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.