Arcata Eye Scene

A-town art, music, theatre. Mostly music. Updated Wednesdays.

Josh Duke: Bonus Tracks – Nov. 6, 2007

Another Friday evening was spent in that morgue with funny lighting; the Pearl hosted for us a trio of delectable bands for a cover charge that costs less than nearly all of their cocktails. Side Iron, Or, the Whale and Strix Vega crammed themselves into the corner of the most awkward venue in the area (yes, even more so than the Alibi), eager to entertain a crowd that demanded a collared shirt and classy style. But in the face of a lack of stage, adequate space to sit, any good place to stand, or even a clear path to an exit in the event of fire, these three bands somehow managed to entertain a crowd with catchy tunes, singalong lyrics and a nagging desire to order enough spirits to prompt a call to a taxi service.

Side Iron, who is not a Que La Chinga spinoff as others have so eloquently put into print, but is rather coincidentally comprised of the three former members of Que La Chinga plus another from The Hitch. As it was their musical debut as the group stands, I wanted to carefully spell out how they sounded, but really in the end all I could come up with is that they sounded like Que La Chinga, minus Bret and Chris.
Other than their drum kit sounding like street performers in Santa Monica that beat on plastic buckets, they sounded quite affable. With Keil at the vocal and guitar helm, they crashed through the set with those signature breakout B-sections. A lovely first start for band rife with bourbon soaked aggression and whiff of country twang. With Kurtis laying some lovely bass licks and Damieon showing off lapsteel skills we never knew he had, it made me feel like there’s nothing finer than watching three old friends find an excuse to drink whiskey together.

Or, the Whale served as the apex of the night, and somehow managed to cram seven members and almost as much gear as Strix Vega (a trio) has into that small corner of the Pearl. Their spry brand of alternative folk pop was just the right downturn on the intensity knob after the set from Side Iron. Incredibly dialed in, tight, and well practiced, I would have sung along if I had only known the words. I tapped my foot and hollered at their bop-ditty folk numbers, and swayed lazily during their lonely-hearted ballads, giving me that tingling sensation that tells me I’ll be able to namedrop them later after they make it big. But with all up-and-coming bands of the pop persuasion, there is always a crossroads of sorts. “Selling Out” is too cliche of a term, but for them it’d be the difference between playing a stage at Bonnaroo, or opening for Guster. Let’s hope they make it to Tennessee.

Strix Vega, returning from their hiatus of a few months, closed out the evening after spending nearly as much time setting up as they did actually playing. With new material and a new drummer, I still felt a little uneasy watching our boys turn from something I’d put on an apology mix tape for my girlfriend to something that I’m not sure I’d put on a mix tape at all.

A more electric, rocking, effect-driven Strix Vega is slowly but surely taking the place of a once simple and catchy trio of boys. But I guess as a chick leaves the nest, our boys must grow up, as must their songs. Through their truncated set, listening to their ever more complex songs, I still found that lyrical touch of Colin’s slathered throughout. My only hope is that with all their prog rock wet dreams floating about, they still remember that its ok to slow it down a bit.

Rarely do I go and see a show where I’m completely satisfied; a night of veteran musicians playing to a packed house is always a recipe for a good evening. I can’t remember a time in recent history where a better set had been booked. I pray such momentum continues, or else I’ll be hiring a lot more taxis.

Name Side Iron’s ex-Hitch member, take a side in the Strix Vega debate or simply toss in your two cents at

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