Palms, Boyfrndz, Born From Ruins Scout Bar September 29, 2014
The last time we saw Chino Moreno around these parts, he was rocking one of the big stages at Free Press Summer Festival with the Deftones. In recent years, though, that band's pace of output seemingly hasn't been steady enough to encompass all of the front man' reverb-drenched artistic urges. First came his electronic side project Crosses, with its witch-house trappings and electronica experiments. Now, Moreno is concentrating on Palms, the "supergroup" he's formed with three of the guys from the (now unfortunately named) post-metal icons Isis.
For fans who still miss Isis' masterfully heady crunch, it's an intriguing project with the potential to give Jeff Caxide, Aaron Harris and Bryant Clifford Meyer a second act in the spotlight. But make no mistake -- there was only one star onstage at Scout Bar on Monday night. From start to finish, all eyes (and lenses) were pointed at Chino, happily slumming it on a stage that more regularly hosts his forgotten nu-metal contemporaries than a group with the still-potent drawing power of his famous main gig.
Before Moreno could take the stage, local rockers Born From Ruins warmed up the overflow crowd, clearly pumped to be sharing a bill with a bona fide rock star. The band acquitted themselves well, receiving a nice response from fans for their trouble, but I confess I was a bit distracted during their set by the remodeled layout of Scout Bar. It'd been a year or more since I made the trek down I-45 to the Clear Lake club, which has blown out a wall or two and added what looked like a sports bar on one side. Their expanded beer selection, which now includes mighty Karbach brews, certainly came as a welcome surprise as well.
Very quickly after Born From Ruins wrapped up, Austin's Boyfrndz appeared next, dishing out angular, layered riffage with a mathy bent. The group's drummer twisted 6/8 time signatures into interesting contortions as their singer belted out ear-piercing vocals from behind some impressive facial hair. As colors strobed all around them, Boyfrndz delivered just the sort of heavy and challenging atmospherics you'd expect to go over well with a bunch of Deftones and Isis devotees.
The real enthusiasm in the room, naturally, was reserved for the headliners. The ex-Isis boys got plenty of claps and whistles as they took the stage, but the tightly packed audience lost its damn mind when Chino appeared last, strapping on a white Gibson SG. The singer calmly and pleasantly acknowledged the love with a smile and a twinkle in his eye before launching into Palms' set with a slow, tidal outpouring of guitar effects.
Perhaps by explicit design, Palms lacks both the kinetic energy of the Deftones as well as the dynamic crunch of Isis' best material. Despite the names involved, classifying this music as a derivative of heavy metal would be a bit of a stretch. Palms is something far more gentle and soothing, even though it still arrived with a thick coating of reverb and distortion. Say what you will about Scout Bar's relative coolness, but the club's sound and lighting systems proved more than up to the task of doing the band's dense sound justice.
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The band presented a nice chunk of the material from its self-titled Ipecac debut from last year. Their gentle swells achieved the most chilling vibrations on "Future Warrior" and "Shortwave Radio," the latter of which saw Chino ditch the guitar and break out a few of his front-man stage moves, eliciting plenty of excitement from the ladies up front. For the most part, though, he left his Deftones swagger at home for the evening, preferring to recede into the deep waves of chorus effects.
Keyboardist Chuck Doom picked up a bass toward the end of the set, allowing the always-standout Jeff Caxide to pick up a six-string and rock out on the rumbling "Antarctic Handshake." On this tune, especially, Palms sounded very much like what fans were hoping for: Chino Moreno fronting Isis.
Then again, many fans in attendance seemed to feel they got their money's worth simply from the opportunity to see the rock idol up close and personal in an intimate space like Scout Bar. By that standard, Palms has to be considered an unqualified success. For the Deftones diehards, their dreamy tunes were practically a bonus.
Personal Bias: The Mosquito Control EP still destroys.
The Crowd: Deftones fans.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I wish they woulda got Aaron Turner, dude."
Random Notebook Dump: Intriguing shows like this one, peppered in with Scout Bar's usual milieu, are beginning to make it one of the area's longest-running and most storied venues. Kudos to the Scout crew.
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