Friday, May 22, 2015

Empire Farewell - Next to None, A Sound of Thunder, Yesterday's Saints, Iris Divine @ Empire 5/3/2015

I went to see the final Empire show ($15), with progressive metal/rock band Haken (rhymes with Bacon apparently) headlining. A number of local bands were added in addition to Iris Divine (who was the only original billed local). I saw so many people there- Neil and Michelle (and their brood!), Ariel, Ruby, Annie and Amy, Alie and Nathan (w/ a J), Mr and Mrs. Nina, Jesse, Chris H, Josh, Navid, Witt, Matt Rice, Heathen, Nick n JennG (!!), Mike AG, Tom, Superfan Dave, Patricia, Scott, Martin, Sako and Greg, Daniel G and Nick, Avi, Sean, Catherine L, Dorothy, Lacy, and of course- Metal Chris. WHEW. I bet there is someone I missed.

Mike Portnoy

Basically I was surprised at the amount of people present for the last show at Empire. I think many people came out to see Haken, but also a number of people were there to just be there and perhaps to enjoy some local metal one last time. The bar was poorly stocked (I think they were just trying to use things), and there were drink specials (!! the ONE DAY I need a break!). Maybe I should have got an Empire shirt for $10...

Haken Merch minus shirts

Merchandise wise, Haken had a tabel with shirts, CDs, Vinyl, Cassettes, and maybe a poster. Next to None had a CD and I think some shirts. ASOT had their shirts and CDs and the like (I snagged the last pint glass). Yesterday's Saints had CDs and some shirts. Iris Divine also had CDs and shirts (I actually think I had all the merch that they were selling).

Controversy: So months ago, when the show was initially announced, Iris Divine was direct local support and was selling tickets as such. When Empire announced they were closing, and that this would be the last show there ever, many people were talking about coming one last time! And then Yesterday's Saints were added. And then local darlings A Sound of Thunder were ALSO added. And then a couple more (Nomad and maybe one more) were lumped on. This became an 8 band show on a Sunday pretty quickly!

Now what was interesting about this long lineup was that the original band on the bill, Iris Divine, was now on way early (originally 7:50-8:10) and at least 2 of the newly added bands were on AFTER them. Now that to me sounds like they got screwed. And then we get the other issue of a HUGE changeover time (40 minutes) after ASOT and before Next to None... while Iris Divine AND ASOT basically got cut off.

Iris Divine

I got there in time to see one of my favourite local bands, progressive overlords Iris Divine. They mostly played tracks off of their excellent release Karma Sown. I only recognized a couple songs, tho. The mix was very rough for "Everlasting Sea" at first, but then they corrected it about halfway thru the song. They sounded pretty great, and I hope they made a few new fans. They were only slated to get 20 minutes, but they played closer to 30. I was told that they were cut off on their last song as well.

Matt Rice of Yesterday's Saints

Thrashy/deathy/proggy Yesterday's Saints were on next, and they were pretty solid. They played a short 20 minute set, but that didn't mean it was any less brutal. Vocalist Matt Rice was as commanding as ever, guitarist Witt Black laying down some sweet solos, John Batease bringing the bass, and drummer Albert Born was killin' it on drums. My only complaints were the short set and that these guys only have so many songs (I swear I've heard the same set 5 times).

A Sound Of Thunder Sandwich

Power/true metallers A Sound of Thunder  were the last local to play, and I was pumped to see them again, as I'd missed their last couple of outings. They also had a short 20 minute set, and were about to play their namesake song, but were told they were out of time, sadly. To end a set on "Power Play" just didn't seem right. They also played a 'familiar' set, but it was a nice ending, and great to see them kill it live again. Singer Nina Osegueda was peeking over the crowd, with her massive voice still making me smile that talent like this exists. I think I noticed drummer Chris Haren's set being a bit louder and precise this evening for some reason. Bassist Jeese Keen was good as always, and guitarist Josh Schwartz gave us some meaty solos on that damn headless guitar of his.

Mike Portnoy

And then began the socializing. I was playing to hear some of Haken, after Mike Portnoy's kid's (Max Portnoy) band (Next to None), perhaps half a set? But that was initially when things were on time. In true Jaxx/ Empire fashion, there were a ton of local bands, and the times were all thrown off. A fitting end to this venue. I can't say I wouldn't push /promote/help my kid's band, but to me the extra time in between seemed to be a bit entitled. I can't confirm that, but that's my perception.

Next to None, featuring MAX Portnoy

Finally, around 10:20, Drummer extraordinaire Mike Portnoy (Transatlantic, ex- Dream Theater, Adrenaline Mob, etc etc) took the stage to introduce his son's band, about 40 minutes AFTER ASOT left the stage. I don't know why there was such a long changeover, but it was a bit infuriating, as Next to None was supposed to be almost done at this time (originally 9:50-10:35). Basically after 2 days of M3 and several other shows earlier the past week, I was pretty tired. I did stay for one song of theirs, which didn't sound bad, but didn't really sound distinct. It was kind of like progressive metalcore (if that is not an oxymoron I don't know what is). The music itself sounded solid, especially for the age group (teens!) of the band. Then the harsh vocals started and it just sounded like some entitled kid...

And so while I would have liked to stay for Haken, I was pretty tired at about 10:30. I heard that Haken came on late and played pretty long, and Mike Portnoy came out to do Dream Theater cover and a couple other songs- all in all the night was over around 1 AM I think. That would have been amazing, but I really wish things were not on a Jaxx/Empire timeframe. I suppose it was fitting to be tired as hell the next day from the last true Jaxx/Empire show being all sorts of mistimed.

Overall: bittersweet to see Empire close, and kind of end of a sour note- with all the cut offs and mismanaged timings. It was nice to see some locals again, but it was a bit unfulfilling. I think some bands (I can't comment on which) rolled out early and took the obscene wait time as a slap in the face, especially with the short short set times. I can't say I blame them at all. Overall it did feel like a Jaxx show.

Next Show:  NIGHTWISH and co.

Link One
Iris Divine (7:55- 8:23)

  • Everlasting Sea
  • A Suicide Aware
  • In Spirals (instrumental)
  • The The Wake of Martyrs 

Yesterday's Saints (8:42- 9:03)

  • Origen Adamantius
  • The Recruitment
  • Recursion 

A Sound of Thunder (9:25-9:45)

  • Udoroth
  • Queen of Hell
  • Time's Arrow
  • Power Play

Next to None (10:21- ? (I Left))

  • Mike Portnoy Intro
  • ?
Updated Iris Divine Set