WHEN? 10 pm, February 15th, 2007.
HOW MUCH? $5 at the door.
Speed Queen is a hell of a band to describe. Started last year in my dorm, Chapin Hall, Speed Queen call themselves “metal” on their Facebook group. I think “hardcore” and “screamo” are probably a little more appropriate, but I’m not an expert in any of these three genres, so I’ll leave the hair-splitting to someone else.
Speed Queen is composed entirely of Northwestern students (all juniors, one sophomore). They are:
- Matt Finan (vocals, guitar, howling, dancing.)
- David Gonzales (backup vocals, choruses, and guitar.)
- Peter Pachak-Robie (synth, backup vocals, yelling, dancing.)
- Gabe Bitto (drums, hiding from good camera angles.)
- Jeff Krauss (new bass player.)
I’ve seen Speed Queen play four or five times, in my residential college, at Bill’s, and at an outdoor festival on the Lakefill, so although this is technically a live review of Bill’s Blues, I can make a couple of sweeping comments. The band puts on a remarkably good show for a college band. Every show basically starts with asking the crowd if they’re ready to sweat blood. I heard about that before I actually saw the band, and I imagined a bunch of fat smelly metal dudes with a lot of hair, crazy guitars and maybe makeup. They have a pretty dedicated audience drawn from ex-Chapinos and South Campus socialites because they put on a really energetic live show. Matt Finan gets out there and shakes his ass, Elvis-style (or Andre 3000 style). Peter does his part and explodes into some wild hardcore dancing behind his synthesizer. They look like a real rock band on stage, which is more than a lot of actual touring bands can say.
Bill’s Blues has been a great venue for Speed Queen in the past. The last time I saw them there, the place was packed full of Northwestern students pressed up against the stage, yelling and having a great time. This time was a little different. For one, the “Regular People” to “College Students” ratio was approaching 1:1, and I’m pretty sure that one huge dude wearing both a White Sox jersey and a Chicago Bears jacket was the Drunkest Dude (sadly, the older gentlemen with the derby, vest, and martini left before they started). That isn’t to say there weren’t some dedicated audience members having a great time, it just wasn’t the crowd that has been there before.
They’ve certainly been better mic’d before, too. The vocals were particularly low in the mix. You couldn’t hear any of the lyrics, which are mostly about banging, drinking and sweating blood, from what I understand. Not a total loss: The vocals were audible, just not intelligible, so the choruses still had some drive to them. Luckily, Peter’s synthesizers weren’t loud enough for me to be able to hear them even after they had stopped playing, which is more than I can say for previous engagements. Another puzzling fact about their audio setup: The drums were mic’d. Now, I’ve been to shows where a mic’d drum is useful. One of them was in the New Orleans Arena, and the other one was at Jazzfest. The only reason to mic a drumset in a venue the size of Bill’s Blues is if you want to punish the audience (or, alternatively, you’re trying to drum hard enough to make someone throw up, a la that dude in Can).
I was pretty apprehensive when the band finally took the stage. There weren’t that many Northwestern students there, and a couple of astoundingly drunk bar patrons seemed to be getting a little surly. I thought this might have an effect on Finan & crew, since I’ve only seen them before very supportive audiences in the past. Turns out my fears were totally misguided. They played with more confidence than at almost any of their other shows that I’ve been to, and with the same amount of wild and crazy energy as always.
Since they have a new bass player that actually shows up to concerts, David Gonzales resumed his duties at the guitar, which certainly changed the sound of Speed Queen. Gonzales plays fast, driving chords (leaving the riffage to Finan) which makes the band much more intense, especially coupled with Peter synth-lines. They have a new song, called “This is Murder” which had some rapping in the beginning before it turned into a mid-tempo rock song. I asked Matt about their “rap-rock” song and he quickly noted that Speed Queen is not a rap-rock band. I tried to explain to him that I meant rap-rock like Faith No More, not like Limp Bizkit. He tried to give it some other crazy name, but I know what a dude rapping sounds like.
Speed Queen doesn’t play the kind of music I’m into, but they put on such a good live show, I’d probably listen to whatever recordings they did. If you have a chance to see Speed Queen live and you like rock music, brave the cold and go sweat some blood.
SET LIST FOR SUPERFANS:
- Sweat Gray Slaughter.
- You Have A Good Fucking Face.
- This Is Murder.
- Spiders Return.
- Cowboy Song. (My favorite song).
- Heat Lightning.