The night before Halloween goes by many names — Devil’s Night, Hell Night, Mischief Night — but all are associated with chaos involving everything from mild trickery to destruction of property. There was nothing mild about the show at Cafe Nine Tuesday night, as two trios took to the stage and took down the crowd with an onslaught of sound. Goth rock legends Christian Death headlined the evening with an opening set by New Haven-based rockers Witch Hair, with between-set sounds by DJ Richard.
“This City,” from the New Haven-based Mountain Movers’ recently released album, Pink Skies, starts with an ominous, churning rhythm from guitarist Dan Greene, bassist Rick Omonte, and drummer Ross Menze, while lead guitarist Kryssi Battalene lets out a pulsing alarm from her guitar. Together they establish a complex mood in an instant, somehow peaceful and tense at the same time, dense and heavy yet expansive and atmospheric.
“‘Time out,’ I said / ‘Hold on,’ I said,” Greene sing-speaks. “We’re going two steps at a time / You’ve got to decide if you want the old way or the new way / The sun belongs to you / And so does the sky / The living and the dead / They both walk through this city.”
The lyrics point to everything and nothing. They show Greene’s practiced hand as a songwriter, and the obvious chemistry among its members — a chemistry that, as it turns out, was a decade in the making.
The subtitles appeared first: “Behold! The portals of darkness are open and the shadows of the dead hunt over the earth…” Ragged skeletons rode bony steeds through plumes of greasy smoke while an angel with a flaming sword and a devil with leathery wings fought for dominion over the world. Jeff Cedrone leaned into his keyboard and produced moody chords. Drummer Peter Riccio tapped on a cymbal while Bob Gorry on guitar and Conor Perreault on tapes and other noise-producing gear joined in. I had an upright bass and a bow, and first just hit the same note as the chord, to reinforce it. But as the combined textures of the other musicians made things more dense, more complicated, I varied it up as well.
Carried away by the music, singer Terra Lopez of Rituals of Mine leapt off the stage while drummer Adam Pierce held down the beat. She began howling into the microphone, a caterwaul that sounded like pain but also catharsis. As her voice grew and grew, she pulled the microphone farther from her mouth until, to the astonishment of all around her, she was soaring over the drums, filling all of Cafe Nine with just the power of her voice.
Tim Goselin of Renegade Lounge thanked the audience for “staying out late on a school night” to see his surf band play the last set of a three-act bill that included longtime local favorites The Tommys and Happy Ending.
“We’re Renegade Lounge, and we’re gonna play some rock ‘n’ roll for you.”
J.P. Harris got a song out of riding a freight train through freezing weather into Washington state. Brian Dolzani got a song of his own out of driving across Indiana. Both acts brought their travels and their tunes to Cafe Nine on Wednesday night to turn it into a honky tonk, with sets of songs that connected New Haven to the highways around it, and the country beyond.
A single chair, illuminated on the stage, defined the night as three songwriters — normally leaders of bands in their own right — took the State House on a deeply intimate journey through what it meant for each of them to have a solo set.