I didn’t know exactly what to expect when Iconoplasty, the one-man whirling dervish of looping electronic drum beats and guitar riffs, hit the High Dive stage in Fremont late Tuesday night.
The brainchild of Boise musician, journalist and author Josh Gross, Iconoplasty grew out of Gross’s penchant for covering heavy metal songs on a ukelele at open mics. Gross wanted to thicken the sound and added electronic drums, with the project eventually outgrowing the ukelele and evolving to its current iteration through trial and error.
If you’re at all familiar with the Boise music scene, you’re probably nodding your head knowingly right about now. The furthest east I’ve ever lived is Pendleton, Ore., so forgive me for being a little taken aback by not only the set up — Gross, standing in front of a drum machine with a guitar strapped on wearing sunglasses with flashlights glued to either side — but also just how good the music was.
Gross said that he wanted to replicate what a DJ does but completely live using guitar loops, and for the most part he succeeded. The music was melodic and catchy and while few people stuck around after local bands Wolf Sense and The Western Red Penguins played, those that did were treated to dance music that would have been at home in a Belltown club.
Usually Iconoplasty opens for fellow Boise band Red Hands Black Feet, but a little scheduling snafu had them on immediately following the local acts. The instrumental post-rockers started their set with a discordant, claustrophobic piece that seemed to grind to a halt before busting through to a cathartic moment of melodic clarity.
Their songs had a certain symphonic dissonance, thick walls of sound that gave way to the tidal ebb and flow of crashing waves. Red Hands also played 30 minutes of new, unrecorded material that had a more layered, melodic approach and reminded a friend and me of the kind of hardcore that was popularized a decade ago by bands such as Thursday.
A band like Red Hands Black Feet might never escape the niche of post-rock inhabited by groups like Explosions In The Sky, whose influences are easy to hear, but that’s okay. This is music that you have to actively engage with, and while many might not take the time or energy, the rewards are many.
The bands roll down to Olympia today for two days. They’ll play at the Track House tonight and Le Voyeur tomorrow night. Gross, who is using the tour to double as a promotional tour for his debut novel, “The Hack,” will do readings at Orca Books today and Last Word Books tomorrow afternoon.
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails