Matt Hickey

I've never hosted anything much more formal than head lice, so it was with some trepidation that I agreed to host the opening night of the Vera Project's "A Drink for the Kids" fundraising campaign—in which the 21-plus set can raise money for the imminently worthy all-ages venue simply by drinking selected beer and booze at various neighborhood bars—last Sunday at the Cha Cha. Fortunately, "hosting" mostly just meant showing up early, buying the appropriate drinks, and encouraging others to do the same. There was also an announcement made later on in the evening soliciting donations (something along the lines of "blurgh blurgh blurgh kids, blah blah blah give us your money"), and that was that.

The night also benefited yours truly, as I got to finally check out a couple bands I'd been meaning to see for a minute now: Unnatural Helpers and Telepathic Liberation Army.

Telepathic Liberation Army are a four-piece made up of Lisa Orth (aka DJ Amateur Youth) on vocals, Michelle Nolan (ex–Chromatics, Shoplifting) on bass, Alice Wilder (ex–Diamond Cut Diamond) on guitar, and Stacy Peck on drums. Like their members' previous bands, Telepathic Liberation Army churn out sharp, wiry, and dark post-punk marked by tense martial drumming, sinuous bass grooves, harsh flares and then spidery melodies of guitar, and vocals shouted and dubbed in echo. (During their sound check, Nolan warmed up with the riff from "Beat It," proving that even at a basement-bar punk show two weeks after the man's death, you still can't escape Michael Jackson.) To my ears, TLA sound a bit like Erase Errata, which I mean as an unequivocal and enthusiastic compliment. It's nice to see Seattle generating some smart punk rock able to split the difference between righteous aggression and dance friendliness while retaining some sense of style and smarts. More of this, less bluesy metal boogie and beardo backwoods folksy bullshit, please.

If you are gonna feel the blues and inject your rock with a little rudimentary boogie, though, you could do a hell of a lot worse than Unnatural Helpers. The band is led by singer/drummer Dean Whitmore and features Brian Standeford (ex–Catheters, Tall Birds) on guitar and Kimberly Morrison (the Dutchess and the Duke) on bass; sometimes Charles Leo Gebhardt IV joins them as well, but not this night. The Helpers' brand of garage-y rock and roll is more straightforward than TLA's, but they steamroll ahead (and swagger side to side) with an energy that's as undeniably catchy as it is concise (most of their songs clock in at under two minutes). "This is about as close as we've come to playing an all-ages show," quipped Morrison between songs, and indeed, theirs is a sound that practically demands a little (preferably philanthropic) drinking for proper enjoyment. The band recently signed to the reliably awesome and always busy local label Hardly Art, so expect to be hearing plenty more from them in the future.

A Drink for the Kids continues this Thursday at Linda's, Friday at Solo Bar and the Funhouse, and culminates Saturday at Neumos with a show from Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold and Throw Me the Statue. recommended