Our Ashes Remain / Shat: Diane’s Deli, July 17th, 2012

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Our Ashes Remain / Shat: Diane’s Deli, July 17th, 2012
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July 14th, 2012 saw a couple local bands opening up for the infamous Punk/Metal “Porn Rock” outfit, Shat, in Pittston, Pennsylvania. It had been a while since I went out to a concert, largely due to health, financial, and work conditions. For this show, I made it a point to take the night off and go hang out with some of my friends, and check out their hard work. Among them were the groups Relic and Our Ashes Remains, as well as Purveyor whom I never really heard before aside one song. It was a night out for my fiancee and I, and honestly there was no real intention of writing anything up about this show, but reality often finds a way to interfere with things for the worst, but occassionally it’s for the better. That’s exactly what happened that night at Diane’s Deli.

Diane’s Deli is a small little place on the main road of the city of Pittston. I had never been there though I meant to go to a few shows in the past, but just never made it for whatever reason. Going in, I expected a small bar with a minimum of maybe forty people permitted when crushed together. I was horribly wrong as it was a quaint, rather big, and highly comfortable business and atmosphere that is listed as an internet cafe. The drinks we’re at the bar, as was the food, some small tables to the sides, and a rather large ground level stage near a bunch of windows the look outside, though clearly closed for tonight’s headliner. I was definitely impressed by how welcoming it all was, and even the owner was there behind the bar greeting patrons and took a few minutes to talk to us like she knew us despite it being the first time we had stepped foot in there.

Up first was the band Relic, and I wasn’t too familiar with their material due to the recordings on their pages often being rather bad. I didn’t know what to expect really. Overall their performance wasn’t bad, much of the material having a closed in and intimate musical vibe, though sometimes it felt like they were lost between being a bit of a Stoner Rock/Rock n’ Roll group and picking up where Sentenced left off. It was a unique mixture, but overall it wasn’t bad and what people did show up that early clearly enjoyed it, even a few who obviously came specifically for them as they were never seen again that set. Of course, there were a good couple people who walked out the second the vocals started. Picture Metallica‘s vocalist in a Black Sabbath styled band, singing with a cleaner approach that was sometimes forced into levels that sounded painful, and caused cracking in the voice at times, and just remaining that constant sound but at different levels of energy. In all fairness, he did a good job and some of the breaks showed his ability quite well. It’s not that he is a horrible singer by any stretch of the mind, it’s that the style doesn’t quite suit the music. Honestly, that was the one element of the band that really became annoying, making me want to pay for a final shot and leave for an hour or two. I do still suggest checking the group out for the music at least, as the song “Monster” was really impressive, and a few others from their set really stuck out to me.

Next was Purveyor, a band I had heard about in the past but never really took the time to familiarize myself with due to the descriptions my friends would give me on their sound. Much like Relic I heard a song or two, but the quality was pretty bad, and I felt it didn’t really fit to judge whether I liked them or not. This act was a mixed bag. The performance all around was great, but there were a few issues that stuck out negatively. First of all, the audio itself came off rather empty. Relic had a richer sound, and even though this group appeared to just have one guitarist, bassist, vocalist, and a drummer, it still sounded a bit hollow, which is rare for live shows. The distortion used was a traditional Metalcore one that had a bit too sharp of a sound, and the bass didn’t fair too well either. Despite the flaws in the audio, the material was good, but far from unique or new, which fit the explanations of them perfectly. At this time, there’s currently a contest for local bands and musicians that includes “Area’s Best Metal Band,” a nomination the band wasn’t given. This led to an audible groan of disgust from me as the singer brought it up and asked the crowd “Are we not Metal enough?” This struck me as just being whiny, no matter how comical he seemed to be about it, and I threw three bucks on the table for a shot of Jagermeister to wash out the foul taste that statement had left in my mouth that has yet to clear up.

The third act marked the start of the co-headliner. Our Ashes Remain, who seem to be the house band for Diane’s Deli given all the flyers and invites I’ve received from them, took the stage, and it was clear most of the crowd had come for them. Their vocalist (and perhaps other members? I’m not sure) is part of the Pennsylvania Death Militia, and it’s obvious some of the local members of that chapter had shown up to give their support, and for a good time. This is perfectly fine either way, as the group is not a bad band at all. Many of the songs they performed had plenty of energy and were solid offerings, one after another. Again, the audio itself wasn’t the greatest, but that was largely due to how incredibly loud the vocals were. This became a problem, as their vocalist definitely can scream like a b-movie scream queen, so it greatly dwarfed the music and wound up just hurting my ears, as well as others hanging out at the bar. There’s also the problem of the swearing. Yes, many bands swear at the fans to get them riled up, but there’s a difference between doing that, and using an obscenity nearly every other word for sake of being verbally obscene, which was the case here. In the end, it grew really old, really quick.

The only other problem with this performance, and will always be with Our Ashes Remain is that the vocals simply don’t fit the band. In no way is their female vocalist bad, but much like Relic it’s as if two bands came together in a Guns ‘n Roses style, but both from largely different musical styles that don’t quite compliment one another and refuse to change their ways for the sake of cohesiveness. The approach isn’t a bad one for the general style but it largely dominated the music, even when you would expect some harsher styles or a cleaner approach to compliment the harmonized gang chants in the background that give things a slight Horror Punk vibe here and there. A Melodic Death Metal approach or something along those lines would definitely be better suited for her lungs, and more of a cleaner performance with some harsher moments would better suit the music of this band. But, in the end, it was still an enjoyable experience to finally see this band perform live, and in no way were my expectation let down.

Finally, we reach the performance of Shat. Like some of the other bands (Jansen from Relic and Jane from Our Ashes Remain), I’m friends with one of the members, and have known vocalist Jeff Woods for quite some time thanks to a stint I did with a local band. Knowing him personally, I suggest you take a minute or two to talk to him before the band takes the stage, as it’s almost impossible to believe it’s the same person. Sitting back waiting, noticing the members had disappeared after their gear was set up, I was startled by a siren. I chocked it up to an ambulance going to the old folks home a block away, but then a bright spotlight reflected off the mirror at the bar. What I and my fiancee see next I’m accustomed to, but many others weren’t. Her jaw drops in disbelief as the band walks out in their underwear, masks, and the vocalist adorned with a hat, cross necklace, and arm gauntlets, all composed of dildos. Nineteen to be exact by the band’s Facebook post on the event page, and a mention during a discussion among fans and the band about the accurate number that seemed to go on a bit too long. The crowd went wild, and the lady next to my fiancee turned her nose in disgust. The fun was about to begin…

“Kill Baby Kill” has been lodged in my brain ever since the show, a perfect opening to what Shat‘s music is largely about. The simplistic lyrics of “Oh my god, I’m pregnant! What’re we gonna do? KILL BABY!” to a rich, upbeat Punk Gwar style song brought an immediate smile to my face as he held a doll on stage proclaiming how America is great because of things such as this. The satire, however, was clearly lost on the one patron. Every song, she let out some kind of disgusted statement about how much the band sucked, or about some moldy matress. If it wasn’t that, it was a tale about how she apparently did something similar, such as after “Show Us Your Tits” incited, and I quote, “I was asked to show my tits at a party once and I said no.” These stories kept coming, and how offended she got at songs about crabs, being a “vagitarian,” and having sex with a woman’s double chin continued to anger her as much as the drinks she was downing was making her drunk, causing me to wonder why this snobby uptight woman was still sitting here. A gun was not held to her head, she could have left at any time. And when the time of closing was wrong as their vocalist was rambling between tracks, as if talking to an old friend but addressing the crowd, she corrected him and called him a “fucking moron.” This is a perfect example of today’s society reacting to how they don’t like things, thinking they have no choice but they do, and it’s clear that’s also part of Shat‘s intent, to make you aware of these sort of issues in society. But these moments were pushed further by the band’s many segments of dead air. Sometimes the rambling seemed to go on forever, and other times it was just silence, as if they forgot the punchline or how to start to transition. Of course the comedic handling of wanting a drink midshow, leading to the clearing of the throat loudly and putting a hold on things until it arrived at the stage was handled well and felt like part of the act if it actually wasn’t.

The set went on in a tight, highly professional manner, and many of those rambling moments seemed to segway well into one another, even when it was clear some were improvised, or perhaps even staged. A perfect example was “Show Us Your Tits,” as a member of the audience asked about the triple chin, which led to a transition into that song by stating he answered her question and she had to repay him by doing what the title of the song said: Showing them her tits. It was sad that the band had to instruct how to get the crowd to make the band do an encore, and you could sense the disbelief in the band as they encouraged everyone to show “You suck,” leading to the final song, a vulgar rendition of “Give peace a chance,” then leaving the stage with the reverb from the guitars being active for a few minutes before it finally faded out. But, much of the band’s performance was overshadows by a frail little old lady who wandered in, stared at the men in underwear and clad in dildos, and just dropped her jaw. Turns out this was a family member of the owners. She had come with news about the health of the owner’s mother-in-law, and apparently had been sent by god (according to what I overheard by the owner) to come down at that moment and tell them. It also was the first time she visited in over a year apparently, and the timing could not have been better.

The whole experience came together perfectly: The band pushing the limits on Shock value and sex worship, the uptight cranky at the point of climax (pun not intended) drunkard complaining about every little aspect of the shock band’s performance, and the highly Christian woman walking in on such a highly risque stage act easily made this one of the most memorable shows of my lifetime. All in all, the entire night wasn’t too bad. It did leave me wondering how Relic had gotten on this tab, as they clearly were a Rock group compared to the Punk and “-core” acts that followed them. Either way, each band put on a good show, and while I had some gripes with all of them, it was still an enjoyable experience, and I look forward to seeing them again at some point, probably at Diane’s Deli. I also look forward to going there on my nights off and hanging out with friends when they happen to be open, regardless of whether it’s for a show or not. I never did get to play that round of pool against my fiancee like my challenge dictated…

Overall Score: 8.5/10