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Friday, 16 August 2013 13:07

Concert review: Hockey and CaveofswordS face off at the Old Rock House, Thursday, August 15

Concert review: Hockey and CaveofswordS face off at the Old Rock House, Thursday, August 15
Written by Blair Stiles

Last night at the Old Rock House, Portland, Ore.'s Hockey performed with CaveofswordS as its opener. The lineup was a tricky one.

CoS has more drone effects than Placebo can shake a stick at. Juxtaposed with the impending tropical percussive onslaught of Hockey, the pairing did not work well. Save for Sunyatta McDermott's Bjork-esque cries and ineffable, polyrhythmic feel, CoS seemed a bit sleepy on that Thursday night. Despite the low energy, both bands appeared to appreciate each other. Hockey watched Cave of Swords and later lead singer Ben Wyeth called out to them from the stage, thanking them for playing. CoS' Sunyatta McDermott bounced restlessly against Hockey's synth and drum pad driven musical minutes. The same could not be said for the crowd of nearly three dozen who had to be cajoled by Wyeth and Jeremy Reynolds to come closer to the stage and exude some semblance of appreciation.

Hockey is signed to two major labels, Capitol stateside and Virgin in Europe. The band regrouped after the loss of two members and its first release "Mind Chaos" to emerge victorious in a bidding war for its work. The warfare was generated from an increased label appetite for Hockey's decelerated power pop. Over the course of some 10 songs, riddled with potential and a blatant Top-40 sensibility, the four piece shot through a set that more or less showcased the band they could be.

Hockey began the night with "My Mind," a Culture Club-like number wherein Wyeth called to himself to find the path most suited for his intellectual strengths and desires. Hockey wrote this album in New York. Its recording space was decorated with images of their native West Coast. Palm tree posters and Best Coast listening parties belied their upstate habitat. Whether it be a case of homesickness, or the band refusing to lose its roots, Hockey has stable footing in its West Coast shores.

Even though the band hails from Oregon, one song in particular sounded like it was ganked straight from St. Louis artist Née's repertoire. "Calling Back" off ""Wyeth Is," had a lead guitar patch that echoed the synth patch off "Finches" "Spiders" so much that it was easy to sing along with "I keep my conscious clean," as though Kristin Dennis were singing it herself. As Wyeth staggered around the stage like he was modeling a girlfriend's stilettos on an immodest night in, the band seemed encased in joy. Hockey's enjoyment especially shone through during "Francoise Hardy." Wyeth stood on the cement block placed in front of the kick drum and threw his drumsticks around an elevated drum pad like a limber orangutan. He banged around over a looped robot speech, which sounded like typical Daft Punk vocals.

It was difficult to not compare Hockey to other bands while it performed. The sounds were all so familiar, and for the most part, really cool. "Wild Style" sounded comfortable in its own skin and did not allude to past and current bands. Hockey played simple parts in spades and could do something really interesting with its new songs. Plucking the strings of its West Coast heart helps, but with touring and new experiences, the band could definitely widen its horizons and level with the ways of experimentation.

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