San Francisco Doom-Pop-Death-Disco Kings Death Valley High hit Vegas on their latest West Coast tour on an ice cold Friday in January. It had been awhile since we’ve seen these Bay Area bad boys, so the staff of Scary Monsters Music headed to Backstage Bar & Billiards to see how the band's stellar new album, Duel, translated live.
It might have been freezing outside, but when we arrived, local industrial metalheads Hidden Scars were already warming the place up. Looking like survivors from Mad Max’s Thunderdome, their aggressive rhythms were tempered by melodic choruses. Frontman Joel Floyd West gave everything to the rapt crowd, sweating and sneering his words while staying on key. Songs like "Empty Eyes" were still ringing in my head after they left the stage. I look forward to catching them on one of their co-headlining shows when they have a longer set.
Death Valley High hit the stage with a lot of local buzz, their new album features a duet with Deftones Chino Moreno and has been generating great reviews from the usually jaded rock press. Quite a few Vegas musicians were in attendance, as was Monsters of Rock Cruise Hostess Nikki Blakk. With the stage pitch black, and the venue filled with all kinds of smoke - from fog to vape to cigarettes, DVH attacked the stage. Opening their brutal set with "Groei Donker", they created a wall of deafening sound that sliced through the fog. Looking like they stepped out of a post apocalyptic future, frontman Reyka Osburn didn’t want to just melt our faces - he wanted to get us dancing. I never knew I needed a Death Rock cover of Banarama’s 80s hit "Cruel Summer", but now I can’t live without it. Even though they had only about 3 lights in the place, DVH managed to get the crowd moving on as close as you can get to a dance floor, at a metal show. The unmistakable groove of "Play Dead" came next, and drummer Adam Bannister and bassist Huffy Hafera kept it right the pocket, which is amazing, because at this point, BB&B still didn’t have a single light shining on the band. Not kidding, pitch black. I’m all up for ambience, but this was a bit much. Finally, by the 4th song, someone was able to get a couple stage lights turned on and Vegas was treated to the full Death Valley High spectacle. Huffy, Reyka, and guitarist Sean Bivins dance around the stage like post punk New Romantics, their energy infectious on songs including "Merci" [FVKT], these guys really wanna make you dance. But lest we forget, DVH have metal and industrial roots, and "Sunshine Cleaners" ripped through the venue like a blitzkrieg. They closed the set with "How2Kill", their bouncy gothic anthem from 2013. Are Death Valley High metal, are they electro, are they goth, are they industrial? Fuck yes they are! All of that! And we are here for it!
Las Vegas heroes Taking Dawn showed up with an army of followers to remind everyone that rock isn’t dead. Frontman/ guitarists Chris Babbit was all over the stage, and had the packed crowd eating out of his hand. His throaty vocals were solid, even with his performance being a non stop cardio workout. Their triple guitar attack harkened back to the glory of 80's rock, but their songs were catchy enough to bring it to the future. I wish I could tell you the song titles but by this point, the amazing bartenders at BB&B were pouring 'em strong, I was drinking 'em fast, and the crowd and I were having too much fucking fun to take notes. Truth! If you’re reading this in Vegas, you’ve probably already seen Taking Dawn, so I don’t have to convince you. If you’re reading this elsewhere and they come to your town, put on your AC/DC or Skynyrd shirt, get your ass to the show, drink some whisky, have a blast and tip your bartenders!
Silver Snakes played last on this bill, but we had to get to another show so.. maybe next time! Rock on, Vegas! Cip Out!
*Cip Cipriano is a contributing writer, music lover, master entrepreneur, San Fransisco DJ and QBar owner who graces Las Vegas on a regular basis to provide opinions and cocktails ;)
Check out DEATH VALLEY HIGH's new single, “Raise Hell,” HERE.
Check out DEATH VALLEY HIGH's video for the Christian Death cover “Cavity - First Communion,” featuring Chino Moreno HERE
Purchase DEATH VALLEY HIGH's new album Duel on Amazon HERE.