Richmond riches: Bands swamp the Rose

Circuit Halo, el Presidente, Kojak
at Tokyo Rose
Friday, June 20


At five on Friday, the tennis court basin of University Ave. pooled with a freakish burst of heavy, pelting rain. As I sat stopped at the Emmet red, my tires slid slightly against the downhill torrent, but I kept my cool and waited calmly, watching fretful SUV drivers bravely navigate the tiny, thrilling equivalent of an ultimate off-roading experience.

Later that evening, only a smattering of vehicles parted from the Ivy downstream to head for the Tokyo Rose parking lot. It seemed as if the sudden flood had completely leached the city's reserves of weekend motivation. Even the more faithful attendees were nowhere in sight.

Their loss.

Throbbing baselines from Circuit Halo, the opener, hammered up through the floor, causing the few circulating wineglasses to jitter unsteadily on the lacquered tabletops. Like the two other bands, they were from Richmond, shared an interest for the deeper, darker frequencies, and unfortunately as yet have no CDs to sell. They rocked the fitting metaphors with songs like "Train"; dissonance bounced under the strained, agitated vocals.

El Presidente followed. Their set quickly became my favorite of the lineup; the guitar riffs, screened through an unknown succession of octave, distortion, and other effect pedals, emerged as a weird, mechanized bliss.

I didn't catch any vocals, but their absence certified El Presidente as soundtrack-worthy... for a film featuring borderline insanity, unrelenting sun, and never-ending asphalt (and Hunter S. Thompson in the passenger?). They spun their odd chords and rhythms together with an intuitive centeredness, blending near-perfect amounts of migraine-pound and melody.

Kojak introduced their first tune, "Firebug," with the words, "This song is about Richmond and the burning of said town." More blinding than their namesake's bald pate, they took the flash in this summer's berserk rush of growth and decay-­ Kudzu strangling, mosquito larvae wriggling, puffball spores clouding-­ and molded it into music.

The result was an organic, accelerated mess of noise, powered by a pulsing, bass-drum brain. Songs like "Trophy Bride" raged in this rush. The effect left me wanting to pull up all that bourgeois front-yard fescue by the roots... and leave the landscape to anything else but.

For those more familiar with Arbitron than Quintron, the show would have been a painful departure from homogeneity. But one man's trash is another's pleasure. I liked the noisy rock abandon. Friday night, the Richmond outpouring overflowed the gutters, and raced to feed the energy of something much bigger than itself.