Elephant Rifle shines like a pachyderm slathered in aloe

Tahoe Onstage

Elephant Rifle rocks The Holland Project on a night when it shares the stage with Life In Vacuum.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Tony Contini

Life In Vacuum took a break from its tour throughout Europe and Mexico to perform at Reno’s all-ages venue The Holland Project, along with hometown headliner Elephant Rifle.

The musicians played a blend of post-hardcore and rhythmic punk, like Thursday meets Built To Spill. Their lead singer had a wonderful scream and looked nonchalant while belting out. Their set mixed varying levels of fullness and sound.

Michael Young, drummer of Elephant Rifle, said their drummer’s touch “is really incredible. He sold it while making it look easy.”

During a silly mic-check, Elephant Rifle frontman and Reno News & Review Editor Brad Bynum broke out the dad jokes.

“Check. Check. Check-Mix!” he shouted.

He spoke to the fella at the back about the mood lighting he wanted.

“This is gonna be our yoga set,” Bynum said. “So something like … dreamy. Purple looks good.”

Bynum barks syllabically while the band morphs through genres of hard rock. He sometimes takes his voice to a lower, guttural place, and it sounds awesome.”

They started with a bang. Young is a damn madman on drums with experience in many genres in bands around Reno.

Bynum placed his mic stand in the middle of the crowd and wrapped the cord around it, hog-tying  like at the rodeo. To say he’s most comfortable onstage is a misleading understatement. He’s most comfortable in the crowd or on top of a bar. But The Holland Project doesn’t have those, so he’s left to put his arms around people, have mini mosh-pits and connect with each spectator personally. Tony Contini / Tahoe OnstageTwice, he left the small venue and sat on a bench with a woman who was probably checking her phone.

As expected, a few songs in, he removed his button-up work attire to exposure his stage outfit of thick chest hair. An “I Voted” sticker was embedded in the brush.

He then proceed to douse himself and the crowd with a bottle of aloe vera. He worked it into his torso and black locks, then slipped around in the mess. He placed the mic in his pocket to cut a little jig.

During a break in their aggressive set, a fan yelled, “That’s the best you’ve ever smelt.” The succulent gel must’ve masked his usual musk.

Bynum barks syllabically while the band morphs through genres of hard rock. He sometimes takes his voice to a lower, guttural place, and it sounds awesome.

Some of their music is as thrashy and sporadically manic as Gwar, some is spacey and heavy like Mastodon and the rest is a hodgepodge of airy vibes with more approachable rock sensibilities and lyrics about big cities with nowhere to park. Their guitarist Clint Neuerburg even added a random surf-vibe lead to a song. They are a complex animal.

The band told jokes you have to be in the scene to understand, while green ooze continued to drip off their bodies and instruments.

They played a new song that sounded like sped-up Led Zeppelin. Afterward, Neuerburg said, “That’s a ripper. We wrote it today, just for you, Tim. What do you wanna call it?”

Tim in the audience responded with, “Ripper!”

“That name sucks!” Neuerberg returned.

These dad-rockers are funny, but also mean business. Neuerburg started a compelling lick, then continued it while one hand grabbed what appeared to be a La Croix sparkling water. Impressive and health-conscious.

I’m not exactly sure how to label Elephant Rifle and that’s a good thing — progressive metal? I’m so in love with “prog” I see it everywhere.

Their guitar changes often from ska to surfy to hard-as-nails, while the bouncy bass takes walks as Young provides a backbone of fantastic musicianship. They are Reno’s wildcard. Our stinky, slimy wildcard.

– Tony Contini

Coming soon: Album review of “Hunk,” Elephant Rifle’s latest recording.

Tahoe Onstage

Michael Young is a damn madman on drums.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Tony Contini

Tony Contini / Tahoe Onstage

Life In Vacuum

About Tony Contini

Photographer and journalist Tony Contini graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in art photography. He loves working with bands and telling stories. Photography portfolio: https://www.TonyContini.com

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