Being a reviewer is not easy, whether I'm reviewing video games and soundtracks for RPGfan.com or various shows/concerts at Rutgers. On the one hand, I need to maintain objectivity so that I can offer a fair and unbiased view of the subject. On the other hand, I have my own personal biases, tastes, and thus my subjective reviewers' tilt needs to be taken into account as well. That's what adds humanity to the prose, because we humans have idiosyncratic tastes and biases. Due to both factors, I've collected a ton of hate mail due to my various reviews, but I love it. To me it means someone took the time out to read my writings in depth and took the time out to write me and tell me what a stupid asshole I am. That my words can elicit that kind of emotional impact makes critical writing worthwhile.
But I digress. My article on the April 2006 Guild Show may seem a bit less like a review and more like an editorial, because I have too many biases, not the least of which is that my band, Sullen Door, played. I also felt that this show was where I was given many opportunities to shine, and I really felt like a star.
The crowd was pretty small. One of the smallest crowds we've ever had for a Guild show. We maybe had 20 people max in contrast to the last Guild Show in February where there were up to 70 people at one point. But so what? Of all the Guild shows I've been to, this was the one where I had the absolute most fun.
The crowd may have been small, but the people in that crowd were IMO the people that mattered. There were people who came all the way from south Jersey who came early and stayed late till the bitter end. I would rather have a small handful of people with that kind of dedication at a show than a whole truckload of fickle people who could care less.
So enough of my jibber-jabber. Let's talk about the show. Before I talk about the acts, I have to give major props to Rodney (of Goosey.) He did a great job on sound and was quite generous to offer up his sweet drumkit as a backline for the other bands to use, fully mic'd and everything. Rodney rules!
Elizabeth- I was really looking forward to hearing her play again. I loved her music a couple of shows back. She has a great voice, is a soulful songwriter, and utilizes some very cool guitar techniques like the hard right hand muting that almost looks like a slap. My bandmates dug it too and I hope she'll play some shows with Sullen Door in the future. "Good Night" was my favorite song that she did. Someone get this girl in the studio!
Button- Button were a lot of fun. I loved Andrea's vocals. She has a unique voice that sounds almost cartoony (in a very GOOD way) that just lends this unabashed sense of fun to their music. Musically, there were a bit sloppy at times, but I think over time and with more practices under their belt, their sound will tighten up something fierce. Their cover of "Part of Your World" from "The Little Mermaid" was cool, because that's a song close to my heart. I love playing that song on bass.
Goosey- Goosey were extremely good. Hands down, my favorite band of the evening. Their music has a very artistic quality to it, like their instruments are also paintbrushes where they're painting sonic landscapes. If Goosey were to shoot a music video, I think it should be animated since I found a very visual quality to the music and it'd lend itself well to some interesting animations. I love the artistic song titles like "Nocturnal Canopy" and "Velvet Maya." I liked that they kept that really chill vibe even during some of their heavier numbers- which were great fun to watch as the band really got into it and were moving around a lot. In the beginning of their set I was thinking "the music is good, but they're kinda boring on stage" but as their set progressed, they started getting more animated and became enjoyable to watch as well as listen to. I loved their singer's voice. Very distinctive and powerful. Bassist Chris had some great breakdowns and solo sections. Damn good player. The lead guitarist was probably one of the most finessed users of effects I've heard in a long time. We in Sullen Door would love to do shows with you guys, if you'll have us.
Venereal Exchange- The guys in Venereal Exchange are some of the coolest guys I've ever hung out with. They are so much nicer and chiller than their crass stage personas would suggest. And though this band is sloppy and rough in the musicality department, they are lots of fun- so long as your idea of fun is over-the-top, tasteless, ridiculously vulgar, potty humor. Frontman Brad's energy is infectious; I freakin' love that guy. Former No Damn Problem frontman Richard got to thrash around on guitar for the band; he didn't really play, just thrashed about. Thing is, the band were definitely out of place on a roster that featured more mellow music than has been at the past few Guild Shows. They still did the best they could, though.
James Watts- The mystery was solved. Who IS James Watts? Well, to me, James Watts is a storyteller, and a damn good one. Even though between songs he told lengthy and often familiar tales, he wove them in such a way that we all happily listened and enjoyed them. It takes a really good storyteller to make the familiar seem fresh. He only had two songs on his repertoire... but there was no way we were going to let him get away with just that. Hip-Hop is a genre of music underrepresented in the Guild so we needed a good dosage. I called to Richard and proposed that after James did his songs, we have a freestyle rap jam session. James was hip to the idea. After his two songs (both of which featured a really smooth flow and his storytelling skills) Goosey drummer Rodney decided to sit behind the kit and I quickly set up my bass rig. Rodney came up with a drum beat that I had the perfect bassline to go with, and James freestyled over it. What really made my day, though, was seeing a pair of fine looking sistas in the audience who were looking at me and whispering to each other "he's good." Oh yeah, earlier on, James pointed out a gentleman in the audience who was a soon-to-be grad from Livingston who was an up and coming R&B/soul singer.(Brian G) When he did, the first words out of my mouth were "are you going to sing a song for us?" At first he was like "nah, nah" but James convinced him to come up and sing one of his songs a-capella and damn he was good. Rodney, James, and I then freestyled it on another tune.
I'll tell you, my favorite kind of music to play on my bass is stuff like R&B, soul, hip-hop, funk; my all time favorite bassist is Verdine White of Earth, Wind, & Fire. Unfortunately, I can never seem to find brothas and sistas with whom I can jam on those kinds of tunes with. So this was a first for me playing those genres with other people and for that crowd to respond positively to my playing just made my day. James himself even said, "man, I love this guy. He's always amped." For artists and fans of hip-hop, soul, funk, R&B, and the like to respond positively to my playing really made me feel like I had partially made it as a bassist, because that kind of crowd is serious about bass.
So those of my crowd who came early got to see a special treat of me jamming with James Watts. I had so much fun doing that.
Sullen Door- Now it was time for me to switch gears and go to the rock sound that is my band, Sullen Door. Because our drummer is a lefty, he couldn't use the backline because it was configured righty. So while he was setting up his drumkit (and taking a while since I was still waiting for some of my crowd to show) I grabbed hold of a mic and started entertaining the audience with my bevy of voice impersonations from series like South Park, The Nanny, Spongebob, The Simpsons, Barney, and others. Stupid me didn't have his water bottle nearby, so I felt my voices weren't as tight as they could have been because I was a bit dehydrated after sweating buckets dancing and moshing along to the previous bands. But people dug my impromptu bit, which was surprisingly lengthy. My mom would've been proud. She thinks my talent for voices is my most unique and special one and would not be happy if I didn't utilize stage opportunities to test it out on audiences.
Soon enough, it was time for us to quit dicking around and actually play. We even got to throw an extra song
into our set, which was sweet. Somehow, we even had a decent crowd between core Guildies, my handful of
people (I expected about 7 of my invitees to show, and I did count about 7 of my people), the drummer's
girlfriend, and even a bunch of Indian guys who were doing bhangra music in a nearby room came by to listen
and said to me after the show that they thought we sounded good. I thought my bass tone was a tad off the
entire night- like it was more "blatty" than I normally like, but the only person who'd seem to care about
that is anal-retentive bassist me. This was our public debut and we think it went well. Sure we missed a few
cues and flubbed a few lines here and there, my bass even came unplugged at one point (I should think about
using my wireless system again), but that's rock & roll.
And I'd be completely soulless if the repeated chants of "Neal! Neal! Neal!" didn't make me feel like a rock star.
Queens Chorale Side Project- If the previous bands were like a ginormous multi-course meal, this female a-capella group was like a refreshing lemon sorbet to cap off the meal. The ladies all had angelic voices and sang some really funny songs about Rutgers. They were really cohesive as a group, but I would have liked to hear some brief solo bits from each of the ladies since all had distinct voices that deserve to shine a little bit.
All in all, amazing show. There was an eclectic variety musically and all the artists who played were on point. I got to play hip-hop bass. I got to do my voices for a real crowd. I got to play a show with my band. I got to spend quality time with a whole slew of great people; the diner afterwards was loads of fun. It was a memorable gig. Most bands' first gigs are never this good. To me, it was not just a gig for Sullen Door but a gig for Neal Chandran as well. I'm so thankful for the opportunity presented this night to perform in multiple capacities.Neal