Metz + Fidlar Take Rock in Different Directions at NYC Show
Metz (pictured) and Fidlar, who played a pair of shows in New York City this week, believe in the value of brash, old-fashioned guitar rock. Both bands emerged around the same time with acclaimed self-titled records grounded in garage rock and punk. But during a show last week at Music Hall of Williamsburg, their performances suggested two groups on different trajectories.
Listening to Fidlar is like an exercise in running out of breath: their songs are speedy, slapdash and cheeky. There is precedent for this sonic mixture – when both guitarists and the bassist sing simultaneously, they approximate pop-punk from more than a decade ago (Blink-182) in particular. The vocals were hard to discern during their set, but that was beside the point. A big, enthusiastic crowd was ready for the aggressive but always cheerful stomp, which inspired a never-ending stream of stage dives.
Fidlar graciously let the show be as much about the fans as themselves, as members grinned happily as one fan after another climbed the stage for a ritual descent. But it placed some restrictions on the group’s sound: when bassist Brandon Schwartzel took a turn as lead vocalist and the tempo slowed drastically, the crowd looked confused and restless. Fidlar played a handful of new songs from a follow-up to their self-titled 2013 debut that will appear “eventually,” but only the fast ones landed. This group knows its strength, but at times, they feel constrained by that knowledge.
Metz’s first album, 2012's Metz, was close to Fidlar’s debut in spirit: full of brusque, raucous and occasionally hooky songs. Everything burst out the gate short and fast; several tracks nodded to the Stooges and ‘60s garage groups. Occasionally, the band even allowed themselves the luxury of a few bursts of melodic backing vocals.
There’s a moment on during Metz' song, “Wet Blanket,” where the sound builds and builds until frontman Alex Edkins just can’t take it anymore and lets out an unholy scream. That’s the starting point more or less for Metz II, out this year. Edkins’ voice is now a different beast than it used to be (even more so live): it's a ragged wound and an all-consuming gasp. The instrumentation rises to his implicit challenge, resulting in a sound with more noise, more mess, and more menace.
Different sounds prescribe different behaviors. The first of those during Metz’s set at this show, unfortunately, was to leave — their brand of rock is not for everyone, and the crowd was noticeably sparser despite their headlining slot. But those who stayed were ready for a different sort of experience. The moshing was more focused. The river of stage divers slowed to a thin trickle. Diving is about trusting fellow audience members and letting go, but Metz songs hold on for dear life: white knuckled and teeth clenched with Edkins howling and Hayden Menzies bludgeoning his drum-set.
The band’s set was short and ear-splitting. Edkins and bassist Chris Slorach played punishing, hard-headed riffs, spraying and smearing barbed gushes of sound. Sometimes they seemed to be acting out a grander drama, following a song vigorously in one direction until they hit a wall – usually after just a few beats – then reversing their course. Even songs from the first album that lean towards garage rock were recast here and transformed into post-grunge but with few of the pop instincts that helped grunge cross over to a wide audience in the ‘90s.
By the end of the night, the difference between Metz and the opening act was clear. Fidlar’s name famously stands for “F--k it Dog, Life’s a Risk” and they believe in the good times. That's admirable, but also tough to maintain on a constant basis. Metz have an easier job: they’re the risk.