A farewell, birthday bring together disparate acts

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by Jordan Green

It’s a tribute to ecumenical sensibilities of fine-arts elder statesman Patrick Harris and makeup artist Holland Berson that an Ace of Base cover band and a metal group par excellence shared billing at the Delurk gallery on Sunday evening.

It was a going-away party for Harris, who is decamping for Charleston, SC, and a birthday gathering for Berson, a UNC School of the Arts graduate.

The four bands that performed for the free show — a kind of movable feast with three different setups —gave of themselves generously. Some of them hadn’t played together in a long spell, but they came out of the woodwork for Berson and Harris, who has been an enthusiastic supporter of the music scene for several years. In the same spirit, Dane Walters designed a poster featuring a skull-like alien dressed in a space suit for the occasion.

The wide net cast by the two friendships captured an assorted group of artists and musicians who filled the subterranean art space on West Sixth Street in Winston-Salem on Sunday. A young man dressed in a denim vest with a Clash iron-on, dudes whose shaved heads were partially covered with elaborate tattoos, ladies in sundresses with small tattoos gracing their necks, artist-hipster types pushing the mid-life hump — they all eagerly received Ace de Base. A cover band of the 1990s Swedish pop act? Why yes! Between fake accents, technical difficulties and cultural miscues — “All that she wants/ is another baby” sounds like a paternalistic putdown of Ronald Reagan’s supposed welfare queens until you consider that Sweden’s social-welfare system, in some circumstances, might actually reduce men to sperm-donor status— the performance provided a danceable, fun release. If Ace de Base shared anything with the other bands on the bill it would have to be an unreserved commitment to the moment.

Having taken a hiatus so that two members could open Hoots Roller Bar, Honey Rider reconvened with a single practice after a yearlong dormancy. The resurrected outfit, with Eric Swaim trading his guitar in for bass, Julianne Harper on drums and Ryan Pritts on sax — played with fierce looseness. The spare presentation of the bass, albeit distorted by volume and played with a melodic sensibility, allowed the tribal insistence of Harper’s drumming to come to the fore. Pritts’ sax playing meandered over the groove in molten bursts of exuberance and sorrow.

The repetition of the verse in second song performed by the band (“I love you in the morning until the afternoon/ I’ll see you in the evening, darling, and not a moment too soon”) allowed for a modulation of intensity and warp in timing. “Bring You Down,” dedicated to Harris, came across as both thoughtful and ferocious at the same time, building up to Swaim’s snarling vocals matched by Harper’s rapid-fire drumming. A sing-along transpired, Swaim and Harper converged the bass and drum into a unified stomp, Pritts conjured an agonized animal cry from the sax and Swaim coaxed a gnarled melody from the bass. Awesome.

After Harris and Walters presented a birthday cake replete with plastic dinosaurs to Berson, Jews and Catholics kicked off their set. Alanna Meltzer-Holderfield and Eddie Garcia, the band’s core duo, were presented with roses during the first song.

They drew most of their material from their 2013 long-player Civilized, with Garcia harvesting wild sonic power from four electric guitars processed through an array of pedals and Meltzer-Holderfield commanding elemental strength from her upright bass, played both plucked and bowed. It’s an arrangement that’s fairly unique in rock music and since its inception in 2005 Jews and Catholics has been able to lay claim to an utterly distinct sound to become one of the most consistently interesting bands in the Winston-Salem scene.

“Tokyo” opened with Garcia’s emotionally naked vocals and one-chord guitar attack. When Meltzer-Holderfield began bowing her bass, it evoked an electrical current sufficient to power a major urban commuter rail system.

As a scrum of moshers knocked over Garcia’s amp, tumbled to the floor and then quickly righted the equipment, the guitarist executed a fearsome solo that was the aural equivalent of ripping the entrails out of a beast.

The technical and stylistic reach of Garcia’s playing is another element of the band’s draw. Any given song might mix and match metal, psychedelia, math and blues, boiling those genres into a reconstituted blend that comes out as the unholy exorcism of Garcia’s unruly passions.

Uzzard, a Walkertown metal band with about a decade of gigging and recording on its résumé, closed the night. As primal and powerful exemplar of the genre as one could ask for, the crowd was ready to go nuts for them. Their set moved from sludgy rage to sonic brutality, inspiring playful mischief and attentive listening in equal parts from the audience.

Daniel Marshall’s vocals never wavered from a low growl. His bass playing melded in a cohesive tour de force with Dustin Horton and Tim Pegram’s guitars, with Clif Avery’s fusillade of drumming usually erupting a couple beats before the riff.

Prompted in part by a string of friendly obscenities directed at Harris by Marshall, Uzzard’s final song erupted in a mosh pit that resulted in a stack of amps tumbling down and a half-full beer can or two skittering across the floor. Not the happiest of endings, but most excess energy was burned off by that point.