All too often, going to see a friend’s band play is an exercise in polite restraint if not outright deception. As anyone who has ever had a few musician friends can attest, to be friends with someone in a band that is somewhat serious can often bring friendly support to a whole new level of trying. It’s not that we don’t want our friends to succeed or to feel supported, but that the very process of growth for a rock band is one that often entails playing the same 5 to 10 songs over and over again, until they are finally correct and the band has mastered their timing, sound and image. To make matters worse, these shows are often held in places that are less than optimal in terms of acoustics and, often, involve travelling to out of the way bars and other forgotten venues. Over the years, I have grown to actually hate seeing friends’ bands play.
This is not the case with Levitown, PA’s own Syrrah.
I first encountered Syrrah by way of a highly awkward and confusing first date with my current partner. I had been aware that one of our mutual co-workers was in a band who played locally quite a bit, but was hesitant to see them for a number of reasons, not the least of which was my aforementioned hatred of having to politely lie to my friends about their musical aptitude and stage presence. However, as is often the case, the fastest way to a young rock fan’s ear is through her libido and I committed to seeing Syrrah play at a center city Philly bar as a way to hang out with a potential love interest.
When I first arrived at that early show, I was amused to find a mustachioed young man mingling in with the crowd in a pair of daisy dukes so short that they would make Jessica Simpson blush. Little did I know that this was Righteous Jolly (his real name) of Syrrah and that the short shorts and waxed facial stylings were an earnest part of his personality as well as one of the keys to Syrrah’s larger than life stage presence. This became striking apparent to me within a few seconds of Syrrah taking the stage as Jolly engaged in a series of theatrics which were both amusing and gratifying while the band delivered a relatively tight metal and prog infused sound which contrasted nicely with the half dozen neo-hardcore acts that also performed that night.
This was nearly two years ago. So, why am I just now getting around to talking about it?
Well, to begin with, the band has finally completed and released their very first CD, a seven song work which can be heard in part at http://www.reverbnation.com/syrrah and purchased directly through the band. While I suppose that this is the part where I am expected to review the CD itself, I’m not going to do that. Partially because I haven’t listened to it enough to have a lot to say about it, partly because it is good enough that my review would be less than interesting, and partly because I find reviews boring and, often, unconstructive.
Instead, I will tell you that, in the nearly two years since I first saw them, Syrrah has managed to take their theatrical slant and somewhat over the top sound to a new level of tightness which keeps them interesting and fresh even after nearly half a dozen witnessed performances, including a wonderfully nostalgic Halloween show complete with covers of Rocky Ericson’s catalogue. In addition to continuously amusing me via their live shows (which is no small fete as, admittedly, I’m an asshole about live music), the band has created and maintained a sense of artistic community in an environment that is often not as conducive to collaboration as it is to competition.
They have done so in a number of ways which, while mutually beneficial to all parties, are a rather rare thing. From allowing a local artist to draw along with their set, to holding fundraisers for local production companies, Syrrah are willing to put action behind the often heard lament that the Philly area does not foster support or community for new bands. In addition to being willing to share their time with local artists and other bands, Syrrah can be seen in the delightfully funny Fugue Films web production “Gemini Rising”, playing a 70’s era rock band on the brink of both insanity and fame. It is this sense of community, along with the aforementioned sense on theatrical presence and over the top style that makes Syrrah transcend tolerable local band status to being worth seeing over and over again.
Syrrah are: Matt Fischer, Righteous Jolly, Evan Scheerer and Brian Mazzarini.