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The Watchers, the Eternals, the Apes and Party of Helicopters
Metro, Chicago
Friday May 2, 2003

Our pictures haven't been developed yet, so for now we'll leave you with this promo shot (split into two pieces) of the Watchers. Go see them.
Ever show up to a gig and feel like you're part of an elaborate practical joke? First, we discovered that Metro's reserved seating balcony, in which we have happily taken refuge within on many an occasion, was no more. Then, we proceeded to the venue's main floor to find an extremely small batch of punters (about 10) and a clutch of security guards who looked ready to bash somebody, anybody, over the head, just for something to do. It was an odd beginning to the evening, to say the very least.

Kent's Party of Helicopters opened what has to be one of the strangest quadruple bills in recent memory. Though there were a grand total of twenty-two people in attendance, the band remained undaunted, slamming straight into a brief-but-deafening set of Queen-gone-wrong prog-metal thunder. They weren't much to watch, save for madman guitarist Jamie Stillman, but their sound was titanic -- a wailing wall of lightning-quick riffs, bulging rhythms and Joe Dennis's solemnly cool and utterly disaffected vocals. A few more folks wandered in as the set progressed, but the majority of Chicagoans once again, missed out on the brutally proficient PoH live experience.

Washington DC's Apes were up next; by this point there were a good seventy-five folks milling about the venue, though a great many of them were frightened away (or to the back of the club, anyway) by lead singer Paul Weil's crowd-assaulting version of the great rock 'n' roll frontman. Simply put, the Apes fucking tore it up; their peculiar brand of organ-driven hardcore was as engaging as it was frightening, yet remained totally inaccessible to the Watchers fans who stumbled in early. Regardless of crowd indifference, the Apes were nothing less that fucking superstars -- make sure to watch out for them the next time they drop in to spread their plague in a town near you.

With the freak-rock portion of the show now nothing more than a foregone conclusion, local boys the Eternals showed up to help the ever-growing crowd get funky. Their set was an enjoyable if largely unimpressive blend of sinewy funk-grooves, keyboard doodling and Damon Locks' quasi-rap/R&B vocal rants. Though the crowd reacted with a subdued fervor, it soon became clear that those who came to see PoH and the Apes were wondering what the hell happened, while the rest of the audience was just killing time until the Watchers arrived.

And arrive they did. The Watchers pounced upon the stage like a pack of well-dressed vultures, their sleek shirt-and-tie combos a sharp contrast to the jagged funk contortions in their repertoire. Their lead singer/keyboardist, whose name unfortunately can't be found anywhere in our fact-checking resources, was the real show, tearing about the stage with all the nervous energy of a young David Byrne -- if Byrne had had a rather large Elvis fixation. His buoyant energy was infectious, and he made a marvelous cheerleader/instigator, whipping the crowd into a foaming frenzy as his bandmates threw down rock solid rhythms, stabs of rigid guitar, and multihued splashes of conga and marimba. As The Watchers' set progressed, the energy swelled to a frenzied climax, culminating with the crowd dancing as though they were at the Hacienda watching A Certain Ratio fire through their furious paces. Even the pasty white kids were covered in sweat by the time the Watchers split to drink herbal tea and celebrate a job well done.

They're not going to change the world, but the Watchers look set to get asses shaking and sweat glands pumping from sea to shining sea.

Article by Jason Jackowiak.



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