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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Live review: Born Under Punches, Another Lost Year

Posted By on Tue, Jul 19, 2011 at 2:37 PM

Born Under Punches, Another Lost Year

Neighborhood Theatre

July 16-17, 2011

The Deal: A couple dozen bands rocked out July 16 and 17 at Neighborhood Theater to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. While most of the bands on the bill were ones I would pay not to see, Born Under Punches and Another Lost Year shone like gems amid a vastness of abrasive rock.

The Good: A new, explosive force in the local scene, Another Lost Year brought out soulful rock vocals with strong harmonies to soar over late ‘90s-style guitar riffs. There were a few songs where the guitar parts stood out as interesting, but mostly it was Clinton Cunanan’s vocally dynamic choruses that really make this band worth seeing. The backing vocals add a lot to the mix, though, as few hard rock bands in Charlotte have a strong backup singer who can do on-key harmonies, and Adam Hall is a powerhouse on the second mic for Another Lost Year.

Born Under Punches proved even more impressive with their eclectic songs and hyperactive stage antics. The coolest thing about this prog rock trio is that there’s not really one stand-out player—they’re all ass-kickingly good at their instruments. Todd multitasks beautifully on vocals and guitar, playing lead guitar parts while maintaining focus on good vocal quality—and theatrical facial expressions. Back on the drums, Chad beats out complex rhythms while singing harmonies and belting out the occasional brutal scream to catch listeners off-guard. Meanwhile, Carsten cranks out some enviable bass licks and bounces around with Todd to the mad off-beats of the tunes. These guys have it right in describing themselves as Rush meets Incubus, for the most part. Todd and Chad go toe-to-toe on strength and control in their vocal duets, like cloned Brandon Boyds, and the unconventional rhythmic transitions are reminiscent of Neil Peart. Born Under Punches is even a little more diverse than that, though. One of their tunes takes a trip off the beaten path of even most prog rock and channels some ska/reggae and then to what can only be described as “surf metal,” all in the same song. To top it off, the last song features a bit of slap guitar—definitely something you don’t see often in the Charlotte local scene.

The Bad: I hated seeing Another Lost Year get caught up in a bunch of technical difficulties, but the band prevailed in the face of broken guitar strap locks, wireless system malfunctions and sub-par sound engineering. The mix was so bad that at one point, both guitars malfunctioned simultaneously, leaving the bass and vocals to carry the tune, but it was hardly noticeable because the guitars were practically inaudible to begin with. Granted, the guitarists didn’t boast the raging — and unnecessary — power of towering, solid state, half-stack amps, but that’s what the soundboard’s volume knobs are for. Clinton voiced his frustration that they’d endured “every major glitch in the first two songs,” after spending the second half of the second song balancing a guitar on his knee when his strap lock broke.

Born Under Punches mostly escaped the glitch goblins, with just one cable taking a shoe to the throat and popping out of Todd’s guitar jack — right before one of his only two solos. He’s a better guitar player than he lets on with as little as he showcases his skill — and the rest of the band, too. I’d love to see them all show off a little more.

The Verdict: Another Lost Year is definitely worth another listen when they have better luck with the technicalities. Energy for this show was a little sluggish, but considering the aforementioned issues and the Sunday afternoon time slot on a poorly promoted festival show with high ticket prices, I can’t really fault them.

As for Born Under Punches, anyone who’s a fan of prog rock, excellent musicianship, or watching Todd contort his face — while melting yours — should give Born Under Punches a shot.

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