Friday, December 14, 2012
Finn Riggins, And And And and Little Tiny Little People @ Neurolux; the Hardluck Cowboys @ the High Note Cafe (12/8/12)
This show interested me because it featured the return of yet another Treefort alumnus, And And And, and a headlining set by Finn Riggins, who probably don't need an introduction. Part of me was tempted to head across the street from Neurolux and check out the Idaho Songwriters Association show at the Gamekeepers Lounge. I'd already made arrangements to attend this one, however, and I figure that a man oughtta honor his commitments. Besides, I can't complain much about seeing Finn Riggins again.
Apparently, not many others can complain either. I counted around seventy people when I made it down to Neurolux. By the time that Finn Riggins played, there had to have been well over a hundred.
Kicking off the show was a new local group, Little Tiny Little People. Their music proved about as cutesy-poo as their name: fragile vocals, jaunty folk melodies, gently swinging beat, pleasant trumpet and straight-ahead, down-strummed guitar. Maybe a bit too twee for my taste, but not bad. At least they've got a decent drummer. Also, the crowd certainly didn't seem to mind. Especially the ladies--got a little swaying going.
And And And played next. This Portland band's jangly drones, whooshing distortion, bouncy basslines, malleable drumming and solemn trumpet all sounded as pleasant as I remembered. Unfortunately, Nathan Baumgartner's pitch-challenged whine also sounded as irritating as I remembered. Don't get me wrong, I got nothing against pitch-challenged whines in themselves (I'm a huge Neil Young fan, remember). The rub, I think, lay in a certain smug insularity that seemed to lurk behind it. The man sounded too cool or too bored to bother with staying on key. Just as it did at Treefort, however, the music saved the day. And this night, it got help from some trippy, creepy montages from antimagic, which helped give the set a 90's alt-rock video feel.
Finn Riggins took the stage next. It occurred to me that up until this show, this group hadn't played a headlining slot around these parts in a while. They took the opportunity to stretch out and experiment, tossing in some marimba, some moaning and screeching distortion, some dub-like echo and some extended instrumental passages. No matter how far-out the music got, however, the songwriting and the playing held it all together. Aside from a slight stumble and some unintentional feedback in the middle of the set, all three members brought their A+ game. The videos playing on the screen behind them, which came courtesy of antimagic and others, knocked the energy level up a couple of extra notches (I especially liked the dancing children and elementary school paintings for "Benchwarmers" and the 8-bit incarnations of FR for "Big News"). The mix of sound and vision whipped the crowd into a nice frenzy--lots of dancing and cheering. Overall, an outstanding performance. I just wish I had a picture of the little dancing miniature of himself that Eric Gilbert placed on his synthesizer.
After Finn Riggins wrapped up, I headed over to the High Note Cafe to catch part of the set by the Hardluck Cowboys a.k.a. local musicians Johnny Shoes and Speedy Gray. It was a great pleasure to hear these gentlemen trade songs and solos again (especially in Johnny Shoes's case--hadn't seen him in way too long), but it was an even greater pleasure to see a solid crowd of people applauding the same. Speedy Gray unveiled a song from his upcoming solo album, Z.V. House and Karen Singletary stepped up to play a couple of numbers, a young musician did some pretty good Tom Petty covers and Johnny Shoes wrapped his sly, weathered vocals around my favorite Townes Van Zandt song, "To Live is to Fly." A wonderful coda to my night: warm, loose, collegial.
You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online. Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Duck Club Presents.