Opening acts Planets and Headshear both enjoyed a decent turnout for a Wednesday night (3/12/08), but the crowd at the Bottom of the Hill thinned considerably as bedtime approached, leaving three-man headliner We Be The Echo to play in front of about 40 people.

[I used to have this Darth Vader piggybank, which was mostly worthless as a collector’s item, a knock-off, but a lot fun nonetheless. Upon the introduction of coinage, Vader would raise up his lightsaber in robotic, if Pavlovian obedience to Great Commerce, turning exactly 45 degrees and clicking into place to declare: “Impressive. Most impressive. But you’re not a Jedi yet!”. . . .]

To their credit, We Be The Echo was not put off by the audience’s sleepy exodus. Their stuff is so tightly conceived that even when they’re not cooking up the numbers for a packed room, they still make their impression felt. Their chops-laden, all-instrumental songs–I liked “Debacle” and “Cosmic Cosby Penguin Dance”– forced intergalactic time-signature mayhem on the 40 of us who stuck around.

New to their scene, I asked guitarist Graeme Nicholls about the temporal complexity of their music, i.e. how much formal composition it requires, and he said, “None. We work it all out in rehearsal.” I did not ask him whether or not rehearsals get at all tedious, which they must, what with the many interlocking 5s, 7s, 11s, and other prime integers at work.

[Then Vader’s lightsaber would glow an engorged shade of red and the Empire theme would play for about thirteen seconds: Dunnn, Dun, duh-Dunnn, Dun, duh-Dunnn, Dun, duh-Dunnn. At first, Vader’s show was overplayed: quarters, dimes, nickels, Canadian and other strange monies, whatever I could find. . . .]

Their inspired, sui generis (shred-prog) experimentation is held together by an uncommonly fierce drummer named ilk. It seems ilk does not capitalize his name or wear shoes when he plays. I hear the barefoot thing enhances feel, “like when you’re driving a car.” Or a Millennium Falcon.

One of WBTE’s longtime supporters, a gentleman named Star, expressed certain disappointment that Nicholls, Stryker, and ilk weren’t playing their covers of old TV theme songs from the 70s and 80s. For one, I was plenty occupied by WBTE’s original catalogue. There is, however, a sort of Hasselhoffish groove about bassist Myke Stryker’s doings on the low end . . . perhaps we were hearing Night Rider after all, residually.

[But as I grew older, Vader suffered neglect. I would return for the novelty and heard only the hiss and pop of decay, the halflife of his darksided fabrications until, alas, a fateful silver dollar exposed his song and dance for a garbled reproduction of paralytic nothings: no real movement, no real sound, nothing but the selfsame static redux.]

We Be The Echo are really, genuinely something. Check them out at the Hemlock Tavern on May 10, a Saturday. When I complemented Nicholls for being every bit the guitar stunner, he said he’s just looking forward to the Hemlock show and refused to put on airs, reminding, “I’m not a Jedi yet.” Hmm.

Notwithstanding their modesty, We Be The Echo have assumed a place in my mind as a mint-condition Math Wars Version2+2=5.5 Action Figure Three-Pack. When I became a man, I put away childish nonsense like knock-off Darth Vader piggybanks and all that commercially interested, digitally codependent swag that overwhelms Great Music with preprogrammed ipod beats and Storm Trooper conformity; when I became a man, I learned to identify certain valuable items, precious metal among them.