You can tell a lot about a band by the T-shirts they wear on stage.
Take, for instance, last Friday's Zodiac performance by Malakai frontman Chris Forsythe's side project, Tree of Woe. Drummer Keith Keeran opted for goes-with-anything Black Sabbath, Chris sported Denver grindcore band Dödsfälla, guitarist Jeff Montoya chose Death — the extra-scary original logo, with the scythe D and the flaming-skull guy rising up from the H — and bassist Jimmy St. Ives (filling in for Chris Walters) paid homage to Swedish black metal band Silencer.
All of which should give you some idea of the band's pleasantly brutal musical parameters.
"To my ears, Malakai and Tree of Woe couldn't be more different," Chris Forsythe tells me. "Malakai is thrash/death metal that's influenced by American bands like Machine Head, Slayer and Fear Factory. Tree of Woe is grindcore with more European influences, such as Grave, Napalm Death and Bolt Thrower. The songs are shorter and definitely have a heavy dose of punk thrown in."
In fact, the band took the whole brevity thing even further on Friday, with one song clocking in at just 41 seconds (less than one-fifth the average length of all Napalm Death songs).
Tree of Woe also takes a different lyrical approach. "Malakai is very serious, personal subject matter," says Chris. "Tree of Woe subjects are way more random. Zombies, politics, drug laws — everything is fair game in Tree world."
You can hear for yourself when Tree of Woe plays the Triple Nickel on St. Patrick's Day with furry-mascot metal band (not making this up) Extreme Turbo Smash. Then, on April 13, look for Malakai to return to the Black Sheep stage as opener for Soulfly, the band fronted by former Sepultura guitarist Max Cavalera.
Switching gears a bit, fans of the late J Dilla will want to be at V Bar this Friday, Feb. 24, for a special event commemorating what's come to be known as Dilla Month.
Born James Yancey in February of '74, and gone too soon in February of '06, the legendary Detroit producer/emcee didn't just change hip-hop, he changed everything. Whether rapping with Slum Village and Madlib, dropping instrumental classics like Donuts, or producing and remixing Erykah Badu, the Pharcyde, Janet Jackson and De La Soul, Dilla made music that was complex yet instantly accessible. As Solillaquists of Sound producer DiViNCi told the Indy a while back, he was "a producer's producer who, at the same time, was an everyman's producer."
Friday's V Bar celebration will be hosted by J. Craft with sets by turntablists SpydaT.E.K., illadope and DJ Prominent. "It will be like 90 percent Dilla songs, with a few tribute surprises," says event hype-man Jon "Jayoin" Stevens of the recently disbanded MadTrees. Proceeds from a $5 cover charge will go to the J Dilla Foundation, or a box of donuts gets you in for free.
This is also a big week for comebacks: Chuck Snow & the Lo-Fi Cowboys will interrupt a half-year hiatus to play the Crystola on Friday with Chris Ledoux's Western Underground Band. Then on Saturday, the Ingrates return to Union Station for their first in-town gig since November.
Over at the Triple Nickel, you can catch some serious hip-hop Friday courtesy of Fidel RedStar and Che Bong, who share a bill with Audible (formerly Jeb Burgess and the Jive) and Kris Harlow. On Saturday, the venue hosts Suburban Home Records' fine alt-punk-country outfit Arliss Nancy.
And lastly, don't forget Saturday's Stargazers show with the Flumps and an augmented Grant Sabin Band featuring trumpeter Mitch Macura and trombonists Clare Hammond and Neil Fenton. "They will be guesting for the last part of the performance as kind of an R&B-soul horn section," says Grant. "It'll be a pretty special show."