k-robin guitars reviews Sirens and Sailors cd release show, Ice Nine Kills Predatour kick-off, and the new Main Street Armory basement venue

November 1st, 2013. Ice Nine Kills kicked off their “Predatour” in Rochester, NY, at The Main Street Armory’s new, basement venue. From being the guitar technician of so many of Rochester’s metal bands, I have access to a lot of tastey inside information, which means there is a lot to cover here.

First of all, this show was $20 a ticket, which for this genre, in this town, is a lot. I take it as good sign for all the bands on the bill. It seems to logically follow that if the ticket prices are higher, the bands on the bill must be more important/famous. And, for my friends who played in Sirens and Sailors, Before the Foundation, and Ice Nine Kills, I sincerely hope they all continue to get more important and more famous. But before we can talk about the show, we need some background information. In fact, this story is chock-full of back-story.

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Ice Nine Kills (INK) released their EP “The Predator” at least six months ago, and they have been on no less than three other tours since its release (Vans Warped Tour, All Stars Tour, and one other shorter tour, I think). So, it strikes me as a little odd that they would be launching a tour in support of that EP (The Predatour) so late after its release. My only guess is that they were given an opportunity to be a tour headliner and didn’t have any fresh material ready. But regardless, it’s a big step for the band to be on their first headlining tour and I hope it goes well for them. There are however, some other things that I found odd – questionable maybe – about the band, the tour, and the Nov. 1 show. Let’s explore them, shall we?

On paper, Ice Nine Kills is a Boston based band, but all of the members live in Rochester. Don’t ask me why this is, but I have known the guys for three years now, and they have lived here the whole time. Anyway, November 1st was the first time INK has played Rochester since firing their bass player Steve Koch, after playing Rochester’s Ragefest this past August. (Yes, I read the official statement, which claims that it was Steve’s idea to quit the band – right as they were starting to get really successful – but I happen to know that is not true). After Warped Tour, INK played the All Stars Tour as a four-piece (lead guitar, rhythm guitar, drums, and vocals), playing along to a bass backing-track, because Steve had to stay home and get surgery on his thumb. Upon their return, they played Ragefest, with Steve, immediately after which, they fired him, then went off to play another tour with same said backing track.

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Steve Koch just before his thumb surgery.

Let’s stop there. I want to make sure you understood me. I’m not talking about the band using some samples here and there to augment the performance – what I’m saying is, that when the band performed, there was the sound of a bass guitar, without a bass player being present. Personally, I don’t even think there is any place for a click track in a live performance, let alone an entire instrument track; and to fire one of your band members in favor of this is really not cool. But I digress. The point I’m trying to make, is that knowing Steve Koch and the background information, there was a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Before I even saw the performance, I felt as though the success of being the tour headliner was bitter-sweet, without Steve being a part of it. (To the band’s credit, I learned that for the Predatour, they would not be using the bass backing-track. Instead, the rhythm guitar player would be taking over as bass player, and the band would play along to a rhythm guitar backing-track. I haven’t decided weather or not this is any better.) As the night went on, that bitter-sweet taste soured a bit for me, but more on that later. Now let’s talk about my dudes in Sirens and Sailors.

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Not only was November 1st the first show of the Predatour, on which Sirens and Sailors (SandS) is the main supporting act, but it was also the cd release show for SandS second full-length album “Skeletons”, which was released on October 29th. This is an important album for the band, coming at an important time for them. The album is dynamite, and has had successful initial sales (reaching the top 10 on the itunes metal chart). SandS has a very strong home-town following in Rochester, and there was a great deal of local excitement for them, regarding the cd release and the tour package. Also, on the same day they released Skeletons, they had been awarded the “Best of Rochester” – Best Small Venue Show, and the show that won that for them happened to be the last time they played in their home-town. Yes, Nov. 1st was the start of the INK tour, but this was a SandS crowd… a SandS show – everyone was there to see Sirens and Sailors. You would think that because of this, Sirens and Sailors would be the last act of the night, and would play the longest set. However, my understanding is that Ice Nine Kills was pulling some shenanigans ala, “It’s our tour. We’re the bigger band. We’re gonna play last. You can’t put your drummer’s kit up on the riser. Your set can’t be longer than 30 minutes,” etc. Not only would I consider this to be a dick-move, but it would prove to be one that would bite INK in the ass. Here’s a hint to all you would-be rock stars out there – know your audience. Now let’s talk about the show.

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k-robin and sister gettin’ our metal on.

The show was held in the basement venue of the Main Street Armory, which, as far as I understand, has only recently opened. None of the performers I spoke with had ever played a gig there, but everyone was excited about it. This is an outstanding venue for a medium sized show; it also happens to be the nicest basement I have ever seen. For being the basement of such an old building, I was absolutely shocked at the immaculate condition of the room. Looking around the place, I can’t understand why the Armory hasn’t been having shows there all along. The place is huge – roughly double the capacity of the club side of Water Street Music Hall. It is stripped down to the bare essentials, no decorations or fancy furnishings, and everything is painted black – exactly what a rock-n-roll club oughtta be. (It wouldn’t kill them to put a few places to sit down in there though). The sound in this venue was a little better than average for this type of show. I have the same thought about the sound at every metal show I go to. Generally speaking, I think the master bass level coming from the p.a. is always too high. Heavy Metal is guitar-based music. Turn the master bass level down, and let the guitars be forward in the mix, for christ’s sake. If I can’t hear every note of the guitar solo screaming above everything else, the sound man is doing something wrong. Such was the case at this show too, but as I said, still better than average. The bar was selling $3, 12oz. cups of draft beer, which is a total rip-off (but still better than the $5, 16oz. cans of beer at Water Street), but not to worry, I brought my flask with me so I wouldn’t have to blow all my money on over-priced beer. On my way to examine the men’s room of this joint, which was also immaculate (this scores big points in my book), I ran into Jimm Lindsley from Sirens and Sailors. He stopped me and asked me to smell him – which, if you know Jimm at all, is not the least bit abnormal or awkward. Having been friends with Jimm for quite some time and knowing him to be a rather cuddley-type of dude, I leaned in close for a nice long whiff. I must admit, he smelled lovely – a subtle cologne, macho in its musk, but not pretentious or overzealous, with maybe a hint of evergreen. I told him I was glad he hadn’t used too much, upon which he reached into his pocket and produced a car air freshener in the shape of a little tree, with the words Black Forest printed on it. He said proudly, “I have been crushing with this all day.” Immediately, the image of Chris Farley in an elevator with Dan Aykroyd came to mind – “Went a little heavy on the pine tree perfume there, kid.” This interaction perfectly captures the spirit of the all the guys in SandS. They are the nicest, coolest, bunch of goofballs, who love to joke around and have a good time. If there was any tension or animosity amongst the band over having been out-ranked by INK, it was impossible to notice – they were completely gracious and professional, as always, and excited about the album, the show, and the tour. I stopped by their merch booth, where I purchased some nice buttons, which look very spiffy next to my anarchy pin, if I do say so myself. At last, it was time for Sirens and Sailors to take the stage.

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Jimm smells soooo good.

From the stage, all the way back to the sound booth was packed – I would guess around 350-400 people, which included every member of Jimm Lindsley’s family: from his sister, who coincidentally was my classmate in high-school, to his dad, who still can be found at dive bars, rocking the shit out of a bass guitar, to his adorable, sweet mother, who is always as charming as can be. The band played a hit parade of all of their releases and crowd favorites, including their homage to Rochester called “Born and Raised (Flower City)” which contains probably my favorite riff of the new album. They stuck to their 30 minute set, even though I was hoping that they would follow the great rock-n-roll tradition and just keep playing for as long as they felt like – as I said, this was their show. They put on a great performance – as always, after which… everybody went home.

If Ice Nine Kills would not have been so prideful, they could have played for a crowd of 300-400. But, by insisting on playing last, when the tour headliners took the stage, all wearing their own band’s t-shirts, there was only about 75 people left in the place. As I watched their set, with their “bass player” playing the very same bass that Steve Koch was planning to get through the band’s Ibanez endorsement, it seemed as though, on the first night of their tour, they had gotten a little too big for their britches. I felt kind of embarrassed for them, but I will say that I barely noticed their rhythm guitar backing-track.

I hope the guys in INK won’t think me too harsh. I have known JD for about three years, have done a ton of work on his guitars, and consider him a friend. And, if you can’t count on your friends to give you honest feedback who can you count on?

P.S. Don’t ever wear your own bands t-shirt (except maybe to bed).

This is one technician’s perspective. What are your thoughts?