Mini-punks in a skating rink

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This past weekend, I went to visit a friend of mine who lives out in the country. Since there’s not all that much to do there, he got us some tickets to a concert in Gresham. My friend had met the bassist of Emberghost, the headliners of the show, and had bought the ticket from him.

When asked to describe his band’s sound, he had said that they were reminiscent of early Smashing Pumpkins, and added that they were “epic” as well. Although I’m wary of anyone who uses the word “epic” to describe their own music, the influence raised my expectations and I envisioned a small, crowded basement show by a little known yet locally popular rock band that played melodic riff rock with James Iha-style shredding.

Even though their name was super corny (made up of lines from “The Raven”), I was still pretty curious to see them play.

Upon reaching the concert, several red flags popped up. First, it was at a roller-skating rink. “What is this, a sock hop?” I thought to myself. It might as well have been, since the average age of the people standing in line was probably 16.

Not only that, but there was an NRK van out front with people handing out some kind of promotional junk. I didn’t really look that hard, since I was anxious to get inside and away from some prepubescent punkers decked out in full studded regalia, replete with mohawks perfectly coordinated so as not to match a friend’s.

They were doing what they thought was “punk,” which ended up being talking very loudly and annoyingly, smashing a beer bottle and being really polite to me, stepping out of the way when I passed them. This made me mad, since they were obviously not hard-core at all, but were putting on what turned out to be a bigger show than any of the bands that night.

When I finally got inside, the first band didn’t waste any time in foisting their best Weezer impression on the audience.

To their credit, they attempted some three-part harmonies and put a lot of effort into them, but they still sounded pretty off-key. Unfortunately, they opened with the national anthem, and most of their songs sounded like they could have been about Jesus.

Next came the band Believing in June, whose members my friend and I had pegged for neo-Nazis as they strutted around the skating rink in bandannas before the show. They ended up being a mixed bag with some songs that actually shredded in a dissonant prog-metally way, but even more that combined wimpy screaming and whining with angular guitar that sounded good when it could overpower the vocals and the band’s incessant plugging of some crappy merch website.

By this time, my friend and I were disheartened and wandered back to the concessions stand to buy a cold, four dollar hot dog and watch the mini-punks scowl and walk around looking for someone to fight other than the young girls they seemed to be so fond of slamming into in the pit they started.

Inked in Blood came on next, and were so bad that I ended up wandering back to the merch stand that Believing in June loved so much, only to find dumb t-shirts that said “Free Martha.” When we questioned the validity of the message, we were met with volleys of nonsensical arguments and philosophical name-dropping that led us to miss part of Emberghost’s set, which turned out to be a good thing, since they sounded nothing like the Pumpkins and more like the toxic love child of every bad nu metal and screamo band you could think of.

Zero shredding. Zero riffage. Zero climactic solos, just cheesy lyrics about marriage and sappy high school heartbreak. The only epic qualities of the band were their epic lack of originality and epic sucking.

By that time, my friend and I had had enough, and passed up an invite to an after-party to go to Wendy’s and listen to a skipping Velvet Underground CD, which turned out to be the highlight of the evening.