Article and Photos by: Jason Robey
Heavy riffs, thundering drums and classic hard rock vibes echoed through the room at Pub Rock in Scottsdale, AZ Monday night. The crowd may have been small, but Portland rockers, Ape Machine, and their local openers, UFN, didn’t let that affect the energy of the show in the least.
UFN started the night with a 30 minute set of progressive rock, focusing more on Rush-like bass riffs and saxophone solos more often than the usual guitar. Vocalist / bassist Keaton Bongiomo stood front and center, his fingers dancing around the fretboard with impeccable accuracy with the rhythm from drummer Charles Christian. Jeremiah Sweeney played a solid keyboard, while newest member Chris Merchant switched off between guitar and saxophone, often in the same song. The band’s set was made up of songs from their recent debut E.P., Until Further Notice.
After a short break to reset the stage, Ape Machine took the stage by storm, kicking off a short-but-sweet 45 minute set with “The Sun,” from their 2011 album, War to Head. Guitarist Ian Watts showed off his skills with 70s hard rock-influenced riffs, as he headbanged his way around the stage. Vocalist Caleb Heinze planted himself in the middle of the stage, his hair covering his face and hands tightly gripped on the mic as he pushed his voice effortlessly over the music.
The rhythm section of bassist Brian True and drummer Ryan Moore was perfectly timed with Watts’ riffing, creating a wall of hard rock, with a twist of psychedelic sound and blues influence that some refer to as “stoner rock.” The band’s musical influences culminated in the instrumental “Ape n’ Stein,” their version of the Edgar Winter Group’s 70s classic “Frankenstein.”
Though Ape Machine’s 8-song set was rather short, they left the audience satisfied, running through songs from Wear Me Out, as well their latest release, Coalition of the Unwilling and 2013 concept album, Mangled By the Machine.
Ape Machine’s name is a play on “tape machine,” as the band has a love of vintage analog recording equipment, opting to document their music in the way their influences did, before computers and software took over the studio recording world. They believe it adds to the vibe and depth of their sound, and it comes through beautifully on their recordings.
*Editor Correction: Review noted Damon De La Paz as the night’s drummer for Ape Machine. Current drummer, Ryan Moore, commented: “Correction! It was not Damon on drums that night it was me, Ryan Moore. I’ve been Ape Machines sub drummer on a few tours in the past. Come up and say hello to the bands to make sure that it’s always the same players. It’s often not. But nice review, thank you.” — Our apologies, Ryan!