Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Justin Martin, Brandon Sagnella, Piko Panda and Holy Weak @ the Flying M Concert-Garage (12/1/12)

This show caught my attention initially because its bill featured three acts I'd never encountered before and the Tacoma band Oh Dear!, whose show back in August I remembered fondly.  I was to find out that three of the four acts--Justin Martin, Brandon Sagnella and Piko Panda (a.k.a. Tacoma musician Jacob Gosselin)--all play in Oh Dear! (which turned out to be a Sagnella solo set).  By that point, however, I'd already committed to the show.  At least the three gentlemen in question sounded different enough from each other to keep the show interesting.  Observing the three bandmates rib each other was pretty amusing as well.

I made it out to the Flying M around 7:15 pm.  I passed the time by reading a bit of Homicide by David Simon (rare is the book that makes you lament the state of American criminal justice and LOL within two pages).  A little over twenty people would see this show, including me.  A modest crowd, but I suppose that it suited such modest music.

Tacoma musician Justin Martin opened the show.  His high voice sounded a bit on the crinkly side, but it delivered the tidy folk tunes well enough.  The swing in his guitar strumming wavered a bit, but not enough to become annoying.  I had to laugh, however, when he started singing about wanting to leave the city behind and get back "to a time when the strongest survive."  This guy looked destined for the ol' Darwinian smackdown if it came to that (not that I wouldn't be in the same position).

Brandon Sagnella went next.  The absence of support from his bandmates meant less relief from the pinched, nasal whine in his singing, but his memorable melodies and grounded, self-aware lyrics held up fine even when stripped down so severely.  Highlights included one song about a guy hurting from a breakup who still gets out and earns his daily bread and another where Sagnella comes to terms with the fact that his existence doesn't amount to a hill of beans.  Sagnella's quietly deft picking and strumming helped the set get over as well.

Jacob Gosselin/Piko Panda played next.  His breathy, sweet-but-not-saccharine vocals, his serene melodies and his considerate lyrics helped make this the most immediately enjoyable performance of the night. His backing tracks helped as well: they fleshed the music out by adding gentle synthesizer, church-like harmonies and a brief excerpt from Jason Robards's agonized, guilt-ridden monologue in Magnolia (an especially powerful touch).

Holy Weak a.k.a. Nampa musician Nate Berrian closed out the night.  At first, I wondered if maybe Berrian's whole act--his indie Mr. Rogers attire, his excruciatingly smarmy vocals, his fire-and-brimstone moralizing--was a big joke.  Unfortunately, his earnestness proved all too in earnest.  When he held this long "eeee," it took all of my restraint not to pull a Bluto Blutarsky and smash his guitar into a hundred pieces.

It honestly pains me to write this.  I recognize Berrian's talent (I enjoyed his band, Mickey the Jump, both times that I saw them), and he seemed like an awfully nice guy when he was just talking with the crowd.  Also, to be fair, I heard some definite keepers among the lyrics, and I take back some of what I said about him not having decent pipes (he may just need a little coaching).  Still, this set put me in the odd position of wishing that the singer would end the song and get back to the banter.

For the record, I should mention that the crowd clearly didn't share my opinion.  They applauded Berrian warmly throughout.  That didn't bother me.  Like I said, he seemed like an awfully nice guy.

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

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