Jade Raven/Whet

 

“Hi, we’re Jade Raven,” introduced bubbly singer Holly King, much to the disinterest of the Hurricane crowd. It was the group’s CD release party, complete with cake, and its members could have cried if they wanted to about this icy reception, but instead they kicked out some catchy power-pop, and by the end of their third song they were greeted with the kind of respectful applause a headlining act deserves. One enthusiastic (and obviously inebriated) fellow started dancing and even ventured up to the stage to shake bassist Eric Cornwell’s hand, prompting King to cheerily dub him “our first fan.”

Doubtlessly, this promising trio has plenty of other fans, but unfortunately its underage peers were denied access to this 21-and-over show. King, 19, exudes charming innocence on stage, whether singing about growing up to be a “Rock Star” or strutting around confidently like a Dixie Chick during Jade Raven’s last few numbers, when she surrendered her guitar to Cornwell and the group went bass-less. Based on the substantial boost her stage presence receives when she’s not strapped to her instrument, it would be tempting to recommend that Jade Raven hire a new guitarist and leave King free to roam, but it would take a talented player to immediately pick up her finger-picked melodies. Still, the majority of Jade Raven’s songs require only a strong knowledge of power chords and an ability to step on the distortion pedal in a timely fashion as the chorus begins, and King’s confident moves and infectious energy appear to be its most valuable asset in winning over crowds, so it might be time to start auditioning prospective fourth members.

Besides unveiling the catchy upbeat numbers and tender ballads from its debut CD In The Dark, Jade Raven played several impressive new songs that sported an aggressive edge. King’s vocals were strong and clear throughout the set, and the band’s rhythm section was tight, with Cornwell’s basslines often serving as the melodic foundation. It was a convincing coming-out party for the group often touted as the heir to the Frogpond/Lushbox legacy, although Jade Raven still has plenty of growing to do before it can fill those sizable shoes.

Whet, however, is poised to make an immediate impact. Composed entirely of seasoned veterans, this dynamic ensemble blew away curious onlookers with its bass grooves, pummeling drumbeats, intricate guitar lines, and furious violin solos from singer Tiffany Thompson, whose fiddling added intensity and depth to Whet’s songs in a way few guitar solos still do. Thompson’s vocals, ranging from a sassy growl to an angelic coo, set the mood for the tunes, while Bryan Mace’s thick basslines provided the muscle. Drummer Beth Robinson, a local treasure for years who’s lamentably relocating to San Francisco soon, taught a clinic behind the kit, providing subtle percussion during Thompson’s violin parts (all of the instruments cleared the way for her solos, making for breezy classical intervals in the midst of funk-drenched freakouts) and hammering with conviction when the jams reached their climax. Talented and charismatic, Whet will make believers out of anyone that witnesses one of its explosive shows.

Categories: Music