Hell is for Children & RANA :: 1.20.05 :: Tribeca Rock Club :: New York, NY

The ironic thing about Hell is for Children is that it is definitely not for children. I'm not even sure that my adult mind can handle what I saw last night, but as the haze starts to clear, I am quite confident it was one of the best sets of music I've seen in a long, long while.

Hell is for Children :: 1.20.05 :: by Greg Aiello
Take your four favorite musicians and put them on stage together -- maybe they'll click and maybe egos and styles will clash in a messy tangle. It's all about chemistry and when this magic of the unknown happens, it is really something to behold. Don't ask why, just shake your ass. When it comes to chemistry, Joe Russo just might be the musical equivalent of hydrogen. The man just seems to interact perfectly with everyone. His one-mindedness with duo-mate Marco Benevento might seem like something special, but in other settings, no matter what genre, atmosphere or vibe, Russo is consistently amazing and utterly seamless. And if Russo is hydrogen, Scott Metzger is carbon - bringing life to electrons and protons. He is a building block in some of the greatest music happening right now and an all around badass.

Early last year, I joked that 2004 was going to be the year of Scott Metzger, and late in the year, he proved me partially correct by bringing RANA another rung up the ladder and by sitting-in all over the place, making his mark with countless listeners. The thing I failed to realize was that that was just the beginning and that there is a whole lotta shredding left to be done. He's three weeks into 2005 and already unpacking his things for a long stay near the top of my "list." With a backbone of Russo/Metzger, who fit together as well as any two musicians, you could add just about anyone. You might wonder what would happen if you added another pair of high-test musicians with a chemistry all their own. The results could be catastrophic, cataclysmic or just plain soul-wrenching.

Coleman & Russo :: 1.20.05 :: by Greg Aiello
Enter Hell Is For Children, version 3.0. This amorphous supergroup has played only a handful of times, leaving smoking craters in their wake. The recent incarnation, and hopefully the ultimate version, added to the mix the powerful rhythm section of Ween, featuring Claude Coleman on a second drum kit and Dave Dreiwitz on bass. These two played the parts of oxygen and nitrogen in the NYC nightlife chemistry set on this particular night at Tribeca Rock Club.

When Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin entered the depths of Hades, there sprang forth an all-instrumental, rock-and-roll love child, and they named it Hell Is For Children. For some, the term "jamband" has taken on a negative connotation, but Hell is for Children is undoubtedly a jamband, taking loose riffs and concepts and extending them with twists and turns through evil, cavernous underworlds. This jamband will eat your jamband for breakfast, devour it in one bite, shit it out on stage, and force you to bow down and worship the steaming pile of musical defecant. Yes, they are just that nasty.

The set was maybe an hour long, but it included a lifetime of musical ideas. Metzger was the ringleader, pushing the bounds of what constitutes rock and roll yet never meandering. There were maybe five "songs" (movements in a satanic suite?) which were each their own spelunking adventure into unknown depths. The power of Metzger's soloing was fierce, but the real explosions came from a pair of drum kits and Dreiwitz whose playing was always the perfect pitch for the moment at hand.

Scott Metzger :: 1.20 :: by Greg Aiello
Were two drummers necessary? Apparently so. Hydrogen and Oxygen bounced around each other in Brownian motion, cohering out of randomness, back and forth, over and under, around and around, until you were literally weak in the knees. No one in the room doubted that they were witnessing something special. After some seemingly free-form nastiness, the set ended with some actual pieces including a Ween cover and a unique take on "Moby Dick" that featured a two-drum attack from Coleman and Russo but very little use of drumsticks. I can honestly say I've never seen anyone hit a drum kit like that with his bare hands, and I promise I will never start a slap fight with Joe Russo because that boy hits 'em hard! But honestly, I can't really put the music into words.

The best part about the whole thing was that it was just an opening set, an introduction for the evening at large: the first night of a three-night resideNYC for RANA at the Tribeca Rock Club. The old TRC has become a home base of sorts for RANA, so the energy was there from the get-go, and perhaps inspired by the opening set's otherworldliness, RANA brought it to another level in their slow rise toward world domination. The set was a marathon of riches with long, extended jams on old and new favorites like "Good Book" and "Loves it Automatic" and straight-ahead barn burners like the sublime "We Will Not Be Lovers" and "Philippe Petit." They also dusted off some shelf dwellers like "Remember My Address" and "Brain Will Change," and not to be forgotten were a handful of brand new tunes that touched on the rocking, the gentle, and the brilliant. The expansion of the repertoire is exciting as the new songs show signs of becoming future mainstays. The RANA arsenal is being reloaded and we are all the beneficiaries. The energy built throughout the set as the band just clicked into that "place" with Metzger leading the charge with an above-the-call-of-duty level of play that the rest of his band mates couldn't resist chasing after. Andrew Southern was particularly filthy on the bass guitar, seeming to revel in the loose open-endedness of the night.

There is something about that Tribeca room that seems to bring out the best in RANA. The dark atmosphere is a blank canvas for a full-blown light display with the coup de grace being the stage-cloaking smoke machines. From behind the curtain of murky lights and billowing clouds of smoke, RANA peeks through with high-powered rock-and-roll and their own brand of jamming. This was night one -- by the third I expect a couple more workless Fridays and much more flabbergasting rock and roll. Don't miss these shows!

RANA will play the Tribeca Rock Club again on Thursday January 27th with Quintus and Thursday February 3rd with DJ Logic.

Aaron Stein
JamBase | New York
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[Published on: 1/23/05]

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