Monday, November 26, 2012
This show first caught my attention thanks to the presence of Creatures of Wizardland on the bill. Brandy Rendon, one half of this local duo, has been my friend for a few years now. Seeing a friend's band can be a little risky (contrary to what some people believe, I don't like or write nice things about everybody I see), but in the end, my curiosity ovecame my sense of caution. It helped that I'd never heard of the headliner, Red Like This, before. It helped too that they hailed from Baltimore (I wondered if my watching The Wire obsessively would attune my ears to the Baltimore accent).
I counted a little over twenty people when I arrived at the Shredder. A few more folks would trickle in as the night progressed. I imagine that a big chunk of this show's potential audience was either at Neurolux watching Red Fang or at the Revolution Concert House watching Alice Cooper. Still, this struck me as a pretty choice audience: I noted a high number of musicians, including Kyle Mann from the Acrotomoans, Joel Wallace a.k.a. Bonefish Sam, Holly Johnson from the Very Most and Luna Michelle from Storie Grubb and the Holy Wars. I bought a Rainier, sat down with some friends and listened to the industrial tunes booming out of the PA system courtesy of DJ Bones.
Creatures of Wizardland kicked off the night's live music. Using some synthesizers, a bass, a tripped-out mic and a metal candelabra, Brandy Rendon and Tracy Maret conjured up a dense, spooky forest of sound. Their menacing drones, bone-simple riffs and beats, heavily distorted growls and ominous tinkles and clangs and hoots and whooshes made me think of Brian Eno on the brown acid. Their black cloaks, black (Rendon) and white (Maret) masks and flickering strobelight added to the overall eerieness. This stuff was definitely not for all tastes, but I liked it fine. It helped that they brought a playful, even goofy touch to their whole dark fantasy aesthetic. It kinda felt like watching horror movies at a sleepover.
Red This Ever played next. While Creatures of Wizardland kept their playfulness more on the down-low, this group waved it high for all to see. Their pounding beats, propulsive basslines, 80's synthesizer tracks, energetically deadpan vocals and lyrics about Halloween, one-hit-wonders and animals fighting the weather made me think of what the Sisters of Mercy might sound like if Fred Schneider took over for Andrew Eldritch. Their mega-catchy campiness didn't lack for edge, however, thanks in no small part to Gabriel Perry's scorching metal guitar. Frontman Roy Retrofit spent most of the set off the stage; he marched around the Shredder with his cordless mic, slid down the skate ramp and mingled with the crowd. Bassist Ada Ruiz's between-song banter with Retrofit amped up the open, playful vibe even further. When the time came around for some audience participation, the modest crowd dove right in (me included): they put on crocodile hats, tapped out the beat on plastic cups with wooden ladles (a couple folks did some swordfighting with the ladles too), blew bubbles, danced, stomped, cheered and sang good and loud.
A couple of people told me that this was the greatest show they'd ever seen. I wouldn't go that far, but I'd definitely call it one of this year's best. (And yes, I could hear a little of that Baltimore accent.)
You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
This show was something of an indulgence for me. When I'm planning out my calendar, I usually give special attention to shows featuring groups I've never seen before. A Seasonal Disguise seems to improve each time I see them, however, and I never get tired of seeing a.k.a. Belle. So, it being so close to Thanksgiving, I decided to treat myself a little.
I saw about thirty people when I got down to Neurolux. A few more would trickle in as the night progressed. Not a huge crowd, but not bad.
First up was Danielle Galucki a.k.a. Kailie Leggett from the dearly departed local band Range Life. She sang her plain ditties in her high, sweet voice and strummed her guitar in simple downstrokes. She forgot lyrics, stopped mid-song when she just wasn't feeling it and looked pretty nervous throughout. I imagine that some people would've found all of this unbearable. Me, I found it funny, brave and utterly charming. Half of the trick lay in Leggett's smart, detailed, acerbic lyrics, which undercut the sweetness of her singing and her melodies' childlike simplicity. The other half lay in the fact that, while she did look nervous, she didn't sound affected, smarmy or smug (which is often how stuff like this comes off). Her forthrightness gave the rough edges of her performance a refreshing, almost punk-like quality. Call it perverse if you want, but I haven't enjoyed too many recent sets quite as much as I did this one.
A Seasonal Disguise played next and sounded in fine form. Their deepening rapport and sturdy groove gave Z.V. House's guitar a more solid foundation from which to take off. And take off it did: House's elegant soloing called to mind not just Neil Young but Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine. They started, stopped, slowed down and sped up without stumbling, and their increased confidence added an extra sheen to the melodies. They got some warm applause from the crowd, and rightly so.
a.k.a. Belle set a record with this performnace (as far as I can recall): they didn't even play one song before they started bantering with each other. It all began with Catherine Merrick warning Sam Merrick not to cuss, since they were being broadcast live on Radio Boise. Sam Merrick proceeded to tell the audience a little story that led up to the show, bleeping out the curse words with a few guitar chords. It went on pretty much like that for the rest of the set. I hope that the folks out in radioland found this as amusing as I did. Too bad that they couldn't see Catherine Merrick's classic I'm-gonna-kill-this-f*cking-idiot glare (I see it a lot when I'm hanging out with married/dating friends).
Oh, and I should probably mention that the music sounded great too. This set featured the return of Mike Rundle, whose smooth and steady work behind the drumkit kept the songs swinging. Bass player Jason Griesa greased the groove nicely in spite of his reportedly having to play on painkillers (Sam Merrick mentioned that the man had to undergo back surgery soon). Catherine Merrick had apparently been sounding hoarse over the past couple of weeks, but you sure couldn't hear it as her voice rang out across the bar. Meanwhile, Kayleigh Jack's serene fiddle and harmonies complemented Sam Merrick's jagged, searing guitar. While their older songs sounded as gorgeous and rowdy as ever, their newer material makes me look forward to their second album, which they're apparently working on now.
You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online. Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Radio Boise.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
I had a feeling that this show was gonna be huge. I learned about Titus Andronicus from Robert Christgau's review of their Civil War-themed album The Monitor. Any band that earns an A-minus or above from the Dean will at least be worth a look, I figured, so I marked this show down on the calendar.
I counted about 40 people when I arrived at Neurolux. A good start. The long wait for Ceremony and Titus Andronicus to arrive (their all-ages show at the Crux apparently started late) allowed for a pretty substantial crowd to build.
First up was local band JamesPlaneWreck. Apparently, no one told them that they were just the opening act: they blazed through their set with the confidence, intensity and focus of a headliner. Andrew Bagley's high-octane drumming and Shaun Shireman's streamlined bass made Aaron Smith and Shane Brown's grinding riffs soar. Aaron Smith's friendly growl led the formation. Thunderous, tuneful, superb.
After about an hour (I think), Ceremony played next. Their pounding rhythms, rubbery basslines, monolithic riffs and shouted vocals had a distinctly old-school UK punk feel. No problem with that--my favorite band's the Clash, after all. Of course, it helped that their slow-burners and their rave-ups proved equally catchy. In any case, it would've been worth seeing this group just for the chance to see people moshing in Neurolux (nothing really severe, but still...).
Titus Andronicus closed out the night. I thought about complimenting their massive guitar sound, but with three guitars, the sound damn well shoulda been massive (they did pop off some badass solos, though). Anyway, much more impressive was the way that their simple, rousing tunes sustained interest even at epic lengths. It helped that they had a built-for-speed rhythm section to ram them home. The intelligent lyrics helped too (I must confess here, though, that my favorite song was the goofy, dunderheaded "(I Am The) Electric Man").
Given their late starting time and the tendency of their songs to cross the five- or six-minute mark, I worried at first that they'd only play two or three numbers and then split. Thankfully, they managed to play a fifty-minute set in spite of Neurolux's live music curfew. Also, while they probably could've gotten by on their music alone, these scrawny, geeky-looking dudes put an amazing amount of energy into their performance (especially considering that they'd come right over from playing another gig). The audience responded in kind: they cheered, danced, clapped to the beat, collided with each other, crowd-surfed and stage-dived right up to the end. That was all great, but I gotta admit that it was kinda odd hearing everyone chant, "You'll always be a loser."
You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online. Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Duck Club Presents.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
After writing this blog for the past few months and seeing all these bands from all these different parts of the country (and a few different parts of the world too), I've started to wonder a little about what the music scenes in other towns and cities are like. I didn't know whether or not this show would give me a complete picture of the music scene around Eastern Oregon (La Grande, to be specific), but the chance to check out a cluster of groups from that area aroused my interest nonetheless. Also, part of me thought that everybody else might be over at the VaC watching the Devil Makes Three and Johnny Corndawg.
I wasn't entirely right, but I think that I came pretty close. I counted about twenty people when I got down to the Red Room. The crowd would build to about forty as the night progressed. Not nearly as many folks as the VaC (they reportedly sold out), but enough to keep the tumbleweeds from rolling through.
Two of the four advertised acts didn't make it, unfortunately, but each of the two frontmen from Sons of Guns stepped up and played a set of their solo stuff. First up was Gregory Rawlins, whose clean, high tenor drawl and deft guitar playing got the show off to a good start. I heard a few head-scratchers among his lyrics, but I heard plenty of zingers too (my favorite: "Holding all the aces while the deuces kept slippin'"). Throughout, Rawlins showed a clear love for honky-tonk tradition (more Townes Van Zandt, less Toby Keith). Case in point: he wrapped up his set with a Blaze Foley cover (Lucinda Williams wrote "Drunken Angel" about him).
After Rawlins came his bandmate Mike Surber. His straight-ahead strumming and strong, slightly pinched voice gave his music more of a punk feel. Nothing wrong with that, of course, especially when he boasted his share of solid tunes and sharp lyrics (my favorite: "She's been a travelling circus: she's left a trail of clowns behind"). The crowd thawed out some during this set and did some whooping and hollering. Near the end, Surber went into a merch pitch. "We've actually got some Sons of Guns dildos," he mentioned. That got a big cheer from the ladies.
Next up was J.D. Kindle and the Eastern Oregon Playboys. Their tidy tunecraft and clear, sly vocals made me think a little of the Old 97's, but they spiked the mix with some jazzy keyboard and sax and some made-in-Detroit guitar noise. Boise's own Louis McFarland manned the drumkit for the Playboys this night, and he swung and stomped so hard that the band dubbed him an honorary eastern Oregonian. Speaking of Boiseans, a highlight of the set was when Kelsey Swope a.k.a. Grandma Kelsey hopped onstage and sang backup. Rowdy fun.
Sons of Guns closed out the night. I caught the tail-end of this group's Treefort set and thought they were okay. Hearing their full set here, I found them much more than okay. Placed alongside each other, I could hear how Gregory Rawlins and Mike Surber's personalities contrasted with and complemented each other. They sounded just as tuneful together as they did apart, their bass and drums gave them forward drive and Surber's terse soloing gave them wings. When they played their grinding, stomping closer, they sounded less like Uncle Tupelo and more like Led Zeppelin. A drunk fell on his face and hurt himself bad enough for someone to call an ambulance, which cast a bit of a pall on the set. The band played on until closing time, however, and while the crowd thinned out some, a stalwart few remained right up to the end.
You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online.
Sunday, November 18, 2012
This show caught my attention not just because it featured three acts I'd never seen but also because it gave me the chance to write about hip-hop some more. Then I found out a few hours beforehand that two more out-of-town acts had jumped on the bill (including one group all the way from Tokyo). I had the feeling that this was gonna be a wild night...
I counted about twenty people when I got down to the Red Room. I recognized a few faces, but part of me wondered if everybody else was part of a group. This proved not to be the case, happily. Still, it was too bad more people didn't show up.
First up was Chance Random, a rapper based in Seattle. He got the night off to a good start with some smart rhymes, a clipped but steady flow and some spare, jerky, effective old-school beats. "If you see me on the streets, say what up or say PEACE!" Chance rapped. The crowd flashed up the peace sign in response.
After Chance Random came Triceracorn (half-Triceratops, half-Unicorn), an MC and DJ duo from Seattle. MC Beige's lyrics guided his mellow flow into cosmic and metaphysical realms, but thankfully, he didn't lose his brains or his sense of humor on the path to Nirvana ("The Earth's resources thinner than a cyclist"; "Everybody's one. Tell him what he's won!"). Besides, with DJ IG88's intricate, bubbling, pounding, freshly minted beats backing them up, the words could've gone pretty much wherever they wanted. And speaking of humor, those beats could be pretty funny too: one track appropriated the cantina scene music from Star Wars.
Up next was Kinda Like Us tour headliner the Bad Tenants. From their cheap sunglasses and white headband to their playful banter and goofy stage act, these Seattle boys had their sense of humor in full effect. Musicwise, however, they took care of business: MC's Casey G and Good Matter traded vocal parts like a relay baton, and their forceful flow and sung hooks rode atop some jazzy, slamming beats courtesy of DJ Idlhnds (who did some pretty good rapping himself). The MC's played their own horn parts too. The modest crowd cheered, chanted, bounced and threw their hands in the air.
The Dedicated Servers followed the Bad Tenants and represented Boise very well indeed. Rapid-fire delivery, sharp lyrics, booming beats, fast-stepping moves. "We infect you with just talking," they rapped, following it with a coughed out beat/hook. It didn't take long for the crowd to start coughing with them.
After the Dedicated Servers came Mumford's, a six-piece "Dramatic Party Rock/Psychotic Folk" outfit from Ames, Iowa. If the Red Hot Chili Peppers developed an obsession with Primus and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, they might produce something within shouting distance of this group's music. Their jaunty horns added just the right funny ha-ha and funny what-the? touch to their steady rhythm section, screeching guitar and demented vocals. Their friendly vibe and high-energy stage presence would've won me over even without leader Nate Logsdon's multiple thanks to the other groups and the Red Room (not to mention his announcement that they'd sell their own merch for 50% off to anyone who bought something from the Kinda Like Us guys). Friggin' glorious.
The Depaysement closed out the night. Between these guys and the Akabane Vulgars on Strong Bypass, I'm about to get all teary-eyed with pride over my Japanese heritage. This Tokyo group's mix of poppy tunes, harshly catchy riffs, oddball tempo shifts and deranged vocals reflected lessons learned well from the "Band Interests" listed on their Facebook profile: Iggy and the Stooges, the Ramones, Tom Waits, James Brown, etc. I doubt that anything I write could convey the joyous, manic intensity of this set. Maybe these photos can give you an idea:
Mumford's decided to pitch in on horns at one point.
Don't worry, he was okay. Got back up in another second.
You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online. Special thanks to Wes Malvini and the Red Room.
Friday, November 16, 2012
Looking back, I feel a little bad about seeing this show. The show was fine in itself (sorry for the spoiler), but I found out afterwards that there was another one this same night at the Shredder featuring three bands I hadn't seen before. They included one from New York and another from the U.K. Oh well, nothing I can do about it now. Happily, I've got an upcoming show there marked on the calendar (haven't been out there in a while). Anyway, I won't complain much about seeing Stargaze Unlimited or Red Hands Black Feet again.
I counted about forty people when I arrived at Neurolux. The audience would thin out some by the time that Luna Moth played, unfortunately, but at least the ones who stayed paid attention to the music.
Stargaze Unlimited opened the show. Richard Metzger couldn't make the gig due to work (Kurtis Beckwith told me this later), so they played with a substitute drummer. The man seemed to have a little trouble keeping up, but expecting him to slip right into the regulars' tight groove probably would've been too much to ask. All things considered, he did okay. In any case, Travis Gamble's basslines marched stoically onward while Kurtis Beckwith's guitar hissed and snarled.
Red Hands Black Feet played next. They started off strong by playing the first new song that I think I've heard since I started coming to their gigs (though admittedly, I've seen so many of them now that it's kinda hard to remember). Anyway, the new song met the melodious, intricate, powerful standard set by their more familiar material and topped them for density. They kept the momentum going by ripping through their older stuff like Steve McQueen tearing through the streets of Frisco in his Mustang.
Luna Moth from Oklahoma closed out the night. Singer Joey Paz told the crowd at one point that they actually had a full band back home. That surprised me and a couple of my friends: their mix of ringing guitar, nimble drums, haunting whistles and eerie, quavery vocals sounded pretty much complete unto itself. The lyrics poured so quickly out of Paz that it was a little hard to suss them, but what I caught sounded interesting. Also, the quietly lovely, Nick Drake-ish melodies gave the folks who stuck around a nice way to cool down after Red Hands Black Feet.
One of my friends remarked that this music suited a modest crowd like this. He had a point: this stuff benefitted from the breathing room. Judging from this group's recordings, though, it'd be nice if more people showed up when/if the complete lineup rolls through town.
You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online. Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Radio Boise.