Metz @ Bottom of the Hill 4/30/13 - photo by Nicole L. Browner

By the start of Tuesday night’s show at Bottom of the Hill, the turnout was a little concerning. With a bill headlined by Metz (one of Sub Pop’s newer novelty punk bands) and their Canadian tour mates White Lung, you’d think it would have a heavy attendance. But at 9:15, when San Diego surf pop openers Mrs. Magician started their set, the room was maybe a quarter of the way full. By White Lung, it was packed, and rightfully so, for a pretty solid lineup of loud and heavy.

It’s often been argued that Metz falls into a 90s punk/indie revivalist movement, referencing such cohorts as The Men, Future of the Left, Cloud Nothings and Japandroids. All of the theorizing is definitely true, and their self-titled record out on Sub Pop speaks even more truth to that.

Metz throws some extra sandpaper on things, more reverb in their vocals, sludgier bass — and live, they rip. Having gone out of my way to see them twice at SxSW this year, their second Bottom of the Hill performance matched the excessive energy seen in Austin. Needless to say, they had reason to be stoked: during their set, they mentioned how much more crowded last night’s show was compared to their last Bottom of the Hill show back in November.

Probably the coolest thing about last night’s set was that for the first time in probably over 100 shows I’ve seen at Bottom of the Hill in the last 10 years, they turned off the overhead stage lighting and let the band be backlit by floodlights, exposing the color spectrum of the hologram wallpaper along the stage’s back wall. The effect was perfectly fitting, especially for the handful of moshpit-dodging photographers up in front.

Back to the whole 90s revivalist theory — namely, the bands of the decade past that Metz, etc. are echoing the sound of. Sure, Sonic Youth is an easy comparison, but looking around at Bottom of the Hill I was literally seeing band names on T-shirts that make an even stronger case for that whole “if you liked so-and-so in the 90s, check out these kids on Sub Pop” connection. There were quite a few John Reis fans out there clad in Hot Snakes and Drive Like Jehu gear, which in my mind, is the strongest influential comparison anyone could argue for Metz. The uncanny, chaotic riffs say everything, and it’s not so much of a rip-off as it is a modern homage.

Another band shirt I saw in last night’s crowd was Modern Life is War, a Midwest hardcore band known for their melodic songs and heavily political lyrics, who released albums with both Equal Vision and Deathwish (Ceremony, Converge). MLIW fans would definitely hear that same dark heaviness in Metz, although there’s only so much melody a single guitar can provide. Overall, Metz would feel welcome in that world, and could jump on something like a Refused reunion tour, or play with any number of modern punk, post-punk and hardcore bands, and make crowds happy.

White Lung should not be overlooked, for their set quite possibly was the highlight of the evening. Their sophomore LP Sorry came out on Deranged Records last year. Upon first listen, one might take the album with a grain of salt, but the live renditions of the songs completely validate them. Their set was incredibly tight, focused, loud yet contained, and their drummer was inspiring.

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