Live Review: Bezoar and The Badeda Ladies in Brooklyn, 12.12.12

I guess if your last name wasn’t McCartney, it was kind of a crappy night to put on a show in New York. While the “12-12-12” benefit for those in the region affected by Hurricane Sandy at the end of October went on at Madison Square Garden with a wide swath of “Where the fuck were you when Katrina hit New Orleans?”-type celebrities (also Kanye West), across the river in Brooklyn a somewhat humbler extravaganza was held at The Grand Victory, benefiting perhaps local audiologists through its sheer assault of volume. Gotta build a customer base.

First time I was at The Grand Victory was Oct. 25 to catch Elder rolling through town with Reign of Zaius and Thinning the Herd (review here), and last night only confirmed the impression I had of the venue: I like it. Its long layout, nice bar and good beer selection continued to remind me of places these kinds of shows used to be held in Manhattan, and though I wasn’t drinking, I was glad to pay the cover to get in and at least give some support where I could.

There weren’t a lot of people there apart from the bands and some dude who decided that out of the whole room he was going to bump into my camera bag no fewer than four times — presumably he has some stance against people with bags at shows, and really, why should a day pass when you can’t needlessly be an asshole to someone else entirely without provocation? — and I was late in my arrival, entirely missing both opening acts, Vultus and Furnace Head. Felt kind of like a prick walking in just as NJ-based upstarts The Badeda Ladies were getting ready to go on, but I’d worked late and was lucky to get out when I did. It was a Wednesday night. I did my best.

The Badeda Ladies were not unknown to me. I’d first heard a couple demo tracks from the young Jersey troupe when they were a bass/drum instrumental duo. This was, however, my first time seeing them live. It was also their first New York show, having haunted Jersey house gigs and basement whathaveyous along with the few stalwart venues like the Stanhope House with a commitment to fostering new and growing bands, and the addition of guitarist Chris Eustaquio alongside drummer Ryan Smith and bassist Jonny Cohn went a long way to adding to the already established dynamic in the rhythm section.

Most of what they played — the first three songs of the set, anyhow — came from an upcoming split they’ll reportedly have out next year, and that wasn’t the extent of the new material. There was another song that Cohn referred to as “Bilbo Baggins” from the stage — Eustaquio‘s laughter seemed to indicate it wasn’t actually the title — and a few off their prior Liv Di demo as well, including the step-down-to-nothing finale of “Vulture,” punctuated by a loud snare hit from Smith, who had also provided the only vocals in a song earlier. They were pretty obviously still getting their feet wet in terms of playing out, and the style was post-metal so banter was minimal, but they had their own way of engaging the room nonetheless.

What they had working greatly in their favor was the inimitable intensity of the young. Smith‘s vocals on whichever song it was were harsh post-hardcore barks, throaty but interesting and enough to speak to some potential there should that be something they want to pursue down the line, and their instrumental material, ranging from Pelican-type pastorals to post-Isis constructions, showed burgeoning personality. As they move forward with the Furnace Head split, it should be interesting to hear how Eustaquio becomes further integrated into the band and also to see how their presence develops playing these songs live more often.

Last up for the night on my abbreviated version of the bill were artsy Brooklyn natives Bezoar, for whom slow metal is just one weapon in their apparently growing arsenal. The trio killed when I caught them at Public Assembly in October (review here), so I was stoked on the prospect of another encounter, and despite a room-consuming stench of body odor up front — not saying it was one of them, just saying it was there — they didn’t disappoint. Guitarist Tyler Villard, bassist/vocalist Sara Villard and insano-drummer Justin Sherrell (also of local merchants Wizardry) played a set that seemed to be mostly new material presumably from the album they’ll set to recording in the spring, showing off the expanse of their creative range while deftly pulling off abrupt changes in timing and tempo.

Shredding one measure and plodding the next, Bezoar are a band that challenges you to keep up as you listen. Their 2012 debut full-length, Wyt Deth, made its triumph in complexities both melodic and dissonant, Sara topping either a torrent of extreme metal or open-spaced doom excess with a consistent, drawn-out, echoing clean vocal that in another context might prove almost comforting. Their live show is more intense and their newer songs likewise. Tyler, decked out in a Gorgoroth shirt, seemed gleeful as he squibbled out that influence, and with his feet at a constant double-kick pulse, Justin met his extremity with no small measure of his own.

Sherrell is nothing if not a harsh lesson in the difference a great drummer can make in a band. He has a difficult task in tying Bezoar‘s material together and making their on-a-dime transitions sound natural if not flowing (they’re not always supposed to flow), but he does that while still managing to hold down the rhythm with Sara‘s bass and sounding creative in the process. Once again, the high point of the set came in a new song I don’t know the name of — it may have been the one Sara introduced as being yet untitled but about Jim Jones — as all three members of the band locked into a massive and immediately recognizable grooving riff. It was one of those, “Oh yeah, this” moments, but still just one of several reasons they gave throughout their time on stage to anticipate their next LP.

They’re also still establishing what they can do on stage, but already since the first time I saw Bezoar opening for Witch Mountain in June (review here), they’ve come far in their presentation and last night, even playing to those from the other bands who’d actually stuck around, me and a handful of others, they showed potential to excite both conceptually — that is, in terms of appreciation for what they do — and in the sheer appeal of watching someone kick ass at a gig. I don’t know whether or not I’ll see them again before they go in to record, but even if not, the impression they’ve left at this point is of an act on the cusp of really coming into their own. I look forward to hearing what they can do with these songs in a studio setting.

When I left, the radio had it that the grand shenanigans up at MSG were going on and had raised an estimated $50 million. Way more than I’ve done for anyone lately, but still a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to the $64 billion tab the president requested for storm relief and rebuilding. Nice to make famous people feel good about themselves, I suppose. Me, I’ll take the music every time and if that means leaving the rest of the world to its hoedown-for-a-cause, that seems a small price to pay.

Extra pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

The Badeda Ladies


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