Friday, November 30, 2012

Barefoot Barnacle

The Mars Bar



One of the facets of being in a band in this town is that you see and get to know a lot of bands; it's just part of the deal.  I discovered Barefoot Barnacle before that.  A friend of mine, also into technical music, dragged me to the Blue Moon one day because “you must see these guys!”  And he was right-- my mind was blown.  I knew who Barefoot Barnacle was before I ever had any connection to the Seattle music community.

It is sort of funny that the first time I saw Barefoot Barnacle was at the Blue Moon (featuring Seattle's worst PA) was also the only time I ever saw them with a vocalist-- Barefoot was an instrumental band before that, and they've been instrumental ever since-- was in the one place that can't handle vocals.  Go figure.
I do feel a little odd writing up two technical, instrumental, metal bands at a Mars Bar Radgoat Friday in a row... but Barefoot Barnacle have been a long time coming.  In line for a beer at the bar, the conversation was “This is the most underrated band in Seattle.  They're like Cephalic Carnage mixed with Mr. Bungle.”

I hear some Cynic and Obscura-era Gorguts in there, too, but that might just be me.

Barnacle play a constantly-shifting style of hallucinogenic metal-- their song titles often have a nautical theme, and you could call a few of their pieces demented tech-metal sea shanties.  With Doug and Jorge's guitars echoing, chorusing, and wah-ing through the a song's trippier sections, and Alex's fretless bass sliding chords around, Barnacle can make a club go a little... er... "swimmy."

Those are just their driftier parts, though; the main body of Barefoot Barnacle's songs are charging, thrashing, and heavy as hell.  The riffs can grind, but they're full of big, dissonant chords and off-kilter intervals-- they write moshable songs, but they're not a band that just moves power chords around the neck.  Similarly, Jon Z is not just putting down 16th notes in double-kick: if you listen to these songs (and yes, you should listen to these songs), even the kick patterns can have triplets breaking up the beat.

The band is excellent at keeping the audience engaged with an instrumental band-- they volley parts between instruments, call-and-response style, setting up parts before they tear into them. They'll switch times at the drop of a hat, shifting gears from breakneck technical craziness to circle-pit break... and the breaks can even come with choreography.

You read that right: choreography.  There are some legitimate stage moves that occur during specific Barnacle songs.  Nothing to be taken too seriously... quite the opposite: they're being funny... but it is part of the show.

And that's part of it: Barefoot Barnacle is funny.  You're going to get a show when you go to see them live, and they're always kind of fucking with the crowd.  Once, at a Metal Monday, as Jon Z and Alex (often shirtless, or less) lost more clothes, Jorge yanked off what turned out to be velcro'd stripper pants, and played the rest of the show in a banana-hammock (seriously-- that happened).  They opened a show at The Octagon once with a cover of Salt 'N' Peppa's "Push It."

This show was the day after Thanksgiving, and Barnacle decided that "turkey day" should be followed by "geoduck day," which came with an audience participation chant: "dig-a-duck, dig-a-duck, dig-a-geoduck, dig-a-duck, dig-a-geoduck" (well, something close to that... I don't quite remember how it all goes) which Barnacle matched with a riff.

They killed it, too-- I'm sure most of the country was dealing with a tryptophan overdose, and the crowd was a little sedentary-- but Barefoot Barnacle played an awesome, energetic, wild set.  Unlike some of the bands I write up, Barnacle exists on the web and you can (and should) buy their CD, but you should still see them live when you can: they play hard, they're never a boring show, and pretty much anything can happen when they're on stage.

Barefoot Barnacle on ReverbNation