Apostles of Ale, Our Daily Trespasses, Race to the Bottom; Borderlands Brewing Company, Saturday, June 21

It's an interesting concept: Put a few somewhat traditional acts from the local heavy music spectrum in an environmentally friendly Tucson brewery that normally hosts shows that feature quiet, singer-songwriter types and see what happens. Finely crafted guitar solos, pleasant mosh pit etiquette, a deeply refreshing experience — call it artisanal metal. It was good.

Race To The Bottom's Dave Thurston is a great singer but an even greater guitar player. His band's workingman's hard rock was spiked with fusion and prog touches that framed the immediacy of Thurston's playing. Above all, the quartet's success was found in the charming and unassuming personas of its individual members. Sure, the music was quite memorable, but Race To The Bottom thrived on a delicate balance of passion and unabashed goofiness. And that's why when Thurston laughed his way through a cover of Dio's "Holy Diver" until his voice cracked on the high notes, the performance was all the better for it.

For their first appearance in many months, Our Daily Trespasses took a more serious approach, but that served their technically challenging progressive metal style well. Every song was an epic and every teardrop was a waterfall for Our Daily Trespasses. That's not a bad thing (but perhaps the Coldplay reference was). In fact, their melodrama was hardly contrived and completely appropriate for their music, a tightly wound web of song fragments, knotty rhythms, and ever-changing textures flowing effervescently in and out of focus. It wasn't anything close to brutal, but it was very fascinating and enjoyable. And it was the epitome of artisanal.

Then came the last band and it just couldn't have been scripted better. Here was a quintet called Apostles of Ale, leading purveyors of their self-described "beer metal," performing song after song of odes to, you guessed it, beer. From the wacky grinning and bulging eyes of lead singer/nut-job "Jaho," it was clear that playing in a brewery was Apostles of Ale's Christmas, birthday, and homecoming all at once. To the band's credit, their songs were tight and catchy, Jaho was an engaging ringleader, and everybody seemed to be having a great time. They were possibly drunk on Prickly Pear Wheat beer, but that's another story altogether.


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