Estradasphere‘s show last night at the 2nd Story Nightclub in Bloomington, IN was PHENOMENAL.
I arrived in Bloomington and about crap my pants with how crazy the traffic and people in town were… apparently it is a HUGE Lotus World Music Festival this whole weekend… oy… anyway, I grabbed grub at the excellent veggie restaurant ROOTS (mushroom-patty burger, fried tofu cubes with homemade sweet plum sauce, cinnamon-or-ginger-spiced sweet potato fries, and a fresh (I saw him make it) orange and carrot juice). I was too stuffed for dessert. If I ever bring the wife to Bloomington, we’re totally hitting up ROOTS again.
Anyway, I head to the venue by about 9:30pm. The band hasn’t showed up yet. They were supposed to be there at 5pm to set up. Ru’ Ro’. I lie down on the couch in the venue, and by 10pm the band finally shows up.
The 1st opener (Das Trio) starts around 10:20pm. They had some skills (at least the bassist), but they were very muddy as a group… and the songs and vocals were not memorable. I’ve seen worse bands, but I’ve seen better. I apologize if they do a google search for their name and come upon this review. They showed potential, but the songs just seemed generic.
After Das Trio’s set, I walked around town again to kill time. I got what might have been the best double shot of espresso ever. Seriously. It was so flavorful. I totally recommend the Crystal Parrot in Bloomington. Wow. Yummy.
The 2nd opener was playing by the time I got back to the venue. Floating Hand was a three-piece, growly, death-metal slow-grindcore type band. I thought they were fantastic. Unfortunately, since Estradasphere showed up sooo late, E-sphere was setting up behind Floating Hand… which caused some ill-will (to say the least) between the bands later on in the evening (FH heckling loadly during E-sphere’s first few songs — even after E-sphere publically apologized and thanked FH for their music).
Anyway, after Floating Hand, I walked around in the cool air again… came back by 1:10am and Estradasphere was finally getting ready to start. For those who don’t know Estradasphere, they’re a sibling band (shared members) to the Secret Chiefs 3, which is a sibling band to Mr. Bungle. Anyway, they’re middle eastern-influenced progressive, jazzy, gypsy-folk, classical-tinged, insanity-for-compositional structure metal band from the San Francisco Bay area. There are 6 members in this incarnation of the band… Timb Harris on violin, trumpet and good-looks; Kevin Kmetz (aka God of Shamisen) on guitar, keyboards, and most notably the Japanese banjo-like instrument, the shamisen; Jason Schimmel on guitars (electric, acoustic, flamenco), banjo, and keyboards (including melodica); Lee Smith on drums (fast, too); Adam Stacey on accordion, keyboards & synthesizer, rhodes and melodica; and Tim Smolens on contrabass (aka upright bass) and electric bass.
The near-hour long 1st set (again, starting at around 1:10am) was seemingly mostly covers and/or new compositions. They (Estradasphere) have three full-length albums (and 2 live albums with add’l material) prior to their most recent release this year, Palace of Mirrors; yet they didn’t play anything from those albums. Odd choice, but regardless, it was fantastic to see and hear. World music with some pep.
The 2nd set, after a (literal) 2-minute break, was allegedly Palace of Mirrors in its entirety. I say allegedly, because for those tracking time, it was probably close to 2:15am when the first set ended. I had a two+ hour drive ahead of me (didn’t want to stay in a hotel — too busy this weekend to get home later). I left after the halfway mark of the album… basically after the whirlwind, violin & shamisen metal-in-your-face attack(!) of the standout track from Palace of Mirrors, “Smuggled Mutation.” I’m bummed I had to bail, but I think the club (or the police) might have shut them down anyway if they passed “bar closin’ curfew.” Sweet glory… almost an hour and a half of wonderful live music (not including FH’s great opening set).
I strongly recommend Estradasphere to anyone who likes world music, and also likes (or tolerates) harder music… but, really, the harder edge is drastically out of their live show (and album) when compared to their earlier stuff (like on Its Understood or Buck Fever).
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