This post is something of a landmark: it's my 50th in the three-month history of this blog. That's far more than I'd initially planned on writing when I started back in March (within this timeframe, anyway). I've written this quite a few times, but it bears repeating: thank you so much to everyone out there who's reading HCTD. Thank you as well to all of the bands and musicians that I've seen so far. Even if I didn't like your music, I applaud your efforts to create something and recognize the guts that it takes to get up on a stage for anyone to see and hear. "Great or small, you furnish your parts towards the soul."
This show would've attracted my interest from its size alone. Six bands in one night: three on the main stage, three down in the Basement. Not only that, among these six bands was The Violet Lights, a Los Angeles-based garage/new wave duo who played the Red Room this past winter. I saw them, liked their music and have been keeping tabs on them since then. Also, I recently had the chance to meet Travis and Jenn of ORRiginal Promotions, who set this show up. They struck me as good people and passionate about the local music scene, so I wanted to give them a little support.
Contrary to what some of my photos may suggest, a substantial group of people came down to Tom Grainey's this night (if you sell Rainier for 50 cents a can, they will come). However, most of them opted to hang out on the patio. I can't blame them for that: it was pretty warm inside and lovely outside. Hopefully, those folks got to overhear some of the music.
Starting off the night's music was Naomi Psalm and the Blue Cinema, a local singer/songwriter and her backing band. Andrew Crisp of the Boise Weekly likened Naomi Psalm to Sarah Mclachlan, and that possible comparison occurred to me too (Psalm lists her as an influence on her Facebook page as well). However, her thoughtful, sometimes playful lyrics and well-groomed folk-pop melodies reminded me more of Jonatha Brooke (if you don't know her, check her out; done some pretty good stuff). Her mild, pleasant, acoustic guitar-centered music would sound right at home on an adult contemporary station between Natalie Merchant (another influence her FB page cites) and KT Tunstall, but she had one heck of a secret weapon in Rob Hill's fluid, funky bass. Between songs, Psalm engaged in some friendly stage banter and cracked a charmingly bad joke. A good start to the evening.
After Naomi Psalm finished her set, I headed downstairs and caught most of the set by Tacos!, a stoner-metal duo from Seattle (that's the location listed on their Bandcamp page, anyway). Donovan Stewart's screamo vocals and Sabbath-esque riffs and Lupe Flores's thrashing, stomping drums were respectably brutal but somehow not as intimidating as other examples of their kind that I've heard. Maybe that's why I liked them.
I headed back upstairs after Tacos! wrapped up and watched local indie-rock group Junior Rocket Scientist, who were much more on their game than they were when I saw them at the Red Room last month. The dominating presence of Brian Anglin's Peter Hook-y bass in the mix underlined its function as the glue that holds together the harsh, Pixies-ish guitars, catchy tunes, synth hooks and propulsive drumming. I couldn't really hear the lyrics, but the music sounded so good that that didn't bother me too much.
After Junior Rocket Scientist, I went back downstairs to check out the Oklahoma City-based rock group An Airbag Saved My Life. Take your band name from a Radiohead song and you'll instantly raise a red flag with me. But hey, what the heck, I'll try anything once. And in the case of this group, I'll be more than happy to try them two or three more times. Between their fog machine, their hallucinatory recordings and guitar sounds and their ultra-syncopated, jaw-droppingly powerful drumming, this group would have made the show worthwhile all by themselves. Standing inside the small concert space in Grainey's Basement, AASML's massive sound enveloped me and the other ten or so people there to hear it. Dissonant but tuneful, moody but hard-rocking. Stunning.
The Violet Lights were up next on the main stage. Their set had a couple of missteps and technical difficulties, and their recorded bass, guitar and drum tracks sounded too quiet. But those aren't reasons to shoot a group down, especially one that makes music so tough, clever, catchy and danceable. Their songs had at least two or three hooks apiece and hid just the right amount of dirt under their well-manicured nails. Joel Nass worked the aching yowl in his voice for all that it was worth and carved out some sharp riffs on his electric and acoustic guitars. Meanwhile, Amber Garvey complemented her partner effectively with her low, breathy singing, cool demeanor and concise keyboard parts. I hope that The Violet Lights come around again sometime. And get the chance to turn up the volume a little.
One more word about those technical difficulties. A few songs into the set, Joel Nass's mic went out. The sound man fixed it quickly, though, and the incident did create this little Kodak moment:
Now if only my phone's camera didn't suck.
Unfortunately, I missed the sixth band of the night, whose set had already wrapped by the time that The Violet Lights finished. Apologies to Icarus the Owl.
You can find info about all of these groups on Facebook or elsewhere online. Also, for any touring bands out there, you can look up ORRiginal Promotions on FB and contact them at info@ORRiginalpromotions.com.