by Christine Beaderstadt
– The Capitol Hill Times –
A melting pot of heavy metal and what some call “avant goth” played Saturday night at the Highline on Broadway.
The venue, a vegan restaurant that serves up a side of hard, black music once the sun goes down, stands out in our neighborhood partly because the music spills over into the streets (It’s hard to contain heavy metal).
And listeners don’t want it to be contained anymore than local residents, apparently. With the moon high in the sky, people continued to climb the cement stairs up to the venue, either enticed by the music they heard streaming from its high open windows, or because they are metal, punk, and experimental music fans, too.
Whatever it may be, the Highline stands out because of its unusual combination of vegan food and metal music. Dylan Desmond, owner and a practicing vegan, remarked, “I wanted it to be a place I’d go to.” He opened his doors in 2010.
One of the bands that took to the darkened stage was an eight-person hodgepodge of musicians who call themselves Rose Windows. The local group has been together only about a year, and is working on its first full-length album slated for release in 2013. The band sounds, in many ways, like a mellower version of Jefferson Airplane, with psychedelic and past-era melodies. This outdated image was evoked even more so when lead singer Rabia Qazi tossed her head back and careened softly as her long hair spilled over her face and shoulders. Nils Peterson, one of the guitarists and occasional vocalists, said of their music, “We’re just trying to create something that’s pure. What we play moves us…and we’re trying to convey that to the audience.”
Hard rock and Native American folk are strong influences in the band’s sound, which may be attributed to the wide-ranging ethnic backgrounds of the members of Mexican, Chinese, Pakistani, and Native American heritage. “When you really boil it down, we’re just making music,” Peterson said.
They are releasing a split tape with another Seattle band, Kingdom of the Holy Sun, and for now, tour mostly in Seattle and surrounding areas.
Kayo Dot, another of the night’s performances, took the stage last, after Dog Shredder. One of several of Toby Driver’s musical projects, Kayo Dot does not operate like most bands. Based more on musical cues than timed music, Driver explained, “Musically speaking, there is a flexible sense of time [in our songs]. It’s not improv because everything’s pre-determined [musically], it’s [rooted in] when to execute things. It’s based on the vibe of the piece and our breathing. I kind of conduct the band.” With each record, Kayo Dot experiments with a different theme, which have ranged from what Driver calls “post-punk art goth aesthetic of electric bass” and “black metal inspired with woodwinds.”
The Brooklyn group has released six albums since its formation in 2003, and has been promoting their latest release, Gamma Knife. While all the music is written by Driver and the band, lyrics are sourced out to another talent, Jason Byron whose words are more dreamlike, Driver explained, and not related to everyday circumstances. “We don’t sing about love or childhood or pain,” he said, and verses are even more morose than most rock bands even attempt, almost plumbing the depths below despair. In one song, a ghost realizes he’s a ghost and wants to die, stop being a ghost. So he continually tries to slit his wrists to commit suicide, and is, of course, unable to escape his fate. “It’s to evoke this extreme bleakness,” he said.
Surrounded by bleak lyrics and psychedelic sounds, the audience nodded their heads.