by Joan Hiller

Engine Down Sat March 15

Meow Meow

Dark groove-mopesters Engine Down have a hot disc to pimp (Demure on Lovitt Records)--and they've been crisscrossing North America relentlessly this year doing just that. Featuring half of Jade Tree darlings Denali and alums from seminal, late screamo outfits Sleepytime Trio and The Weak Link Breaks, the seasoned members of ED have figured out how to turn a sedated, deep-toned rock hook well enough to entertain even the skeptical. Their intricately timed, soulful sulk-fonk is miles away from the hardcore ground laid in bands past, but it's fueled with like-minded (albeit matured) tenacity. That doesn't mean that the boys of ED have gotten all serious, though--this year's tours have been filled with shenannigans.

"I kinda broke my shin on tour last time," confessed Hasselhoff-haired vocalist Keeley Davis. "During a show, I jumped back and hit something, and my leg was swollen forever." Davis' goofy demeanor offstage stands in stark contrast to the focused, sultry ball of enthusiasm he becomes onstage with Engine Down. As soon as the crisp, arena-pro percussion drives the rest of the band to action, the resulting thick rock magic is channeled and delivered with more focus and equal fervor than the Engine Down of even one year ago. Like a flashlight beam turned laser. Even so, Davis still speaks of playtime with startlingly childlike enthusiasm: "This tour, we're really excited because our label president gave us season passes for the Paramount amusement parks. We're going to be planning our whole tour around going to the parks." In Portland, Davis & Co. are looking forward to visiting "that skateboard facility under the bridge. It's super amazing," and they're also anticipating a return to the Blackbird--but not necessarily because of their show. "The Blackbird's always feeding us, and that's rad," Davis explains, almost as if the purpose of the tour itself is an afterthought.

After all the food and fun on this trip, ED will be ready to get down to business--and they probably will have improved exponentially without even realizing it. "We're writing for a new record now," Davis explains, "but we're not going to record for another year, which is cool." Maybe between now and then, they can tour all of the Six Flags.