Heading up to the State Theatre in St. Petersburg, hellacious rain is typical of raining season, also known as hurricane season, in Florida. The Sunshine State is not always sunny, so how fitting is it to ring in the flashes of lightning and rumbling thunder than to go see grindcore and metal bands? What’s more hardcore than heading up to the lightning capital during a storm to rock out and release some energy?
Though Otep was the headliner, opening the show was Vilest Breed. The female lead singer is a sister to the drummer in the band, making it almost a family affair, with Brian on bass, and Jay on guitar. This grindcore band has been known to cover bands like Sepultura just to get people’s attention, as there’s nothing quite as sexy as a girl who can growl like a guy while looking cute on stage: https://www.facebook.com/vilestbreed.
They play mostly original music, as the band is definitely not a cover band; they’re just known to play an unsuspecting cover or two during their set to get people’s attention. Of course, even their original music contains raspy growls that sounds like a demon taking over the innocent girl’s body during the performance. When she puts on her glasses and pulls up her hair after the set, it seems like night and day, as if she really is up there summoning her inner demons while commanding attention on stage.
Her brother does more than hold a beat, pounding away on the drums with as much intensity as thunder. Brian commands the bass with a focused precision like a lightning strike. Meanwhile, Jay brings the groove home with guitar riffs that complements Brian’s bass lines, creating the whole.
If you’re not familiar with Vilest Breed, and you’re into grindcore, then they are worth a listen. They bring home the notion of being full of hate from the Sunshine State. Continuing along those lines is the next band, Cypher Machine, who hails from Clearwater: http://www.cyphermachineband.com/, https://www.facebook.com/booksnbling/videos/1366709193404728/ and https://www.facebook.com/Cyphermachine/.
Cypher Machine was created from the leftover pieces of another area band. They tightened their sound, rebranded with some new ideas, and created a master project that brings the best of the old with the notions of the new. For those familiar with Florida hardcore bands, these guys are familiar.
With experience brings a sound that is polished and honed. They bring the energy to the stage, which reverberates onto the audience. When the heads start knocking, the mosh starts pounding.
Rounding out the last of the Florida bands is Psykotribe. There’s two lead singers, a girl and a guy, but the girl does not bring the typical high pitched vocals to the table. Instead, she uses her lungs to scream.
These bands with girls break the mold of typical girl bands, as this show is filled with hardcore chicks who can command a stage as well as any guy. The prove that their lungs and throat can growl just as well as any guy out there. It’s a nice change of pace to see the girls blossoming into the unexpected.
With Psykotribe living only a couple minutes from the State Theatre, they are a band that can be seen opening for a number of national acts. Covered in makeup, they bring the theatrics to back up their hardcore sound, creating a stage show that is sure to suck in the audience. They’re not just a band that depends on the theatrical performance, as it is definitely their sound that can incite a mosh pit handily: http://psykotribe.com/, https://www.facebook.com/PSYKOTRIBE.BAND, and https://twitter.com/psykotribe.
Brand of Julez is another family affair, as Brandon and lead singer Julez are brothers that band together, creating that sound with the instincts that family members have by growing up with each other. Very polished, with curly dark hair that whips around on stage, the band is like a storm rolling in, having that dark anticipation with an eeriness to it that also has a natural perfection within it, a dark excitement: https://www.facebook.com/brandofjulez, https://twitter.com/BrandofJulez, and http://www.brandofjulez.bigcartel.com/.
Hailing from Toledo, OH, The Convalescence also brought some theatrics to the stage. Covered in makeup, these guys hit hard like a hurricane. Audience members whip around in a frenzy to the beat, and in the eye of the storm of cornfed intimidating looking dudes is this girl on keyboards with electric eyes that look to be the color of rain: https://www.facebook.com/theconvalescence, and https://twitter.com/TCONband.
People asked where the band came from, shocked by the intensity of the band, but as I got my start in the Toledo music scene, I am well aware of the number of amazing bands in the northwest Ohio area. Even the drummer makes eye contact with the audience, making faces as he pounds. The band has that natural intimidation factor that, like watching a storm brewing over Lake Erie or the Gulf of Mexico, you cannot help but watch in awe, even though you know that you should be taking cover and cowering.
Of course, Otep closed out the evening. It’s interesting to note that there was more gay pride flags flown at this show than I have seen at her shows in the past, and there were more females dominating the audience than ever before, too. It’s just an observation I noticed, and I’m not quite sure why.
It makes me feel old to think that it’s been 15 years since I worked on the 2002 Ozzfest tour where Otep played. Touring across the country, hearing her set each day, I am more than a little familiar with her music, and it’s interesting to see how her stage show has changed, and how some remained the same. She swapped out musicians along the way, with Evil J leaving the band years ago, and now she has a guy wearing a Trojan helmet and not much else with a body that looks like classic Roman artwork for warriors, and another guy with shocks of curly hair, wearing a silly light up mask with an eerie smile.
It might be different faces in the band, but Otep is really the heart and soul; though some faces may change, she is the constant that people continue to want to see, regardless. She might have some different body art than she did 15 years ago, but her sound has continued to improve like a fine wine. I’ll be honest, when she first swapped out musicians, there was a period of readjustment, but she has soldiered over that hurdle, and the band sounds better than it ever has, being very tight, well adjusted.
There’s some of her classic songs that still sound good 15 years later, but there’s also new stuff in her set, as it is ever changing. One cover she added to her set was a hardcore cover of the song “Royals,” which she dedicated to the working class, or blue collar, people. She has an awesome take on the song.
She might have a shaved head and sing about some not so pleasant experiences in life, but it’s the stuff that people don’t want to talk about that makes people cringe with a natural horror. It’s those topics that need to be sung about, need to be brought to the light, as that’s the only way change can be had. The signs as a backdrop read “resist” and “resistance,” and she promotes people to be the change.
If you haven’t checked out her books, it’s worth a look: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/otepsaves. For more on Otep, visit www.twitter.com/otepofficial, https://myspace.com/otep, and https://otepsaves.me/.
Marisa Williams earned her Master’s in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University. She is author of more than 100 independent books: www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz. For more by Marisa, follow www.twitter.com/booksnbling.