The all-local triple bill at the Princeton Pub only managed to attract about half the number that had populated it an hour earlier; Staging a show after a hockey game has its disadvantages. But it would be a mistake to judge this night on crowd volume. Those that made the trek were enveloped by a different kind of volume, composed of sound waves instead of “the wave.”
Web Sherriff are an intensely dramatic two-piece whose set relied on tides of intensity and possessed passion to get their point across. Frontman Francis Cruz tore up the stage like a marionette, with his manic, jangly guitar rhythms thrown in like an afterthought. Control came from drummer Justin Devries, whose tight conducting seemed to just barely contain the energy coming from each song. Vocals were a real treat, as Cruz yodeled glitter-glossed lyrics with diva quality. From jumping around the stage to spending the last song sitting down with his eyes closed, he put on a strong show with just enough glam to keep things interesting.
Eeek! introduced themselves with a soft-spoken story about unlocked doors and chasing invisible thieves with hockey sticks, which served as a quiet explanation of their band moniker. Musically, however, Eeek! play wool-sweater thrash, with their jarring songs hinting at something brooding just below the surface of each simple, driving track. Voices sounded hoarse and strung-out in the way shouting match participants might rasp. For how well the trio played together, self-confidence was lacking, especially when a broken string forced an awkward and apologetic banter during repairs. The band played a little too loud and a little too fast to compensate for the downtime. Despite the mid-set string fracture, Eeek! played strong and finished their set with shy grins on their faces.
War Baby finished off the night as any good closer should: bigger, flashier, and hundreds of decibels louder than the competition. Sporting amps larger than the house PA system, their sound check sounded like a freight train barrelling through the bar, and most casual observers took a few steps back when the band kicked it into high gear. Led by phenomenally talented drummer Kirby Fisher, the band never really “turned off”: they generally spring-boarded from one tune straight into the next. Unfortunately, this is also the thrash-metal band’s biggest fault: everything was buried under a layer of sludge so deep it was impossible to differentiate between complicated guitar riffs and lead vocal duties. Maybe everything was so loud to compete with Fisher’s machine-gun drumming style, but War Baby fell flat — or maybe I was just deaf by that point.