Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Show Review: Bullet Jones @ BoMA

Sunday night marked the first real rock show at downtown’s BoMA. Bullet Jones spear-headed the event with support from Philo, This Fires Embrace, Sturbridge and Cheddar Boyz Entertainment. It seemed to be an unbridled success.

Formerly a Baptist church, BoMA is a near-perfect venue for rock with it’s dark woodwork and gothic architecture. The stage has an intricately carved backdrop that creates the perfect ambience for a heavier sound. This was my first visit to BoMA and after seeing this type of concert there, I can’t hardly even picture it being a club-style venue -- BoMA was made for rock. It’s the Newport on goth steroids.

The show started with a typically smallish crowd of around 100 people scattered about to watch Sturbridge. The band is a great example of moody, melodic rock -- playing to near perfection with singer Chad Warren leading the way with his versatile vocals. Charlie Scott plucked his bass with such ease that he made it look nearly effortless, yet sounding brilliant. Though their music is serious, their stage presence is not -- they were clearly having fun clowning around with the crowd. This may well be an up-and-coming band to keep an eye on.

Between bands, the boys of Bullet Jones pulled off an act of sheer genius -- they had Cheddar Boyz keep the crowd going with slick hip hop that kept your blood pumping. The Boyz are a force unto themselves, but having them rap between sets added an extra dimension that made the downtime, when you’d usually go fetch another beer, into an extension of the show.

This Fires Embrace was on stage next as the crowd continued to grow. If Sturbridge is melodic rock, then TFE is melodic metal. The band is all energy, creating sound that’s clean and crisp and screams at you while at the same time speaking to you. Singer Aaron Benner, formerly of Liquid6teen, has a voice made for this genre. He can belt out a symphonic scream and the next note drop into a lullaby. This Fires Embrace is a unabashedly Christian, but not in a way that’s sappy and trite. Trust me, they come off as anything but trite. Very few bands -- especially metal bands -- can pull off making this type of message accessible and listenable, and TFE does. This was my first time seeing This Fires Embrace perform live, and it’s definitely one I’m going to repeat. And an amazing guest appearance by The Blitz’s Hannibal made it even more memorable.

After the Cheddar Boyz wowed the crowd with another between-sets session, it was time for the headliner. Apparently the trend of the day is to have the headliner actually hit the stage prior to the last opening band. Which kind of makes the headliner one of the openers. Or one of the openers the pseudo-headliner. Or something like that.

At this point, there were easily 500 people in the crowd -- an incredible showing for a Sunday night. The floor was full as Hannibal and Ronnie Hunter from The Blitz introduced the band most were there to see: Bullet Jones.

The band started out with Heartbeat/ Heartbreak and Ugly Side, then broke in the new song “Fast” -- the first of two never-before- heard songs that they performed, the second being “Save Me” that they played later in the show. A particular treat was a cover of Golden Earring’s “Radar Love.” Typically I don’t care for covers, because most bands just sing them as-is without caring enough to put on their own spin. Not Bullet Jones. They nailed it and made it every bit their own. As was the case with nearly every song they performed, highlighted by Lee getting out on the catwalk amongst the crowd and creating incredible sound out of that guitar of his. He’s definitely a talented force to be reckoned with. John’s subdued playing hides his prowess on the bass, while Matt’s percussion is matched only by his sense of onstage fashion. Well, okay, maybe his sense of fashion is unmatched. By anything. Thank God. Ryan belted out every song as though it were both effortless and hard work at the same time. You get the sense that he feels every note. The band ended -- and rightly so -- with the crowd favorite “Ballad of Bullet Jones.”

Anyone there at BoMA was witness to who this band is, from event planners to completely professional -- and highly talented -- performers.

After the show, I asked lead singer Ryan (seemingly always understating) what he thought of it all.

“Overall, I think the night was a success,” he said. “Absolutely no one had any idea what to expect. We all promoted the hell out of the event, and we know the other bands worked their asses off, too. But the fact that it was on a Sunday, and that it was being held in such an unconventional venue for a rock concert, I couldn't be happier that 500-plus people showed up.”

Bullet Jones recorded their entire set -- both audio and video -- and now it’s just a matter of them deciding what exactly to do with it. Will they release it as a live album?

Ryan again: “As far as a public release on any level is concerned, we’re not sure yet. Again, we want to see how it all turned out, but I definitely think it's an option. We played seven original songs tonight that we don't have studio recordings of yet, so this is the only thing we've got. An option we're considering is releasing a live album to our fans just to get more material into people’s hands. And, hell, maybe a DVD if it all turns out well enough.”

Last up was Philo. Always a crowd pleaser, this band is an amazing talent and a great closer to the night. Lead singer Corbin creates an amazing sound from his voice that matches each song to near perfection. Philo’s dark songs and emotional presence was a great foreground to the venue. Unfortunately, due to a commitment in the early hours of the following day, I had to leave after only the second song, but if those first two songs were any indicator, the rest of their set must have been exceptional.

According to Ryan, this isn’t the last of this type of show.

“The next show that we book, we want to be even bigger and better than this one. We're considering our options right now -- venue, bands, all of that.”

Here’s the Bullet Jones set list from Sunday’s show:
Ugly Side
Fast (1st time ever performed)
It Comes & It Goes
Round n Round
Radar Love
White Line
Black Eyes
Save Me (1st time ever performed)
Song #4
Love You/Hate You
New Religion
The Ballad of Bullet Jones

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