I hadn't seen any of the bands on the bill before, but as I pulled up across the street from the Mercury Cafe Saturday night and was met by raucous sounds of sonic malice, I knew it must be all good. Once inside, I found the aural assault of screamo/emo-core band Death Kills Time was in full swing. The group contorted and swayed violently as they pummeled the audience. Drummer Matt Bogue was the juggernaut behind the kit, and the remainder of the group marched in step to the madness. This was a proper introduction with no pretense, just straightforward musical annihilation. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see as much of them as I would have liked -- they blew the joint right after their set to play a gig at Mootsy's.
As I waited for Renew to set up, I took the opportunity to soak in the ambience. At the edge of Felony Flats, and nestled among halfway houses and bail bonders, you'll find the Mercury. Back when this was Espresso Delicioso, I spent many a late night here playing chess, gaining punk cred, falling prey to teenage indiscretions and gaining experiences that would lead to a life-long devotion to rock 'n' roll.
Some things have changed, but it's still just as radical a hangout as it was then. The exposed brick walls are adorned with paintings by local artists. The upstairs area serves as a cozy retreat with plenty of seats. The current owner recently removed a portion of the second-floor wall in an unused room, opening it up for show-goers to use as a balcony. The drinks are standard coffeehouse issue and are complemented by delicious pastries and some entr & eacute;es (during select hours).
The screeching of feedback signaled the start of Renew's set. This group also falls under the hardcore/ screamo descriptor but is less coherent and accessible than Death Kills Time. Renew made the best of the small performance area, flailing and gyrating spastically as they blurred into the crowd and back into the fold. This show marked the band's last performance with bassist Cody Storm, who's been doing double time in the Agreement. Storm obviously wanted to make his exit memorable. At one point during the set, he scaled his bass rig and performed the duration of the song high above the onlookers. As the song reached a roaring crescendo, he leapt from the stack of speakers, twitching and spiraling out of control. Throughout the performance, guitarist Derrick Wright writhed and jerked as he obliterated strings and contributed searing backup vocals.
The show was another affirmation of the strength of the all-ages scene in Spokane, a scene characterized by guerilla-style shows held anywhere there's space and the camaraderie of musicians and friends. The Mercury Cafe brews up shows nearly every Friday and Saturday with DJs doing the drum and bass thing on Sunday.