A video accompanies the first single “Down at the Bar” from The Danbees’ sophomore effort The Veggie Tapes, but it’s sharp and well-meaning gravy giving a visual sense to a song that does a fine job of communicating on its own. This song comes barreling out of the gate like the greatest rock songs do and the instrumental attack of guitarist Shane Matthews, bassist Sam Enright, and drummer Wade McManus. The band steps back a bit for the verses, Matthews’ guitar keeping a tense rhythm behind frontman Mark Slotoroff’s vocals, but unleashes fearsome, swelling blasts of electric guitar between the verses that are guaranteed to capture your attention.
There are a couple of key drop outs, hinges of a sort, to swing you into the next lap of the song, built into the arrangement and the band shifts gears impressively at these points. The Danbees final touch comes with a top notch production job – each instrument, even Slotoroff’s vocals, are presented in a forceful way and balanced against the other elements of the song.
Wade McManus is an impressive drummer despite it not being his first instrument and has created a unique style for himself borrowing from rock’s long history while still spinning his playing in an idiosyncratic way. His hard-hitting style doesn’t preclude him from throwing a little flash into the percussion and, thankfully, those moments always serve the song rather than doing anything to drag it down. His partner in the rhythm section, Enright, locks in tight with McManus’ playing while still playing in such a way that his bass notes reverberate throughout the song and give it extra weight. “Down at the Bar” would likely run off the rails without the efforts of these two giving the bottom end a definable shape that Slotoroff and Matthews make great use of.
The Danbees Show How Rock Should Be Performed
Slotoroff’s singing has real presence, but it’s also filled with a clenched fist, red-eyed aggression and fire he masterfully manipulates for effect. The lyrical content has the same amount of bite without ever wasting a single word to convey its subject matter and the delicious way Slotoroff snaps off the end of each line lets you know, quick, that he isn’t playing and follows every line out to their deserved conclusion. Shane Matthews makes for an excellent contrast, ceding space to Slotoroff during the verses and supporting him with live wire rhythm playing underneath, but when Slotoroff steps back, Matthews surges and leaves listeners reeling with his rock guitar power. “Down at the Bar” serves notice that The Danbees are here to stay and have a chance of leaving behind a lasting body of rock music fit to inspire generations to come. The Veggie Tapes is shaping up to be one of the best releases, any length, to emerge from the rock genre in quite some time.
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-review by Jodi Marxbury