some good shows, so I finally seized the opportunity to go there.
To get to the music, you have to walk through the bar and go through a doorway covered in heavy plastic car wash style panels. Doing this kind of gives you the feeling of ‘Enter at Your Own Risk”. The space is a long narrow room dimly lit at the stage with seating along one wall and merch set up along the other.
Dark Castle is on stage, and let me tell you, they had me at their name. The two piece from Saint Augustine, Florida, consists of a male drummer and a female guitarist/vocalist. Their sound can best be described as fantasy down tempo metal, with sparse vocals expertly growled by Stevie. Note about female rock and metal musicians: most I have seen in up and coming bands have been…embarrassing. Stevie, on the other hand, makes me want to pick up the guitar again. When dealing with this kind of vocal, it’s easy to become a joke, but everything melds together well. It’s slow and heavy, with interjections of speed. I could definitely see this on a soundtrack.
There was absolutely no sense of urgency setting up for the next band. HRC pet peeve- please, hustle when you change sets. I’m going to loose the vibe, especially if I have to go outside to the bar and deal with that.
Finally, Sod Hauler, from Seattle, was ready. They place a Godzilla toy at the front of the stage, and launch into what was the longest set of the night. Sticking with the down tempo metal, their sound is pleasing, but I was not a fan of the vocals at all. It assaulted my ears in the not good way. The stand out of this band is their drummer, who makes great faces while he plays. Really fun to watch. I actually preferred them the most when they sped it up a bit- some of their stuff was was too dragged out. Their last song seemed like it was 20 minutes long.
When Kowloon Walled City got up there, in 5 seconds they showed everyone who was boss. Their song structures are really sophisticated, which is as much a testament to the band as well as how much more you can do as a four piece. They possess a muted energy that I find really interesting- they weren’t flailing around up there, but instead wore their intensity in their eyes, like a wildcat about to spring. These guys also don’t look like your typical metal band- they’re clean cut, piercing free- only the bassist has tattoo sleeves. There’s something really good-different about this band. It seemed like they had just kicked off the set with ‘Turk Taylor and Jones’ and it was over. I was riding a wave of their dark harmonies, losing my bad week in the angry vocals, and boom, done. Luckily, they are local, and I expect to witness great things from them in the future.
I quickly left the venue, and it was raining. I ran to my car in the dangerous Polk neighborhood, letting the sludge from the night wash off me.
Kowloon Walled City performance: 9/10
Sod Hauler performance: 6.5/10
Dark Castle performance: 8/10
venue (Hemlock): 7/10
value ($7.00/ticket): 9/10