In concert, Bigelf sounds a lot like its name -- big. The first week of The Biggest Loser big. Stimulus plan big. Is there treble on this island big.
There couldn't have been more than 50 people at the Bigelf performance at the Riot Room Wednesday night. No matter. Frontman Damon Fox wailed away, pounded on keyboads to his right and left, and sported an intrepid look fit for a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden.
If there's a lesson to be learned from Bigelf's Kansas City pitstop, it's this: Hump day concerts can be sleepy affairs, even when the band performing is wide awake and ready to rock. After the first blaring song, the bassist muttered, "Fuck yeah." By the end of the show, that was as riotous as the Riot Room got.
Fox, a deadringer for Rob Zombie, began by telling his small but faithful crowd that Kansas City was his favorite stop on tour thus far. A white lie from a very dark band. Bigelf, and its eardrum-crushing bass, boasts the occult feistiness of Black Sabbath with the psychedelia of Pink Floyd. They are a throwback to more adventuresome if not angrier days of rock music, but have also managed to create a forward-looking sound that can be loosely called their own. Their radio-unfriendly songs float along for upwards of 10 minutes; and Fox's wispy vocals make occasional appearances throughout.
Where there are many respites from Fox's actual singing, there is rarely a break from the band's instrumental aggression. During the roughly two-hour set, Bigelf seemed to draw from its new and old work, all of which seemed to share a disgust with any sound not fit for a spaceship takeoff.
The above is from Bigelf's 2005 album, Hex.
Perhaps the most curious part of the evening came when Fox asked the audience if anyone had bought the the band's newest CD. A few hoots, but, for the most part, crickets. This monologue was the quietest part of the performance.
Aside from the occasional song introduction, Fox and the rest of the four-piece band didn't interact much with the audience. Fox seemed content to sing to the larger, invisible crowd beyond the back wall of the bar, and the guitarists plucked and riffed away in their own self-contained universes on each side of the stage, letting the raucous music speak for itself. (Hard to tell much about the drummer; he was covered in a thick cloud of smoke for most of the performance.) There was, however, this comparatively bright gem from Fox before one song, when he said, "Here's something from 1997. Before prog rock was cool."
That sort of minor quibble hints at the marked spiritual frustration that underlies Bigelf's music. Something, though it is hard to tell exactly what, has pissed these guys off. The machine, perhaps. The title of their newest album, Cheat the Gallows, points to some prison of conformity against which music, presumably bass-heavy, works.
This night, in the midweek gallows of the Riot Room, Bigelf did indeed produce a sound fit for a prison-break.
-- Kyle Koch