The AFrames’ opening shot in the upcoming Seattle Invasion
Most bands with infrequent tour schedules may worry about whether anyone in a city they haven’t visited in five or six years remembers them. Not the case for Seattle’s AFrames, making their first visit to Milwaukee since the heady days of their third full-length, 2005’s Black Forest. A crowded Cactus Club welcomed back the minimalist post-punk trio like conquering heroes Friday night as their merch dude for this Midwest mini-tour, Fox Valley troublemaker Richard Adventure, donned a Lucha Libre mask and delivered the guest vocals on the opening number, the classic “Hostage Crisis” from the band’s 2002 self-titled disc. Sure, the mic got unplugged during the first verse as Richard flailed about the crowd like G.G. Mascaras, but whatever. “Hostage Crisis” sent the message that the evening’s set was likely to span the band’s entire catalog, not unlike their current triple LP (!) b-sides/rarities collection, 333.
In their 11th year, the AFrames are likely considered elder statesmen of Seattle’s music scene, which is currently bursting with killer acts as diverse as those in our humble town. Wipers-esque indie rock (Police Teeth), California-dreaming folk (The Dutchess & the Duke), and ear-peeling thrash (Black Breath) are all represented, to say nothing of the blistering garage and Melvins-style Northwoods doom coming our way in the next few weeks. That’s right, the AFrames show was merely the opening salvo in a barrage of badass Seattle punk heading our way:
Round two hits Cactus Club this Tuesday as the Dutchess & the Duke’s labelmates, Hardly Art recording arteests Unnatural Helpers deliver a rapid-fire blast of 60s-style surfy garage-punk that wouldn’t be too out of place on a bill with Portland, OR’s Thermals. Unnatural Helpers also once shared a band member with D&D, as Kimberly Morrison played bass on the Helpers’ fantastic 15-two-and-a-half-minute-or-shorter-song LP, Cracked Love and Other Drugs. Here’s the Unnatural Helpers’ video for “Girl in the Window.”
Then, on Thursday, September 9, the Borg Ward will play host to Helms Alee, a crushingly heavy trio fronted by ex-Harkonen member Ben Verellen. Their 2008 debut Night Terror is an epic avalanche of gorgeously harmonized male/female vocals over smartly crafted, Sabbath-heavy riffs and some of the most creative drumming I’ve seen and heard in some time (personal note: I was fortunate enough to catch the guy and gals of Helms Alee at the Capitol Hill Block Party in Seattle in July, and I don’t think I made a sound during their entire set, as my jaw hung open pretty much the entire time. DO NOT SLEEP ON THIS SHOW, people—it’ll be one of those unexpected “holy shit” moments that comes out of nowhere and lands itself on your “best shows of 2010” list, believe you me). Here’s Helms Alee playing the haunting “Paraphrase” in San Diego. See you at the Borg Ward in September (and Cactus Club tomorrow!).