Is a band playing with arena-style theatrics to a crowd of less than 100 prescient or pretentious? Confident or cocksure? Wednesday night’s performance by hard rockers Godhead and American Head Charge, at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale, did little to dispel the notion that the answer to both questions is, number two.
I had gone to check out Bleed the Dream, but thanks to work, weather, and a show that strangely started on time (always a crapshoot in South Florida), I arrived as they were packing it in. Oops. “They fucking rocked,” a pierced teen assured me a few minutes before trying to hit me up for a drink (answer: no). Hailing from L.A., Bleed the Dream play the kind of emotional rock punctuated by screams that is typically favored by people with meticulous hairdos and tight pants. I figured the other acts on the bill would provide more of the same. I was wrong. Really wrong.
The next act up was Godhead, originally from Washington, D.C. If you made a flash judgment and expected a group of guys with hairdos from across the hard rock style spectrum (shaved bald, bleached dreadlocks, dyed black and shaved up the sides), you would be right. If you expected industrial-flecked metal lite, you would also be right. Which would be fine, if the band didn’t completely ignore its audience and go through a rigmarole that looked better on the closed-circuit TVs on the club’s patio than it did inside. Green lasers, strobe lights, the whole nine. The shiny-pated singer growled each lyric with a look of mock shock and awe, staring at the back wall, rather than at the scant crowd of about 60 trying to rally its enthusiasm below him. Maybe it was hard to downsize in attitude, considering that Godhead has toured with the likes of Gwar, the Genitorturers, and even Christian Death.
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That said, their instrumentation was on point; the members of the quartet are obviously comfortable with each other after playing together for over a decade. But the songs never seemed to reach the kind of angry crescendo they should have. And when the singer pulled out a black mask with glowing, light-up red eyes, simply staring silently through it during one bridge, it was distracting and downright silly.
On to the headlining act: American Head Charge. Among their T-shirt designs: a naked pinup-style girl on all fours, with a robot arm attached to her back apparently about to sodomize her with a whiskey bottle. Really. (The irony of its similarity to Spinal Tap’s fictional Smell the Glove album cover was apparently lost here). Where Godhead was still struggling with its footing, American Head Charge brought it right for the crowd of dudes (and they were dudes) there to headbang away to them. There will always be heavy music for the testosterone, meat-and-potatoes set; as well there should be, even if it doesn’t necessarily challenge or surprise. The band had perfected its brand of charging, guttural almost-metal, with a rhythm section nearly able to start and stop on a dime. The beefy bandmates owned the stage with an insouciant shrug – at one point, the second guitarist dug into one nostril with a pinky, scooped the contents into his mouth, and then distractedly smiled. And hey, the band apparently started in rehab, so good on them.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter what I say – both Godhead and American Head Charge will undoubtedly be coming to your local rock radio station, corporate festival, or wrestling match very soon, if they haven’t already. But Bleed the Dream needs a transfusion of more appropriate touring mates, stat. –- Arielle Castillo