A few years ago, if you'd told me that I would actively enjoy living in Boise, I'd have called you a fool or a liar. All through my teenage years, this town had just seemed something to get away from. Bit by bit, though, ever since I returned from college, Boise has come to feel hipper, more vibrant, more stimulating. It's reached the point now--or just my consciousness has reached the point, perhaps--where I can go down to a local bar on an off-night and see a fantastic show for dirt cheap if not absolutely free.
The show I saw at Tom Grainey's on Sunday, March 11, was a case in point. Keesha Renna of Vagabond Promotions was in charge of running it and had tipped me off to it via Facebook (update: she told me later that Jennifer Orr of ORRiginal Promotions had set this up).
First on stage was Violet Isle, a five-piece Portland, OR band passing through on their way to South By Southwest. I hear elements of folk, jazz, even a bit of classical music in their precise, melodic pop-rock. However, this isn't to say that they come off as precious or self-involved. Sean Garcia and Kelly Gable's clean, yearning voices blend pleasantly without sounding whiny, cloying or simpering. Jordan Clark's lead guitar spikes the mix nicely with some bright, chiming fills here and some distorted riffing and soloing there. Most crucial is the rhythm section, with Zee Farrouge's steady bass lines and especially Nick Gable's sharp, muscular drumming pushing the songs constantly forward. Onstage, their indie slacker attire (jeans, sneakers, sweaters, plaid shirts, snow caps) belies the tightness of their playing and arrangements. Their stage presence reflects the skillful balance of their music: they're very good at what they do, but they won't start preening or bragging about it.
Next up was Tango Alpha Tango, who also hail from Portland and are on their way to SXSW. This band would probably appeal to anyone who grew up listening to classic rock radio: they play loud, raucous, grungy, funky blues-based rock. Nathan Trueb's slightly reedy vocals may be better suited for acoustic music, but his playful presence as a frontman and his forceful Hendrix/SRV-style guitar playing more than compensate for that. Mirabai Carter-Trueb's unobtrusive bass and Aaron Trueb's soulful keyboards flesh out the group's sound, but the real powerhouse (besides N. Trueb) is drummer Tyrone Hendrix, who plays like a cross between John Bonham, Jabo Starks and Clyde Stubblefield. Their set's momentum stumbled a bit when T. Hendrix played an overextended drum solo, but if I had his chops, I'd probably be tempted to show off a bit too.
(PS Sorry about the crappy live photos. They're the best I could manage with my phone.)