Aimed at entertaining an ever more diverse group of bored music fans in a winter season slow on live music, the SnoCore festival split into two entities this year the funk 'n' jam-based SnoCore Icicle Ball and the heavy metal SnoCore Rock tour.
On Sunday, the Rock component of the double-fisted festival brought its barking rage and aggressive metal to San Francisco's Maritime Hall, with a full complement of five shout-and-grind quartets including crowd favorites Kittie and Fear Factory who plugged new records while mixing punk and metal with raw angst, not to mention occasional doses of rap and techno.
Five bands, all cooking with the same basic recipe of bass, guitar, drums and vocals, paced and pounded the stage with ferocious, speed-core staccato and speaker-cone-warping monster vocals, sometimes inciting mosh pits, often begging the youthful crowd to "make some noise."
Los Angeles' Boy Hits Car opened the show with droning basslines reminiscent of Jane's Addiction. During "As I Watch the Sun F--- the Ocean," from the band's debut album, due Tuesday, vocalist Cregg (who goes by only that name) shook his curly locks between high-pitched verses belted out in a whine that sounded like a cross between Geddy Lee and Jello Biafra.
A mosh pit opened midfloor as Slaves on Dope took the stage, with bald singer Jason Rockman and bassist Frank Salvaggio trading off growling vocal lines from their debut album, Inches From the Mainline (2000). While skinny-dreadlocked guitarist Kevin Jardine and drummer Rob Urbani set up a hypnotic, irregular groove, Rockman and Salvaggio worked on the crowd. During one shout-along, the kids on the floor pumped devil-fingered fists, chanting, "Don't tell me how to live my life!" at Rockman's insistence.
Union Underground aimed two banks of bright flashbulbs at the crowd, while singer Bryan Scott stood on a plexiglass riser that lit him up from beneath. He hunched over the audience, singing tunes such as "South Texas Deathride" and "Turn Me on 'Mr. Deadman,' " quoting Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing" on the latter.
Looped noise built to a crescendo as the smoky room darkened for Canadian teenagers Kittie, who tested out a few new songs slated for the follow-up to their 1999 debut, Spit, expected in the fall. The group thrashed enough to make fellow chick-rockers the Donnas look like the Bangles. Bassist Telena Atfield and drummer Mercedes Lander chopped out machine-gun rhythms while singer/guitarist Morgan Lander roared and croaked out her lyrics as if she had accidentally swallowed Godzilla.
On the song "Brackish," guitarist Fallon Bowman set the crowd to vibrating as she squealed out a rust-tinged intro, then rapped in the background as Morgan Lander in capri pants and a short black T-shirt alternated lines of melodic singing with the group's trademark roar.
"We are here for one reason, and one reason alone," Fear Factory frontman Burton C. Bell shouted at the crowd as his band took the stage. "We are gonna f--- your sh-- up!"
As synthesizer player John Bechdel the sole exception to the night's power-quartet theme spun an electronic intro, Bell, guitarist Dino Cazares and bassist Christian Olde Wolbers dropped almost to the floor in split to hammer out a low-slung caveman crunch. Bell mounted a monitor wedge while Cazares and Shives swapped places, running to the edge of the stage to play for the kids up front.
Drummer Raymond Herrera and the synth player set up a driving, electronic dance groove while the guitarists crunched on "DigiMortal," the title track from the group's upcoming album, due April 24, which furthers the band's thematic exploration of the junction of man and machine. Fear Factory also played "Linchpin," "Acres of Skin" and "Invisible Wounds" from the new album.
The SnoCore Icicle Ball, which stopped Thursday in Los Angeles at the Palace, featured co-headlining sets by Les Claypool's Frog Brigade side project and New Orleans jazz-funk ensemble Galactic.
"For those who haven't experienced Frog Brigade before, I can't and will not explain it to you," Claypool told the sold-out, dancing crowd. Clad in a mask with a Pinocchio-like nose, a blue marching-band jacket and cropped khaki trousers, the singer/bassist danced around spastically, displaying his usual goofball charm.
Frog Brigade incorporated work from throughout Claypool's career, including tunes played with Primus, Sausage and Les Claypool & the Holy Mackerel, as well as a mix of covers ranging from the Doors' "Riders on the Storm" to the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends."
Claypool briefly joined Galactic during their 90-minute show-capping performance, playing bass on an adaptation of Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf." Galactic's set mixed jazz-funk instrumentals featuring complex band interplay with numbers led by vocalist Theryl deClouet, who contributed a suave, old-soul feel to the sound.
Baltimore's Lake Trout open the Icicle Ball through February 4. Experimental trio Drums and Tuba step in February 6 in Cleveland until the tour wraps February 23 in Atlanta. SnoCore Rock ends February 17 in Asbury Park, New Jersey