Godcaster, The Ukie Club on Franklin Philadelphia, PA 3/31/23
I wish I could say I have a good excuse for why this review is coming more than a week after I saw Godcaster at the Ukie Club in Philadelphia, but I do not have one. Life happens to all of us; we are all swamped with obligations. However, I will say that for a couple of weeks out of the year, the physical activities I do outweigh my creative ones. Hence, I have writing seasons.
“Blah. Blah. Blah. Get to Godcaster.”
I will, I think, but let me start earlier that day.
I try to make some presence on social media. My younger friends say I have to; it’s the only way to build an audience. So, I posted a story on Instagram first thing in the morning. It showed my alarm and “Work, Take care of animals at home, @godcasterband at the Ukie Club on Franklin in Philly.”
I’m being creative, I thought. At least compared to my norm.
My next story was from work, first thing in the morning. I shared Godcaster’s “Didactic Flashing Antidote” from Spotify. I wrote “TONIGHT!!!” (I’m a big fan of chic chic chic.) A little later, I added another story. “Just unloaded a block truck and preparing to throw mulch for hours . . .” Do you see how I am leading for an excuse? I got up early and worked hard all day. Wow. My life is so difficult.
After throwing in a Primus “Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers” story, I did not share anything until I re-arrived at the venue around 8:30 pm. Besides using it to talk to my wife, who was at a Toxicology Conference in San Diego, and following directions to the Ukie Club, my phone only played a minor role in the rest of my day. I guess social media isn’t my thing.
Inside the Ukie Club:
The lights were not dim when I arrived. The first band was playing, but I paid little attention to them because I was trying to get my bearings and was too busy checking out the scene. Later that night, I described the venue to my wife as a club where I knew everyone but no one. That confused her too, but it was the best way I could describe it. I’d been there many times before and danced next to many of the other audience members. Throughout my life. To steal David Wooderson’s famous uttering from Dazed and Confused, “I get older and they stay the same age.” Of course, he is talking about high school girls, and I am talking about small concert audiences—however, the line sticks for both. Sometimes, I even look around to see if I see the younger version of myself.
After the first band finished, Blood played. The energy was high, and the lead singer reminded me of a mix between Billy Corgan and John Mowry, a physician friend of my wife and mine. However, it felt like they wanted to push the tempo but didn’t. I wondered why they were holding back.
I have many thoughts on this band. Their sound hit me, and, to be honest, I was overwhelmed by it. However, over the last week, I was able to sort out a couple of thoughts to share.
#1. Their music made me think of Dry Cleaning, the four-piece from London. If you heard of them, I’m not saying they sound similar because they do not. In fact, they may be polar opposites, and I could not stop thinking that I would love to hear them as they play on facing stages. The differences would swirl and create a yin-yang. (This idea goes back to a review of last year’s music when I said I would love to hear Godcaster and black midi on opposing stages.)
#2. The speed at which this band played was unlike anything I had ever seen or heard. Although it seemed to be led by Garrett Koloski on drums, Catherine Elicson’s fingerwork on the guitar was unbelievably fast.
#3. When I started dating my wife, she said, “Women have fourteen times the thoughts men do.” I cannot remember why she said it, and while I have found no proof, science has proven that women show more brain activity than men. I described Empath’s sound to my wife as the anxiety in her brain spilling out as music. It was so complicated and fast that all I could do was latch on to an element or two and try to ride it for as long as possible.
#4. At one point, I thought about the Grateful Dead. Weird, right? Well, follow me. They have instrumental moments called “Space” that carry the listener to the middle of the universe, stop, and force them to reflect on where they are. The vastness is open and strangely quiet. There is sound, but it is sparse. That took me to Phish. Their interludes are spacecraft taking off and making a distant journey. However, Empath is the beginning. Their instrumentals are miniature big bangs, explosions of ideas. This idea takes me back to thought #3. It is like all the anxious thoughts ever created were sucked into a black hole until it could no longer hold them. Then . . . release into the universe.
#5. After seeing these bands on Friday, March 31, I told multiple people about Empath. I think the reason was that I wanted to hear what other people had to say because I was overwhelmed but impressed by this band. They were an exciting mix of what I would never expect, but everything I knew could be possible. (Does that make any sense?)
After Empath, the crowd cleared out to get their drinks. I moved to the front of the stage and leaned against a pole to see this band up close.
In September 2020, I wrote a review on Long Haired Locusts. Although I mostly wrote about how I heard other bands in their songs, I listened to the album many times. Running and writing. (You should know me by now.) When Camélia and I moved to Shillington, PA, I played some of it at one of our parties until her new coworkers could not handle it. They had to put on Drake or some poppy rock to return to their moderate selves. It isn’t that loud, I thought, slightly offended that they turned it off. However, I should have thought, your loss, bitches. Some music is just too complicated for the average listener. Especially a band that brings Zappa, LCD Soundsystem at their weirdest, and Phish to the forefront of my thoughts. Remember, though, this is just their first album that I am talking about. The Godcaster album is very different from Long Haired Locusts. While the talent and potential are there in the band’s debut album, it is in their follow-up that they really begin to find themselves.
Hearing “Diamond’s Shining Face,” I thought, Ok, they cranked the intensity. It starts very loud and dark. I wondered if I could hang, especially after Michael asked, “Do you want me to see if you can cover a show?”
“Yes,” I said timidly.
I pictured it in my mind. A young crowd and loud music. And then me. Not that I haven’t been there before. I have seen quite a few bands by myself. But this was different. Although I talked about the upcoming show to those I know are interested in good music, I had an overriding fear of going alone. (Sorry, Mark. I should have asked you to go. I think you would have liked it.) And then, it was March 31.
Back to the Ukie Club:
As I wrote earlier, I tried to psych myself up for the show. I was worried about fitting in but also that a band I had talked up would let me down. I love live music, and while I am conscious of musicians’ feelings in my album reviews, my honest opinions come to the surface at concerts. If you cannot perform in front of me, then why tour? Live vs. Studio is two different planes. So, standing alone up front with my hat almost covering my eyes, I waited.
“EVERYONE ON YOUR FEET. IT’S Godcaster!!!”
I had no intention of taking notes. No. That’s not what it’s about. Godcaster had brought their audience to a small club that could hold about five hundred people. If I took notes, they weren’t doing their job: getting me up and bouncing to their sound.
From the first note of “Diamond’s Shining Face,” Godcaster owned the stage. They played to the audience with confidence. Although their songs have complicated changes and rhythms, they did not miss a beat. The energy was high and forced a music fan like me to move. So, with my knit beanie pulled down, I danced.
It was an exhale of relief. I had been looking forward to this show for a long time, and I was there, caught up in the sound, thoroughly enjoying myself. During “Vivian Heck,” I peeked at the musicians from under my hat. They were intensely focused, and I realized that I had been seriously missing the energy of a young band creating their space in an oversaturated field. So, I lowered my head and kept dancing.
In between songs, Judson Kolk stomped around and pounded his chest.
The feel was primal. Sam Pickard’s drumming brought out the testosterone in me as I felt my body lurch and jerk, punch and dodge. Yet at the same time, the keyboards made me feel like I was somewhere in the sixty’s, a draft dodger hiding in a seedy club in Los Angeles.
“Albino Venus” gave the crowd a minute to catch their breath. I watched the young musicians as they seemed to enjoy the moment too. And then . . .
Then, “Didactic Flashing Antidote,” the song that I had been waiting for.
Godcaster knows the power of this song. It shows their strengths and allows them to be the band they are meant to be.
I watched briefly and could not help but pull my hat down and dance.
The first couple of minutes is the motivational speech from David McFaul. Along with the music, his vocals get the heart rate up. Then, shhh. We are on the move stalking our prey. No fear. We are the predator. We move together but alone. The goal is to search and surround.
The drums are my mind releasing surges of adrenaline. I hear the cries of our prey. They call to each other as we creep along. Judson is the leader drawing attention to himself to distract. The hunt is long. The intensity builds . . .
Then we rush and pounce.
(So that you know, I am not saying this is what the song is about. It was the scenario playing in my head as I danced to it.)
At the end of the song, I felt connected to the band and the rest of the audience. I looked around and no longer hid under my hat.
“Pluto Shoots His Gaze Into the Sun” let us catch our breath as we listened to the vocals of Von Kolk.
The last two songs are bangers, if I’m allowed to say that about a band like Godcaster, and while “Tiger Surrogate Hunts the Praying Mantis” is fast, heavy hitting and short, “Draw Breath Cry Out” was a long song that got the mosh pit going.
Please see Godcaster before they get bigger. You will appreciate the smaller venue. And check out Empath, too. I keep talking about them without meaning to.
Diamond’s Shining Face
Death’s Head Eyed Hawkmoth
Didactic Flashing Antidote
Pluto Shoots His Gaze Into the Sun
Tiger Surrogate Hunts The Praying Mantis
Draw Breath Cry Out