Karate/K./Alto Heceta/Deathships - live in Iowa City (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Karate / K. / Alto Heceta / Deathships

live in Iowa City (2002)

live show

I've come to the conclusion that if I ever have to go deaf listening to one band, Karate would take the nod.

See, I accidentally left my earplugs at home. I've been wearing earplugs at every show I've ever gone to since August of 1999, and I've never forgotten them.

Of course, I realized this as I was speeding down I-80 to Iowa City to meet Kat, my companion for the night. Too far to turn around, I sucked it up and went into Gabe's Oasis prepared for massive amounts of hearing loss. What I got instead was quite possibly the most solid show I've ever been to ever.

An unannounced opening act, who dubbed himself Lucky Jeremy, strummed a few acoustic tunes to warm up the crowd. The applause was weak, but his songwriting was strong [think more along the lines of Bob Dylan than Dashboard Confessional]. After only a handful of tuns, the scheduled opener, Deathships, took the stage [Lucky Jeremy is actually Deathships' bassist].

Deathships is the side project of Faultlines singer Dan, and it's quite the departure from the Cursive-esque rock of the former. Deathships is more along the lines of Bright Eyes in style, but Dan's vocals are infinitely better and the music sounds more sincere [to me, at least]. Their truncated set covered folk, rock, and country, and left me wanting more [and getting it later as I picked up their split cassette with Infinite Jest]. 2 bands down, 3 to go, and so far everyone's been on top of their game.

Up third were local Sunny Day Real Estate impersonators Alto Heceta. I had caught them twice before [once with Jets to Brazil and once with Cursive], and both times I was less than impressed. Tonight was different. They had added a third guitarist [who also played keyboards on one song], and it really filled out their sound. The vocals had gotten exponentially better, as well, and overall the band's sound [while a complete plagiarism of SDRE] was highly enjoyable for their half-hour set. Had I not already blown all my cash on the new Karate EP and CD, I would've picked up one of their CDs. My hearing started to get worn down during their set, as it was *loud*, but I didn't mind.

Batting cleanup for the night was K. K. is Karla Schickele of Ida and Beekeeper's solo project. I have her first album, and expected a live performance something along the lines of it - quiet, laid back, contemplative, and well-crafted. What I got instead was a definitely amped-up performance by this trio. They powered their way through the best cuts off the first record, as well as a bunch of new ones [and a cover song which I *think* was a Moby song (according to the setlist), but I couldn't tell]. Karla's bass was rocking, the guitarist's vibrato-laden solos were rolling, and the drumming was solid as a brick wall with enough intracacies [xylophone, bells, harmonica, etc.] to keep things lively. Their drummer was also a girl, which instantly made me fall in love with her. But I digress.

So four out of five acts down, I was in great spirits. This show had been electric thus far - could Karate live up to my self-imposed hype placed upon them for the past 4 years?

Yes, yes they did.

Geoff Farina and company took the stage shortly after midnight to an almost packed house and began 70 minute set with "South, off their new album "Some Boots." The band then continued to play the first three songs off the new CD in succession ["Original Spies," "First Release," and "Ice or Ground?"]. Gavin's drumming was busy without cluttering up the band's trademark lazy sound, and Geoff's guitar solos approached Ywngie Malmsteen-esque wankery but never stepped over the line of good taste. Afer they finished up the trio of new songs, they played the 2 song "Cancel/Sing" EP in it's 27-minute entirety, leaving me absolutely hypnotized [except for the really quiet moments, when the audience was way too damn chatty]. They then dug into their back catalog a little more and played "There Are Ghosts," the spectacular first track to their 1998 "The Bed Is In The Ocean" LP. Once again, Geoff's guitar prowess took over as he nailed his solos with expert proficiency, manhandling his poor six-string. The man's effects pedals case was easily as long and wide as a bass case, and he definitely knew his way around it, making use of two wah-wah pedals among others.

The set winded to a close with the soothing melody of "Remain Relaxed," followed directly by the "'Here comes my ride,' she said" song [whose title inexplicably escapes me at the moment]. As the last notes rung out, I let out a content sigh of relief. My hearing remained intact, and every band either lived up to or exceeded my expectations. Karate's moody, jazzy indie rock is the best thing out there right now, and I would be honored if I went deaf listening to it. There aren't many other bands I'd rather have as the last thing I'd ever hear.