The first show I ever attended was a Richard Marx concert. Before you laugh, you should know that I sat in the third row of a massive pavilion and thought it was a pretty great show. Okay, now you can laugh. But Rush Street contained the hardest songs I had heard up to that point, so I maintain that it was pretty brave of me to keep listening. Whatever.
Last month, I took my nearly-twelve-year-old son to his first concert. By any measure a Decibel reader might employ, it was a cooler initiation than my own. First of all, his age at the time of his first show betters mine by more than two years. The show was at Baltimore’s Ottobar, a dim, sticker-splattered club, not a sterilized, Disney-fied family friendly stage in the Maryland suburbs. In the rear of the venue, a couple guys had set up a NES with Super Mario Bros. 3 and Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!, allowing anyone who asked a shot at games that I remember being contemporary but somehow became classic nostalgia pieces when I wasn’t looking.
Oh, and the music? We were there to see Galactic Empire, the Star Wars-themed metal militia. Sure, maybe we could have tried to catch an Expulsion show instead, but as introductions go, this one was pretty rad.
I asked my son to help me review the show. Here’s what we thought.
Dan: We arrived in the middle of a set by Washington, D.C. duo Aeoxis, who were competent and fun but relied heavily on looped/recorded material to get them through the songs. The drummer was obviously having a great time, and the vocalist/guitarist seemed pretty excited to be bringing his work to the stage for a nerd-filled audience who would be friendly to his cause – which seems to be interpreting music from (or inspired by) anime and video games through a guitar rock filter. Appropriate, if not entirely convincing.
Elijah: As we walked into the respectable cantina Ottobar, the thumping sounds of a brutal drum solo momentarily filled the streets. The band, Aeoxis, did a great job of keeping the audience entertained as the drummer whapped away at his snares, and the singer (whose clothing style made him look like pro wrestler The Undertaker) belted out his tunes to a loving audience. His voice had a certain feel of a mix-up of soul and rock, with a dash of old time blues added in, too. It was loud and truly beautiful. Overall rating: 8/10.
Dan: Local Hyrule-worshippers Master Sword brandished their weapons next and increased the heart container capacity of the evening’s crowd. The quintet filled the room with their epic trad/prog romps, providing some supremely badass road music for anyone traveling the length and breadth of an ever-changing kingdom. The rhythm section kept the walls shaking and fists pumping, while Corey Garst’s guitar solos and Lily Hoy’s vocals nudged the whole thing in the general direction of power metal. Admittedly, I wasn’t as attentive as I could have been, as I spent a couple of their songs watching Punch Out weakling Glass Joe lay a beating on my son. (Elijah got a hang of the controls later and whipped the wimp in fine fashion.) Still, the set was invigorating.
Elijah: The power of the Triforce was certainly one to be reckoned with as hardcore Zelda-lovers Master Sword hit the stage with unstoppable power. The vocals were outstanding, and the band’s wardrobe was sensational. Face tattoos and shredded metal jackets were just part of the package that this metal-magic band delivered. My father’s friend Corey Garst was the loudest guitar onstage, with singer Lily Hoy’s melodious tunes blending in perfectly into the background. They truly were magical. Overall rating: 10/10.
Dan: Sore-thumb band of the night was Dangerkids, an Ohio metalcore trend piece with two full-time vocalists – a bearded growler in a Motorhead tee and a hyperactive blond crooner with a chip on his shoulder. It was unclear how their brand of petulant emo rage was supposed to fit with the sci-fi/gamer theme of the night, but those mothergrumpers grabbed some bull by the horns and got right down to it. Musically, the racket was pretty solid. The songs were full of energy and the band sounded great, but they brought a message of defiant empowerment to a group of people who feel comfortably empowered without all the histrionics. It’s 2017 – if you’re still impressed by the fact that you’re drummer isn’t male, you should expect some shrugs.
Elijah: And here we come to the oddball out. The third group of the night, Dangerkids, most certainly impressed with their name, which gave the impression of a heavy, down-to-earth metal band. They definitely could play, for one thing. Their classic style of modern teenage punk rock mesmerized the crowd, as a heavy metal type growler in a sleeveless tee belched out an almost nonstop stream of loud, cruel noise, and the blond lead singer took many a selfie while pouring out his heart into their angry rants. It was amazing to see how incredible that voice was onstage, only to crumble and collapse into foul-mouthed crud while talking to the audience. Honestly, call me old-fashioned, but who really feels the urge to curse practically every sentence about their next song, or the noise level, or life? If you’re THAT angst-ridden, that’s a problem. Overall rating: 5/10.
Dan: As befits their moniker, Galactic Empire devastated the club with their towering and totally on-point renditions of eminently familiar Star Wars songs. The storm trooper bassist thumped away at his instrument while kicking out whatever dance moves occurred to him (her?) at the time. A member of the Imperial Guard got sappy when the Vader character started feeling gloomy. An equipment tech decked out in Death Star military garb busted some wicked-nerdy moves during the “Cantina Band” song. John Williams melodies were serviced. Djent was djented. The humor was a perfect blend of geek-love and tongue-in-cheek. The band was tight, completely locked into planet-smashing mode and landing every tune beautifully. Their recording is good, but Galactic Empire’s true realm is the stage.
Elijah: Finally, the last band (but certainly not least) was the awesome Galactic Empire. Their smooth guitarists and cool-as-Hoth bass gripped the audience like Sith force-choke. They wowed the entire bar with many surprises, from a tech’s dance style showing the Wiggles what it’s all about (rimshot!) to the brief-but-brutal execution of an incompetent crowd member. They mesmerized the crowd as if with a Jedi mind trick, strutting their stuff with many familiar songs from the entire Star Wars saga, including “Star Wars Theme,” “Across the Stars Love Theme” (in which Vader got sentimental for Padme, expressed his true hatred of sand, and got a red robe empathetic) and, or course, the ever-classic “Cantina Band Song.” It was gut-wrenching, heartstrings-pulling, good old-fashioned get-your hands-dirty rock’n’roll. It had the crowd jamming along with the tune, with a certain storm trooper busting it up on stage. Combined with a spectacular light show, Galactic Empire showed everybody in the galaxy how it’s done. Overall rating: 1,000,000,000/10.
Elijah: In retrospect, this first time experience was AWESOME!!! There is nothing more exciting than going to a bar to watch metal bands play, other than going to a bar to watch metal bands play AND be able to play Super Mario 3 and Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!! As a first time experience, it was the coolest thing EVER!! I loved it when the band-announcer guy showed his appreciation for seeing kids play games, for the very first time, games that had been around since he was a little kid. (Such a long time ago, eh? Enough to make one nostalgic, am I right?) Not to mention one of those kids totally rocked them (*cough, cough me cough, cough*). Overall rating: infinity/10.