Opening to a sparsely filled room were The Side Effects. I had never seen them before, but was aware that they contained members of SixFtHick, so I had an idea of what to expect - big, bluesy punk riffs covered with distortion. That's pretty much what I got. The band opened with a song built on a repetitive and rhythmically minimalist riff held down by the rhythm section, while the guitarist played over the top and spat out (what I imagined to be) lyrical bile. It didn't really convince me - the singer didn't really have the necessary vocal gravity to pull off such a song, with the end result being a kind of plodding garage rock number that aimed at something bigger than its actuality - not necessarily bad per se, but not really engaging either. With the second song, however, the band kicked things up a gear, and as long as they kept the tempo to a relatively high level they were definitely entertaining. The drummer especially was great to watch, all flailing limbs, twirled sticks and lupine grimaces. The bassist attempted to match him with pure solidity and power, and came pretty close to doing so. While they're not a band I'd actively seek out, that's probably more to do with personal musical preferences than anything else. If that whole bluesy, swampy garage punk-rock thing is your bag then you should check them out.
Butcher Birds followed on from Side Effects. The band started with their trademark volume and comparitively clear vocals, but something seemed to be missing for the first few songs, some sort of intangible spark. When the band hit the song 'Mower' (from the Eat Their Young EP) that all changed - within the space of one song the volume seemed to increase, the rhythms became more urgent and the band just more energetic in general. I don't think it was simply a matter of it being the first song in the set that I recognised, I think there was a discernible shift in attitude on stage - where beforehand the band had seemed almost distracted, there was now a focus. The rest of the set followed suit, with songs that weren't as content to purely batter with volume. There was an increased emphasis on vocal melodies that provided a counterpoint to the sludgy guitars underneath them, as opposed to being content to merely float along on top. Hell, I even heard some Corin Tucker-esque wailing wedged in between the usually smokey vocals of lead singer Stacey Coleman. There were some nice use of dynamic displayed in the latter songs, which bodes well for any future releases from the band.
Finishing up the night were the dependable Del Toro. If you know Del Toro then you know how they played - I don't think I've seen them play a bad show... although, I'm not sure I've ever seen them play a truly transcendent show either. Still, reliable quality is no bad thing, especially when Del Toro offer a less moody and ultimately more immediately enjoyable twist on the standard epic post rock going around. There were bouncing basslines from their always impressive bassist, combined with solid rhythms and atmospheric guitars. Yep, pretty much another show from Del Toro. As I reported in my previous review of the band, it's good to see that the band is attempting to stretch out somewhat from their usual sound and mood, with some almost 'upbeat' songs sprinkled through the set. They've recently returned from Melbourne, where they recorded their debut album with Tortoise compatriot Casey Rice, so look for that at some stage in the next few months.