Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Storie Grubb and the Holy Wars, Hectic Hobo, Insomniac Folklore and Fleet Street Klezmer Band @ the Red Room (8/25/12)
I caught Storie Grubb and the Holy Wars' excellent set at the Mountain Music Sleepover on the 19th, but I didn't write about it because I didn't see enough of the other acts to do justice to the show as a whole. This show attracted my attention, therefore, because it gave me the chance to make up at least partially for that failing. It helped too, of course, that it featured three acts who were unknown to me.
A little over twenty people had braved the sickeningly smoky air and made it down to the Red Room by 8:45, and that number at least doubled as the night progressed. That made me glad: the acts this night certainly deserved a good audience.
Local group Fleet Street Klezmer Band kicked off the night. Although Gogol Bordello obviously sprang to mind, their Jewish/Gypsy/Russian folk tunes and jaunty tempos also reminded me a little of the Pogues in spirit. Of course, a big difference was that you could understand what leader Shlomo Kostenko said when he sang in English. The lyrics were definitely worth hearing too: my favorite song, "Dance of the Unemployed," was as detailed and bitter as you'd hope. ("Has nothing to do with anything today," Kostenko said. "At all.") Even when I didn't understand the words, the hearty, communal spirit of this group's music struck right to the heart of what I love most about folk and punk. Extra kudos for the rockin' clarinet solos.
Up next was Insomniac Folklore. "We come from places like Portland, Oregon and St. Louis, Missouri," leader Tyler Hentschel announced, "but mostly we come from a station wagon." Tom Waits may have set the template for their stomped-out beats, bluesy tunes, twisted lyrics and carny shtick, but this group's brains, chutzpah and good cheer put them on the right side of the line between influence and imitation. Hentschel's low, tongue-in-cheek vocals and winningly cartoonish stage persona found solid support in Amanda Curry's deadpan bass and the sweet backup vocals of Adrienne Curry and Wallace, "the world's only singing sheep!" The crowd held up their lighters during "Bodies and Arson!" and roared with laughter at the children's singalong, "Listen To Your Parents But Don't Trust the Government." Ultimate message: "L'Chaim to life."
After Insomniac Folklore came the Salt Lake City group Hectic Hobo. Their groove felt just a little stiff compared to the two preceding acts, but their swinging backbeat and gypsy folk/sea chanty tunes were greatly enjoyable nonetheless. Hasen Pfeffer's throaty groan and rasp served as yet another object lesson in how Tom Waits has corrupted our nation's youth. "The Ranger" let rip some stinging electric guitar solos, but Nicholas Newberry's accordion dominated the music.
Storie Grubb and the Holy Wars provided a fine ending to the night. Their set at the Mountain Music Sleepover planted the suspicion in my mind, and this set left no doubt: they have become one of the absolute best groups in town. Their indelible songs and riffs, sweet and sour vocals, thoughtful basslines, gorgeous accordion and turbo-charged drums all blended together and moved as one. It's just a pity that the crowd had thinned out pretty severely before they played.
You can find info about all these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.