Concert review: Local H (with Animal Empty) almost starts a holiday riot at the Firebird, Friday, December 21
Animal Empty opened the raucous evening at the Firebird with a gothic set of tunes helmed by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Ali Ruby. The four-piece band slid from heavy post-rock verses to jams that featured a light Latin influence, which Ruby accentuated with nice trumpet work.
“Goodbye” grew from an acoustic jangle to a lilting confession from the raspy-throated Ruby. Drummer Mike Craft flooded the room with well-timed floor-tom rolls. The song deftly mixed the sounds of Our Lady Peace, “Ugly Organ-era”-Cursive and modern post-rock female vocal elements.
“The Flood (Sensual Centaur)” scaled with a tight, near-math-rock drum rhythm. Alec Frisch’s guitar rang layered with the perfect level of distortion, while next to him, Aaron Cajilig bobbed along on bass, as Ruby breathed the song’s chorus like an incantation.
After Animal Empty left the stage, Local H‘s mastermind, Scott Lucas, appeared strumming immediately into “Waves” from 2012′s “Hallelujah! I’m a Bum.” The song built on a wall-of-sound guitar drone with dreamy vocals, which Lucas sang as he quickly plugged in the bass pickup on his modified guitar. Amazing that such a small thing allows Local H to remain a duo.
Local H’s other member, drummer Brian St. Clair, sat on the other side of the stage with a double-stack amp pointing directly at him and his drum set. He adjusted his gloves and sweatbands, took a drink of whiskey and charged to life as Lucas cranked into “Cold Manor.” Weezer contrails mingled with up-beat pop-rock, Lucas subverting both with his snarky, judgmental style.
As a form of punctuation, Lucas spit on the floor kicking out the chords to “Bound to the Floor” from 1996′s “As Good As Dead.” The crowd screamed the lyrics back at Lucas, “Born to be down…” I reveled in the ’90s glory of the tune, which back then, taught me the word “copacetic,” and now conjures memories of plastic beer cups and mud sailing through the air of some long-lost PointFest.
The social commentary that Lucas builds into Local H’s stood strong. “They Saved Reagan’s Brain” featured Lucas howling catchy “o-o-o’s” then singing, “There is no use running with the Chinese coming and I don’t want to see this world burn no more.” The still pertinent, “All the Kids are Right,” from 1998′s “Pack Up the Cats,” sparkled with its sage lyrics, “All the kids they hold a grudge, their minds are logged onto the net.”
“Everyone Alive” from “What Ever Happened To P.J. Soles?” hammered hard with Foo Fighters overtones and call/response from the audience. “Night Flight To Paris,” shaded toward grunge-metal, while “Feed a Fever” rocked with a barroom swagger, similar to something the Hold Steady might attempt.
“Another February” stood-out as an excellent angry punk-balled, offering massive guitar and drum drops. “Hands on the Bible” from “Here Comes the Zoo,” shuffled and accentuated the fact that the world didn’t end in 2012.
The mosh pit grew during the punk-grandeur of “Fritz’s Corner.” A bearded, bleary-eyed dude ran into the mosh squeezing a 24-ounce PBR out into the air, raining beer over our heads. Lucas leaned back and blew a mist-blast of water over himself.
Local H encored with “California Songs,” which churned with vitriol, dynamically boiling over during the chorus. Lucas sang, “Please no more California songs! And fuck New York too.”
During “High-Fiving MF” from “As Good as Dead,” Lucas whipped the crowd into a frenzy as he sang, “You high-fiving mother fucker!” People slipped on the beer-rink that had formed beneath their feet, but others were quick to help the fallen to their feet. In order to cool the crowd out, Lucas detoured into P.J. Harvey’s “To Bring You My Love,” but stopped saying, “All right you fucking meatheads, I’ll play the end of it (“High-Fiving MF”), but I don’t want to get my front teeth knocked out. That’s all I want for Christmas, so stop pushing this guy in front of me!”
Finally, Lucas unleashed the song’s last chorus, momentarily sang some Christmas lyrics with a chipmunk vocal effect and crowd-surfed his way to the merch table like a jaded, drunk, punk-rock Santa.