Tuesday, June 23, 2009


"Isis, oh, Isis, you mystical child..." - from 'Isis' by Bob Dylan

(Trivia: 'Isis' is Umlaut's favorite Bob Dylan song..)

The Blank Club, San Jose, CA

June 22, 2009

For the newbies: Isis are from the generation of bands begat by Umlaut's old friends Neurosis.. and sonically they also remind me of The Swans at times.. and then there's the Tool similarities.. but Isis are worthy of this lineage.. and here in the 21st Century Isis are now like the more nerdy older brother of the more commercially successful Mastodon. In short, an intellectual band who likes to shake the walls with volume while combining it with an intellectual aesthetic to everything they do. NERDS!

Umlaut hasn't really followed Isis closely in almost 5 years, but I really like their new album (Wavering Radiant); back in 2004 I was all kinds of crazy about their Panopticon album with its cover art featuring an aerial photograph of Casa de Umlaut (Seriously, you can see Casa de Umlaut if you know where to look..). Since then, I became all kinds of crazy about Red Sparowes (a side project of Isis' keyboard / guitarist Bryant Clifford Meyer). So, now I guess it's appropriate for me to come full circle and be all kinds of crazy about Isis again.

For the 2nd time in 19 days I traveled down to a club in the valley of my birth for a gig; last year I made the same trek only once all year. Prior to the show, Timo and Umlaut had a last minute dinner and some quality time with the lovely and charming RJ and Kat at the forever excellent Super Taq. Upon arrival at The Blank Club, we took advantage of the liberal in-and-out policy and hung outside while enjoying the balmy Summer nighttime Downtown San Jose weather. S.F. can talk smack about S.J... but S.J. will win the weather war every time.

The Blank Club's knee-high stage is tiny and shoved in a corner and this configuration required the drum kit to be set up BEHIND the back line in order to fit the 5-man Isis onstage; Michael Gallagher's effects board looked almost as big as the stage as it was being set up. This was the 2nd time in 4 days that my ears and senses were assaulted by a band wielding aluminum guitars! First it was Shellac and their vintage Travis Beans, and now it was Isis and their EGC aluminum axes. METAL.. literally!

It was cool to see a sold out Metal show in Downtown San Jose on a Monday night; things are different since I lived there a million years ago! At 10:55PM the band hopped (literally) onstage and launched into the new song 'Hall Of The Dead' and it was 80 minutes of mind cleansing volume that I needed and appreciated. It was also cool to see Isis in a tiny club (The Blank Club capacity = 200) with a suburban audience who were both into the band and also obviously familiar with their music. At several times during the show it seemed like everyone in the club was banging their heads in unison to Isis' volume... and a couple of times I realized I had closed my eyes and was focusing on one instrument during a song. Every once in awhile a band makes me do that: I focus all my attention on one instrument and trip on it. Is that Hippie Shit? Probably.. but I don't do drugs and I did not have any alcohol all evening so this behavior is purely GEEK.

I had to pick my head up off the floor a couple of times because it had been blown away by the band's performance; despite being crammed onto a tiny stage they rose to the occasion and seriously delivered. Also, the sound was surprisingly perfect for a tiny suburban venue! Hail The Blank Club... and it was weird when Aaron Turner said his first words to the audience right before the final song of the set; it was the first time the band addressed the audience. Hearing a human speaking voice after being sonically assaulted and cleansed for the previous hour or so was kind of jarring.. but I had to be brought back to reality at some point.

The merch table was shoved into a dark corner and I couldn't do a merch audit because the only lighting came from the club's red colored light bulbs (club ambiance over functional lighting, dude..); black apparel under red lights in a dark room = practically invisible! On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. We stood in front of the soundboard for Isis and before they came on I noticed the club's DJ had Ludicra and Buzzov*en CDs lined up to play; things are different since I lived in Downtown San Jose a million years ago!