Illustration by Nathalie Roland
By Gabe Meline
L ast month at Hollywood’s famed Troubadour club, the Velvet Teen unveiled a new lineup, new songs and a new abrasion. With frontman Judah Nagler on bass and new recruit Matthew Izen on guitar, it was clear that a completely different and complex band had emerged. The more confused members of the wall-to-wall audience, apparently unaware of the Santa Rosa–based band’s evolution since their lilting debut, Out of the Fierce Parade , could take pleasure in at least one new song, a bouncing ditty utilizing pop-song chord changes and guitar hooks. Absent of the discord that has marked the band’s recent recordings, it helped highlight a set that by now, after a month on the road, should be honed to perfection. They appear at Petaluma’s Phoenix Theater Dec. 1.
The Velvet Teen have curated their homecoming show with a smattering of new local bands, all of which deserve mention. Not to Reason Why, named after a roadside flower stand in Cotati, is the newest star on the scene to specialize in orchestral indie rock reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky or Godspeed You Black Emperor. As overexposed as their chosen genre has been in recent years, Not to Reason Why nonetheless kick against its imagined barriers and create near-perfect soundscapes from piano, guitar, bass and drums.
Also on the bill are Moggs, a husband and wife duo of drums and guitar who both define and minimize angularity. The band’s album, The White Belt Is Not Enough , was recorded in their home studio, a completely analog setup anchored by the very mixing board used for the blockbuster film Titanic . But the music of Moggs is as distant from Celine Dion as Mitt Romney is from the Church of Satan.
Litany for the Whale continue to make their viciously loud mark in the modern metal underworld, so committed to perfection that they recently scrapped an entire album before release. New songs have been drawn up and added to the set list, with previously absent vocals guiding the band’s journey through epic, distorted, feedback-laden territory. Don’t expect to make it out unscathed.
Chores are a fun-loving trio of guys in their early twenties whose dual screaming and odd forms owe equally to the attack of the Blood Brothers as to the avant-garde freedom of Archie Shepp. The first time I saw them was in a kitchen, and people were literally dancing upside-down on the ceiling during their set. As musical chefs of unusually long and exploratory hardcore compositions, Chores plunge in the knife, swirl it around in circles and watch the results writhe and convulse.
The Velvet Teen, Not to Reason Why, Moggs, Litany for the Whale and Chores appear on Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Phoenix Theater. 201 E. Washington St., Petaluma. 8pm. $10. 707.762.3565.