Live Review: Droids Attack in Brooklyn, 07.13.12

Posted in Reviews on July 16th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

I’d been feeling pretty good about what the prospects for the evening of Friday the 13th of July held. Basically, they held a Droids Attack show, and I remembered from the last time the Madison, Wisconsin, rockers came through Brooklyn that they were right on the proverbial money. I had to work the next morning, but Friday night after a long week, I was ready to enjoy myself and let loose at the Saint Vitus Bar at a show that I knew would be laid back and not at all trying in the way Brooklyn gigs sometimes are these days. If Droids Attack are anything, they’re unpretentious.

Unbeknownst to me, it was a four-band bill. All prior indicators were for three — The Giraffes, who I assumed would play last and who did, Droids Attack and Cinema Cinema — but a fourth was added which meant that I was early when I arrived at about 9PM. No one would be going on for some time, and the prospect of work the next day meant I probably wouldn’t be staying the whole show. I’d been looking forward to seeing The Giraffes, who may or may not have had vocalist Aaron Lazar with them, but so it goes. And so I went. To the bar. First at the Saint Vitus Bar itself, and then, in an attempt to find someplace with the Yankee game on, down the street a block or two to a punkier kind of dive/local joint. They had the Mets. I had the feeling it was as close as I was going to get.

My spirit undiminished, I drank down a quick two dirty-line Brooklyn Lagers before heading back over to the Saint Vitus Bar in time to watch the first act go on before Cinema Cinema. It seemed to be a one-man show. A guy sat in a rocking chair and sang soulfully from underneath a throw blanket — something I might support theoretically, but there comes a time where you have to stop and realize, “I just paid money to watch this,” and walk out of the room to get another drink. Back out front I went, and by the time I dared venture through the curtain that separates the bar from the back room where bands play, the duo Cinema Cinema were well into their set of bombastic post-punk.

They mentioned twice in the couple songs I saw them play that they were about to go on tour (apparently for not the first time) with Greg Ginn — which is fair; I’m pretty sure if Greg Ginn asked me to do a couple shows I’d get a face tattoo that advertised same — and they covered “School” by Nirvana. I guess after 20 years, that stuff is probably fair game nowadays. Fine. They had their shit together and were tight, and despite their not really being my thing, they got their point across. Great drums, which are almost always welcome to my ringing ears.

A goodly portion of my fourth beer was dumped down my front before Droids Attack went on by their drummer, Tony Brungraber — obviously an accident — but even that wasn’t enough to quell my excitement at seeing the band again. The trio set up quickly after Cinema Cinema finish. Brungraber and guitarist/vocalist Brad Van had introduced me to bassist Dennis Ponozzo by saying he was, “the man,” so I looked forward to hearing him as they got started, and neither he nor either of the other two disappointed. Droids Attack were precisely as I remembered them from their prior East Coast run: good times.

Something else about them: Droids Attack come by their heavy rock as honestly as any band I’ve ever heard. Watching them play and listening to their set, you could see their punk-type roots had grown up, and they made no bones about who they were, what they wanted to sound like or from where they took influence. It was as refreshing as I’d hoped it would be, and Van tore into a few choice solos as Ponozzo and Brungraber made complex rhythms seem easy. Think prog boogie.

Their set was comprised almost entirely of new material, but for the finale, which was the title-track from 2010’s Must Destroy — pretty sure that’s what it was — and Ponozzo kept mostly to the riff on his bass, picking along in time to Van and not really veering too much this way or that for fills or changes. Brungraber executed a varied range of fills in response to the often surprising turns in Van‘s rhythm lines and reinforced the idea that though you can usually have a decent idea of where the band are headed musically, the avenue they take to get there is filled with all kinds of unexpected nuances and detours. It made the newer material I’d never heard before that much more exciting to witness live for the first time.

When they were done, I looked at my watch and it read 11:59PM. For a self-imposed midnight split time, I surmised my evening was over, said a couple quick goodbyes and split out of the Saint Vitus Bar, walking through the bar which had filled up considerably since the last time I’d been out to it — The Giraffes bringing out a hometown crowd, I guessed. Not for me this time. I’ve been doing catchy-song penance ever since with their excellent Dave Catching-produced 2008 outing, Prime Motivator, but back through the Queens Midtown Tunnel, across Manhattan and out to Jersey I went, spitting fury and flavorless chewing gum onto the highway, still feeling like I’d had the quality evening I’d hoped for.

Extra pics after the jump.

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