Monday, February 13, 2012

Sunday Night in Downtown Mesa: "The Terrible Twos: The Underground Turns 2" Free Anniversary Show at The Underground

Tonight we went to a terrific free show at The Underground, "The Terrible Twos," celebrating the second anniversary of the venue in the basement of the Nile Theater in downtown Mesa.

The bill featured some really fine bands: Corporal Limits, Ape Kill Ape, American Standards, Death By Routine, and Waking in Timelines.

Among the birthday party decorations were photos from some memorable shows at the Underground since its February 2010 opening.

A brief description from the Arizona Central website:
For many years, the Nile Basement filled the streets of downtown Mesa with the sounds of local and national punk and rock groups, including Blink 182, Motorhead and the Vandals. The venue closed its doors in 2002, but reopened as the Underground on Feb. 19, 2010. The club has a capacity of 250 to 300 people, and specializes in punk, hardcore, and rock acts.

We were really impressed, actually, by the quality of the sound, as well as the nicely intimate setting. Obviously, most of the people there were 35 to 40 years younger than us -- though there were several middle-aged people, too -- and there's a really nice vibe. Staying in Apache Junction, we miss the feel of living in Brooklyn, and the crowd here mostly looked like people we see in Williamsburg, maybe a little younger. And not depressed-looking enough to pass on the L train.

That's there's no alcohol obviously isn't a drawback to an elderly teetotaler, and some of the reviews on Yelp noted how hot and sweaty the place can get in summer, but it was very comfortable tonight.

As one comment on Yelp noted, "the venue is just small enough to be intimate and large enough to hold a decent crowd. It's enough of a dive to retain street cred but (somehow) established enough to host larger bands who still marginally exist below the mainstream radars."

And there was room for people to move around in front of the stage, and for at least American Standards to move around energetically through the pumped-up crowd during their high-energy, frenzied hardcore set. (At one point, their terrific vocalist Brandon Kellum leaned on our shoulder, seemingly for support).

Top40-Charts wrote:
Formed in early 2011, American Standards plays raw, thrash hardcore with a foundation of punk and rock n roll. With clever plays on words, their passionate message derives from philosophy, existentialism and corporate/political satire. Songs such as "Paradigm alt+SHIFT+delete" were inspired heavily by the Occupy Movements..."We don't have the look for your new business model!" screams a line from the song...

Of course, as an old man from Brooklyn who last lived in Mesa eleven years ago, we don't know much about the local scene, but on Saturday, we saw a Death By Routine sticker on Main Street and then the poster for tonight's event and decided to come despite posterior tibialis posterior, which made us need to lean against posts as we stood around listening to the bands.

Like American Standards, Death By Routine also did a killer set, reminding us a lot of the Taking Back Sunday of the Tell All Your Friends era; lead vocalist Matt Aldawood and Jake Maloney have a peppy liquidity reminiscent of Adam Lazzara and John Nolan, especially on "To All My Friends." The whole band was terrific, with Jake Stern a standout on drums.

We'd never been to the World Famous Nile Theater before and it took us a while to figure out we had to go to the entrance in the back, in an alley south of Main Street. We hobbled downstairs to the Underground around 7 p.m. to see Waking in Timelines play their first show.

You can catch the band upstairs at the Nile Theater on the bill with Silver Snakes on March 11. Here's an acoustic version of Waking in Timelines' "Orion's Belt," which has a nicely sweet sound:

Our dumbphone takes weak pics even in the best light, but as someone who's taught photography majors at the School of Visual Arts for years and years (okay, we teach them writing and literature), we like to think we're involved in our own little DIY scene where dark, blurry, incoherent photos rule.

Anyway, as we said, we really liked Death By Routine and have listened to the free CD we picked up there. (They also baked cookies for the crowd.) Here's a short video from a July show they did at The Underground (they were even better last night, much more polished and high-energy).

After their excellent set, American Standards came on and just totally killed it.

Their songs are funny and sly and they have a social conscience that appeals to at least one presidential candidate in the February 28 Arizona Green Party primary (we approved that message).

Ape Kill Ape also had an amazingly good set, especially given that all their band equipment was stolen from their practice space a few weeks ago. The good guys at American Standards lent them their equipment for the show tonight, and Ape Kill Ape made excellent use of it.

Watch them at The Underground several months ago and you can see why we enjoyed their set:

And by this time of the night, our tendonitis was really painful and making it hard to walk and even stand, but we were excited to stay for Ape Kill Ape.

However, we realize that by tomorrow morning we'll probably have to stay off our feet all day to prevent our tendon from rupturing, so we figured the wisest thing to do was leave before Corporal Limits came on as the last band of the night.

This is what happens to everyone in any DIY scene when your body is in its seventh decade, kids. We really hope to see Corporal Limits, who seem very cool at another time. Here they are last year at the Clubhouse, opening for Leftover Crack:

Anyway, we're grateful to be able to have gotten over to The Underground for the first time and to see some excellent bands for free. Thanks to the Mantooth Group for having revived this historic venue space.

We hope that they will be around for a long time.

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