Russian Circles, Helms Alee, KEN Mode
March 7, 2014
Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, CA

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Russian to See Some Good Music

Guess what: you know who’s a bundle of agro crimson fist-stomping in every mosh pit he goes to? Pounding and pounded to the floor, battered and crumpled like a losing Lottery ticket after every punk rock and metal show that comes to town? I know him, his name’s Not Me. He’s rad. Candice and I sometimes like to view the ruckus from atop, afar, afloat. Our behavior the night in question fell in that category. We went to see Russian Circles at Great American Music Hall and we had some VIP seats up top, cold beer in hand, good food on the counter in front of us. We were doing it up. Not punk rock, no. Not us. Although I’m pleased to say that when you go and see bands like Russian Circles, no matter where you’re vantage rests, you are pleasantly doomed to rock. So it is. And so it was.

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As beef ribs and fried fish settled in our bellies we sat back and enjoyed the evening’s first band, KEN Mode. Is KEN a man or a band you might ask yourself? KEN is an essence of damage demanding acknowledgment. Acknowledgment I was happy to provide. They put on a good show, these Canadians. Contrary to the typical associations of their homeland, the KEN of KEN Mode stands for “Kill Everyone Now,” and it was clear that their implement of such intentions was the instrument that each employed, using music as their sword with which to slay! They had lots of showmanship via hand gestures, sampled monologue tracks and some A1 screaming-ass vocals. Every so often their singer/guitar player, Jesse Matthewson, would switch out his guitar for an additional bass. I guess that was just his Bass-ic Instinct! Either way, they had quite the girth up there on stage. Goodness.

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Next on the bill was Helms Alee, label-mates of Russian Circles. The label I refer to is Sargent House and I’ve talked before about how rad this label is. If you’re ever looking to discover some quality rocking shit, head to their web-site and just pick a band at random. I assure you listening pleasure. Helms Alee proved this thesis. They consist of two girls and a guy. Despite being from Seattle but don’t seem to personify a rainy day. The dude plays guitar and sings lead, but the lasses employ the mic as well. They create an amazing sound together, the likes of which I can’t recall having heard elsewhere. They harmonize in these incredible manifestations that had me tuning in to all three of the musicians one at a time as each created something that I hadn’t the distinction to even begin to classify. Their drummer, Hozoji Margullis, plays her kit like she never grasped the concept of drums being for rhythm only. It’s like watching a drumming version of some mind-boggling finger-picking guitar solo. And I’m glad you brought up guitars, Self, cause Ben Verellen (the axist of Helms Alee) is a sight to behold as well. The three of them blasted us all away and I’m definitely gonna be keeping my eyes peeled for the next time they’re in town. (Hope to see you there, dork! JK, you’re hecka cool. LOL.)

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Then came the band we were all waiting for (except for the chick we met in line who’d never heard of them…hmm), Russian Circles. Candice and I saw them last year at Great American Music Hall when they played with another amazing band And So I Watch You From Afar. Running three dudes deep they bring, the sound, the fury, unearthed from the raging confines of rock. String henchman Brian Cook alternated between bass and second guitar, helping cohort Mike Sullivan provide a ginormous level of stringed fire to their sound. They have a hearty gambit of instrumental ballads, mostly slow tempo, and so full of weight that you just can’t help but be entranced. They don’t get super fancy with their shit either, just good, strong measures of guitar-drenched metal. They had the crowd loving it up too. Remember that guy Not Me I told you about? He was there doing his part to turn the entire floor into a danger zone. Everyone was getting wily to the epicness of Russian Circles and it was nearly impossible not to bang your head, pump your fist and say an internal prayer of gratitude to the Nether-Gods of Metal’s wonderful abyss.

We coursed our way from the Hall feeling elevated and thankful to cherish another display of The Real Fuckin Deal. I can say with complete sincerity that these Circles are not square. Next time they’re in your town, wherever that may be, I suggest you go see them. And if you notice some sissy completely Not-Moshing, that’s probably me. Come say “Whattup.”

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