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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Skeletonbreath

Live in Metuchen, New Jersey, November, 2006

Review by Bill Knispel

The NJ Proghouse series of concerts has been a boon to fans of progressive music in the NY/NJ metro area. Promoter Jim Robinson has presented a variety of shows, ranging from progressive metal to folk to avant progressive rock. Shows are generally in smaller venues, allowing the audience a much more intimate concert experience.
On 4 November 2006, the NJ Proghouse was host to Skeletonbreath and The Red Masque. Special guests for the evening were Paul Sears, drummer for the Muffins, and Dave Kerman, drummer for Present, 5UUs, and Thinking Plague, among other bands. The show was held at the Old Franklin Schoolhouse, a 200-year old one-room schoolhouse in Metuchen NJ. Venue capacity is listed at 75, and the night of this performance, it appeared to be comfortably 2/3 full.

Skeletonbreath is a difficult band to describe. A trio consisting of drums/bass/violin, their sound is surprisingly powerful and full, with distinctly punkish energy. Drummer Samuel C. Doob bashes his kit with reckless abandon, looking less like a drummer and more like a barely contained whirling dervish behind the bass drum (on this particular evening his snare drum broke, possibly from the punishment meted out on it). Violinist Robert Pycior uses the full capabilities of his electric violin, plucking staccato melodies as well as unleashing quick legato lines, while Andrew Platt on bass holds down the bottom end with equal parts power and finesse.
     
Their set list at this show drew nearly equally from their debut album (louise, released in 2005) and from new material yet to be recorded (during the performance, the band revealed that they were scheduled to enter a studio in the coming weeks to begin work on their sophomore release). While the newer material was certainly unfamiliar to the audience, the general vibe and feel was quite similar to the tracks on louise. Among their performance’s highlights was “do the lazy rabbit,” with a wildly winding theme that veers from psychotic chopped double and triple stops to slower, sweetly realized melodic lines. The piece is very nearly a spotlight for Platt’s solid bass playing, and he has ample opportunity to showcase the full range of his playing. There are moments where his playing takes on a heavily Zeuhl-influenced tone, with added fuzz and distortion giving his bass playing a dark, evil feel; at other times he busied himself with doubling melody lines at the higher end of his instrument’s range.

Also receiving a big response from the audience was their performance of the title track from their debut album. “louise” is chock-full of slide bass and sadly melodic violin, a rubbery mid-tempo piece which also features perhaps the most restrained drumming performance from Doob. Well before this point in their show Doob’s snare drum snapped, and he was spending quite a bit of time between songs trying to patch it with gaffer tape to get through the set. Skeletonbreath handled the difficulty with reasonable humor, and the audience showed a great deal of patience as the group fought their way through things.

As the band apparently flew through their set well ahead of schedule (despite the technical difficulties), they were convinced by the venue staff and audience to play an encore of sorts. As an extra treat, Skeletonbreath debuted an additional song that they had written for use on the forthcoming second album. The new material shows a great deal of promise, following in a similar style to their existing material while also distilling their sound to the barest of essentials. Following their performance the band was available to the attendees for autographs and discussion while breaking down their equipment; this is one of the most enjoyable things about the more intimate performances the NJ Proghouse schedules.
     
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