Music review: Loud, punk-heavy and ever friendly, Visqueen rocked

Every once in a while, a band will come around to remind everyone that even through musical ups and

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For Gazette music writer Brian McElhiney’s preview of this show, click here.

Every once in a while, a band will come around to remind everyone that even through musical ups and downs and bad radio playlists and corporate concert industry mergers, rock ’n’ roll will never die.

On Tuesday night at Valentine’s, that band was Seattle’s Visqueen — a band as heavy as they are catchy, and as punk-rock as they are down-to-earth friendly. Singer and guitarist Rachel Flotard led a stripped down, three-piece version of the power-pop group she’s masterminded since 2001 through a brutishly loud, down-and-dirty set before a criminally small (yet typical) crowd in the downstairs bar.

Before Flotard and her cohorts, bassist Cristina Bautista and drummer (and Screaming Trees alum) Barrett Martin, hit the stage, there seemed to be a bit of confusion as to what was actually going on at the club that night. Barrow Burrow and New Pioneer Society, both listed as openers on Valentine’s Web site for a time, were no-shows, instead replaced by 20-minute sets from Indiana singer-songwriters Toby Foster and Eric Ayotte.

In an even stranger turn, Visqueen, although receiving the night’s top billing, went on in between this and Philadelphia’s noisy psychedelic free-for-all Da Comrade!

Doubts resolved

But when Visqueen hit the stage, any chaos about who was playing and when was obliterated by the group’s earth-shattering rumble. Much of the earth-shattering was thanks to Martin, who bashed away behind the kit with a vehement rage probably not seen since John Bonham or Keith Moon (Flotard’s reference to Martin being “like 30 Dave Grohls” was apparently no exaggeration).

Loud and soft

In fact, his pounding was so loud that Flotard’s guitar on set opener “Hand Me Down,” also the opening track off last year’s comeback “Message to Garcia” album, could barely be heard. The only solution was to get louder, of course — from “Summer Snow” on, there were no more volume problems (although some hearing problems may have ensued after the set).

Flotard was the show’s true star, though, with her bright, bubbly personality shining through on every song, and through her casual between-song banter with audience members and fellow bands alike. Her vocal interplay with Bautista was perhaps the best part of the show, with the two trading lines left and right throughout burners such as “Ward” and “The Capitol.” Hearing these songs from “Message” stripped down to their bare essentials was a treat for fans familiar with the lush arrangements on the recordings — the power trio format truly brought out the punk rock spirit in Flotard’s songwriting.

Visqueen’s back catalog wasn’t ignored, either. “Blue,” off 2004’s “Sunset on Dateland,” may have been the set highlight — a slower but no less catchy number that allowed the band some space to groove. “Vaxxine,” from the 2003 debut “King Me,” closed out the set with a snarling bang.

Wanting more

But the end came much too soon. At only 11 songs, the set could have stretched on much longer. And although Da Comrade! provided admirable energy and some interesting instrumentation, including cello and horns, on its freaked-out tunes, after the raw rampage of Visqueen, it felt like a letdown.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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