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I wasn’t familiar with O’Brien’s Pub, which is a rather low-key establishment (maybe a lit up sign at night would help) located at the corner of Harvard Ave. and Cambridge Street in Allston. I was surprised and impressed to find an actual, decent-sized stage in the corner, with professional lighting and good sound. I see now that O’Brien’s is a serious rock venue. I assumed it was “just a bar” when I first heard that Division Day were playing there, and from the outside, one wouldn’t think otherwise. Well, it is a neighborhood bar, but it also regularly books local and national rock acts.

Static of the Gods

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Static of the Gods kicked things off. This Boston-based band features Jen Johnson (voice, guitar, & keyboard), Mike Latulippe (drums) and Ben Voskeritchian (bass & guitar). On their official site, it says “Static of the Gods tends a hothouse full of luminous, melody-infused indie rock songs.” Listening to their music online, I’d agree, their stuff is quite pretty. But somehow this didn’t translate at O’Brien’s that night. Maybe things were just mixed too loudly (this is a frequent pet peeve of mine), or perhaps they – like many Boston bands I’ve seen – choose to focus solely on full-out rocking when they play live, and a lot of the subtlety is lost. Whatever it was, much of their set – to my ears – had a sameness to it, with the notable exception of two slower numbers which were very nice. There was a song with Jen playing some keyboard lines that was definitely a standout, as was another of their slower songs, second to last in the set. They’re currently working on a new album, the followup to their 2007 release, Cycles Follow Signs. They had the largest audience of the evening (around 100, I’d guess), with the place inexplicably thinning out to about 50 or 60 by the time Division Day took the stage.

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Clearly there needs to be better promotion when these amazing L.A. bands venture cross-country to play for us. A band as brilliant as Division Day, who packs venues in a city like Los Angeles filled with discerning music fans who have impossible decisions on a nightly basis of whom to see, and how to juggle a half dozen amazing lineups into one’s evening, clearly deserve more than 50 people coming out to see them on a perfectly habitable and not mid-winter Friday night. This sad state of affairs may soon be changing, however. Joe Fielder, Managing Editor of the fantastic Radio Free Silver Lake, recently relocated to Boston, and has just done his first ‘guest post’ on Bradley’s Almanac, previewing some of the L.A. bands who will be visiting Boston in the near future. For my part, I will endeavor to actually talk about shows before they happen. Still getting the hang of this.

Division Day

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Division Day were wonderful – dense and atmospheric; complex, multi-layered and mystical. Some of their songs are heavier, penetrating sonic assaults (“Surrender”, “Chalk Lines”); others are more melodic and pretty (“Azalean”, “Carrier”), but all with an underlying thick musical tapestry. Heavy and beautiful stuff. To be honest, I wasn’t all that familiar with their earlier work, which I now realize might not have been such a terrible thing, as from listening and researching further, I’ve discovered that this second album, Visitation (Dangerbird Records), is quite a departure from their 2007 Beartrap Island. In an attempt to justify my inherent laziness at not familiarizing myself beforehand, I arrived at their performance a completely blank slate, free of expectation, and left feeling emotionally satisfied with a sense of wonder, wanting to learn more.

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Kevin Lenhart (drums, percussion), Rohner Segnitz (vocals, keyboards), Ryan Wilson (guitar) and Seb Bailey (bass) performed seven of the eleven tracks from their new album, plus two from Beartrap Island. When I’m not so familiar with a particular band’s music, I’ll scribble down a lyric snippet or some quick note to more properly investigate later, and I see I started scribbling at the third song of the set, “Surrender”, and made a note on every song after that. These guys were really impressive.

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There’s a heavier, more textured synth and guitar sound on this new album, with some black-metal influences (apparently lead singer Rohner Segnitz is a big fan of this genre). But there’s clearly a melding of this darker, heavier stuff with their earlier pop sensibilities, especially evident in Segnitz’s vocal style, which has an ethereal quality. For me, this balances out the dense complexity of the music, and makes for very enjoyable listening… transcendent. Judging from the expletives and underlines in my notes, I was especially blown away by “Surrender”, “Azalean” (so lovely!), “Carrier”, “Ricky” (from Beartrap Island; a crazy live version), and “Devil Light” (my exact words were “f*cking absolute magic”).

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As I’m a “words person”, I’ll also say that lyrically their new songs are as fascinating and mysterious as the music, creating the perfect complement.

“Dead moon at the center,
Radio on, night.
Headlights on the water,
Rippling. Black. Mine.

Through to the light, arms interlocked,
By the glow of the dial, flickering on and off,
and cranes come, eyeless, gripping white-boned blooms of fire.”

– Azalean

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[As I’m listening to the new album as I write this, I must make special mention of the final song “Black Crow” (not performed at the show), which is just gorgeous. LOVE Rohner’s vocals on this one.]

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Bad Veins

In a word: quirky. Even setting up, I knew these guys were going to be interesting…

I thought it was just an odd place for a telephone...

I thought it was just an odd place for a telephone...

... until Bad Veins started setting up.

... until Bad Veins started setting up.

Last minute testing of the telephone (hello? can you hear me now?)

Last minute testing of the telephone (hello? can you hear me now?)

I guess I’m a sucker for the unusual and unexpected, so yes, I’ll admit was quite taken with Bad Veins‘ multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Benjamin Davis singing into a telephone. There was the amusing visual impact of him prowling around the stage howling into it like he was in a long-distance argument with his girlfriend, and it sounded like an announcement over a loud speaker from outer space.

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Benjamin Davis, drummer Sebastien Schultz, and the third member of their band, a reel-to-reel tape deck who goes by the name of Irene, produce a curious pastiche of sounds, matched nicely by their bizarre and oddly compelling stage presence. A lot of personality for two guys and a machine (sorry girl, the truth hurts sometimes). Irene began the evening with what sounded like a charming marching band, and Sebastien got crazier and crazier on his drumset, at one point knocking a cymbal clear off the thing – to everyone’s (and his own) amusement.

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Benjamin’s vocals were soaring, howling, and wonderful. Hailing from Cincinnati, their debut album (very good; listening to it now), was recently released on Dangerbird Records.

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Because photos alone won’t tell the whole story…

Bad Veins and Division Day play tomorrow night (Sep. 22) in Atlanta at 529 (that’s a club, not a time), and from there, Bad Veins goes home to Cincinatti and then out on the road again with The Subjects. Division Day has shows in Austin and Fort Worth, Texas; Oklahoma City; and Tempe, Arizona.

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