What The Dark Shave reminds me of, from the trio’s first notes in Craggie Brewing Company‘s warehouse, is back in high school when my friend Jan’s boyfriend’s metal band would practice in the basement and we’d hang out and listen. The Dark Shave is much better than Jan’s boyfriend’s band. This is no rehearsal — they’re well-rehearsed and wrench-tight — but there’s the unmistakable immediacy and palpable punch of a teenage basement band.
A crowd of a few dozen in the brewery’s makeshift show space quickly grows, though the Dark Shave (brothers Chris “Sharky” Milan on guitar, vocals, bass and Dave Milan on lead guitar, keyboards,bass; with drummer Eric Ernst) plays with the same enthusiasm for a handful of onlookers and a roomful of dancing fans. (Worth noting: According to Chris, the band’s name is derived from the brothers monikers — Sharky and Dave. Dark Shave.)
It’s not too hard to peg the Dark Shave’s influences (a little Niel Young, some Grateful Dead, lots of Pink Floyd and a dose of Metallica for good measure), bit it is harder to nail down their style. This is prog-rock, but it aspires toward experimental with flavored of psychedelia. There’s rock, for sure, but with jazz-influenced compositions including several movements per song and turn-on-dime changes in tempo. And then there’s the metal aspect, but the heaviest shades of the Dark Shave’s sound are tempered with humor — especially in the lyrics — as well as funk turns and jam breaks. But even those jam breaks feel practiced and orchestrated. Nothing about the band is sloppy or accidental.
“Gatlinburg,” near the top of the set, recalls a Bob Weir tune with its funk rhythm and prominent bass breaks. “Mr. Ploop,” a strangely comical song, invokes the Queen, Aerosmith and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, featuring Dave spitting a high speed vocal on the chorus and Sharky on a nice wah wah solo.
The band plays a few songs from their forthcoming album including “Grindstone” (with Dave on keys) and “Smoke Screen” during which Eric hits every single guitar cue while powering the drums with a force just short of possession. The Dark Shave appears to he having a blast at each turn, but it’s when they launch into the full-on sonic assault of their most metal offering that they seem to really hit their zone. The instrumental piece is a peal of noise (include a hand-crank siren) that pushes against the walls of thrash and yet — despite Eric tossing his long hair like Animal from The Muppets (which, by the way, is awesome and only adds to the energy on stage) — the band never quite loses control. They remain at the threshold of chaos and then reel it back in with sniper precision.
Not that the audience notices this feat. A girl (holding, inexplicably, a can of peaches) dances with abandon in front of the band and Chris, in his single act of bedlam, spills beer all over the free CDs.
Learn more and listen to tracks at thedarkshave.com.