The Shivas came very, very close to making my Treefort Top 10. This Portland-based group's surf/garage-rock sound reminded me of both Dick Dale and the Velvet Underground. It was a given, then, that I'd go see them when they returned to Boise.
I'd originally hoped to catch at least part of Go Listen Boise's promising all-local show at Neurolux this same night, but some work at home had taken up so much of my time that I decided to head straight over to the Red Room for fear of missing something. I sat at the bar and read a little from my book. After an hour had passed, I shook my head and reflected once again upon that cardinal rule of rock: no show ever, ever, EVER starts on time.
Attendance was surprisingly low for this evening's show. I counted about 30 people at its peak, most of whom seemed to opt to hang out on the patio and smoke (which seemed a bit redundant, considering the godawful smoke in the air). Hopefully, the folks who could've come here were over at the Lux watching With Child, Sun Blood Stories and the Hand.
Deaf Kid opened the show. Despite Jacob Milburn's professed and evident drunkenness, this Caldwell group's sunny surf-punk riffs, terse solos, guiding-hand basslines and sure-and-steady drumming got the evening off to a good start. I liked their songs so much that I hope they get titles someday.
After Deaf Kid came local act Clarke and the Himselfs. Clarke Howell's flat, slightly nasal singing sounded rather affected but was pleasant enough. Of course, it helped immensely that he boasted some sharp songwriting: intriguingly bizarre lyrics consistently found memorable tunes and riffs. Equally impressive was his ability to strum his guitar and hit his snare drum at the same time.
The Shivas played next. Jared Molyneaux and Robert Mannering's twangy drones and piercing solos, Kristin Leonard's sturdy drumming and especially Eric Shanafelt's Entwistle- or Jamerson-worthy bass work all sounded as far-out and groovy as they did at Treefort. Seeing/hearing them live a second time, however, I noted a certain forlorn insularity to the Shivas' music (as I did when I listened to their recordings a few months back). They sounded as if they yearned to attain the open, uncomplicated optimism of their 60's pop influences but knew instinctively that they couldn't. Not for nothing have they been touring with Calvin Johnson lately, I suppose. Still, the undercurrent of moody self-consciousness didn't keep the crowd from hopping and bopping.
First Borns closed out the night. To my surprise, this local band's set had greater visceral impact on me than the Shivas' did. It probably helped that First Borns' music was more up-front about its own moodiness. It undoubtedly helped too that they sounded even more confident than they did when I saw them at the Crux a few weeks ago. Chris Smith's high, tuneful basslines, Alex Hecht's sparkling, buzzing riffs and Erik Butterworth's pumped-up drumming surged forth with such concentrated force that they achieved something of the emotional honesty that the Shivas invoke but keep at arm's length. A nice, cathartic finale.
You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online. Special thanks to Wes Malvini, Scott Pemble, the Manor and the Red Room.