There’s nothing like jumping back into the mix head-on, fearless and furious, ready to unleash a new set – and an entirely new lineup – on the local scene. Damn the torpedoes, you’ve practiced enough, and the new band knows all their parts! Fuck it! Get a show booked and get back on track!
Unless . . . you can sneak in a live rehearsal before actually letting the band out of the bag. . . . y’know, just in case . . .
And that’s what Gangcharger did last Thursday night in the Skylark Lounge. They booked themselves for the lounge’s “Indie Night,” a sort of open mic night, under the moniker Katie Hydel Cartel, and unleashed a brand new lineup, though, fortunately, not an entirely new sound, on fans that were savvy enough to be there. The Skylark crowd of about seven – a group of the bar regulars, friends of other performers, and a few unfortunate passersby who unwittingly stopped in for a drink – was tripled by 11:00pm to easily more than 21 as Gangcharger, erm, KHC, set up onstage.
“I hope so! Unless everyone quits . . . again . . .” – Ethan Ward, commenting on the likelihood that the current Gangcharger lineup will remain consistent for a while.
Ethan Ward, the band’s soundmaster, frontman and guitarist, is now the only remaining member of the version of Gangcharger that celebrated the release of their latest record Metal Sun, produced the typically thick, coiled and beautiful sound he coaxes out of his guitar and a suitcase full of effects for about 45 minutes with the rest of his new lineup. Including Paige Peterson, formerly of Boulder band Good Housekeeping, on vocals and synth, Adam Rojo, still guitarist for Ideal Fathers, on bass and new drummer Dan Barnett, the four piece almost literally blew the doors off of the venue. When Ward was ready to start, he threatened to keep from playing until the growing crowd moved up front, close and comfortable. They complied, but by the third song they had all retreated towards the booths and bar, a good 8 – 10 feet from the foot of the low stage, simultaneously awash in, and cowering from, the volume.
Putting on a secret show may sooth the nerves of a band in its early stages, and that’s a good thing, but Gang charger needn’t have worried. If anything, this lineup proved even tighter and more creative than the last. Those of us who knew enough to be there (many of us found out only the afternoon of the show) saw a Gangcharger onstage that has mastered not only its sound, but also its whole rhythmic philosophy. The sound entwines early, frantic and noisy Sonic Youth rhythms inside Kevin Shields chord habits and unleashes a sound that feels like it’s locked you in the trunk of a 1981 Camaro, as it drives at 145 MPH deep into the Western Slope towards Utah, and forces you to enjoy every minute of it.
The set’s few drawbacks could be attributed to the sound signature of the Skylark – it’s not really built for this kind of Great China-sized wall of noise – and the live, last minute open mic mix. The result was an occasional muddiness, and some random buzzing from the PA. I have to assume that the poor mix led to some of Peterson’s occasional caterwauling at just left of the intended key – which wasn’t a bad thing in the end anyway. A little work to make her voice as transfixing as it can be, and as central to the sound as her synth work is, and the band will continue to roll over and into the scene as it has been the recent past.
If this show was merely a toe-dipping in the playing-out water, I’m excited to see the whole body dive in. Gangcharger are set to debut their new lineup at Larimer Lounge – as Gangcharger rather than Katie Hydel Cartel – on Thursday, April 8, 2010. Catch them while they’re still underground – they’re worth it.