Have you ever heard a band the first time at an amphitheater or festival? You’re likely standing far from the stage and are wondering what the hype is about. Additionally, you’re dealing with muffled, crappy sound. Not a big deal IF you’ve heard their records before. That was my first encounter with Metric. Giving them a second shot at the Fox Theater changed my mind. The venue also gave me a good, first shot at two new bands to get to know and enjoy.
Hard rock outfit Nico Vega took the stage first. Guitarist Rich and Drummer Dan rocked harder than I expected. However, singer Aja, a whirlwind of black hair, made the stage her home. She sat down on it and sung directly to the crowd when she wasn’t weaving around her bandmates.
The band seemed used to playing the L.A. bar scene and incorporated attention grabbing tricks. One of these included Aja leaping over security and walking along the barricade. The situation turned a tad dicey when she almost kicked an audience member in the head.
Bands with female singers and multi-word genre names marked tonight’s lineup. The first were hard-rock, folk and pop. Scotland’s Codeine Velvet Club, played jazzy, dancey, pop-rock songs. This second band boasted the most members and included vocalist Lou Hickey guitarist/vocalist Jon Lawler, guitarist/keyboardist Will Foster, bassist Lewis Gordon, and drummer Ross McFarlane. An extra trumpeter and saxophonist played along for the show. I liked Codeine Velvet Club, but the all-ages audience found them a bit old-fashioned in their swanky suits and cocktail dresses. They ended with a loungy cover of The Rolling Stones song “Gimme Shelter.”
I saw Metric last year at radio station Live 105’s BFD and wasn’t too impressed. Turns out they sound better indoors rather than the parking lot of the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View. Haines looked more comfortable and sang more confidently on the Oakland stage. With her nonstop movement, she demonstrated amazing vocal endurance. Only once did she sound out of breath.
My apologies to guitarist James Shaw, bassist Joshua Winstead, and drummer Joules Scott Key you performed flawlessly. I couldn’t stop noticing how attractive Haines looked dressed in a white top with sparkly shoulder pads and sparkly skirt. Her shirt possessed a long fringe that swished around while she hopped, skipped or otherwise gyrated onstage. I wasn’t the only one. Another male audience member screamed out, “I love you Emily!”
The crowd acted bored for the first four songs until Metric’s current big radio hit “Help, I’m Alive,” gave the audience a needed jolt. Their pulse then raced for the rest of the set. New songs like “Gimme Sympathy” and “Stadium Love” from Fantasies did as well as old ones. The encore was short during which they played “Monster Hospital” and an acoustic version of “Combat Baby.”
What I like about the Fox Theater is how every band’s set contains a moving light show. Metric’s was measurably biggest, the stage cast in blue and hit with blue and white beams. Two screens behind the band glowed different colors turning the band into silhouettes like an iTunes commercial. A subliminal command to go buy mp3s? I hope not.
Before the last song of the encore, the band thanked the audience, especially those who’d followed them the longest. It’s been a long road since forming in 1998. Haines talked about playing the Bay Area in 2002 at the Bottom of the Hill club. I first saw them under less ideal conditions, but now I see they deserve the attention they’re getting now.
Nico Vega photos by Kevin Gustafson
Nico Vega’s official website
Codeine Velvet Club’s Myspace page
Codeine Velvet Club’s official website
Metric’s Myspace page
Metric’s official website
Videos for Nico Vega’s “Gravity” and Metric’s “Gimme Sympathy” follow below: