Walking into Geno’s Rock Club on Sept. 25 to see Portland death-punk band Covered In Bees, you’d never know it was going to be their last show.
The group, which has been together for almost eight years and features two USM alumni, played with a combination of fury and precision that only comes from years of hard work. Drawing on various hardcore-punk and metal influences including The Misfits, Clutch, and Turbonegro, the group brings elements of several different styles of rock, often in the context of the same song.
Their songs are deceptively complex where rapid changes in tempo and dynamics are the norm, and their sound varies from fast punk-rock to chugging metal and at times even sounded close to the bluesy grunge of early Danzig.
Kevin “Boo” Leavitt’s vocals, which ranged from classic “Oi!” style shout-alongs to full on death metal growling, along with his stage antics, provided the perfect foil to the group’s blazing stop-start songs. Between his energetic singing and Porter’s shredding guitar solos, the band kept the energy level at a constant high. These guys know how to rock and they weren’t afraid to show it!
Covered In Bees originally formed when lead singer Leavitt began working with guitarist Porter, who had played in another local band called Shift with drummer Tristan Gallaghger . The trio soon added Porter’s brother Ed on bass. Eight years later the group has released four albums and become a staple both at Geno’s and around the New England music scene. After being together for almost a decade, they’re finally deciding to call it quits.
“We’re getting older,” Leavitt said. “I just got a full time job. It just seemed like it was time.”
The sentiment seemed to be echoed by the other members.
“It’s not like we’re gone for good” Porter said. “We all play in other projects.”
And for one last time, they rocked out.
Although I admittedly lost most of the lyrics in all of the energy (dwelling on this is kind of missing the point), a quick perusal of their past four albums reveals titles like “Plane Crash,” “Car on Fire with Guns” and “Dude vs. Woods.”
“There’s always room for cracking jokes. Rock ‘n’ roll used to be about cars and women,” Leavitt said. “We just do it about monsters.”
One of the things that really struck me about this group was how much musical mileage they managed to pack into their show and still had fun doing it.
“Songwriting is a collaborative process,” Porter said. “We each bring something to the table, but the overall sound is just something about all of us being in a room together.”
This group element was very visible in their songs with Leavitt and Porter constantly feeding on one another’s manic energy. Leavitt would often stop in the midst of a song to give Porter room to pull out his best Van-Halen riffs, and then he would launch back into his throat singing, redoubled with intensity.
Leavitt was every bit the punk-rock frontman throughout the night, throwing the mic over his shoulder, under his arm and neck as well. He also managed to work the audience into his vocal work every available opportunity, and his hardcore fans gleefully responded, shouting out the words into the mic.
Ultimately it was this collaborative spirit that stuck with me the most from this show: watching a band that was truly at one with their fans and one another.