Monday, July 30, 2012

James Plane Wreck and Sad Horse @ the Red Room (7/28/12)

This show caught my attention because it featured James Plane Wreck, a local punk/hardrock-country band whom I've grown quite fond of, and a couple of groups I'd never encountered before.

I stopped by O'Michael's to wish Speedy Gray a belated Happy Birthday, so I didn't make it down in time to catch most of Go! Go! Jesus Genius's set.  Sorry about that, guys.  I'm sure I'll see you sometime soon.  Heck, with a name like that, how could I not?   Anyway, I was glad to see a decent enough crowd at this show.  It helped a little that the drummer for the out-of-state band, Sad Horse, had family around these parts.

James Plane Wreck played the first set (that I saw) this night and may have delivered their best performance yet (that I've seen).  Aaron Smith's winningly rough lead vocals and Shane Brown's jagged lead guitar rode atop Shaun Shireman's hard-driving basslines and Andrew Bagley's careening, unstoppable drumming.  Nearly everyone in the crowd moved up to the front of the stage as this group played, and rightly so.  Raucous, funny, smart and gloriously democratic in spirit, they reminded me of eveything that I love most about the Ramones and Hank Williams.

After James Plane Wreck came Sad Horse, a Portland-based, arty punk duo.  Their scrawny sound, deadpan lyrics, humorously yelped vocals and harshly catchy one-to-two-minute tunes called to mind the Minutemen, Sonic Youth and especially Wire.  Geoff Soule's guitar clanged, droned and freaked out while Elizabeth Venable pummeled her drumkit like it owed her an NEA grant.  Post-collegiate punk enthusiast that I am, I liked it fine.  It helped that they were smart enough to have a heart: their encore included an inspired, Lou Reed-esque cover of Dire Straits' "So Far Away."

You can look up info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fable Cry, The Green Zoo and Zvoov @ the Shredder (7/27/12)

This was a pretty good day for me.  I discovered that HCTD has been nominated for Best Local Blogger in Boise Weekly's Best of 2012.  I don't have a prayer of winning, but I'm truly honored to be nominated (and amazed, frankly--I've only been doing this for a few months).  Also, this day marked the 35th anniversary of the Record Exchange, a place that's very dear to my heart--I bought my copies of London Calling, Blood on the Tracks and Plastic Ono Band there--and a Boise cultural landmark.

Before I headed over to The Shredder to check out the show set up by Vagabond Promotions, I stopped by the Record Exchange and looked around for a few minutes.  I wound up buying myself a humdinger of an early birthday present: a used copy of a great 4-CD Otis Redding anthology.  It was a steal at $20, although for some reason, it didn't include disc three (it's ok, though--I went back and found it in the new arrivals used section).

Attendance was low, to put it mildly, for The Shredder's show.  I don't think that there were more than four or five people there besides me, Keesha Renna, the Shredder's staff and the musicians.  Admittedly, there wasn't much publicity for this: Vagabond Promotions' Facebook profile had an event page set up, but I didn't see any fliers for it or a listing on the Shredder's July calendar (though I did see one on their Reverb Nation page).  Of course, it probably didn't help that at least two of the originally scheduled acts had to cancel (including the group that I was most eager to see, The Finer Points of Sadism).  In spite of all this, I thought that this show turned out rather well.

Tennessee-based gypsy-punk duo Fable Cry started off the night.  These two were straight-up fun from their jaunty tempos and tunes to their proudly cartoonish singing, their playfully surreal banter and their tales of zombies, pirates and demented coyotes.  Brother Zach manically strummed his guitar and wore bells on his ankles to further accenuate the beat as he stomped it out.  Sister Kirstie bashed away on the drums and made her violin weep.  They would've made a helluva double bill with Dear Rabbit.

After Fable Cry came The Green Zoo.  All of my previous judgments on this Caldwell group, both positive and negative, still apply.  I will add, though, that I had a good laugh over their bassist's unintelligible comments and their guitar player's translations en espanol.  Not only that, I even heard some lyrics that I liked this time around.

Brooklyn-based math-rock trio Zvoov closed out the show.  I imagine that Television might've sounded a little like this group if they'd decided to go jazz and metal simultaneously.  Eric Hielscher's dynamite guitar riffs, Arthur Meacham's liquid basslines and John Swank's ferocious drumming powered through disorienting time signatures and changes.  Somehow, they managed to combine the mellow, contemplative feel of Adventure with the otherworldly, transcendent power of Marquee Moon.  Mercurial, hypnotic, hard-rocking.  Great stuff.

After Zvoov wrapped up, I made my way down to Tom Grainey's in time to catch a little bit of a.k.a. Belle's set (sorry about the picture quality; I dropped my digital camera off at my car and had to resort to using my phone again).  I stayed just long enough to hear them play "The Sweetest Sin" and a new number with the greatest title that I've heard in many a moon, "Jesus Christ, Goddamn You For Killing My Dog."  If all goes well, I'll get the chance to see a.k.a. Belle again in August.  Fingers crossed.

You can find info on all of these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Keesha Renna and Vagabond Promotions, who can be contacted at 1 (208) 283-0259 and at  Special thanks also to Justin Cantrell and The Shredder for letting me take pictures with my digital camera.  Oh, and should you feel inclined to vote for me in Boise Weekly's Best of 2012, you can go here.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Jac Sound, Bridgeport and Technicolor Hearts @ Grainey's Basement (7/26/12)

Part of me really wanted to see Crispin Glover at the Egyptian Theatre this night, but unfortunately, I couldn't justify spending the money for the tickets at this time (yay unemployment).  I couldn't get too down in the dumps, though.  One great thing about Boise nowadays: it's not wanting for cost-effective entertainment options.

A considerable number of folks came down to Grainey's Basement this night.  Most of them didn't stay for all the music (organized by Keesha Renna's Vagabond Promotions), but happily, they stayed for most of it.  The ratio of four or five girls to one guy didn't bother me at all either.

First up this night was local musician Jac Sound.  I've always liked this guy: he's got perfect pitch, a good sense of rhythm and a great sense of humor.  I can't think of anyone else around Boise who could cover "Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio and "All That She Wants" by Ace of Base in the same set and make them feel of a piece.  His originals aren't too shabby either.  He writes smart lyrics and unfailingly catchy tunes (though he may borrow from others sometimes--coulda sworn that he lifted the riff from Pink Floyd's "Money" for this one song).  His pleasant high tenor and his guitar/kick drum/hi-hat playing were in good form this night, and his overwhelmingly female audience applauded warmly.  I clapped but let the ladies do the cheering--figured that'd give the man a nice little ego boost.

After Jac Sound came Stephen Palin a.k.a. Bridgeport, whom Keesha Renna had shrewdly asked to play a set after a scheduling conflict prevented a touring group from appearing.  Palin did a good job, considering that he got this gig at the very last minute.  His gentle, charming folk-pop tunes provided an excellent transition from Jac Sound's more rocking material.  His brief set included a medley of Miley Cyrus's "Party In the U.S.A." and Blink-182's "What's My Age Again?", the latter of which went over very well indeed with the audience.

Austin-based art-pop duo Technicolor Hearts closed out the night's music.  Their thirty-minute set took a while to get started due to some technical difficulties, but it proved worth the wait.  Naomi Cherie's murmured vocals, solemn violin and skillful looping joined with Joseph Salazar's quietly arresting rhythm tracks and garage-y guitar to create truly dreamlike music.  Their twirling light show added further to the waking-dream feel of their performance.  It's too bad that more people didn't stay to watch this group.

You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.  You can contact Vagabond Promotions at 1 (208) 283-0259 and

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Ascetic Junkies and The Hokum Hi-Flyers @ the Flying M Coffee-Garage (7/25/12)

I swear, sometimes it feels like Treefort never ended.  Over the past two or three months, I've seen at least ten out-of-state groups who played there, I've missed a couple more and I know that at least five are coming back very soon (including Tartufi, who plays in or around Boise so often that they oughtta just buy a house here).  The chance to check out The Ascetic Junkies, whose Treefort set I'd missed, attracted me to this show out at Nampa's Flying M.  Also, they've just got one of the coolest names that I've heard in a while (Boom Chick might be their only competition in that regard).

This show had a $5 cover initially, but the organizer for the Flying M's shows, Nathan Walker, decided to make it donation-only due to the low turnout.  That was a smart move, as was his decision to open up the garage so that the folks outside could hear the music.  I dropped $5 in the donation can and parked myself at one of the wooden tables inside.

First up this evening were Scott Knickerbocker and Travis Ward from the Boise group The Hokum Hi-Flyers (and of course, Boise readers will probably also know Ward as the frontman for another group, Hillfolk Noir).  They were only a fraction of the Hi-Flyer's full lineup, Knickerbocker told the audience; they actually have six members currently.  From what I heard, they did just fine with two guys.  Knickerbocker's spirited banjo picking and charming, conversational singing meshed very nicely with Ward's more laconic guitar parts and slightly nasally delivery.  Whether playing their own songs or such old-timey chestnuts as "The Cuckoo," they loved the music wisely enough and well enough not to lay on the cornpone or the sepia tone too thick.  They made me think of those summer evenings of my childhood when my dad would listen to Mountain Stage and A Prairie Home Companion on the radio.

After The Hokum Hi-Flyers came The Ascetic Junkies.  This Portland-based group apparently played with a reduced lineup as well (their website lists a bassist and a drummer), but with Matt Harmon on guitar and Kali Giaritta on keyboard and percussion, they didn't seem to need much more.  I imagine that The Moldy Peaches might sound like this when they grow up a little, take some music lessons and find a good therapist.  Their peppy beat, winsome folk-pop tunes and high, clean voices partook of the childlike whimsy that's an indie staple nowadays, but their skipping, stuttering guitar riffs and runs and their quietly sophisticated arrangements bespoke the best kind of maturity (i.e. confident but not arrogant, experienced but not stodgy).  The same went for their wise, warm and witty lyrics.  My favorite of their many excellent originals was "Good News," a ditty about finding solace in the meaninglessness of existence.  Their set also included an inspired cover of Green Day's "Basket Case" (who knew that song had such great lyrics?).

One thing makes me curious, though.  This was the second group I've seen within a little over a week to cover Tom Waits's "Tango Til They're Sore."  Is this song gonna become as ubiquitous as "Hallelujah"?  I dunno.  Anyway, the Junkies did a good job with that one too.  Considering the dash of jazzy sultriness in Kali Giaritta's singing, though, I wonder what they could do with "Temptation."

You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Nathan Walker and the Flying M for letting me take pictures with a halfway decent camera.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Lost Lander and Atomic Mama @ Neurolux (7/24/12)

Yesterday hit an uncommonly sour note for me.  A couple of weeks ago, I got a new job after a little over a year of unemployment.  It seemed absolutely perfect: it'd let me make use of my English degree, it'd pay me enough to get by and it'd give me enough free time to keep this blog going.  After going in one day for a few hours of orientation, however, I didn't hear anything from this job for a week.  I emailed them and asked when I should come back in.  The response that I received informed me that several of their more seasoned personnel had left their positions and that my current skill set did not suit their needs at this time.  They encouraged me to contact them regarding possible available positions... in 2013.

I didn't let this get me too down, however.  For one thing, I've done enough moping in my life to know that it doesn't get you anywhere.  (Indeed, those of you who may have tallied how many times I've mentioned Nick Drake in this blog have probably deduced that I've done enough moping for three lifetimes.)  For another thing, I figured that my renewed unemployment would give me ample time to read the Elizabeth Bishop and Sam Cooke biographies that I found in the clearance section at Hastings.  For yet another thing, my mood couldn't darken much when I was going to see my second favorite Treefort act later that evening.

I counted about forty people when I reached Neurolux.  That in itself would've made for a larger crowd than Lost Lander played to back in March.  Happily, however, the audience at least doubled by the time that the Portland-based band took the stage.  It probably didn't hurt that they shared the bill with local favorites Atomic Mama, who had just returned from playing the Massv Music Festival over in Ketchum and the Underground Music Festival down in Denver.

Atomic Mama's opening set felt mellower and more casual than the other performances of theirs that I've caught.  I didn't consider that a bad thing, however.  Indeed, it only pushed to the forefront the playful funkiness that underlies their music (gotta love that falsetto on Daniel Kerr).  It also showed off just how tight and confident a unit these three guys have become--they only need to glance at the ball to knock it out of the park.

As at last month's Delicate Steve concert, Atomic Mama's grooviness was aided and abetted this night by a surreal, funny, galvanizing projection show.  Both of these came courtesy of antimagic, the joint project of local VJ's Tyler Walker and Jason Willford.  Jason and I go all the way back to elementary school (almost twenty years now).  I've been aware of his talent since I saw his student films back in the early 00's, and I'm overjoyed to see him firing on all cylinders now.

Soon after Atomic Mama came Lost Lander, whose performance was broadcast live on Radio Boise.  "Here's hoping that Lost Lander can maintain their edge," I wrote in my Treefort Top 10 post.  Right from the start, they showed that they've done just that and then some.  They kicked off this night's set with the last song from their album DRRT, "Your Name Is a Fire," and transmogrified it from a sprightly, folky bagatelle to a swaggering, funky show of force.  Every song that came after followed suit: each sounded just as good as the album version, and most sounded better.  Matt Sheehy's clean, beguiling tenor sang out clearly, strongly and without a trace of that phony Donovan-esque accent.  What's more, the rapport between Patrick Hughes's lithely powerful drumming, Dave Lowensohn's calm basslines, Sheehy's dreamily searing guitar work and Sarah Fennell's tender keyboard parts made unmistakably clear that this is a band, not a solo musician and his underlings.  And as if the pumped-up renditions of their original songs weren't proof enough of their sharpened edge, their encore included a tense, menacing cover of Bruce Springsteen's "State Trooper," which stood toe-to-toe with any version of that song that I've heard (Springsteen's, Steve Earle's, the Drive-By Truckers').

This performance deserved its live broadcast.  It's just too bad that the folks listening on the radio couldn't see antimagic's montages, which went with the songs like beauty goes with truth.

You can find info on Atomic Mama and Lost Lander on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Radio Boise.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tristan Andreas & Grant Olsen, Johnny Butler and Point Reyes @ Tom Grainey's (7/23/12)

Keesha Renna's Vagabond Promotions set up this avant-garde-ish show at Tom Grainey's, so it caught my attention pretty quickly.  And after listening to a couple of Point Reyes's songs on Bandcamp, I grew intrigued enough to mark it on my calendar.

There weren't many people at Grainey's when I got there, but the place got a surprising influx of people as the night wore on.  They didn't come for the music, but it made me happy to observe that everyone there was at least respectful of this night's various acts (and plenty were more than that).

First up were a pair of local musicians, Tristan Andreas (the gentleman standing and playing the monochord) and Grant Olsen (the gentleman sitting and playing the synthesizer).  Their spare yet tuneful and multi-textured instrumental music made me think of the B-sides of the great 70's David Bowie-Brian Eno collaborations (Low, Heroes), only more interesting.  I thought at first that this act might've been better suited for a place like the VAC, but I noted with pleasure that almost everyone by the bar paid very close attention.

Local musician Johnny Butler played after Tristan Andreas and Grant Olsen.  His astonishingly dexterous and inventive guitar playing would've made this show worthwhile all by itself.  The only sour notes of his set came in the rare moments when he opened his mouth.  The problem had less to do with his breathy, high-pitched singing than with his undistinguished, lovey-dovey lyrics.  Still, his ability to play his guitar as a stringed instrument and a percussion instrument simultaneously more than compensated.  Maybe listening to some Nick Drake would help Butler tone up his words a bit.

New York-based, experimental folk-pop quintet Point Reyes closed out the night.  I'm still struggling to think of some precedent for their playful, jittery, quizzical sound.  John Zorn?  Frank Zappa?  The African music that seems to be a hot trend among indie groups nowadays?  All of the above?  The answer may lie outside my musical knowledge at this time.  Their studiedly amateurish singing reminded me a little of something from K Records, but they arranged their ringing guitar, warm cello, cool xylophone and percolating drums with too much conscious craft to come across as your average ineptitude fetishist.  Not only that, the tidy chaos and quiet desperation of their lyrics could've come right out of a New Yorker or Harper's short story.  I started off unsure about Point Reyes but found that they grew on me as the set progressed (it helped a lot that they came off as much warmer and funnier than your average New Yorker or Harper's short story).  I probably wouldn't listen to their music on a regular basis, but I wouldn't mind hearing it again.

You can look up info on these musicians on Facebook and elsewhere online.  For any folks interested in booking shows around Boise, you can contact Vagabond Promotions by calling 1 (208) 283-0259 or emailing

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Hungry Hearts Tour @ the Red Room (7/21/12)

Sometimes, size does matter: this show might have attracted my attention just for its quantity of acts (six in all).  Of course, it did help that those acts included Piranhas, a local punk band I'd heard good things about but never seen, and The Acrotomoans, whom I like both as musicians and as people.

Though it improved as the night wore on, attendance was surprisingly meager for a Saturday show.  I sat at the bar before it began, read the Boise Weekly and wondered how big the crowd would be for karaoke at Neurolux this night.

Local punk band Piranhas opened the night's music.  These guys have been around the scene for a while: their lead singer talked about playing a show with his "godawful death metal band" back when the Red Room was J.D. & Friends, and someone I spoke with said that their lead guitarist has been in bands since before I was born.  I don't know about that last one, but in any case, all that time paying dues seems to have paid off.  They plowed through their catchy, mid-tempo tunes like a well-oiled machine, and all the while, their lead guitarist peeled off badass solos like they were nothing.  They weren't stunningly brilliant, but such unpretentious, consistent craftsmanship is hard enough to come by.

After Piranhas came Greenlander, a solo hip-hop act from Ohio.  He didn't rap so much as chant, but that didn't make much difference one way or the other.   The real attraction and point of his set were his relentless, robotically funky, industrial-tinged techno-beats.  They reminded me of the days when the Red Room was Terrapin Station and they had Nocturnum (goth/industrial night) every Sunday.

Up after Greenlander was JE double F, an MC from New Jersey.  While his movie clip intros and smooth yet disquieting beats reminded me a little of the Samurai Champloo soundtrack (yeah, I'm an anime nerd--what about it?) and the Wu-Tang Clan, his smart, funny, fierce lyrics reminded me of the Clash.  My hand would've probably cramped up and been useless for the rest of the night if I'd tried to transcribe all of his great class-conscious, anti-war, anti-corporate, anti-consumerist rhymes.  He had much better flow than Joe Strummer too--probably closer to Ghostface Killah or Raekwon.

After JE double F finished up, Ohio-based rapper MC Homeless took the stage.  Hismindbogglinglyfastflowmadeitalittlehardtounderstandwhathewassayingsometimes, but thankfully, he varied it now and again, which gave me the chance to savor both his sharp wit and his verbal dexterity.  And then for something completely different, he dropped in a couple of uproarious hardcore rants about Twin Peaks ("DADDY LOVES YOU!").

The Acrotomoans played next and delivered a focused, high-energy set.  Perhaps recording and releasing their first album recently gave them an extra boost in confidence.  In any case, their driving basslines, buzzsaw guitar riffs, machine-gun drumming and roaring vocals hit like a souped-up V-8 hearse.  My heart melted when Luke Gushwa dedicated their punked-up version of Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling In Love" to his girlfriend, and I grinned when they stayed onstage a couple of minutes past their cut-off time to play a raucous cover of "Blitzkrieg Bop."  And I didn't mind at all when they dedicated "Left to Rot" to MC Homeless instead of me.

I dashed down to 10th St. Station after the Acrotomoans wrapped up to wish a friend Happy Birthday, buy him a drink and give him his present (a copy of Poet: A Tribute to Townes Van Zandt--great stuff).  Unfortunately, I didn't make it back in time to catch San Diego-based punk band Break the Cycle's set.  Sorry, fellas.

I ended my night chatting with some friends at Neurolux, which didn't quite have five times as many people as the Red Room did.  Oh well.  I suppose that the populist in me can support karaoke in theory, and it's cool that Neurolux undoubtedly made some good coin that night.  Still... Sigh.  Oh well.  "Doh-on't stop...belee-e-vin'..."

You can find info about all of these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Maldives and Sun Blood Stories @ Neurolux (7/20/12)

This show caught my attention because it featured Sun Blood Stories, a local act I've meant to see for a while, and The Maldives, a folk/country-rock band from Seattle who played here during Treefort.  I considered checking them out then, but, well...

Yeah.  Wasn't gonna happen.

Neurolux wasn't nearly as crowded this time around.  At first, I thought that maybe everybody who would've been interested in this show was over at the Eagle River Pavillion watching Chris Isaak.  However, a decent enough crowd built up by the time that the Maldives played (about 45 or so people, by my count).

First up this night was Sun Blood Stories a.k.a. local musician Ben Kirby.  If the then-meager crowd bothered Kirby, he didn't show it (probably helped that a couple of ladies were dancing during his set).  His languidly confident baritone made me think a little of Gregg Allman, but his lyrics about sex, suicide, killing giants and trees eating truckers alive made me think a lot of Tom Waits.  Whatever he sang, his dependable sense of rhythm and his blues-steeped guitar rendered it listenable and danceable.  Welcome to the new weird America.

After Sun Blood Stories finished, The Maldives took the stage.  Even if their lead singer hadn't worn a Neil Young t-shirt, this band's folk melodies, tenor harmonies, raw guitar solos, calm banjo picking and cryptic, ominous lyrics would've indicated a familiarity with Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, After the Gold Rush and Harvest.  Their rootsy eccentricity felt too willful and self-conscious for their rave-ups to rawk as much as they wanted, but the traces here and there of John Prine's homely warmth and goofy wisdom compensated.  As did their three-times-as-good-as-Ralph-Molina lady drummer.

You can find info on The Maldives and Sun Blood Stories on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Duck Club Presents.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Storie Grubb and the Holy Wars, New York Rifles and CAMP @ the Red Room (7/18/12)

This show excited me because it heralded the return of Storie Grubb and the Holy Wars, a local group that I've always liked but never had the chance to write about (until this show, they hadn't played live since Treefort).  Of course, it didn't hurt that one of Twin Falls' finest, CAMP, would be playing a set also.

Storie Grubb has quite a healthy fanbase around Boise, so I'd anticipated a substantial turnout.  No such luck: I don't think that the audience count rose above fifteen, and that number includes me, a friend whom I'd dragged along and the bar staff.  So it goes, I guess.  There'll be more Storie Grubb gigs soon (hopefully, anyway).

CAMP started off the night.  They played with just the three members shown above, but they didn't need anything more to deliver a good performance.  The basslines sounded as fluid and driving as ever, the drumming sounded as dynamic as ever, and the psychedelic guitar sounded as mercurial as ever.  Listening to them this night, I reflected that it almost doesn't seem right to brand this group's music shoegaze: it's so energetic and outgoing that it seems to throw its eyes everywhere.

After CAMP came the Portland-based trio New York Rifles.  I felt sorriest for this group about the show's low attendance: their performance deserved a crowd at least three or four times bigger.  This band's music was as wiry as their lead singer's frame.  Nate James's clipped drumming, Jamie Gould's big, tuneful basslines and Scott Young's slashing riffs, piercing solos and high, sly singing served up unfaltering, poppy punk tunes (or punky pop tunes, whichever you prefer).  Hopefully, these guys'll come back around sometime soon and play to a larger audience.

Storie Grubb and the Holy Wars closed out the night.  Their time away seems to have done them a world of good: this may well have been the strongest and most assured set that I've seen them play so far.  Their bass player, Luna Michelle, told me that they won't wear costumes onstage anymore.  It shouldn't make much difference; their music is all that they need.  Storie Grubb's irresistible melodies, sweet harmonies, steady beat, clean guitars and fancifully sardonic lyrics don't remind me of anything so much as the Doug Yule-era Velvet Underground (though their drummer rocks so hard that he's closer to DJ Bonebrake or Keith Moon than to Maureen Tucker).  Their speeded-up/slowed-down versions of songs that I've heard several times before sounded so right-on-the-money that I seemed to be hearing them for the first time.  It's good to have them back.

You can find info about these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.

The Soft White Sixties, Tropical Punk and Lakefriend @ Neurolux; The First Borns @ the Red Room (7/17/12)

As soon as I learned about this show, I put it down on my schedule.  I've been a fan of The Soft White Sixties since I saw their first show in Boise last December.  That was one wild time--people dancing, screaming, climbing onto the Red Room's stage, hopping around and slapping the band members' butts.  Then came the Sixties' Treefort set, by the end of which their lead singer, Octavio Genera, was literally swinging from the rafters before an ecstatic capacity crowd at, once again, the Red Room.  Considering the much higher ceiling at Neurolux, I doubted that Genera could pull off that stunt again--though if he did, that would really have been something--but no way was I gonna miss this San Francisco band's third go-round.

First up this evening was Caldwell-based group Lakefriend, who delivered a much stronger performance than they did at the Red Room last month.  Their sunny guitars, straight-ahead basslines and hyperkinetic drumming zoomed, swooped and soared as one.  Their predominantly instrumental music sounded far less dark and brooding than my beloved Red Hands Black Feet, and I considered that a good thing; as with a number of the other Caldwell bands that I've seen, they seemed to revel in the simple joy of being young and healthy.  The occasional rough patch in their playing only accentuated that feeling.

After Lakefriend came the Nashville-based garage-rock quartet Tropical Punk.  Their lead singer's sneering, Dylanesque sprechgesang started to wear thin as the set progressed, but their poppy tunes, humourously blunt lyrics, harsh guitars, grounding basslines and lean, mean drumming more than compensated.  Besides, if I'd wanted something gentle and sensitive, I'd have stayed at home and played my Nick Drake albums.

The Soft White Sixties took the stage next.  The energy level of this night's show didn't hit the 10 or 11 of the previous two, but the slyly intricate arrangements and the superior songcraft pushed it to a good solid 8 or maybe 9.  The way that Aaron Eisenberg and Joshua Cook's guitars, Ryan Noble's bass and Joey Bustos's drums weaved and flowed together called to my mind the Rolling Stones at their slickest and sharpest ("Start Me Up," "Miss You," "Beast of Burden," like that).  At the head of it all rode Octavio Genera, who crooned, drawled, purred and belted the songs masterfully.  Nearly everyone in the audience moved close to the stage and stayed there for the duration of the set.  One of the guys in the band called this show a "redemption" for them (they'd had some trouble on the road before arriving here).  For me and the other folks in the crowd, it almost felt like a benediction.

A gentleman I spoke with recently said he thought that The Soft White Sixties had what it took to be huge.  I agree completely.

After the Sixties finished, I walked over to the Red Room in time to catch a set by local trio The First Borns.  Their trancey music provided a nice coda to my night.  The gentle, detached singing rendered the simple tunes even more haunting, and both found support in the high-pitched, distorted bass parts, the droning guitar and the effectively spare drumming.  This was my idea of good late-night music.

You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Radio Boise.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Evil Wine Season 2 Premiere @ the Red Room (7/16/12)

Although I might not have written about it here, I'd have gone to this even if there wasn't any live music.  For one thing, I dig The Evil Wine Show--if you're down with absurdist, satirical raunch, you can't do better around these parts.  For another thing, this show doubled as a birthday celebration for Wes Malvini, one of the two deviants behind Evil Wine (the other being Dustin Jones) and the man in charge of booking at the Red Room.  Wes does a good job on both fronts and is a decent guy besides, so I wanted to show my support.

Happily, a lot of other folks apparently felt the same way.  According to the Boise Weekly, about 100 people showed up to this shindig.  You can read the article that I linked to for details on the episode; I'll just stick to the music.  Actually, before I begin, I have to share this video, which appeared in the episode.  It'll give those unfamiliar with Evil Wine an idea of what to expect.

Watched it?  Good.  Don't worry, the scars won't be that bad.  Moving right along...

Opening the evening was Oakland-based musician Flip Cassidy.  Even if he hadn't opened with "Tango Til They're Sore" from Rain Dogs, I'd have guessed that this dude has listened long and hard to his Tom Waits records.  Cassidy joyously belted his blues/murder ballad/gospel-based original songs in a friendly, phlegmy voice.  The clanging tone of his energetically strummed guitar evoked a merry jaunt through a scrapyard.  Damn good fun.

After Flip Cassidy came the San Francisco-based folk-rock band Dum Spiro Spero.  Their Celtic-flavored music had a strong beat and sustained the irreverent tone established by Flip Cassidy's set.  Driving guitar and banjo joined with haunting fiddle, solemn accordion and agreeably straightforward vocals.  In a way, it was too bad that this group played so early in the evening: a lot more folks would have probably danced if they'd had more time to drink.

After Dum Spiro Spero finished their set, the first episode of Evil Wine Season 2 premiered. After that, local one-man act The Sneezz kicked off the after-party.  His performance this night was a bit more relaxed than the one that I caught back in May but no less enjoyable.  His mind-boggling bass playing channeled Les Claypool, and his drum tracks got the people dancing.

Cerberus Rex played next and delivered a solid, ear-and-shin-vibrating set.  Drummer Jake Hite was in particularly good form, and Z.V. House's raw, kick-out-the-jams solos complemented Pat Perkins's cooler, more contained guitar work.  Listening to this band a second time, I found something downright cathartic about their music.  It seemed designed to shoot straight into the id and blast out any dark desires lurking within.  In that way, it tied in nicely with The Evil Wine Show's m.o. and provided the perfect ending to the night.

You can look up info on these bands on Facebook and elsewhere online.  For episodes of The Evil Wine Show and more, go to