|Belt of Vapor / Book of Maps
July 9, 2006 - Rock Coffee - Spokane, WA
by Anthony Stassi
Only two kinds of “scenesters” really exist in Spokane. We’ll go ahead and label them the “young’ns” and the less frequently spotted “cooler older siblings.” The “young’ns” are pretty self-explanatory. They are the black-clad teenagers that wedge themselves in every crevice of Rock Coffee for any all ages show coming through town. They aren’t very picky and in a lot of ways they seem to be alone in an uphill battle to create a “Spokane scene” they can call their own. Fortunately they travel in large numbers and have an inexorable loyalty to Patrick [Kendrick, Manager]’s efforts at Rock Coffee.
“The cooler older siblings” are a much tighter, impenetrable crew. Comprised of mostly twenty to thirty year olds, they have a nonchalant coolness about them that’s most likely a result of a long history with Spokane and its scene. Their faces pop up at the occasional local show, but not many. Belt of Vapor and maybe one or two other bands (Flee The Century, LIMBS, etc…) actually motivate them to leave Mootsy’s. So when they do show up it’s usually a fucking party. Regardless, only one reoccurring lineup guarantees the older siblings to come out of the woodwork: local gurus Belt of Vapor and their friends from Portland, Book of Maps.
The Book of Maps show tonight makes you wonder why a band not on tour would come to Spokane to play a 30-minute set at a coffee shop. The answer can only be reduced to a love for the game and a floor to crash on. The reassuring smiles were only visible in between chaotic instances of sweaty, average-looking dudes beating the shit out of their instruments. It was heavy but at the same time it was calculated and purposeful. The musicianship alone was enough to make everyone turn to the person next to them and make that stupid face that suggests “not too shabby…” The 30-minute set was satisfying no doubt. However it might have been more of a show and less of a cock tease had they played for, say, an hour.
No worries though. As soon as the dust cleared Belt of Vapor entered the picture. Maybe I should feel guilty about being so thankful that these guys haven’t taken off like they should. Shows like tonight make it hard to not cross your fingers and pray they don’t achieve the success and notoriety they deserve. As long as we keep this secret to ourselves, we get all the private face-meltings we want! I knew you’d see it my way. However there’s still an undeniable feeling in your stomach that such talent and (growing) ambition make such a low profile impossible. What makes this even more unlikely is their continued growth as a band. EVERY show is different and each difference is a look into the future of Belt of Vapor. For example, bassist Aaron Powell has been starting to bare his potential as the frontman, a role he more than likely got dealt through default. It’s usually a rarity for the audience’s attention to be diverted from the prodigal drummer, Justin Walters. Tonight was different though. Aaron was channeling a kind of over-the-top energy that balanced complete insanity with utmost genuineness. He made Lemmy Kilmister look like David Crosby.
Belt of Vapor is a constant reminder that heaviness has nothing to do with volume. There are hundreds of bands in Spokane that would give anything to be as heavy and menacing as BOV but they never will. And the moment you start to put your faith in any other local band, that familiar gut instinct rears its ugly head to remind you that Belt of Vapor’s shoes can’t be filled.