Western senior Paul Israel knows he's taking a chance on his fellow students.
Israel, coordinator of the Western Metal and Hardcore club, is banking on Western's hard rock community to show up in full force at 7:30 p.m. this Thursday in the VU Multipurpose Room when the Seattle-based band Akimbo will bring their mix of punk and hard rock to Western before heading to play shows in Europe this April. Admission is $5 for Western students with ID, $6 without.
“This show is my biggest endeavor,” said Israel. “It's kind of an experiment to see how the campus reacts to this kind of music.”
After seeing a lack of concert options from ASP Pop Music featuring heavy rock and roll, Israel decided to venture into new ground and attempt to organize his own show. He formed Heavy Metal and Hardcore club and requested funds from the AS Activities Council. Israel booked Akimbo, a band he had remembered for their highly energetic shows when he saw them in high school.
“It's definitely a nostalgic thing,” Israel said. “You can't help but be engaged because of how aggressive and abrasive their energy and sound are.”
Akimbo is a three-man group consisting of bassist/vocalist Jon Weisnewski, drummer Nat Damm and guitarist Aaron Walters. Weisnewski and Damm formed the band in high school, playing their first shows in 1998 and rising quickly in the blooming Seattle hardcore scene. Damm cited everything from the DC Punk movement of the 1980s (which produced bands like the Dead Kennedys and Black Flag) to the grunge movement that swept Seattle in the 1990s and even the age of acid rock in the late 1960s as Akimbo's inspirations.
Since then Akimbo has released six albums. Their most recent album “Jersey Shores,” released Sept. 23, marks the band's first attempt at a concept album, something Damm had been eager to try for a while. The album surrounds the story of a mysterious shark attack off the coast of New Jersey in 1915. From the very start, the intent was to write an album that could be performed beginning to end during live performances.
“We wrote it to be a concert record. Even though there are individual tracks, but we wrote it to be performed as one continuous performance,” said Damm.
According to Damm, the idea originally came to Weisnewski, who has an intense interest in sharks, including a couple of shark tattoos. When he initially approached his fellow bandmates with the concept, all three band members jumped on board.
“The idea originally came from John [Weisnewski],” Damm said. “He has an obsession and absolute terror of sharks. He won't even swim in fresh waters; he's that afraid. In [Jersey Shores] he brought the idea up to the table and I am also a shark attack fan, so I said, ‘Sure, let's do it.'”
Opening for Akimbo are Bellingham natives Black Eyes and Neckties (BENt), a highly theatrical rock ensemble that uses screaming vocals and bellowing organs to underline heavy guitar riffs. The group is notorious for wearing their namesake black eye paint, noose-like ties and (fake) bloodstained clothes during live performances.
“Hard rock allows people to dress up and invoke the exaggerated theatrics of evil without being evil,” Israel said. “You're supposed to think [the music is] over the top. That's part of the show.”
Bradley Horror, lead singer of BENt, also appreciates the wild nature of the hard rock genre.
“With the popular rise of indie rock lately, I kind of feel that more people are checking out our music because we know how to put on a show,” Horror said.
Like Akimbo, BENt has not played at Western recently. According to Horror, it has been over three years since they rocked the VU. Because Bellingham has such a small market for bands compared to Seattle, BENt has been very cautious about overplaying themselves for the local crowd, Horror said.
“There's very few [music venues] in Bellingham, so we only try to play a few shows each year,” Horror said. “We don't want to oversaturate our market.”
Even if the turnout surpasses Israel's expectations, he hopes that eventually a hard rock culture will develop among other students eager to organize metal and hardcore shows.
“I can't tell you how excited I would be to be walking around campus and see a poster for another Akimbo show,” Israel said. “It would mean someone else is motivated to do the work too.”