Musicians don't deserve lackluster Bottleneck crowd

Thursday, May 29, 2003

You had to feel a bit sorry for the bands Tuesday at The Bottleneck. Where were all the scenesters?

Jet By Day of Athens, Ga., kicked off with a 40-minute set of emo with a slight punk/hardcore edge. But the evening's high point came with the second act, locals Salt The Earth. Despite low vocals from guitarist/singer Marty Bush and consistent problems for guitarist Nick Knutsen (from his strap falling off to a malfunctioning amplifier), the band churned out a blistering set of mostly new songs.

Salt The Earth has played countless shows in the region during the past two years and is like a well-oiled machine, even on a bad night. The interplay between Knutsen and Bush is as good as it has ever been, and the pair flawlessly recreates its Iron Maiden-esque lead guitar lines. The act's new songs are darker and more complex than anything the ensemble has released.

While the main event was intended to be Boston's Helicopter Helicopter, the crowd determined otherwise. By the end of the headliner's hourlong set, there were only a few stragglers left -- maybe 25 people.

The irony was that H2 seems like a band that, given the right promotion, could be playing to packed houses in large cities, not empty clubs in college towns. The quartet has a friendly, super-poppy sound that's ready for mass consumption, much like Jimmy Eat World, though with alternating male/female vocals.

While songs from the latest album, "Wild Dogs with X-ray Eyes," are catchy and full of big choruses, after a while Helicopter Helicopter began to feel repetitive.

With such a small, seemingly uninterested crowd, you could tell the group was struggling. Guitarist/vocalist Chris Zerby commented twice on the will it took to come out and rock on a Tuesday night. And while he was in part talking about the tiny audience, there was the feeling he was referring to the band itself.