April 23, 2006

Lost Wallets and Flaming Wreckage: Fall of Troy at the Ottobar

When Tom Erak hopped on the Ottobar stage, orange Grunge amp head under one arm, guitar in the other, he was irritated.

Tom, the lead singer of the Fall of Troy (FOT), plugged in, ran up and down the fretboard with long, nimble fingers, and signaled to bassist Tim Ward and drummer Andrew Forsman. The band broke straight into a bit of start-stop heavy staccato improv, which is usually a large part of their set.

This time, however, they only had about 15 minutes in which to play. Time was short.
After losing a wallet in Norfolk and sitting on I-95 for hours waiting for a burning hulk to be removed, the boys of FOT had missed their window to play the Ottobar in Baltimore, between Criteria and headliners Poison the Well. In fact, Poison was forced to play directly after Criteria while FOT sat in a van down on the highway.

Needless to say, Poison the Well was not ready. Understandably, the performance was a sleeper; the band looked like they had just rolled out of bed, and not in a fashionable kind of way, in a “We were up until 6 a.m. this morning driving” kind of way.

Poison only played two tracks off their latest (and most dynamic) release, 2003’s You Come Before You, kicking off the show with “Ghostchant” and later throwing in “Zombies Are Good For Your Health.” Most of the set, however, was filled with the snorecore Strife/Earth Crisis-replica hits of Opposite of December. The crowd was bored. The pit was sluggish.

Poison vacated the stage, and a giant Norseman of a bouncer announced FOT’s predicament to boos and screams of “Riot!” from the crowd. It seemed like most of the audience was there for FOT, not Poison the Well.

The scenesters were getting restless just as FOT broke onto the stage to raucous applause, cursing I-95.

FOT stole the show, dominating the stage with quick, insane proficiency, unabashed by the occasional imperfection, one of the cornerstones of rock and roll in the past.

Tom and bassist Tim Ward took a synchronized running leap into the supportive crowd during an instrumental break, clocking a couple of fans in the head with backs and guitar necks.

“We’re not trying to hurt anyone,” said Tom after the tune. “We’re just trying to get out and reach you.”

Tom Erak’s guitar powers are worthy of a show of their own. The power trio might be a little “out of fashion” right now, but FOT are poised to bring it back.

“Ghostship Part 4” from early FOT demos and “F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X.” from Doppelganger closed off the erratic set, only about 15 minutes in, a disappointing end to a great little show.

“We didn’t have a set list,” said Tom outside after the show. “We were basically looking at security and they would tell us ‘Okay, play another one.’”

If you are not on board with FOT yet, get there. Pick up the Doppelganger disc, or download it from iTunes or Ruckus. FOT will be playing the Ottobar again in late June with He Is Legend and Showbread, so keep an eye out for tickets. Hopefully they’ll get to play a full set this time.

**Photo: Steph Thornton

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