Empires | The Satellite (Los Angeles, CA) | November 14, 2011 |
Taking control of the room during the opening time slot of the venue known as the Satellite in the Silverlake section of Los Angeles is a feat not to be taken lightly, as its average crowd is often painfully indifferent towards bands whether they came to see them or not. The Chicago outfit, Empires, used 7 songs (two of them new) to do due rock and roll diligence; it was 5 songs more than they needed.
Beginning their set with the tempered, subtly deceptive cool and Western shuffle of “Spit the Dark” (which made my head go directly to Doves “Kingdom of Rust”) was a tactical maneuver because it was a perfect primer making the curious head and ears lean forward and wonder what comes next. And what came next was dropping the pretense of soothing the mind in favor of blowing it with “Hell’s Heroes”, a finely-tuned, urgent and in-your-face flurry of riffs and the resounding “fuck the nonsense” vocals of Sean Van Vleet, his only instrument. Feel like pounding a fist? Stomping a foot? You came to the right show.
The sound of Empires is something heartfelt, from the gut: driving, visceral, passionate (lyrically and sonically), and tangible in that the music made by the five dudes on stage feels like it’s feeling you and vice versa. Sans an iota of anything that smacked of delicacy or restraint (because who needs that?) “Damn Things Over” was that true aerial anthem that made the blood move in synch with Van Vleet’s body physically emoting every line, making you want to pop your blue collar. Dude’s got a howl on him, as rock-centric as it is soulful, tremulous and rich, and he’s not afraid to use it. Where rhythm was the hypnotic factor, Ryan J. Luciani (drums) provided the backbeat that, while treading a “Personal Jesus” line, was too good to stand still to. Holy shit, was that a hipster that I saw moving to the beat? Well, I’ll be damned.
Those seven little songs from Empires were a barrage of garage-rock density, heavy on low-slung rhythms and sharp guitars with a current of the heartland underneath and, yes, I loved it. Loved it because I felt it in my gut and I expect my gut’s feelings to be validated upon seeing these guys move from the Satellite stage to theaters and arenas. Modern rock isn’t always so earthy, rugged, and raw while embracing equal parts beauty without sucking ass, but Empires has figured it out. Well played, gentlemen.