Saturday, September 29, 2012

Deerhoof, Buke and Gase, Raleigh Moncrief and Luke Wyland @ the VaC (9/27/12)

I knew that I'd heard of Deerhoof from somewhere before, and plenty of people whom I respect were excited about this show, so I marked it down on my calendar.  Then I remembered how I'd first heard about this group: Robert Christgau panned one of their albums pretty hard a few years ago.  Then I listened to some of their stuff and came away with severely mixed feelings.  In the end, however, I took it as a promising sign that I liked their newest stuff most and headed down to the VaC after work.

I counted a little over twenty people when I arrived.  Pretty thin for a show this big.  I figured that more people would show up soon enough.  Boy, was I right.  In the meantime, I sat back by the sound booth and listened to the very odd mix on the PA system (butt-rock, Andrews Sisters...)

First up this night was Luke Wyland.  I still have a hard time understanding why I liked this solo performance more than the one with his band, AU, at the Red Room last month.  The best I can come up with is that it might've impressed me more how one guy could conjure up such massive, thunderously serene tunes with only a tricked-out keyboard, some loops and his voice.  It may have helped too that the waves of sound subsumed the vocals (though admittedly, they didn't sound that bad either).  In any case, a fine start to the evening.

After Luke Wyland came musician Raleigh Moncrief.  His sweet tunes and clean, ringing 12-string guitar sounded just fine, but his congested, affected vocals sounded almost like a parody of the swoony singer-songwriter.  "You guys want a fast one or a slow one?" he asked the crowd at one point.  After a beat, he confessed, "I don't really have a fast one."

The New York-based duo Buke and Gase played next.  Aron Sanchez's stomping beats and slashing, disjointed riffs served as the engine while Arone Dyer's piercing wail steered the car.  Their ominous, spacey, eccentric yet still catchy tunes got the crowd on their feet and drew them towards the stage.  "Do we have time for two more?" Dyer asked near the end of their set.  "Yes!" somebody in the crowd shouted back.

After Buke and Gase came Deerhoof.  I can't deny that this group has considerable talent: their jagged riffs, slamming drums and smoothly jerky grooves prove consistently interesting if not pleasureable, and at their best (e.g. "Breakup Songs" and "There's That Grin" from their latest album), they can be funny as hell.  That said, their music as a whole feels so fussy and contained that they come across not so much as a rock band but as a simulation of one.  Emblematic of this, I thought, was how they handled a string breaking midway through their first song.  Whereas other bands might choose to keep the momentum going, finish the song and then change the string, Deerhoof chose to bring the show to a screeching halt, change it and then pick up where they left off like nothing happened.  It felt almost like a machine stopping because one little part was malfunctioning.

Also, I've tried to adjust for postmodernism and over-sensitivity, but for the life of me, I can't shake the feeling that there's something vaguely racist in how this group employs Satomi Matsuzaki's chirpy, kawaii voice and accent as a joke and a sound effect.  Don't get me wrong: I'm sure that the other guys in the band are all nice, polite, left-leaning fellas who wouldn't dream of telling a n***er joke or attending Hammerfest.  Still, the way that the music incorporates the otherness of Matsuzaki's singing into its brand identity--the way that it uses her foreignness to say, "Ooh!  Look how arty and weird and unique all of this is!"--sticks in the craw of this fourth-generation Japanese-American (well, half-Japanese, anyway).

Now, with that said, I should add that Matsuzaki's bouncy, friendly, utterly charming stage presence helped alleviate some of my misgivings.  I wish that I had a picture of when she hopped down from the stage and sang among the crowd.  Also, the rapport between the four bandmates and the visceral force of their music live helped render their simulacrum much more persuasive than their recordings did.  I can't call this performance one of the year's best, but I certainly found it one of the most thought-provoking.

You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Duck Club Presents.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fanno Creek and Animal Eyes @ the Red Room (9/26/12)

I missed the set by Shades last Sunday, which made me especially eager to catch their set this night.  The presence on the bill of two bands unknown to me added to my interest in this show.

Except for a few people out on the patio, the Red Room was all but deserted when I got down there around 9 pm.  However, much to my surprise, more and more people arrived as the night wore on. Maybe they all came over from the Crux after the Awful Truth/With Child/A Seasonal Disguise show wrapped up.

The Portland-based band Fanno Creek started off the night's music.  Their mix of sweet folk-country melodies and harmonies, jangly guitar drone and steady beats made me think at first of Buck Owens if he fell in love with the Velvet Underground.  Then they started letting rip with some solos while their rhythm section bobbed and weaved.  After that, they just made me think of Fanno Creek.

Up next was Animal Eyes from Alaska (seen here with Fanno Creek pitching in on percussion).  Their glittering guitars, pounding basslines and percolating drums took the night from Bakersfield down to Africa.  Then the rhythm section hit overdrive and they rumbled around the indie-rock superhighway for a while.  It made me glad to see the crowd really start to build around the time of this set.

Unfortunately, midnight had rolled around by the time that Animal Eyes finished and Shades began setting up their gear.  I got the feeling that I'd have to wait a lot longer to see Shades play, and since I needed to work in seven hours, I called it a night.  Sorry about that, folks.  Hopefully, I'll get the chance to see them again sometime soon.

You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Wes Malvini and the Red Room.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hume, CAMP and Urb @ the Red Room (9/22/12)

This show caught my attention initially because it gave me the chance to see two groups unknown to me and the local band Shades, whom I haven't seen in I don't know how long.  Then, as an extra bonus, the Twin Falls/Boise band CAMP got added to the bill.  Yeah, I needed to work at seven the next morning, but a show like this promised to be worth a little sleep deprivation.
I left the house a little late due to some catch-up work for this blog, but I figured I'd have plenty of time before the show began.  Imagine my surprise when I got to the Red Room and found that the opener had already started.  What is this world coming to?  Anyway, I saw a respectable enough 30-plus people there when I arrived.
Local band Urb played first.  I liked well enough what I caught of their set--steady drumming, gliding basslines, searing guitar.  A little stiff-jointed and maybe a little reminiscent of Stargaze Unlimited, but worth keeping tabs on.

CAMP took the stage after Urb.  Aside from a couple of issues with Cameron Andreas's pedals (which kinda fit in with the overall sound anyway), their scorching guitar, their smooth, nimble basslines and their malleable drumming all sounded in fine form.  Adding to the music's power was a trippy projection show courtesy of the gentlemen at antimagic.  The beginning of a beautiful friendship, I hope.

After CAMP came Hume.  Between their serene bass, their mind-bending waves of guitar distortion and their seismic dual drumming, this Baltimore-based band had the crowd in its thrall.  When combined with antimagic's dazzling montages, the effect was simply overpowering.  Definitely worth keeping tabs on this group.

Unfortunately, I had to leave before Shades played.  I can handle a little sleep deprivation, but the voices start talking a little too loudly when I don't get at least four hours of shut-eye.  Oh well.  I'll get to see them soon, I'm sure.

You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Duck Club Presents.

The David Liebe Hart Band, the Jerkwadz and Slave Graves @ the Red Room (9/20/12)

I'll confess: I'd never heard of David Liebe Hart until this show.  I knew of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, sure, but when it came to Adult Swim, I'd always preferred watching The Venture Brothers and The Boondocks.  But anyway, the right honorable Wes Malvini's excitement about this show got me curious.  I watched a clip of Hart on Tim and Eric singing his song "Salame" with one of his puppets and found it... interesting, so I marked this show down on the calendar.

The crowd started off pretty thin--I counted only twelve people inside--but grew to a decent thirty-plus.  I sat at the end of the bar closest to the stage, listened to the Jerkwadz do their soundcheck and then watched the local band Slave Graves set up a drumkit, a Mac and some humongous speakers.  That looked... interesting.

Slave Graves started off the night.  The funniest line of the night came during their soundcheck: "I'm too loud."  Even if they hadn't said that they wore their red and green plaid flannel shirts in honor of Red Green, I'd have figured out that their manic drumming, blaring noise samples and dunderheaded lyrics added up to one big joke.  As noise/junk-rock goes, not bad, but definitely not as witty as Microbabies.

The Jerkwadz played next with J.R. from local punk band Wilt Chamberlin's Baby sitting in on drums.  Aside from sounding just a little sluggish on "Shotgun," he hit quick and hard enough to give the simple basslines, buzzing guitar and mega-catchy tunes the support that they needed.  Meanwhile, Jimmy Sinn's strong voice sounded in good form.  And speaking of singing, J.R. got to demonstrate that his pipes aren't too bad either, serenading the crowd when Jimmy Sinn and Cacie Lee had to swap out basses.

I just wish I could've gotten a decent picture of the grin on his face when he was done.

The David Liebe Hart Band played next.  Hart's guileless stage presence and charmingly bald-faced lyrics landed somewhere between Wesley Willis and Jonathan Richman (probably a little closer to the former).  Two nifty things, though: 1) the music landed a little closer to the latter (pleasantly utilitarian punk), and 2) Hart sang better than both of them (man had some belting power).  A Christian Scientist hymn set to music rocked just as nicely as original songs about Marlo Thomas, the Union Pacific and a camp counselor who put poisoned mushrooms in people's clothes.  And for an encore of sorts, Hart busted out a puppet and sang a couple more songs.  The first was a version of "Salame" with altered lyrics due to Warner Bros. owning the rights to the original (that got a big boo from the crowd).  The second was a song about a lady who directed his public access show and who dumped him for a guy with ten kids (so did that).

You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Wes Malvini, Evil Wine and the Red Room.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Henry Rollins @ the Knitting Factory (9/18/12)

Even though this show didn't really have to do with music, I'd resolved to write about it.  Henry Rollins has been a huge inspiration to me for years.  From the music that he made with Black Flag and Rollins Band to his many books and spoken-word recordings/performances, the man has consistently shown intelligence, dedication and unflinching honesty.  He's not afraid to speak his mind, he tries not to take himself too seriously, he works hard and he has always seemed willing to go out and learn new things.  I try to emulate these qualities in my own life.

I'd originally planned to get down to the Knitting Factory good and early, since I figured that if any show would start on time, this one would.  Unfortunately, I'd gotten tied up with some stuff at home, so I didn't get there until around 8:05 pm and wound up missing the first few minutes of the show.  That wasn't too bad, though: Rollins had a LOT of things to talk about.

Clocking in at about two and a half hours, this spoken-word show actually lasted longer than some concerts I've been to.  Topics included Rollins's thoughts on this year's Republican National Convention (yes, he talked about Clint Eastwood and the chair), some clear-eyed reminiscences of his Black Flag days, his experiences while he was in North Korea and checking out Kim Il-sung's grave, his thoughts on the abortion debate (to wit: if you don't have a vagina, shut up) and his various misadventures while filming his show for National Geographic (I gotta wonder: who in God's name came up with the idea of "bulldogging" an alligator?).

As I watched and listened to Rollins, it occurred to me that you might think of shows like this one as a culmination of the various aspects of his fifty years on this earth (so far).  By talking for so long with barely a pause and without taking a drink of water (in spite of his profuse sweating), he probably showed something of the stamina and determination that saw him through countless gigs singing "My War" or "Liar."  The epic similes and surreal flights of fancy may have showed how writing several books has sharpened his literary skills.  The pacing of his tales, the telling details and the different voices that he slipped into may have evinced the same as well as lessons learned from acting in the odd movie and TV show (by his own admission, he's not much of an actor, but hey, you pick up a few things if you do anything long enough...).  Finally, his reflections on himself and the world around him gave the impression of a man who's been through more than most of us can probably imagine but who hasn't let it kill his compassion, his curiosity, his sense of humor or his determination to do the right thing.

I hung back after the show ended and watched people file out.  I noted the broad age range of the audience.  I thought about ending this post with something about how both younger and older folks could've taken something from this show, but that sounded too damn smug.  I'll just say that I took something from it and let it go at that.

For more info on Henry Rollins, you can go to and search elsewhere online.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Vibrators, The Akabane Vulgars on Strong Bypass, Piranhas and Chris McFarland @ the Shredder (9/17/12)

I got very, very excited about this show.  The Vibrators are one of the great unknown UK punk pioneers: they formed in 1976, played the same spots that the Clash and the Sex Pistols did, opened for Iggy Pop and Ian Hunter (Mott the Hoople).  I discovered their music back when I was in college, and for a while, I actually preferred their debut album Pure Mania to Never Mind the Bollocks.  I missed their show at the Shredder last year because, frankly, I didn't believe the flyers that I saw around town ("C'mon, it can't be THE Vibrators, right?  Gotta be somebody else...").  I wasn't gonna make the same mistake twice.

I can't really understand why attendance was so dismal for this show; from what I've heard, the Vibrators' last go-round was something to see/hear.  I just know that it was too bad that the audience didn't get over twenty-five.  This was something to see/hear too.

I missed Michael Dean Damron's set, but I did get down to the Shredder in time to catch the set by Brooklyn musician Chris McFarland.  It might've just been me, but I thought I heard a little Springsteen in this dude's sturdy tenor and mid-tempo, tunefully punkish songs.  In any case, his voice, songwriting, ringing twelve-string guitar and well-crafted backing tracks got over well enough.

Up next were the local punk group Piranhas, whose performance reinforced my good impression of them.  Solidly crafted tunes; friendly, high-energy frontman; sharp lead guitarist; unobtrusive rhythm section.  Not a New York steak, but a damn tasty hamburger.

After Piranhas came the Akabane Vulgars on Strong Bypass, an all-female trio from Japan.  As soon as you read that last part, I'm sure that some of you hipsters immediately thought "Shonen Knife."  A bit of advice: push that thought out of your mind right now before this group comes and rips your head off.  "Fierce" barely begins to describe this group's mix of bluesy, swaggering grooves, metallic riffs, shrieking solos, bone-crushing bass and drums and howled, bellowed vocals.  Their "House of the Rising Sun" cover made Eric Burdon sound like Anthony Hegarty.  Would've been worth the price of admission all by themselves.

After the Akabane Vulgars came the Vibrators.  To their credit (considering their history), they didn't seem to let the meager crowd faze them very much.  Even more to their credit (considering their age), the intensity level of their performance didn't pale in comparison to that of their Japanese opener.  The Vibrator's set was comprised predominantly of songs from their first two albums, Pure Mania and V2.  That was to be expected, I suppose, but certainly not unwelcome.  In fact, the V2 material sounded a lot better than I remembered (I've never been a big fan of that album, but I might need to dust it off now).  And thanks to the rapid-fire drumming, zooming bass, rip-roaring guitar and winningly rough vocals, the newer material rawked just as hard.  My only real complaint was that they didn't play my favorite Pure Mania song, "Into the Future" ("Gonna be a new world./ I'm lookin' for a cheap thrill.").  It's okay, though: I consoled myself with their renditions of "I Need a Slave" and "London Girls," which kicked as much ass as the album versions if not more.

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

Friday, September 21, 2012

Icon of Coil and [:SITD:] @ the Shredder (9/16/12)

In spite of my 90-95% black attire and my undying love for writers like Baudelaire and bands like Joy Division, I've never considered myself a full-fledged Goth.  For one thing, I tan way too easily.  For another, I don't know the first damn thing about make-up or eye shadow.  Nevertheless, I have great affection for the folks who comprise the Goth community around Boise; many of them are good people, and hanging out with them has helped me figure out a lot about myself.  This show caught my attention, consequently, because it had been set up by Ginger Christiansen of Wicked Wonderland, who served as the guiding light and driving force of the scene for quite a while until she moved to Seattle.

I counted about thirty people when I made it down to the Shredder.  That number would grow to about forty by the time that the show began.  All of the PVC, leather, fishnets, piercings and high-heeled boots around me brought back fond memories of hanging out at Nocturnum on Sunday nights at Terrapin Station.  It felt good to see these folks congregated together again, though I did wonder where the hell they all were when Peter Murphy rolled through town.

First up this night was [:SITD:], an EBM/Industrial trio from Germany.  Their martial beats, harsh riffs, screeching textures and guttural vocals hit so hard that you almost didn't notice how catchy they were.  The mix of egalitarianism and authoritarianism in this music intrigued me: it sounded simple enough that anyone could get into it, but its unyielding quality ensured that only a select few would.  That could have proved ominous, but vocalist Carsten Jacek's open, brawny, down-to-earth stage presence helped guard against any overtones of Deutschland uber alles.  I took his Hank III t-shirt as a good sign too.

After [:SITD:] came the Norway duo Icon of Coil.  Their take on Industrial proved less monolithic than their opener's but didn't suffer at all for that.  Indeed, the layered, fluid intricacy of their beats and hooks just gave the crowd even more incentive to dance.  His black hair slicked back, tattoos covering his arms, prowling back and forth with the mic in his hand, Andy LePlegua looked as if he could've been the frontman for some American hardcore band.  At various points, however, he shifted his baritone growl into a smooth croon that recalled Peter Murphy in its brooding theatricality.  Enthralling and exhilarating.

After Icon of Coil finished, Ginger Christiansen, the Red Queen herself, took the stage.  Although she may have moved out of state, Christiansen pledged her continued love for and devotion to the children of the night here.  She gave them a run-down of upcoming Wicked Wonderland shows and events and urged them to attend.  "And it's never been about me," she added.  "It's about you."  Amen, sister.

You can find info on [:SITD:], Icon of Coil and Wicked Wonderland on Facebook and elsewhere online.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dave Alvin and the Guilty Ones and Bill Coffey and His Cash-Money Cousins @ the VAC (9/15/12)

I always like to tell people that Dave Alvin's old band, the Blasters, was "the band that the Stray Cats wanted to be."  That's not entirely correct--for one thing, it seems to give Brian Setzer way too much credit--but I do think that there's a little bit of truth there.  The Blasters have always felt tougher, more real to me than the Stray Cats have.  Part of that has to do with the fact that they learned their chops directly from old-school bluesmen like Big Joe Turner and T-Bone Walker.  More important than that, however, is the fact that, as far as roots-based dudes go, you won't find too many better songwriters than Dave Alvin.  When you add that to my very fond memories of his 2007 Alive After Five performance, you can understand why this show excited me so much.

I counted over seventy people when my friend and I arrived at the VAC around 8:20.  I was disappointed but not terribly surprised to see that, aside from another friend of mine who showed up a bit later, we were possibly the two youngest people in the entire audience (did I mention that I turned 30 this year?).  You'd have thought that at least a few rockabilly cats would've turned out for this deal.  Oh well.  At any rate, it did my heart good to see roots-savvy folks like the Country Club/Frim Fram Four's Jonah Shue and a.k.a. Belle's Catherine Merrick in attendance.

Local musician Bill Coffey opened for Dave Alvin this night.  His website says that he's been compared to Gram Parsons and Bruce Springsteen, but much more than the Grievous Angel or the Boss, Coffey's sly, conversational tenor and hard-luck romanticism made me think of Steve Earle.  Whomever you compare him to, the man definitely knew his way around his own well-turned phrases and varnished tunes.  So did his backing band, which featured a.k.a. Belle's Chris Galli on bass, Thomas Paul on guitar and mandolin and, most prominently, Dave Manion on lead guitar.

Not long after Bill Coffey and His Cash-Money Cousins wrapped up, Dave Alvin and the Guilty Ones took the stage.  I don't think that hero worship alone tempts me to call this the best performance of the year so far (leaving alone some of the sets that I saw at Treefort).  It has more to do with the fact that, while Toots and the Maytals' set showed an elder statesman hanging in there and Jason Isbell's set showed a young turk building his rep, this set showed a seasoned pro getting even better.  Alvin's songbook has grown so impressive that he opened with perhaps its crown jewel, "4th of July," and the rest of the set didn't suffer for it.  Indeed, newer songs like "Harlan County Line," "Johnny Ace Is Dead," "Black Rose of Texas" and "Run Conejo Run" held up very well against established classics like "Long White Cadillac" and "Marie Marie."  Not only that, Alvin's baritone sprechgesang has become so nuanced and assured that I'd have been willing to contest his claim that his brother Phil sings "Cadillac" better than he does.  Meanwhile, Chris Miller's weeping, stinging slide guitar complemented the leader's fiery soloing while Brad Fordham's elastic basslines and Lisa Pankratz's strong, precise drumming kept everything moving forward.  And to top it all off, Alvin's many warm, funny stories and dedications added a wonderfully earthy, intimate feel to the whole affair.

It was just too bad that more youngbloods weren't there.  Shows like this don't come along too often.

You can find info about Dave Alvin and Bill Coffey on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Sam Stimpert and the Visual Arts Collective.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sun Blood Stories and Brother Dan @ the Red Room (9/12/12)

I was good and tired this last Wednesday evening.  I'd started a new job on Monday and been working from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the past three days.  I took Tuesday night off to catch up on some work and some rest (the latter part didn't pan out so well), but I didn't want to miss Ben Kirby a.k.a. Sun Blood Stories play the Red Room with a full band.

There were about twenty folks there when I arrived around 8.  By the time that the show began, that number had more than doubled.  I sat at the bar, nursed a PBR and prayed to God that I could stay awake.

Sun Blood Stories played this night with a bass player, a drummer and Brother Dan a.k.a. Daniel Kerr from Atomic Mama.  They kicked things off with a SBS original and made it sound like a lost Chess single: a nice, laid-back groove carried Ben Kirby's voice along while Kerr blew some mean Otis Spann-esque harmonica licks.

After another song, Daniel Kerr took over on guitar and vocals while Kirby took the bass and the bassist played keyboard.  For the rest of the night, it went like that: Kerr and Kirby took turns on lead vocals while everybody except the drummer swapped instruments.  Between Kirby's baritone drawl/growl, Kerr's portentous, moaning tenor and their ominous, sometimes bizarre lyrics, it sounded like what you might get if Tom Waits and Robert Plant decided to throw something together.  Elegantly stinging slide guitar, eerie keyboard and Coltrane-esque saxophone conspired with slippery basslines and steadfast, restrained drumming to get the crowd moving.  All in all, I thought this well worth a little extra sleep deprivation.  Even their stiff cover of Booker T. and the MG's "Green Onions" was good fun.

You can find info on Sun Blood Stories and Brother Dan on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Wes Malvini and the Red Room.