Night of the Living Grave Babies at Death by Audio

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I’ve never been bored at a Death by Audio show, and last night was no different. Perpetual Ritual, Grave Babies, Ganglians, and Xray Eyeballs all played great sets. These were all bands I had not seen live yet, and I was especially stoked for Seattle’s Grave Babies and Brooklyn-based Xray Eyeballs. Also, I have to say that Death by Audio plays some of the best house music. Their soundman and guest DJs always have great taste. But I digress.

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Opener Perpetual Ritual is actually the solo project of Grave Babies’ bassist Mitch Saulsberry, with drums by Grave Babies vocalist and guitarist Danny Wahlfeldt. The music wasn’t too far a stretch from the Grave Babies sound, which made it a perfect extension of what was to come.

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Grave Babies created some serious mood and atmosphere with a fog machine and strobe light. The fog was so thick that it was like watching zombie silhouettes perform in a graveyard, but these zombies aren’t as interested in eating brains as they are in making dark, fuzzed-out noise rock clouding around lyrics that comment on society and humanity – or lack thereof. On their recorded material, the songs are so lo-fi that these lyrics are nearly unintelligible and all but hidden under layers of garage pop goth scuzz with synth and drum machine beats by Tyler Robinson that drummer Keith Whiteman wildly slams along to. Watching Danny sing revealed that he actually has an operatic style that conveys some serious vocal strength and depth. This makes perfect sense, as not only is the subject matter dark and emotional (despite how their persona could come across as being rather emotionless), but it would take strong vocals to break through their thick sonic barrier. They recently released a 7” on Hardly Art, with the A side “Pleasures” that you can stream below.

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Grave Babies – PLEASURES by hardlyartrecords

Sacramento’s Ganglians were the previously unannounced special guest for the night. Their sound is along similar lo-fi lines, but with more pop and California sun in their lives. Many of their songs showcase some nice 3-part harmonies, and they have a great energy on stage. The bassist almost immediately broke a string, and borrowed from Xray Eyeball’s bassist. Their equipment seemed straightforward enough, although singer/guitarist Ryan Grubbs  did inform the crowd that he lost his children’s keyboard, therefore he would be playing a wooden board with an effects pedal on it as a substitute. He certainly did have a way with pushing that pedal. It must have been the magic of his polka dot socks that he played in after leaving his shoes at the edge of the stage.

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Ganglians

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Xray Eyeballs came out with half of the band wearing Grave Babies t-shirts. I love when bands rep other bands and foster a sense of community. Their super energetic set was mostly due to vocalist/guitarist O.J. San Felipe’s pure spunk. He whines and slurs his lyrics, and it goes with their jangly distorted pop punk new wave amalgamation perfectly. Bassist Carly Rabalais lends some vocals as well, and drummer Sarah Baldwin is like their Dee Dee Ramone, rapidly shouting “1, 2, 3, 4!”  to start their songs. Xray Eyeballs pair punk ‘tude with garage scuzz, and it feels so right. By the end of their set they got especially rowdy, with San Felipe jumping on top of the bass drum and giving us a booty shake, then ripping off his guitar and playing it with the neck pointed down. He slid his foot up and down the strings, and Rabalais lended a high-heeled boot for extra scratching feedback. When an almost empty beer can was thrown on stage, San Felipe picked it up and batted it with his guitar like a baseball back into the crowd. Home run, Xray Eyeballs, and the crowd goes wild.

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Xray Eyeballs

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Perpetual Ritual has one more opening slot for Grave Babies lined up for their September 25th gig in Denver, CO. Mitch has some cassettes for sale that you can grab from the merch table or get directly through him. Ganglians is headed to Europe for a while, but they have a new track you can download on their facebook Xray Eyeballs have a few more shows lined up, including a Webster Hall gig with Black Lips on 10/29.

Grave Babies are at Cake Shop tonight, before turning back West for the second half of their tour, listed below.

Grave Babies “Farewell Tour 2011″

09.14.11 – New York, NY – Cake Shop

09.15.11 – Montreal, QC – Casa del Popolo

09.16.11 – Toronto, ON – Parts and Labour

09.17.11 – Detroit, MI – Lager House

09.18.11 – Chicago, IL – Schubas Tavern

09.19.11 – Indianapolis, IN – Indy’s Jukebox

09.20.11 – St. Louis, MO – Firebird

09.21.11 – Memphis, TN – Hi Tone

09.23.11 – Urbana, IL – Pygmalion Festival at Red Herring

09.24.11 – Lawrence, KS – Replay Lounge

09.25.11 – Denver, CO – Hi Dive

09.26.11 – Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court

09.27.11 – Reno, NV – The Holland Project

09.29.11 – Oakland, CA – Eli’s Mile High Club

10.01.11 – Seattle, WA – Funhouse *

* – w/ Unnatural Helpers, Stickers

Al photos (c) Kelly Knapp