Kickin’ off the love-filled evening was Palaver. Their hard progressive rock was a happy kind of heavy. Each song was riddled with lots of transitions and time changes. Toss in walls of effects and distortion, brain melting guitar leads, and eerie intros, and you’ll begin to see the picture. The two-man guitar/drum combo did a great job filling dead space with intricate guitar work and syncopated drumming. Unfortunately, their audience couldn’t fill the room comparably. Even in the small space of Café  Coda, it felt as if the band was playing to a handful of people.

Then, out of nowhere, a band of clowns stormed the cafe, passing extremely erotic valentines out to innocent bystanders. Rainbows, painted faces, giant multicolored afros, and smiles everywhere. One even gave me a heart covered in a collage of naked women and ejaculation. Just as quickly as they came, they disappeared into the night.

Following that weirdness was another drum/guitar duo, Reptilian Shapeshifters, hailing from Oakland. Guitarist Alex Woods ran his instrument through both a guitar amp and a bass amp to cover both high and low ends of the frequency spectrum. Speaking of frequencies, I don’t think there was a single sound audible to humans (maybe even dogs) that Reptilian Shapeshifters didn’t work into their act. Even their sound check tickled the senses more like a light show than sound; composed mostly of effects, WAAAHs, KAKAKAHs, WEE-WOO-WHOOPs, and other sounds straight outta Star Trek.

I don’t know if watching Barney as a tyke subconsciously affected me or what, but green and purple just screams raptors to me. The band’s insane, driving energy was accompanied by sporadic drum beats and spastic transitions. Only a mathematics master could count all of the tempo changes. Not even technical difficulties could stop the band. When one of the guitarist’s pedals stopped working, he wryly cracked to the drummer, “THIS is why I said we shouldn’t use pedals in this band.” Energy exuded from every orifice of the band through the entirety of the performance. Drastic dynamic changes cycled from crunchy, to clean, to heavy with screaming guitar lines, and then to a mellow breakdown infused with psychedelia.

After the Reptilian Shapeshifters, Fight Music took the stage. Guitarist Logan Keyser did a good job breaking the ice. “The first two bands were great! They were also musicians. We aren’t, by any means of the word.” But Fight Music’s melodic hardcore takes more musical chops than one would expect from a punk-rock band. Their pissed off quasi-political punk is like fistfuls of straight, uncut fury being punched into your skull.

“Shut up and let’s play some rock n’ roll” was how guitarist Josh Woodpond started off the set for Born Into This. Between Social Abcess, End of an Era, The Pushers, and Born Into This, I don’t think there’s been an Owens project that I haven’t been a fan of. With two guitars, walking bass lines, and melodic breakdowns, what’s not to like about Born Into This? Their easygoing, yet driving style of punk rock is upbeat, heavy, charged, and happy all in one.

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Tommy Diestel can't remember life without music and writing. He began writing for the Synthesis at the ripe age of 19, and aspires to be a life-long writer.