Sleepy Eyes of Death had my full attention. The band's chilling yet warm, intoxicating yet detoxifying music is tingly and lush recorded, and pushes past itself to truly shine live. I always get lost in music at their shows – it pours out with their fog.
Sleepy Eyes is the first band since Hovercraft that makes me forget I’m seeing an instrumental band, makes me forget I’m seeing a band at all, and transports me somewhere completely else.
And they’re tough – they proved under difficult circumstances (Block Party) that they can pull off a beautiful unexpectedly stripped-down set fueled by… well, I’ll just say that they were somehow calm and professional as the sound and fog debacle unfolded, and then tore out the few songs they had time for. They were completely worth the wait.
Nectar was a fun venue for this show as music and fog were allowed to stream out into the night. About halfway through “Dark Signals,” I totally lost touch with my surroundings and just let the rest of the set uncurl, which was fantastic and exhilarating. “Pulse From Breath” was another highlight.
Keep it up, Sleepy Eyes. Keep the fog too. The dimensions added were immeasurable.
After Sleepy Eyes, I stayed put at the stage while my moderately drunk friends wandered around the venue. Zach Hill was up next and I was not going to move, even if it meant slipping into sobriety. Great drummers witnessed live stand out in a way that sticks with you. I remember Fleetwood Mac’s show for Mick (he drums like the Muppets’ Animal), Def Leppard’s (it was 1983 – they were really good then, I promise) for Rick (yes, both arms), and The Boredoms for…The Boredoms, to name a few. Zach Hill is different. Sure, he was alone on stage, but he could have been joined by a stampeding rhino herd and I doubt it would have mattered much. I didn’t know drumming like that was possible. His inhuman 30+ minute continuous set shifted fluidly, furiously, beautifully, and the accompanying music was slight and slipped smoothly under Zach’s carefully placed and impossibly fast beats.
I learned recently from a drummer I greatly respect that I know absolutely nothing about what makes a drummer technically good. So instead of trying to break down Zach’s set, I’ll throw out a list of some of my favorite local drummers — Steve Moriarty, Tim Cady, Jeff Keenan, Trent Moorman, Bill Cole, Korum Bischoff, Dan Peters, Lisa Smith, Chloe (of Smoosh), Keith Negley — and say that to my untrained ears and simply for what his music did to me, Zach Hill blows them all away.
Zach’s energy was tough to match, but my second night with Subtle confirmed what I suspected: they are an insane and tight band; that first show I saw in Portland wasn’t a fluke, and I was about to be treated to another dynamic set.
A close friend was celebrating his birthday that night and I thoughtfully switched places with him for awhile, giving up my spot at the stage. Adam was on his now-familiar prowl, fake-punching his way along the front row and rubbing my friend’s head, checking a pulse now and then, and turning a reading of The 88’s rider into very entertaining performance art. Subtle is an energetic band that demands your attention — a fun way to end a memorable night.