Saturday, September 1, 2012

Oh Yeah, I Get This:

Not everyone is into metal, and it's easy to see why - the music is hard, the vocals are strained and the shows are nuts. But you can always learn something new. If you're having trouble, why not let Strongman help?
Oh Yeah,
I Get This
Strongman at Penny Road Pub / Show Review
September 1
by Victoria Messina
Oh Yeah, I Get This
Strongman at Penny Road Pub / Show Review
Performed Aug. 24
Words By Victoria Messina
First thing's first: I am a singer, I like to sing along to what I’m listening to. In the car, in the shower, in public, wherever really, the embarrassment doesn’t faze me. That’s probably why pop music has such mass appeal. Shit, Katy Perry is catchy whether you like it or not. It only took me a few decades, give or take, to realize there is more singable music out there besides over-produced Top 40 radio. Patti Smith had me at the opening line of Horses; The Stooges, please - "I Wanna Be Your Dog"; El Ten Eleven — instrumental, so not singable, but still totally groovy.

So when I find myself at Penny Road Pub in Barrington, IL for a hardcore metal show featuring Strongman, I try to keep an open mind. It must be legit, the drink prices are comparable to Chicago, surprising for a venue next to a cornfield. The majority of attendees are guys with long greasy locks. Everyone is wearing a T-shirt with some metal band logo or an ironic bacon slogan. I stand out wearing a tank top from the Gap. But I am here, nonetheless, and determined to take this difference with a grain of salt. Determined to learn something new from this experience.

What has always turned me off about metal, you can’t sing to it. You can’t dance — don’t do it, don’t even try — you mosh. It is screaming, blood curdling screaming into a microphone. And it is loud. But I kinda get it, maybe. Block out the vocals, and the sound teems with emotion. These artists are angry, mad, dejected. They don’t care that they don’t fit in with the metrosexual Ryan Seacrests of the world, but of course they have their own issues. My female brain deduces it to be the manliest form of self-expression these musicians have. Really though, some of these gory songs have titles like “King of Nothing” and “Despair”. “What You Didn’t Say”, the opening track from Strongman’s new album, This Too Shall Pass, starts out sweetly but quickly turns mosh-worthy a few bars in when that crashing snare enters the scene. I don’t know what they didn’t say. Truth be told, I don’t know what they did say. Any brilliant lyrics, quips, and little wisdoms lead vocalist Austin Ramsey screams into the microphone are lost on me. Shrieking poetry.

But I hear the music behind the madness and I like it. I feel something, my number one rule for any music I choose to listen to, endorse, or support. I asked Chris Prunotto, who plays bass, to give me a little insight on the metal appeal. As he stated, “We love hardcore music and the scene, but we hate pretty much everything about the way people do it. I mean ... the music has devolved from something meaningful into what amounts to kids and their crews becoming suburban white gangs, all competing for who can throw down the heaviest breakdowns and shit. So we threw all of that away, pretty much. What's left is us not caring who gives a fuck about how long our hair is or how it flips when we headbang. We don't give a shit who throws down with us in the show, and we'll gladly join people in the pit from on stage anyway.” So that’s it, it’s about the music, about the camaraderie, like rock, like alternative, like all music everywhere. They just want to play. It is not just noise to them. To quote Austin Ramsey: “Everything out there these days is polished glass. Fuck glass. I don’t like polish.” See, like I said, shrieking poetry.

It’s about halfway through the night, still haven’t gotten into it yet. I text my latest fling, tell him I’m at this show. “Way out of my element,” I text. But I realize that I am doing what I hate, using my electronic device as some sort of security blanket. What the heck — I’m here, might as well enjoy it. My hair is long, it may be brushed but it could use a good washing. I think about all of my own frustrations a second and suddenly that rhythm feels so right. I give my head a few good bashes to this sick riff guitarist Charlie Landsman is laying down as I drown in the sound. Suddenly it all comes together. Oh yeah, I get this.

* * *

Strongman is 4-piece hardcore progressive metal outfit started in 2011. labeled them as “a band to watch.” Check out their first EP, recently released, here. They are looking for a new drummer.
Posted on September 1, 2012


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