When I arrived at the KEXP Yule Benefit, Feral Children had just begun their set. Screaming, thrashy energy poured out of the local band as they beat on a beer keg for added percussion, which inspired some doofus to climb up on stage and launch himself into a crowd that was fairly populated but not exactly thick (they caught him anyways). Feral Children uses a lot of fuzzy electronic feedback in the background of their songs, not so much filler as fuel for the fire — the band got wilder and louder as the set progressed, wreaking havoc in motion. As the lead singer and front percussionist sucked energy from their music and the audience then poured it back out in a widening loop, at times the songs seem a bit distracted with all that was going on – you didn't know where to look or listen. And yet, judging from the audience reaction/interaction alone, it was probably the most amazing set of the night.
From all reports, Seattle band the Valley rocked the socks off the small crowd that arrived early enough to hear them. Unfortunately, this reviewer was not one of them and plans to make up for it by catching one of their shows around town in the next few months.
After a drunken, hairy-chested Santa came back on stage to challenge the audience to a contest of shots at the bar, southern rock from Atlanta took the stage in the form of Dead Confederate: handlebar moustaches, fluffy beards and plaid – oh my. Lead singer Hardy Morris was right out of a 90’s high school hallway (one of my ex-boyfriends looked exactly like him, only shorter and scrawnier).
The band played with a bit of guitar feedback but mainly concentrated on putting out intense and heavy instrumentation. Morris was disconcerting when he'd dangle his straight chin-length hair in front of his face while singing, you couldn't actually tell where he was looking – much better than shoegazing or staring at the back of the venue, I suppose. Their song with a chorus about a “little wrecking ball” won my label for slowest song of the night, but it as it progressed the beat sped up and it became the best part of their set – at least until the keyboardist fell off his bench and barely managed to stay on the stage.
As for Yeasayer: the set had a rocky start when the guitarist's vocals were barely audible over the waves of electrified sound, but things were much improved by the time three-part harmony came into play. Curiously, I'd never seen an electronic drum pad placed in the middle of the regular drum set; the drummer alternated or played both at the same time. (on a side note, his biggest cymbal looked like it had wild monkey sex with a can opener.) More multi-tasking went on – I noticed that the guitarist was playing a keyboard with his guitar slung around his neck, similar to Seattle's BOAT who I'd seen the night before. Maybe a trend, maybe something for overexerted guitarists to do while their band mates are dancing around elsewhere? The multiple lines of electro-beat ended up mushing together into a hazy trance-like jumble of sounds that had me yawning through the set and checking my watch – it would've been better to hear them earlier on in the night when the audience was more energized and less drunk. One thing that definitely had me frowning was Yeasayer's heavy usage of pre-recorded tracks; when at a live show, I kind of expect to see musicians play the music or mix most of their beats while onstage. In any case, it was their first time on the West Coast – Yeasayer will be back in a month and you can hear them yourself.
All in all, the show was much more underwhelming than the hype around it – the local bands ended up being the spiciest part of the line-up, while the southern and northeasterners could have use a little more variety in their tunes.