It's no secret that we at Concerted Effort love the Hi-Dive, especially reflecting back on how much this blog has been there, even in the past week. I keep repeating myself, but this venue just knows how to bring in the right bands and put on great shows. But the venue doesn't just rely on touring bands to achieve that, the Hi-Dive maintains a commitment to supporting the local scene as well - a strong commitment at that. Not only do local bands have the chance to open for several national and international headlining acts, but the Hi-Dive offers prime dates to local bands that really highlights the venue's dedication to the scene - as was the case with the locals only showcase on Friday night.
The night began with a performance from Mombi. Mombi is a three-piece band featuring Kael Smith (vocals, guitar), Matt Herron (synth), and Michael Behrenhausen (drums) that created ambient and atmospheric music both electronically and organically. Background sound, sometimes wispy, sometimes cavernous, created a moody and hollow space, filled by gentle synths, careful drumming, and effected guitar that ghostly shadowed deliberately frail vocals.
Mombi's latest album, The Wounded Beat, embodies that characteristic sound just described, although features a lot of acoustic guitar that almost adds a folk dimension to the band's sound. On this night, Kael Smith elected to play electric guitar, which helped instill a cold and dark atmospheric sound throughout Mombi's brief set. Mombi took the audience on a steady, cautious journey through four songs, ending on the weightless yet tense piece "Monsoon". Mombi does a great job of creating something that sounds simultaneously enormous yet empty - like dust floating in the blankness of space. If ambiance is your thing, Mombi excels at it.
Between sets, Peter Black played short DJ sets. Always displaying high degrees of versatility, Peter Black employed an incredibly wide range of styles on this particular night. Tucked away on the rear mini stage, Peter Black smoothly blended futuristic and atmospheric electronic selections with songs pulled from post-rock, ambient rock, dreamwave, and gothic rock; an impressive combination of sounds and a testament to Peter Black's ability to select songs appropriate for any occasion. Whether or not he's featured on the main stage, if he is behind the decks he will get the job done.
Next up was a highly anticipated set from Force Publique. Force Publiques synth-heavy darkwave sound and strong songwriting locked my attention long ago when I first saw them, and they quickly became one of my local favorites. But, Force Publique had been quiet lately, hard at work on new material and not performing live shows - the last time I saw them perform was October of last year. On Friday, Force Publique performed as the duo of Cassie McNeil (vocals, guitar, bass) and James Wayne (synths, MPC). They revealed a set of brand new material that continued their darkwave theme but certainly had some notable and exciting differences.
Force Publique opened their set with "Breathe The Lie", and the first thing I noticed was that Cassie McNeil was weilding a guitar - she had only ever performed with a bass and sometimes on synth when I'd seen them before. The next thing I noticed was James Wayne's Roland synth - I'd only ever seen him with a Moog before. The guitar and second synth added more depth to their sound, which was still decidedly Force Publique but seemed to have even more darkness and atmosphere to it in their new songs. Cassie McNeil also switched back to bass on some songs, and there were some pieces where she sang exclusively - something else entirely new. The beat work on Force Publique's new songs were very impressive, showing off a variety of beat styles and even more rhythmic intricacy. If James Wayne wasn't playing one synth (or both), he would be using his hands to lay down drum beats with his MPC. Although sometimes I felt the new pieces would have a little more presence with a live drummer like they've had before, I couldn't help but be impressed overall with all the new material - both in concept and execution. This is shaping up to be a big year for Force Publique, and I can't wait to get my hands on their next album.
School Knights took the stage next for their headlining set. With an atmospheric/ambient set to lead off the night, and a gothic/darkwave set next, when School Knights' began performing their noise/garage rock, it set off like a nuclear explosion in contrast. Ben Donehower (bass, vocals), Morris Kolontyrsky (guitar), Zack Roif (drums), and Michael Stein (guitar, vocals) were back again, combining a host of rock sub-genres like alt-rock, surf-rock, punk, and lo-fi with a noisy aesthetic and lighthearted if not a bit satirical and sarcastic attitude. Loud, distorted, and noisy guitars matched up with fleeting drums to propel their chaotic sound and lay under the reverberated vocals, but it was controlled chaos.
School Knights started their set with "Problem", a song where melodic lead guitar lingered just below a distorted wall of sound and Ben Donehower's vocals. That lingering melody drove School Knights' retro-like surfy punk-garage sound, while the loud distortion began to rile up the crowd. That lingering guitar-work craftily moved above the surface as School Knights' set progressed. "Brother" upped the tempo a bit, and so did the prominence of School Knights' guitar work, with the licks becoming much more rapid and injecting energy into the sound. By the time School Knights' performed their third song, the recently released single "Bender", the crowd was jumping around as quickly and wildly as Morris' fingers were hammering his frets.
School Knights continued on smoothly, expertly blending their noisy aesthetic with the surf/punk/garage sound. They performed another newly released single, "Present Tense", with vocals melodic enough to create a sort of noise-pop sound, but delivered in a such a carefree fashion it maintained a raw, punk rock 'n' roll feel. School Knights continued to perform as yet released songs off of their forthcoming album, to the delight of a progressively rowdy crowd. Bodies thrashed up, down and side-to-side as the crowd lost themselves to School Knights' tactically abrasive sound. Fans of energetic noise-punk need to keep their eyes open for School Knights' next album release.
As much credit is due to the venue for providing a place for these local bands to showcase their talent, so to does credit go to the bands and the droves of people who came to support it all. It may not always work out like it did Friday night, but when it all comes together it's a beautiful thing. The persistence of bands to keep moving forward while spreading the word and different band's willingness to work together can pay off in the form of a great show, as long as they have great outlets to exhibit themselves. Support local music whenever you can to keep nights like these a regular thing.
See more pictures from this show in the Facebook photo album. Like the Concerted Effort page to stay up to date.