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Flying Hair @ The Holland Project. 1/31/18. A Weeknight Hodgepodge of Sounds and Styles

The massive drum kit on stage before Tresed’s set, refinished in a deep red and sporting horns on its kick drum spurs, suggests a brashness that the young players make good on. They open the Thursday night Holland show with enough fervency to make you wonder about the structural limitations of hickory drumsticks and nickel wound guitar strings, and indeed, during a drum break a few songs in, a stick shatters, though no one seems to care.

That intensity persists throughout their set, projecting a stage demeanor that’s refreshing in its lack of polish. Where many bands rely on sampling pads and perfunctory recitations of the night’s lineup to theoretically liven up any dead-air in their set, Tresed’s tuning breaks are quiet enough to hear strings twang. They smile and crack jokes to their friends off stage.
They’re high school kids. Their braces, white Chuck Taylors, and complete lack of pretense make me realize, perhaps fully for the first time, at twenty-three, that I’m not a teenager anymore. The drummer clicks in on splintered sticks and they go all out: heavy rock riffs and extended instrumental breaks, a random burst from a fog machine, a sans-sticks drum solo. Watching them do it is mesmerizing in that it reminds me of something I didn’t realize I’d forgotten: that playing music, despite its ability to soothe existential sores and express what conversation can’t, is, perhaps most importantly, for fun.

While Tresed is sparse in their gear and stage presence, Flying Hair needs every square inch of Holland’s stage to hold their half stacks and pedal boards. They transition out of sound check with a crescendo-ing alarm effect that their bass player/vocalist pitch modulates with alternating clicks on what look like WWII era radios and sound like bomb raid sirens on an intergalactic air force outpost. The synth rig craps out during their second song, stalling momentarily the galloping, riding-on-a-dragon’s-back momentum that I, still high on Tresed, want to go on indefinitely. The keys are quickly functioning again, and FH’s set, as it continues, becomes more varied. What initially seemed like a set of straightforward, fuzzed-out fist-pumpers is interpolated, exactly when needed, with half-time sections, sluggish triplet fills, closed hi-hat grooves, and palm muted bass breaks.

And soon there’s the sort of moment that only happens in the presence of live music. What had been a driving, backbeat carried tempo descends gradually into glacier paced mayhem: a bent string, twisted pedal-knob drone, a half-time stoner metal crawl that goes on and on, and swelling over everything shrieks an ambient frequency like a radio transmission coming through from another dimension. The moment expands and I no longer worry about what to do with my hands or whether anyone notices that I’ve come here alone.

It’s typical of Holland bills to feature a medley of styles; if Flying Hair is like stuffing yourself on pasta and meatballs, Ichthyosaur, the last band of the night, is the bit of chocolate you crave immediately after. The tone is cleaner, the decibel level significantly reduced. Harmonics, chorus pedal, an acapella Happy Birthday dedicated to the bassist’s father, a Kings of Leon cover. Applause as a yardstick, they’re the crowd favorite. Heads sway with the band’s catchy riffs and three part vocal harmonies, nod along with driving bass lines deftly rendered on a Rickenbacker.

It’s enough, on the drive home, to make the Center Street lights hum with something I’d forgotten to listen for, the reality of tomorrow morning’s shift suspended for a little longer.

Check out Flying Hair’s Bandcamp here.

Diet Cig @ The Holland Project

Self-proclaimed “slop pop” duo Diet Cig graced Reno with their presence at the Holland Project on May 1, 2017- a Monday night, meaning that the crowd was criminally thin for such a great band, but the energy from those who were able to attend rivaled that of much larger crowds I’ve seen. The crowd was mostly made up of girls and femmes, which, speaking as a queer woman of color, was a frankly refreshing change. There were a couple of cuties with glitter highlighter and others wearing Diet Cig merch. I was also dressed (somewhat) for the occasion, wearing a skirt in preparation for hearing “Tummy Ache.”

Reno’s own Just Guys Being Dudes began the night with some playful, surfy pop indie tunes featuring a ukulele all three members (who are not actually guys, despite the misleading band name) on vocals. To borrow a phrase from another band, “island pop” is a fairly accurate description of the band- but with more than a slight hint of bitter relationship angst, evident in songs like “B4 I Punch U in Urs.” I had never heard of Just Guys Being Dudes before that night, let alone seen them play, but by the end of the night I had resolved to see them more often.

Just Guys Being Dudes
Just Guys Being Dudes on behalf of Bridget Conway for the Holland Project.

Next up was Seattle-based, one-woman band Lisa Prank, who was accompanying Diet Cig on this tour. Lisa Prank is the epitome of DIY: sole member Robin Edwards sings and plays guitar, with the rest of the music being provided by a drum machine. Clad in a velvet cheetah print robe, sunflower shorts, and sparkly crown with “PRANK” on it, Edwards was met with plenty of cheers after just one song. And for good reason: Lisa Prank’s style of  90s-esque, slightly bratty girl punk is hard not to at least bob your head to. The set featured songs of off Lisa Prank’s Adult Teen record, released last summer, including “Starting Again,” which is ridiculously and somewhat depressingly relatable.

Lisa Prank on behalf of Heather Hawke for the Holland Project.

Prior to their set, Diet Cig members Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman could be seen “warming up”: doing stretches, dancing, and jumping jacks. I had never seen Diet Cig before, and as soon as I walked into the Holland Project I was shocked at just how short Luciano was. She stood next to me during Lisa Prank’s set and with myself standing at 5’5, I was at least 4 inches taller than her (also, yes, I did revert back to my 16 year old fangirl self when she stood next to me).

What Luciano lacks in size, however, she more than makes up for in passion and enthusiasm. Before launching into “Sixteen,” Luciano established a “safe set,” explicitly asking the crowd to be respectful to each other. As a result, people weren’t crushed up against the stage (or each other), unlike during any headlining set I’d seen before, but it was refreshing to have a band be so open and caring about their audience. Plus, it meant that I easily scored a front row spot to Diet Cig.

Diet Cig
Diet Cig on behalf of Heather Hawke for the Holland Project.

The musical and friend chemistry between Luciano and Bowman is so strong that Diet Cig’s lack of a bassist is negligible. During their set, which consisted of older songs and tunes off of their freshly-released debut LP, Swear I’m Good At This, the two were constantly trading glances and grins. NPR’s Mike Kantzif description of Luciano as a “guitar-slinging human tornado on a Pixy Stix bender” is entirely accurate; Luciano barely stood still throughout the entire set, dancing around unabashedly and jumping off of Bowman’s drums. Luciano is just as charming when speaking: in her, small, high voice, she reminded the audience that “We’re all nuanced love beams of light” and repeatedly encouraged the crowd to “stay hydrated.”

Diet Cig
Diet Cig on behalf of Heather Hawke for the Holland Project.

If you weren’t able to make it out to Holland that night, you may have just missed the absolute cutest show the venue has ever hosted. You also missed out on the opportunity to talk to and take dorky selfies with Lisa Prank and Diet Cig, the members of whom are all incredibly sweet and friendly. Hopefully they’ll be back again soon- and if they are, be sure to come through!

(Check out all of Conway and Hawke’s photos on the Holland Project’s Flickr.)

Sound Off! @ The Holland Project

The revered battle of the bands… an event considered by musicians and music fans as the only acceptable instance for bands to be directly competitive. Most people envision a ‘battle of the bands’ like the one depicted near the end of School of Rock– a packed mid-level venue with performers contentiously battling it out to woo judges for a prize usually consisting of a large sum of cash and equally as important bragging rights. Are you feeling Jack Black’s unbridled anger towards his old band No Vacancy for taking home the $20,000 cash prize?

Despite these preconceived notions of a ‘battle of the bands,’ the tone for the KWNK Sound Off! Battle of the Bands at the Holland Project was in fact the contrary. Perhaps the main reason for this could be the purpose of the battle: the event served as a fundraiser for 97.7 KWNK, a community-based radio station collaboration between the Holland Project, the Reno Bike Project, and Wolf Pack Radio. The top prize for the winning performer was a recording session generously donated by the Sound Saloon in downtown Reno. All proceeds from the event went to KWNK, with attendees receiving a KWNK button used to vote for a performer of their choice.

Lil' Traffic
Icy Dave and Lil Traffic, on behalf of Bridget Conway.

Throughout the evening, an overwhelming sense of community could be felt in and outside the venue. With over 200 people in attendance, top-notch vegan cuisine provided by Nom Eats and Reno favorites Lil Traffic and Icy Dave on MC duties, the inaugural Sound Off! event was considered a smashing success.

The event featured seven local artists, with ages and genres among performers varying. One of the night’s most notable performances came from Boys, a band consisting of Bella and Lizzy from surf punk duo Snack. Bella’s ability to keep the crowd engaged without the constraint of a guitar worked to the band’s advantage- their lively performance earned them at least a few new fans that night.

Boys
Boys, on behalf of Bridget Conway.

The multitude of genres heard throughout the show ensured that there was something for everyone; Common Mishap’s emo-tinged alternative rock, Surly’s introspective punk, Pink Awful’s meticulously constructed shoegaze/noise rock- all topped off with Lil Traffic and Icy Dave performing a few tracks to close the night, including a new cut that had been released less than a week prior.

The standout performance of the night came from jazz/fusion group Long Story Short, the winners of the inaugural Sound Off. Long Story Short’s performance featured a vibrant horn section that commandeered the band’s vitality. Their tight knit sound incorporated motifs from rock, pop and soul- even some electronic influence was prevalent. Their unique amalgamation was enough to win a majority the crowd’s adoration, taking home the top prize of a recording session at the Sound Saloon.

Surly
Surly, on behalf of Bridget Conway.

The energy and optimism behind the idea of a community radio station overshadowed any feeling of contentiousness. Instead of any competition-induced animosity, there was mutual unwavering support between performers and attendees. Performers and attendees alike were enthused by the idea of bringing true community radio to Reno. If the Sound Off! Event was any indication of the support KWNK will be receiving from the community; we have a lot to look forward to.

You can find out more/donate to KWNK at kwnkradio.org.

KWNK