A band’s debut isn’t always a pretty thing. Sometimes, what sounds dynamite in the garage or basement just doesn’t hold the same magic on a stage in front of strangers. In the case of Dark Matter Halos’ debut at Radio Radio Friday night, the stuff they brought up from the basement sounded dynamite from the get-go. I think having Todd “Tex” Cravens and Matt VanKersen on board helped the situation a bit.
Cravens has been a triple threat via his singing, guitar slinging and songwriting all the way back to his Soulpaint days. Friday night he was putting it all to good use in songs that sounded at times like Pink Floyd played by a random, late ’80s Minneapolis punk band and at other times like a random early ’80s Athens bar band who just got hooked on the 13th Floor Elevators.
VanKersen, one of the baddest drummers this city has ever seen, provided a Bonham-style heavy lead, pounding on the drum kit while his rhythm counterpart on the bass guitar, Todd’s wife, Sarah Cravens, nailed it impressively. It was her first time playing the bass live, and yet, she handled that thing like she’d been playing it her whole life.
The band’s secret weapon, however, was violin/keyboardist Suzan Morris (of Pharmakon). Her vocals added a nice counterpoint to Cravens’ masculine growl, while her violin added an odd, yet enjoyable prog-rock feel at times. Give them a few more gigs, and they should be at the top of the local heap.
The band that came after Dark Matter Halos, Creepin’ Charley and the Boneyard Orchestra, is at the top of the local heap, and their too-brief set really displayed all their strengths at peak operational performance. Shelby Kelley, who keeps evolving as a frontman, flailed about the stage like a man possessed and pulled new vocal tricks that showed an impressive range. Angry Eric Grimmitt showed us why he is the Midwestern Kevin Shields, only without so much feedback. The show was good stuff all the way around, and definitely a good sign that Indy rock is not dead.