Free Fridays at the Catalyst: what's not to love?
By Garrett Wheeler
It's been said that nothing in life is free, but I can think of a few items. Library cards. Tide charts. The basket of samples on the counter at the dentist's office. Yes, freebies do exist, but even complimentary mouthwash fails in comparison to a free rock & roll show. I think you'll agree when I say that nothing beats a night of loud guitars and a few good cover songs, especially when all you have to pay for is a frosty pint of your favorite beverage. If you're over 21, there's opportunity almost every week for live rock music at no cost, at least not a monetary one. It's always a gamble at the Catalyst's Free Show Series. Sometimes the talent is slimmer than a pair of Nichole Richie's running shorts. Other times, the music won't be half bad, but you'll literally be the only person in the entire Atrium, which is a little awkward. But on any given night you've also got a chance to see a damn good show for less than the price of a gumball, and who knows? You may discover your next favorite band is a group of day-job Eastsiders with a passion for music and a flair for rocking socks off.
The first band on the bill at last Friday's Free Show Series certainly had passion--the local lads from Whatever Fits took on rock-star personas as they blasted through a set of hard rock/grunge originals. Lead singer Rob Fulton's throaty vocals were remarkably similar to Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland's, so I was less than shocked to hear the beginning chords of STP's "Plush" make its way out of the amplifiers. Though I can't commend Whatever Fits for originality, their tribute to the bygone era of '90s rock was valiant, well executed and even pleasantly nostalgic.
Next up to bat was 300 Pounds, a quirky trio strapped with an interesting meld of genres that ranged from old-school funk to boisterous punk rock, interspersed with traces of pop and folk. Led by the eccentric presence of guitarist/singer Nate Lieby, the band's lighthearted stage show complemented equally upbeat melodies. Lieby's vocal style alternated between regularly sung choruses and hip-hop-like verses, while his funkified guitar riffs wah-wahed like a sobbing baby.
Headlining the show was indie-rock quintet the Shys. True, they're not local, but the Orange County rockers put on a helluva show. The Shys' boisterous brand of throwback garage-rock had to have been good to win over a skeptical Catalyst crowd--and by nights' end the place was packed with onlookers lured in by the band's pop-laden hooks and louder-than-life delivery. The Shys' rambunctious cover of Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," highlighted by ferocious drum fills and Jack White-style vocals, was particularly beloved by the audience, who insisted immediately on more music using the unified rhythm clap. And more rock is what they got--at no extra charge. Upcoming Wish you'd saved your pennies last weekend? It ain't free ($4 in advance), but the metal show on Friday, March 7, at the Catalyst should be enough to rock you silly, with the Bay Area's own Steel Asylum leading the charge. On Saturday, more cost-free fun rolls into the Cat Club Atrium with local bands Track Fighters, Breva and The Backup Razor sharing the bill.
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