Motorhead-influenced duo to perform in Belfast

Posted Nov. 26, 2009, at 9:17 p.m.

Sometimes I like to do searches in the Bangor Daily’s in-house article database for certain words, phrases or names. For instance, in our newspaper’s hallowed 120-year history, not once has the name Lemmy Kilmister been printed. Thus, with that preceding sentence, I’ve changed the BDN forever. Or, at least, made it more punk rock.

And I’m happy to report that the only reason I have to bring up Lemmy, he of Motorhead, Hawkwind and legendary mutton chops fame, is because I’m writing about an awesome two-piece band from Belfast by the name of the Class Machine. The first thing I thought of when I listened to the songs from their debut EP, “Uproot,” was Lemmy. The second thing was that this is a band that’s after my musical heart.

“I was trying to think about what we sound like, and I decided on a combo of the Stooges, James Brown and Morphine. Definitely Motorhead, too,” said bass player and vocalist Nathan Raleigh, who with guitarist and drummer Cody Tibbetts make up the Class Machine. “I really like stripped down, gritty, punk trash. But I also like it to be funky.”

The Class Machine will play with Portland rockers Honey Clouds and Huak at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on a three-band showcase at Roots & Tendrils, the music venue, art gallery and shop on Cross Street in downtown Belfast. It’s a night of fantastic Maine rock, so those interested in original music and heavy riffs would be smart to check it out.

Raleigh and Tibbetts have been making music together since 2005, when they were messing around, seeing if Tibbetts could play guitar and drums at the same time while Raleigh played bass and sang. Yes, that’s right: Tibbetts plays guitar and drums at the same time. Sounds like it might not work, but trust me, it does. Think about the White Stripes or the Black Keys. Two people can rock just as hard as three.

“We just jammed on a simple blues riff for like six months. We made a lot of noise,” said Raleigh. “Then it just started to evolve into songs and a more cohesive sound. At that time, I was conceiving of it as more of a theater piece — like we’d be characters with a back-story and songs that explain the relationships between the characters. That kind of wore itself out there. It wasn’t really viable for us.”

Raleigh and Tibbetts toned down the conceptual aspect of their band and upped the rock ’n’ roll and the songwriting. In 2007, a handful of songs began to congeal — the songs that eventually came to be included on “Uproot.” It’s dirty, it’s fuzzy and it’s heavy, but more than anything, the Class Machine writes some really good songs.

There’s a good reason for that. In addition to his rock influences, Raleigh counts his girlfriend, vocalist Kristen Burkholder, as an inspiration. Burkholder sings with local jazz and tango groups, and her love and appreciation for good songwriting has rubbed off on Raleigh.

“My girlfriend is a true student of the great American songbook,” said Raleigh. “She sings with jazz groups and knows all these great, classic songs. I don’t think the crafting of a good song is any less important now than it was 50 years ago. I might love to experiment, but I also really love to write good, strong songs. I’m not afraid of pop music. I just want to turn it on its head.”

If there’s any place in Maine where a band such as the Class Machine is to be nurtured, it’s Belfast. For a city of fewer than 7,000 people, it’s quickly becoming a hotbed for interesting music.

“It’s becoming a cool thing to say you’re from Belfast,” said Raleigh. “There are so many bands from so many styles and disciplines. It’s very eclectic. It’s especially nice to play at Roots & Tendrils, which is actually a music venue, and not a bar where you’re competing with alcohol for attention. People come to listen.”

The Class Machine, Honey Clouds and Huak will play starting at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28, at Roots & Tendrils on Cross Street. Admission is $6 and it’s open to all ages. For more info, visit www.myspace.com/classmachine.

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