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.

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