Bedford Drive – Detroit – The Shelter, MI – 2002-02-09

Bedford Drive
Where: Detroit – The Shelter, MI.

When: 2002-02-09

I absolutely hate going to the Shelter for winter shows. As an actual venue itself, the place is great – it’s small, intimate, and the sound there is generally great, thanks to the way-cool sound staff. However, shows there rarely start at the time advertised, and the doors NEVER open on time. For this particular show, the door time was advertised in multiple local music rags as 6:30. Of course, I show up at 6:30 to find a small line of kids in front of me. Well, it’s February here in Michigan, so it was cold. Most of us were only wearing hooded sweatshirts (at the most), since the Shelter is notorious for getting ungodly warm during shows, and there’s really nowhere to set a jacket down inside. FINALLY, at a little after 7, the doors opened. Grrrrrrr … As I’m typing this, I’m all sniffly and achy thanks to the cold. Still, the show (and the beers that accompanied it) made everything seem pretty worthwhile.

The opening act, Bedford Drive, was a local four-piece that churned out some really melodic, catchy tunes a la Hey Mercedes and Hot Rod Circuit. Three members of the band were fighting off a pretty nasty case of the flu, but their six-song set managed to show off some solid songwriting and strong vocal harmonies regardless. Bedford Drive’s mix was about as good as I’ve ever heard for an opening band at the Shelter, with Michelle Bojanowski’s bass driving Ed Sertage’s and Scott Anger’s dual-guitar attack. (Hats off to the soundboard operator for the night, by the way, who did an excellent job of mixing all four bands for the evening.) Drummer Jay Croft rapped out firecracker-quick drumwork behind it all, while Scott’s strong and distinctive topped the whole set off. The songs were diverse, as well, as portions of the band’s set harkened to everything from pop-punk and emo to even a bit of 80s metal, thanks to a few cool dual ‘lead’ rhythm guitar parts. Still, the band’s strongest moments came during Ed, Scott, and Michelle’s harmony vocals, especially when there was rhythm guitar interaction behind them. This short set was a pretty good indication that Bedford Drive is certainly a band to keep an eye on the Detroit area.

Next up was Kid Brother Collective, who played what was arguably the best set of the night. This Flint, Mich. quartet literally shredded through material from the band’s latest release, Highway Miles (read a review here at DOA) as well as an intensely emo-ed up cover of standard 80s ballad “I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love Tonight.” The rhythm section was powerful and spot on, and the interaction between the band’s two guitarists was as tight as usual. Singer Brandon Trammel’s live delivery makes every word he sings sound so intense and emotional that you think it may very well be the last word he’ll ever speak, and that intensity really drives KBC’s live sets (plus, he was wearing an Afghan Whigs Black Love t-shirt, which earned him a great many mega-cool points from me). The band also has an incredibly strong sound live, as the material from Highway Miles came across even better at the show than it does on disc. Clichéd or not, there are two words to best describe this band’s live show – intense and emotional, and the band certainly lived up to both of those descriptions on this night.

Liar’s Academy went on next, which surprised me because they had been billed as the headlining act for the show in all the announcements I’d seen. Though I’d read a lot of press about them, this was the first time that I’d actually heard this Baltimore three-piece, and while I was a bit surprised at the band’s overall sound, I was really impressed. Liar’s Academy, of course, is the new project led by former Cross My Heart and current Dead Red Sea frontman Ryan Shelkett, leading me to believe that perhaps this band would have a bit of a brooding, dark sense to them. I couldn’t have been more wrong, as he led bassist Matt Smith and drummer Evan Tanner through a set of completely catchy three-minute rock tunes. Every so often, Shelkett let loose with a guttoral scream or two to show that he hadn’t forgotten his Cross My Heart roots, but all in all, Liar’s Academy showcased a new direction for him. In all fairness, Smith and Tanner more than ably backed Shelkett up as a rhythm section, with Tanner’s pounding drums and Smith’s thumping bass actually outshining the frontman on a few tracks. The last two songs of Liar’s Academy were certainly the highlight of the band’s set – two wonderfully pristine ‘should’ve-been-on-the-radio’ tracks with as much ‘nasty snarl’ as ‘catchy bop,’ both delivered in under five minutes combined.

From there, Brandtson took the stage, and when they did, they completely rocked as expected. Surprisingly enough, the band’s 45-minute set wasn’t really very top heavy with material from their latest release, Dial In Sounds. Instead, the band spread out their setlist to include a few numbers each from 1999’s Fallen Star Collection and 2000’s Trying to Figure Each Other Out EP. Early in the show, singer/guitarist Myk Porter drew a laugh from the crowd when he talked about the last time Brandtson had played The Shelter, when guitarist Matt Traxler thrashed himself over the top of his cabinet and ended up pinning himself between the cabinet and the back wall of the stage. Traxler just laughed, of course, but he whirled around the stage with even more reckless abandonment during this set, seeming to draw a certain amount of ferocity for his guitar playing through his crazy antics. Traxler and Porter’s guitars were loud and tight with each other, making even more restrained material like “As You Wish” sound much more full and strong live.

Traxler got some of his boundless energy returned to him as the crowd rose to life during the set’s lone track from 1998’s Letterbox, “Blindspot,” with Porter telling the audience, “Let’s see if we can flip Matt over his equipment again with this one.” The newer material was easy to pick out, as Dial In Sounds has a bit more of a pop sensibility to it that this Cleveland quartet’s previous material. Still, everything came across loud and strong on this night – even the band’s psuedo-heartbreak anthem, “Boys Lie,” which saw the crowd almost out singing Porter and co-vocalist/drummer Jared Jolley. The band also dropped some previously unheard material into the set, with bassist John Sayre anchoring a quaint little pop-punk number called “Optimist Club,” an outtake from the Trying to Figure Each Other Out sessions that will soon be featured on a Deep Elm compilation of unreleased tracks. After a blazing rendition of “Sig Transit Gloria” and a hilarious exchange between Jolley and some fans up towards the stage, the band wailed away with “Shannon Says” to close another great night of indie rockin’ at the Shelter.

… But I swear, if I ever find out who’s responsible for making us poor folks stand out in crappy weather before these Shelter shows, there’s gonna be hell to pay. We indie rockers will not be denied our right to enter a warm building on time, dammit.