The Shrine Presents: Big Bite
Advance $10 | Day of $12
Doors 7:30 | Show 8
Chunks of Broken Water. A tiny dash of Mudhoney. Seasoned heavily with Wipers. Add a melange made up of ingredients of the current landscape of Seattle’s distortion-heavy, punk-leaning rock scene and you have yourself something close to Big Bite.
Big Bite continues a longstanding tradition in Northwest rock music, tightrope-walking a thin line between massive, populist, clobbering songcraft and warped, messy, loud abstraction. In this binary, one of these combined approaches usually supersedes the other; either a little too catchy to embrace its weirdness or vice versa. Big Bite is an enormously luring rock record, propulsive and monolithic, with enough sense of self to not smooth over the jagged edges of their demos and early singles.
The rhythm section of bassist Erica Miller (also of Casual Hex, who released one hell of album in Zig Zag Lady Illusion in April) and drummer Allen Trainer (also of Strange Wilds) constantly push the music forward, slyly leading the charge into seasick tempo changes like the sudden halt into the woozy outro of “Relentless Hearing.” Listen to the way they open the album, a steady as a heart rate during a sprint on “Pure of Heart,” just to stay in lockstep as they slow down and charge through again.
Ferried by the versatile-but-grounded work of the rhythm section, the guitars – played by Graham Baker (also of local favorites Versing) and frontman Matt Berry (also of the Berries and well-known for his work in Oakland band Happy Diving) — gnash all over the foreground of the band’s songs. Depending on the mood, the approach of the six-string mastery veers between pulsating, opening credits-type riffs (“Faith”), lighters-out guitar work leading to a dust-kicking blur (“Snake Eyes,” “Old Mood,” “Paralyzed”), and staggering, stop-and-go blasts (“War”), all adopting the popular guitar playing approach called Greg Sage on an Uncharacteristically Sunny Day.
Buried in the din somewhere – but not so far as to ignore their emotional power – are Berry’s vocals, calm and somewhat diffident regardless of what sort of storm of guitars and drums is around him or the tumult he sings about. His voice is a calming, sometimes narcotized presence; somewhere in the terrain between a croon and a bellow. Though there are exceptions. On “Fire Rising,” Berry sings almost desperately for connection, on “Relentless Hearing” his voice and words are sharp and punctuative.
For such a focused set of songs, Big Bite has crafted an album expansive in the duality of its moods. Equally concrete and esoteric, moody and buoyant, overcast and scorching, Big Bite has unexpectedly joined the pantheon of stellar rock records superlative for plowing through a Seattle summer.