Review: Bleeding Rainbow at DC9

Philadelphia rockers Bleeding Rainbow perform at DC9. Photo: Bleeding Rainbow

WASHINGTON, March, 6, 2013 —There was a time during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when a number of bands were trying to distill the sound of Sonic Youth. Maybe they weren’t trying to create the same level of sonic dissonance – because there were times when Sonic Youth were intentionally disconnected from a coherent sound – but the fuzz the band created was something a number of people and bands of the time fell in love with. This seems to be the thing Bleeding Rainbow is shooting for, even trying to match that level of dissonance during their recent live set here.

The Philadelphia four-piece ensemble was originally named “Reading Rainbow.” Couple that with a sound that’s distinctly set with an ‘80s aesthetic, and one might imagine the band’s primary purpose is to invite you on some kind of nostalgia trip. That’s a bit misleading though as the specific post-punk sound Bleeding Rainbow appropriates was never exactly popular in its time, and isn’t necessarily remembered fondly by a mass number of people who remember it or have heard of it. Instead, it’s mainly remembered by those who could justly be accused of being a little too into music itself, or seem, inherently, to like music that seems to sound a little different or eccentric, especially when the sound also happens to be a little jarring.

This is one of the reasons why the band’s eventual name change was at least moderately important. Their new name, “Bleeding Rainbow,” supports their angular sound a lot more than their original name and doesn’t quite feel on-the-nose to people who might think the band is feeding off underground rock’s past. They are, actually, but not in a way that’s detrimental to their overall appeal. Instead, it’s more along lines of embodying aesthetic value.

All of this, though, is just window dressing that helps explain the space where Bleeding Rainbow lives when they actually take the stage. They describe themselves as a “Shoepunk Post-gaze.” That’s appropriately tongue-in-cheek, of course. But it’s probably the best description anyone would be able to come up with to describe them. In person on stage, they manage to bring out some of the more appealing aspects of every genre that are implied by that phrase.

This is a band that performs live as if they’re coming apart at the seams. They rarely focus on the audience while they’re playing, instead choosing to become absorbed by their own sonic distortion. Their sound normally gives you the sense it’s operating on its hinges, a feeling that increases even more in their live set. Every successive chord becomes that much more jarring, as if the band is fully intent on having every song fly at the audience in some, random, entirely  indeterminate direction.

The one thing that felt a bit out of place when taking in Bleeding Rainbow live were the vocals of front woman Sara Everton. Even this, however, has much less of a dramatic effect played live as opposed to a recording. Her voice ends up centering the band’s entire sound. It’s light, not quite twee but definitely airy, whereas the band’s primary sound is jarring and angular. The band is content with simply putting their sound out there regardless of the consequences. That looseness certainly has its appeal. But, with Everton’s voice serving as the constant, her vocals hold everything together and give the audience something to focus on directly.

Bleeding Rainbow’s sonic dissonance is the kind aesthetic bands were striving for with post-punk back in the ‘80s. Today, when it seems as if every band is trying to put pop spin on most genres, Bleeding Rainbow is content to gather as much noise as possible and slowly form it into a set of songs.

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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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