My Wednesday nights are seldom filled with as much ear-bashing, hair envy, or striptease keyboard playing as I experienced at La Salle’s last week. Monk Warrior, Stolas, and Star Thistle Wall came prepared with a slew of sounds and sights for the small, yet supportive turnout.

Redding’s instrumental trio, Monk Warrior, lead off with an impressive set chock-full of Jeff Cole’s psychedelic guitar effects and the outstanding rhythm section comprised of Dorian Jaimes (bass) and Nathan Sletner (drums). Sletner is a relatively new addition to the band who Cole dubbed “an inspiration.” He certainly added an enthusiastic element from the back of the stage.

The three members were all technically proficient, which made for a magnificently listenable set. The dance floor was about half-full and consisted of a few head-bobbers as well as a couple of guys who were just stoked to have some live jams to dance to. My only wish was that the volume had been just a touch lower to allow for more emphasis of each individual instrument, especially since these guys are all pretty awesome in their respective roles.

After a brief set change, Stolas, who are touring out of Las Vegas, took the stage to give everyone a little taste of the songs from their debut album, Living Creatures. The little taste definitely packed a punch. Lead by guitarist/vocalist, Jason Weiche, Stolas’ live energy was relentless. Channeling the stage presence of At The Drive-In, Weiche and lead guitarist, Sergio Medina, thrashed about as the band delivered an onslaught of progressive tunes.

Their set began with a couple of songs that displayed some of their post-hardcore influence, emphasizing volume, speed, and…more volume. Then they mellowed out a bit, laying down a blend of mid-tempo melodies to give our ears a rest from their more ass-kicking, headbanging pieces. They closed with a tribute to Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing in the Name,” and I was left wondering what kind of shampoo Medina uses.

Headlining the event was Chico’s own Star Thistle Wall – a four-piece experimental/indie band gearing up for the release of their first album, I’ll Never Call This House a Home. Keyboardist, Matt Blackmore, had promised via Facebook to play in just his underwear if ten of his coworkers showed up. Only nine made it, but Blackmore decided to round up. Thomas Fogg passionately delivered his distinctive grunge-folk vocals backed by Joey Wright on bass and Kevin Berg on drums, all while half-naked Blackmore banged the keys with finesse. The guys strung together a few of their groovy, foot-stomp offerings for the largest crowd of the night.

Fuzzy-eared and wide-eyed, I departed from La Salle’s thinking how awesome and supportive the local music scene is, allowing bands like Monk Warrior, Stolas, and Star Thistle Wall to showcase exactly how a little boundary-pushing, creative influence, and soulful energy can go a long way to create such unique and inspiring sounds.

Photo credit: Nolan Ford