“All vegetarian bar fights!” joked Tim Kinsella before he and the rest of Joan of Arc punched into an encore that capped a cool night of music at The Handlebar. Roughly an hour before that moment and a few minutes before the start of their set, a would-be cuddle-core session caught crazy and the members of Joan of Arc went from show headliners to ringside observers. The rare outburst was quickly resolved by the Handlebar crew and the band from Chicago, Illinois commenced to playing their brand of heavyweight music that has ignited the indie rock scene since 1995.

On a full bill of four bands, musical introductions were made by Imaginary Air Show. Stitching various sounds and styles, the Pensacola group led by Todd Vilardi (guitar, vocals), Aaron Finlay (guitar, bass, keyboard, vocals), Brandon Warren (drums, vocals),and Sean Peterson (keyboards, tambourine, vocals) shared their imaginative and ambitious sound with a Handlebar audience that continued to grow in number as the band played.

Opening their set with a multifaceted juggernaut of a song were Hu G. Whales. The Pensacola trio of Geoffrey Brill (guitar), Matt Polise (Bass) and Trey Pfeiffer (drums) powerfully articulated a musicianship that notes textures of Zappa, Satriani, and Mingus to create a sound that is as heavy as it is intricate. According to their facebook page, the band will be recording soon and hopefully more shows will follow.

Smoothly transitioning from the instrumental jazz metal creations of Hu G. Whales to the smooth, folk, chamber sounds of Pillars and Tongues the audience warmly recieved their unique style. Enjoying a January/February tour with headliners, Joan of Arc, the traveling trio of Evan Hydzik, Elizabeth Remis and Mark Trecka brought a calming dynamic to the show. Adding “We’re happy to be in Florida for the first time. Pensacola is pretty awesome. I like it here.” Remis and her fellow bandmates sounded a warm tone on an cool winter night.

Known for witty songs and misleading album titles, it should be no surprise that Joan of Arc didn’t kick into their song “Lets Wrestle” as their initial sonic salvo of the night. Such cleverness would be too obvious after the pre-set shenanigans of the evening. Playing well into the night and nearly reaching closing time, Kinsella fought back a sore throat and granted the crowd’s plea for an encore. As Kinsella adjusted his guitar, Bobby Burg (bass), Victor Villareal (guitar), and Theo Katsaounis (drums) jumped into their cover of Jane’s Addiction’s “Jane Says” while the crowd did their best Perry Farrell impersonations, singin until Kinsella laughed and cued that he was ready to continue playing and finish their encore for an appreciative Pensacola crowd.

-Michael L. Smith