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The Front Row Series celebrates its second anniversary

Raggy Monster/Whiskey Wasps
Raggy Monster/Whiskey Wasps
Hali Neal

The Front Row Series at Will Call celebrated its second anniversary on February 21 with performances from Urban Rebel, The Inverted, Raggy Monster/The Whiskey Wasps, Soundglass, Sunghosts, Chron and a DJ set from the Casa Brothers. This time around, it took more time for people to trickle in, but after they did, it made for a packed house.

The first band to take the stage was Raggy Monster/The Whiskey Wasps. Singer Rachel DuVall and pianist/guitarist Billy Schmidt appeared as an acoustic duo on behalf of Raggy Monster to promote the band’s Kickstarter. Their Kickstarter campaign, which can be found here, is designed to help fund the recording of their second album. As a duo, DuVall and Schmidt’s musical vibe is completely different from Raggy Monster. The Whiskey Wasps, as their duo is usually called, give off more of a mysterious, coffeehouse type of vibe. You can tell just from listening to their set that everything – from the vocals to the instrumentation to the set list – was carefully chosen to echo that. Even the two covers they performed during their set, “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Whatever You Like” were given this same treatment. What really stood out among the two, however, was “Whatever You Like”. Transforming a rap song into an indie song of sorts is amazing by itself and DuVall’s vocals really brought it together.

The next band up, Soundglass, introduced themselves with a theme song anyone who grew up during the 90s would recognize: the “Ed, Edd, and Eddy” theme song. Soundglass, from Miami, plays unabashed loud, hard, fast rock ‘n’ roll. While they put on a great performance, it wasn’t without its flaws. One of these was that lead singer Anthony Maetsu sometimes seemed uncomfortable on stage. Another, which likely had very little to do with the band (but still interfered with the performance nonetheless) was that lead guitarist Jose Mena’s guitar was tuned so loud it nearly overpowered Maetsu’s vocals. The most noticeable of these incidents was while playing their Possum Kingdom-esque single “On the Ground”, where Maetsu was actually drowned out. Oddly, where Soundglass shone was their renditions of Liam Lynch’s “United States of Whatever” and Rage Against the Machine’s “Sleep Now in the Fire”. What was great about the cover of “Sleep Now in the Fire” was that they took a standard cover and inserted a bass solo into it. Although the lead singer and guitarist lost a bit of the timing after the aforementioned solo, it didn’t seriously detract from the performance.

An echo in the microphone gave the night’s MC, Patrick of Turnaround Sunshine, an extra oomph while introducing the next band, The Inverted (“it has an echo, didn’t know we were that epic”). This was only the band’s third show with their drummer, but until singer Garrett Fogg introduced the band, it was anything but obvious. The sound issues that affected Soundglass’ set got sorted out here, as The Inverted’s set was one of the most even sounding of the night (despite a two or three second loss of sound in bassist Austin Newson’s microphone). Both Newson and Fogg had great stage presence with Newson’s dancing and Fogg’s crowd interaction. Another great thing was how well the guitar riffs complemented Fogg’s voice. This contributed to the whole easygoing, day-at-the-beach vibe The Inverted seemed to be going for. That they’re already this solid this young means that things can only go up for them from here.

Sunghosts and their kaleidoscope glasses came back to the Front Row Series for an encore performance after being so well received last month. The best way to describe their music is to say that they’re what happy (...with an edge) sounds like. They’re also deeply inspired by the Strokes’ “Some Day” and even do a great cover of it in their set. Not only do they play like a finely tuned machine, but they also love to have fun on stage. From how bassist Jared and lead singer Nik play off each other and the crowd, to the drummer getting in on the crowd interaction, Sunghosts is just a fun band to watch.

The crowd clamored for Urban Rebel, the next band up, to play. Urban Rebel delivered. They brought their signature energy to the stage with their unique blend of funk and rock, even getting a few people from the back of the room to come to the front to get a better listen. Urban Rebel also debuted a new song, “So What”, an upbeat number that still managed to bring out the rock in funk rock. It also featured what sounded like a maraca in the beginning, which added another layer to the song. It should also be pointed out that along with Elisa “E” Seda’s monster drumming, Urban Rebel’s bass player, LaC, displays a real skill for bass slapping.

The next band up, Chron, represented a change of pace for the Front Row Series. Chron, a duo consisting of Christianna (lead vocals, DJ) and JDub (vocals, DJ), aim to provide an “electronic dance experience”. Where the set succeeded was when they performed their two originals. One of these covers was reminiscent of Deadmau5, but Christianna’s vocals saved it from it being too copy cat. That is not to say that her vocal performance was flawless. She had good moments in the rest of the set, but it stopped there for the most part. It seemed as though she had very little knowledge on how to control and maximize her breathing to best suit her. Her voice often came out nasal sounding and, when she went for the high notes, it was like she was straining to hit them. Christianna also seemed to have occasional trouble keeping time with the beats. However, you could see she had great stage presence either when she was introducing the duo’s songs or spraying the crowd with a fire extinguisher for effect. JDub shone with his mash ups and mixes as well as his rapped vocals on Eminem’s “The Monster”. He also put his own unique spin on Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us”: it was one part rap, one part EDM, and one part pop. I just wished he brought a little more energy to his delivery, as “Can’t Hold Us” was the song Chron closed the night out with.

The Casa Brothers, a producer/DJ group that’s been spotted on Billboard’s Next Big Sound Countdown, came in and spun their own mash ups and mixes to keep the party going until sunrise.

Look for the next Front Row series to come your way March 15 at Will Call with Raine, Scary Iowa, Northe, Astronaut and Broken Tenure.