Concert Review: Static-X, The Clay People, Staind (Northern Lights, Clifton Park, New York, December 3, 1999)

“Screaming into the mike and I like it/Put it all over the air in thick slices/Soak it all up in your head with the anger/Like it!”

So sang Static-X frontman Wayne Static during his group’s Friday night set at Northern Lights — neatly (if not intentionally) summing up the key points to his band’s concert approach. How so? Well, first off, Static proved himself to be a truly, deeply, superbly effective mike screamer who can both carry a tuneless tune and project a loathsome lyric, while also working hard to rupture some key blood vessels in his temples and neck. Bonus screaming points were also due to bassist Tony Campos for adding choice death metal grunts at appropriate moments throughout the group’s slab-like evil dirty disco-metal onslaught.

Which brings up that second point about those thick slices in the air. This one’s apt since Static-X’s music was nothing if not dense and hearty, homestyle and country fried all at the same time, hanging about like the smell of collards and bacon long after they’ve been eaten. The California quartet’s lingering, odorous sound is built atop drummer Ken Jay’s clockwork beats, Campos’ guttural bass thuds and the crunchy canned programs laid down by Static and guitarist Koichi Fukuda, both of whom also wove in the teeth-grinding guitar patterns that served as weft to the rhythm section’s woof.

Static-X’s visual presence made their over-the-top material all that much more readily soaked up by the angry (or exhilarated, who can tell?) crowd that bobbed along to their every move. Fukuda and Campos bounced around the ends of the stage like some bipolar, unbalanced kinetic motion machine designed in Asia, built in Mexico, while Jay anchored the proceedings between a pair of scrims painted with the group’s most excellent logo, which deserves to tattooed on your forehead, and soon. In the center of the musical maelstrom, the very-tall-haired Wayne Static presided like a cross between Nick Cave, Alain Jourgensen and Mojo Nixon, alternately oozing charisma, menace and redneckery in equal measure.

So: Like it? You betcha! I’ve been playing the band’s auspicious debut disc, Wisconsin Death Trip to, uh, death over the past few months and was most impressed at how well that record’s material translated to the concert stage, with lead single “Push It” working particularly well as a rousing concert wrapper-upper. Likewise the Clay People’s “Awake,” which closed their opening set with a bang and played a key role in setting the stage that Static-X defiled in the evening’s middle moments.

While this concert came a week after Thanksgiving, early in the evening I found myself adding the opportunity to regularly watch the ever-growing, ever-changing, ever-improving Clay People in action to the list of blessings for which I should be grateful. New bassist Brendan Slater has quickly made an impact on the Clay People concert experience, co-writing three choice new songs (“My X-ploding Head” is a natural to follow “Awake” and “Who Am I?” onto regular radio rotation) and subtly moving the group’s instrumental attack in an exciting new direction. Even classic Clay cuts such as “Pale God” and “Pariah” benefited from Slater’s more exploratory approach to filling the space between Dan Dinsmore’s energetic drumming and the group’s guitars, which in turn allowed rhythm monster Mike Guzzardi more leeway for trading leads and sculpting sounds with fellow string-bender Brian McGarvey. The breath-taking, train-running-off-the-tracks, how-do-we-stop-this-thing momentum engendered by such an instrumental approach also seemed to fire singer Dan Neet’s engines — not to mention the spirits of the very vocal crowd before him. In all, a great show by a great band.

Massachusetts’ Staind (who captured the ear of Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst and won a spot on last year’s Family Values Tour accordingly) wrapped up the evening with a very accomplished set of very conventional Vedder-flavored emo-core music. Ho hum.

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