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Show Review: Say Hi/Caverns @ the Black Cat, DC

There isn’t much more to be said about Say Hi. Eric Elbogen is an excellent songsmith. You will never find anything too technically complex or musically challenging to listen to. What you will find, is carefully crafted and enjoyable indie-pop.

The value of his live show, other than the promise of another live member or two to fill out the band, is that he adds another dimension to the music and provides a heightened sense of immediacy to every song. So much so that each song feels like a musical kamikaze-run that starts with often timid beginnings, crescendoing over the course of the song into near-explosive whirls of Eric’s guitar hook of choice, loaded with tension. Highlights of the night included a soaring performance of “Snowcones and Puppies,” “Toil and Trouble,” and the endearing, set-closing rally-cry for the shy kid in all of us “Let’s Talk About Spaceships.”

But the best part of the night for me was the discovery of DC’s Caverns. Now I must preface this with some disclosure: I have an affinity for progressive metal, post-hardcore, hardcore, metalcore, all those sub-genres with oft-screaming vocalists and blistering instrumental work. Damn if I don’t love a good breakdown. Too bad that more often than not, talented and creative musicians are undercut by a vocalist with a cookie-monster scream/growl that just ruins everything.

Caverns seemed to read my mind on that point, forgoing vocals and just steaming straight ahead with instrumental breakdown tracks. Drummer, shred-and-chug math-guitarist, electronics guy and pianist. Guitar work trudges all around the hard rock gamut, at times having the chug of metalcore, then switching over to prog/math mode with runs that melt your face. Their balance places the piano to the fore giving their sound a more dramatic, operatic feel.

Most direct influences seem to be Converge (a few tracks probably could have fit right on a Converge album) and Dillinger Escape Plan, or basically any math-core band. I’m pretty sure I heard a re-tuned Deftones riff in there somewhere and I’d like to think King Diamond and Dream Theater informed their sound a bit too.

More to come on them in the future…they play Lo-Fi on March 21 with Imperial China. Not to be missed.

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