Live: Hella Date: Wednesday, February 28 Opener: Pop Levi, Macromantics, Tartufi Better than: Taste of Chaos 2007 Rating: two out of five bananas
Delicate-eared young girls fled as tall beardos swarmed toward the Bottom of the Hill stage Wednesday night during Sacramento ADD speed metal act Hella's debut of new material as part of Noise Pop 2007's week-long, city-wide music festival.
Closing with the title track off their recent Ipecac release There's No 666 In Outer Space, Hella dropped sortie after sortie of percussive cluster bombs while new vocalist Aaron Ross screamed alongside the chaotic guitar-work of Spencer Seim.
Drummer Zach Hill hits so hard and so seemingly randomly from beginning to end that he might as well be enduring electric shocks with the drum sticks simply taped to his hands.
The downside? This band is so techy and so proggy - with preternatural tolerances of just milliseconds between drumbreaks - that it's hard to tell when they're being clever or when they're just fucking up and stomping all over each other's cues. Hella makes System of a Down look like Wayne Newton. It may not be possible for every bar of music in a song to subscribe to a different drum pattern, but Hella tries. The patches of clear, straightforward metal are so rare they elicit whoops and fist-pumping out of sheer recognition.
Not your cup of tea? Number two headliner Pop Levi functioned as the anti-Hella during his prior set. Using very traditional, 4/4-based drum beats and standard blues chords, the former bassist from Ladytron and his quartet showed his first real American crowd what exactly a love child would look like if the parents were the Black Keys and a glam-era David Bowie. The entire timbre of Levi's set operated in the treble end of the dial, with his dry, distorted guitar complementing his rough yet high nasal voice drowned in deep reverb. Even though Bottom of the Hill is as big as a 7-11, Pop Levi sounded like he was playing a stadium. Such a career transition is possible, given songs like "Pick Me Up", Vincent Gallo's looks, and healthy appreciation that girls need something to dance to.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Previous experience: Hella interview and review of There's No 666 In Outer Space
Personal bias: white dudes like electric guitar Random quote of the night: "That guy is like Pan, except instead of having goat legs, he's 10 feet tall." - short girl named "Shimmy," regarding plethora of tall beardos at the show
VIDEO OUT: Pop Levi