If you stepped into Muddy Waters last Thursday night looking for a common theme, chances are you left scratching your head. But for those of us who showed up with an open mind, the night left some seriously long-lasting impressions. Leading off the festivities was Santa Barbara newcomer Trashberries. The refreshingly pretense-free duo (co-piloted by guitarist Chad Arnett and drummer Paul Rey) delivered a fast, loud, and nuanced collection of rock instrumentals that mixed thrashing percussion with subtle and sustained electric guitar tones that bounced emphatically off of Muddy’s tile walls.
The volume stayed cranked for SISU’s set, which injected an entrancing mix of post-punk and dark, dreamy rock into the evening’s lineup. While the band suffered from some feedback issues early on, and tended to sacrifice vocal clarity for the greater good of their three-guitar setup, the jams still hit the mark, with their swirling of dramatic synths, chugging guitar chords, and eerily breathy vocals.
As the night’s headliner, Portland’s Brainstorm proved to be the crowd favorite, thanks to a dance-friendly set that was filled with the band’s patently herky-jerky drum and guitar music. Songs like “Flat Earth” and “Maybe a Memory” (both off the recently released Heat Waves LP) provided equally tense and explosive moments, which lent themselves nicely to the late-night dance party they produced. Flanked by mood-setting projections, Brainstorm’s setup — and fans’ reactions — seemed to enforce the unspoken motto of the night: it’s always best to expect the unexpected.