Music scenes move in cycles, and lately, Raleigh punk has been at something of an ebb. It’s not quite a stagnation, but after the excellent Stripmines broke up in 2012, followed by the almighty Double Negative last year, there was no longer a banner band. The post-Stripmines grind outfit Abuse. is still building momentum. Young bands such as Mad Dog, Pure Scum, Future Binds and Last Words appeared as promising upstarts and then promptly broke up. Meanwhile, active musicians and promoters moved away (the age-old “Milo goes to college” dilemma) or busied themselves with projects such as opening a new record shop, making punk shows fewer and farther between.
But those setbacks seem to be subsiding, and last night’s two-band showcase at Nice Price Books was a good omen for the state of the scene in 2014. Last night, the new Raleigh band Skemata and Finnish punks Sokea Piste gave a fitting welcome to the new all-ages venue, now the only show space and record store on Hillsborough Street.
A gracious and receptive crowd greeted Sokea Piste. Touring behind last year’s Välikäsi, the inventive hardcore quartet turned the heavy, ominous sound of their records into something more forceful and anthemic, subverting their post-punk murk with straightforward riffs and jagged, jittery counterpoint. While it shares a moody, groove-driven quality with the buzz-burdened Iceage, Sokea Piste’s approach is more open to tangents, suggesting the skewed, squalling punk and metal hybrids of Die Kreuzen and contemporary acolytes such as NASA Space Universe between churning proto-hardcore chords. The crowd demanded an encore.
While the headlining band thrilled, opener Skemata offered fresh hope for the Raleigh scene. Featuring guitarist Jeff Young and bassist Alex Taylor (both of Stripmines) with ex-Double Negative singer Cameron Craig on drums, the band showed veteran precision in its second-ever show. With singer Usman Khan lunging through the open floor space or crouching at knee-height in the comfortably full room, Skemata fired through an unrelenting set. Craig and Taylor formed a tight rhythm section, and Young’s guitar work, a consistent standout, drew inspiration from a range of sub-genres. At this point, the band’s sound is fairly straightforward, but they showed flourishes of idiosyncratic brilliance—particularly in one mid-set song where an uncharacteristically melodic bridge suggested SSD covering the Marked Men.
Already showing mettle, Skemata promises greater inventions in the near term. As the ex-members of disbanded local heavyweights strike out on new adventures—another ex-Double Negative combo, Davidians, plays its second show tonight at Kings—Raleigh punk fans can expect a welcome bounty.