October 18, 2015
With much splendor and glitter splatter, Chasca marches into the next EP, Barbarians (2015), and brings us everything from pop progressive rock to heavy metal to piano mini-serenades. Indeed, Chasca always encompasses the perfect balance of accessibilty, adventurous songcrafting, and a full-body good time. The first track, “Salvation,” begins with a rhythm hype and in comes the signature synth melody, (Brittany Paris) ready to make you explode on what’s coming next. Before you know it, you’re going from the catchy chorus to the crowd chant “Our instincts were strong, but our plan was unclear,” and yes, the wall between performer and audience is always broken down with this band. You can be sure all your walls need to come down when you see Chasca in their element.
In fact, let me break from the track description to conjure a placid debate. What do we really experience when we see and hear Chasca? Upon listening to their first EP, Bedtime for Bedlamites (2013), and now having the pleasure of blasting Barbarians in my car, I might hear the flamboyance of David Bowie, the harmonies and progressive qualities of Queen, the power chords of Kiss, the flute excellence of Ian Anderson in Jethro Tull, and all things early heavy metal. However, this all combined with their own style of song-crafting, I feel like I’m hearing a band capable of a strong creative force, one that is boundless and not only ready to entertain but school you on what it takes to enjoy music out in the crowd and not within the confines of your mobile camera.
The second track, “Barbarian,” is a smoldering concotion of nutty, zesty, heavy metal that has given me a sore neck in the morning, to say the least. Sean Hannon on guitar and Junior Scott on bass just kill it with this one! Both this track and “The Muse & the Martyr” (3) showcase frontman, JT Martin, on flute, and his melodies and double-tonguing skills have always been impressive since I first saw him at the Greyhorse in San Marcos three years ago.
On the visual side of things, you have to be prepared for the best, as there is no downfall at a Chasca show. JT is ready to jump all over the stage whether you are doing so in the audience or not, and if you’re not, you really should. Take my most recent example, Chasca at Stonewall Warehouse in San Marcos on September 4, 2015: Not only was the event a tribute and celebration of Freddie Mercury’s birthday, but Chasca’s homegrown congregation was embracing the energy with both arms (and legs) wide open, ready to take it in and release with every booty shake. To provide that extra lift for his costume display (from soldier to devil to pagan to pope), JT was able to galavant on a stage that extends into a runway. The minute I saw the layout, I was ecstatic-they have struck venue-gold! This is not just a rock show, as I have said before in my comments and reviews about Chasca, but performance art, a la Genesis’s theatrics (Peter Gabriel era), the capes of Yes, the stage props of Rush, etc. They shall have big stages and long runways!
The fourth track, “Carry On,” is a powerhouse cover of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s beloved multi-section folk anthem. It is so well done in full-blown distortion, and it is usually one of the encore choices. Chasca also closes with “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways, giving that rock salute to the fairer sex; as they do with all genders-another reason to take their performance art into account.
It is during “The Stareater Saga Chapter III: Kruella Retooled,” that the band really takes the wall down, and what I mean is they actually sing, “bring it down, bring it down!” Most of the time, the people respond accordingly, and everyone is on the ground ready to adhere to “Pope JT Martin” while Junior and Wiley Koepp on drums keep the beat. If anyone in the room is still standing and retreating behind their phone screens, beer in hand, awkward eyes looking to the side, then those folks are exposed among the kneeling crowd. Of course, they don’t have to join, but I always politely scoff inside when people refuse to have a good time.
“The Stareater…” (5) is a multi-sectional, story-driven delight, where we meet Kruella Stareater in a most daring dialogue, so be prepared to blush upon listening. I feel that this song gives us an emblem of Chasca’s pop progressive art. As each section weaves into the other, synth melodies following, full harmonies soaring, vocal effects on the dialogue, I am enchanted. I think I’m more grateful, too, that a band from San Marcos can keep the magic of rock ‘n’ roll in times like these. If pop music can move your body and rock music can churn out your rebel soul, Chasca can do both, and they do them very well.
For further details on the band, please visit chascamusic.com. The band performs on Saturday, September 12th at The Blackheart.