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Four-guitar lineup: Warlocks, from L.A.
Guest Writer

B.R.M.C. and Warlocks at Satyricon
Hope and a delicate wall of sound
by Michael Grover

Only two bands were on the evening's bill, but the mountain of equipment piled up on the modest stage at Portland's Satyricon seemed to indicate otherwise.

From the looks of it, there had to be at least two or three opening acts in addition to the Oct. 13 headliners. But as soon as L.A.'s Warlocks began to assume their positions onstage it became clear that most of this gear was, in fact, theirs.

With four guitarists (one handled vocals), bass, keyboard and two drummers, Warlocks' formidable presence was enough to send me rushing back to the car to retrieve forgotten earplugs. From the sheer number of musicians, I imagined an overwhelming wall of sound like nothing I'd ever heard.

Warlocks did indeed conjure up a wall of sound, but it was somewhat more delicate and refined than expected. Instead of using their amplified ammunition to bludgeon listeners into submission, they put forth a very appealing sound that was, while certainly noisy, also richly layered and textured.

Evoking The Velvet Underground, as well as Lou Reed and company's more modern counterparts, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Warlocks used their very basic two- and three-chord songs as frameworks to experiment with collages of sound. Bluesy solos mingled with droning waves of feedback and the pounding rhythm of dual drummers to create an almost hypnotic effect, only slightly spoiled by the rather monotonous tones of the vocalist.

Ending their set with all five guitars propped up against their respective amps – which finally resulted in the unearthly din I had anticipated – Warlocks proved to be a very promising new band, and a perfect accompaniment to the headliners of the evening.

Contract players: B.R.M.C.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is a band with a major label contract – a rarity at Satyricon – and it was quite a shock to see actual roadies scurrying about this tiny, filthy club, setting up the band's equipment just so.

The club, filled almost to capacity, proved that people, or young people anyway, had returned to their pre-Sept. 11 routines of getting out of the house and enjoying themselves. And when the lights went out and B.R.M.C. began their set, the crowd responded quite enthusiastically, indicating that many of these people were actually here to see this particular band and hadn't simply wandered in on a Saturday night.

Opening with "Red Eyes and Tears," the second track from their self-titled Virgin Records debut, B.R.M.C. immediately demonstrated a stage presence coupled with a confidence that belied their obvious youth. It's quite evident that these fellows know they've got what it takes to be rock stars – not in a shallow or self-aggrandizing way, but with a pronounced maturity and a cool professionalism.

After busting out several more tracks from their album – which is a wonderfully refreshing nod to the early-'90s Britpop and shoegazing music scenes – that professionalism was tested, when equipment problems caused guitarist/vocalist Peter Hayes to call a halt to the proceedings in the middle of a song. While he and the technicians tried to work out the problem, bassist/vocalist Robert Turner and drummer Nick Jago kept the audience happy with an impromptu jam and ended up receiving a rousing ovation. Once the technical difficulties were overcome, Hayes joined in to finish the improvisation.

B.R.M.C. soldiered on through a few more minor equipment problems and performed several more tunes from their debut, including the atmospheric "Awake" and the driving rock of "Whatever Happened to My Rock 'N' Roll (Punk Song)," during which a young woman from the audience, wearing a cowboy hat and leather pants, jumped onstage and contributed lively tambourine accompaniment.

"It's been a while since that happened," mused a grinning Turner.

A few more songs were played, the last of which featured Hayes and Turner swapping instruments, and then the show was over.

Given the sonic wasteland that is popular music these days, it's nice to see that an honest-to-God rock band can still get signed by a major label and draw an enthusiastic crowd to their gig.

Yes, there's still hope …

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