Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dark Dark Dark, Emily Wells and Storie Grubb and the Holy Wars @ the VAC; the Soft White Sixties @ the Red Room (10/28/12)

Sometimes you gotta make the hard decisions.  Each of the Soft White Sixties' three previous performances in Boise had kicked ass, so I had no doubt that their show at the Red Room would prove equally posterior-brutalizing.  Not only that, that bill featured two fine local acts, Brett Netson and CAMP.

And therein lay the rub: I'd already written about all three acts before (multiple times, in two cases).  So, much as it pained me to miss the Sixties, I opted to check out the show at the VaC, which featured two acts I'd never seen, Dark Dark Dark and Emily Wells.

Some chores at home kept me from getting down to the VaC until 8:30 pm.  I did a quick head count and tallied somewhere between fifty and sixty people in the crowd.  A damn good turnout for a Sunday night.  I just hoped that the Red Room's show had a comparable audience.

First up was local group Storie Grubb and the Holy Wars.  I missed the beginning of their set, but everything that I heard reconfirmed my belief that this is one of the best groups in Boise.  Storie Grubb cranked out some sharp guitar solos while his vocals caressed the tunes one moment and gave them an Indian burn the next.  Mathew Vorhies's jaunty accordion and Luna Michelle's calm harmonies added sweetening to the acerbic lyrics.  Luna Michelle's sinewy basslines grounded the music while Bruce Maurey's drums blasted it into the stratosphere.

New York-based musician Emily Wells played next.  It took barely one song for her bluesy purr-and-moan and her intricate tapestry of beats (both canned and fresh) and hooks (conjured up via synth, melodica, violin and looped vocals) to get the crowd up and dancing.  Wells responded in kind by keeping them that way right up to her set-capping art-rock reconstruction of "Fever."  Worth the price of admission and then some.  And then some more on top of that.

Dark Dark Dark closed out the night at the VaC.  Part of me wants to say that this Minneapolis group combined the glum atmospherics of Desertshore with the gleaming tunecraft of Chelsea Girl, but comparisons with Nico don't quite fit.  Rather than a hopeless stare into the abyss, their jazzy mixture of solemn keyboard, tidy trumpet, soothing accordion and fluid drumming felt more like a warm blanket on a solitary winter night.  When they put a bit more oomph into the music, it was like walking arm in arm with your girlfriend/boyfriend on an autumn afternoon.  Whether dropping standard show patter ("What's up, Boise?") in a guileless monotone or recounting how the band discovered a bunch of deer skeletons along the Salmon River (her main memory of Boise, she said), leader Nona Marie Invie's awkward stage presence proved endearing almost in spite of itself.  The crowd didn't really dance, but a handful of folks swayed appreciatively.

A prudent man would've gone straight home after the VaC show so he'd get enough sleep to function properly at work the next morning.  I, on the other hand, am not one to let concerns over my financial, physical or mental well-being get in the way of seeing a great band.  So, I headed over to the Red Room and arrived just in time to catch the entirety of the Soft White Sixties' set.  The San Francisco group looked just a little tired--this was the last gig of a two-week cross-country tour--but sounded in fine form nonetheless.  In fact, they fell into such a strong, seemingly effortless groove that I was willing to overlook their shout-out to the Giants for winning the World Series (I'm a lifelong Dodgers fan).  Happily, over fifty people got to hear and dance to Josh Cook and Aaron Eisenberg's fiery guitars, Ryan Noble's liquid bass, Joey Bustos's bedrock drumming and Octavio Genera's soaring, soulful vocals.

Four for four.  Come to think of it, that kinda makes 'em like the Giants, doesn't it?  Crap.

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

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ramona Falls, Dark Swallows and Sleepy Seahorse @ Neurolux (10/27/12)

Aside from hearing that its leader used to be in Menomena, I didn't really know anything about Ramona Falls before this show.  That would've been enough to attract my interest right there, but then a music-savvy friend's excitement about this gig got me excited too.  She didn't get off work in time, unfortunately, but I managed to make it down.

I got a little chagrined when I arrived at Neurolux and found only fifteen people inside.  Happily, the crowd would build to about sixty or seventy by the time that Ramona Falls took the stage.  I saw quite a few nifty Halloween costumes as I sat and waited for the show to start: Elvira, 70's cop, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Carmen Miranda, Elliot from E.T. (the guy wore a red hoodie and carried around a plushie E.T. in a little plastic crate).  The hands-down winner, however, was the lady dressed as a binder full of women.  Almost as impressive were these guys who looked just like the Soft White Sixties.  Of course, they benefited from the fact that they were the Soft White Sixties.

Local act Sleepy Seahorse opened the show.  Joey Corsentino's hockey mask muffled his vocals slightly, but it did create the wonderful juxtaposition of Jason Voorhees singing like Michael Stipe (not to mention give me the chance to write down the horrible pun of Corsentino playing a really cool "axe").  Anyway, a highlight of this set was a solo-electric cover of the Talking Heads' "Wild Wild Life," and Corsentino's originals sounded as tuneful and incisive as ever.

Next up was Dark Swallows.  I didn't recognize Ivy Meissner wandering around before the show with her blonde wig on and without her glasses.  When she sang in her somberly transported moan, however, I couldn't have mistaken her for anyone else.  Meanwhile, the band's rubbery basslines, indomitable drums and droning, howling, interweaving guitars sounded as hypnotic as they did at the Horse Feathers show back in August.

Ramona Falls took the stage dressed as the White Stripes and kicked off their set on a humorous note by playing a little bit of "Seven Nation Army."  They shifted from there to a series of serenely urgent original tunes that sounded slightly classical (as in Mozart, not the Stones) but somehow avoided feeling too fussy or genteel.  Brent Knopf's light but insistent murmur held plenty of charm but made it hard to hear the lyrics over the bar chatter.  But then again, the easy, playful camaraderie between Knopf's forward-marching guitar and tender keyboard and Lauren Jacobsen's high harmonies and soaring electric violin sent a clearly positive message.  So did the fact that, while Knopf may run the show, Jacobsen's violin took the lead throughout.

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

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bowerbirds, Strand of Oaks and Prypyat @ Neurolux (10/26/12)

I was kinda split on seeing this show.  Yeah, it featured three acts I'd never seen, but since I'm gonna be a busy little bee over the next couple of weeks, I figured that I should take what down time I could get.  Then I read the latest Boise Weekly the night before.  Josh Gross's write-up on Bowerbirds made it sound like I'd be an idiot to miss this.

Apparently, not too many others read that preview.  I got down to Neurolux late, and there were still less than twenty people there.  The crowd built to about forty, which was respectable enough but still pretty sparse for a Friday night.  Maybe everybody was saving their energy for Halloween.

First up was Prypyat, a guitar-cello duo from Durham, NC.  The little bit that I caught of their set sounded good enough to make me feel bad for not seeing the whole thing.  Gorgeous melodies, not-too-swoony vocals, pleasantly straightforward arrangements.

Next up was Strand of Oaks a.k.a. Goshen, IN musician Timothy Showalter.  If his songs had stuck to your average why'd-she-leave-me stuff, this guy would've made me want to smash my bottle of Black Butte Porter on my head.  Thankfully, lyrics about space stations, giants and Dan Aykroyd killing John Belushi's drug dealer took Showalter's mournful melodies and shoegaze-tinged guitar and keyboard by the hands and yanked them off the side of the bed.  And honestly, his why'd-she-leave-me stuff didn't sound bad at all either.

Bowerbirds closed out the night.  This Raleigh, NC band's ability to blend folk and synth-pop music was impressive enough, but the fact that they did so without sounding smug or pretentious was a flat-out miracle.  Grade-A fresh melodies and pretty harmonies fused with moony cello, warm synthesizer and accordion, some sharp guitar work and some impressively pliable drumming.  A couple handfuls of folks moved onto the dance floor and swayed to the music.  Hopefully, a few more will do the same next time around.

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

Friday, October 26, 2012

Menomena and PVT @ Neurolux (10/23/12)

I want to say that I'd heard of Menomena before this show, but I don't know for certain.  Of course, knowing nothing about a band hasn't often stopped me from checking them out (quite the opposite, in fact).  A few people whom I'd spoken with had expressed their excitement about this show, however, which did help spark my curiosity.

I got down to Neurolux around 8 p.m.  There were over fifty people there, and I'd guess that at least another twenty or thirty would arrive as the night wore on.  "Jesus and Tequila" by the Minutemen played on the P.A. system when I arrived.  I took that as a good omen.

First up this night was PVT (pronounced "pivot"), an electronica trio from Sydney, Australia.  Droning, robotic, ambient synthesizer hooks combined with tripped-out guitar, machine-gun drumming and looped, reverberating vocals to erect a leg-and-sternum-vibrating wall of sound.  It took a little while for the crowd to loosen up some, but by the end, some folks were calling for an encore.  Impressive.

Menomena took the stage next.  This Portland group's music struck a winning balance between eccentric, goofy, cute and rawkin'.  Crooned vocals, honking saxophones, soaring guitar and tinkling, ringing, buzzing, blaring, weeeeeooooo-ing synthesizers danced around with driving basslines and nimble drumming.  It got kinda lonely standing back by the bar while everyone else got as close to the stage as they could, grooved out and stood on their seats.  Their body heat flowed back to keep me company, though.  The band was feeling it too: the drummer paused at one point to futilely smack the fan over the stage.

You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Radio Boise.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lord Huron and Night Moves @ Neurolux (10/20/12)

Before this show, Lord Huron and Night Moves were just names on Neurolux's calendar to me.  I'm almost always up for checking out new bands, though, and I was impressed enough by a Lord Huron song that I'd played earlier that day to take a chance.

I counted about fifty people when I got down to Neurolux.  I sat at the bar, read a bit from Please Kill Me and waited for the show to start.  One of Lord Huron's guitar players passed by at one point and complimented me on my book.  I took that as a promising sign.

First up this night was Night Moves.  I checked this Minneapolis group's Facebook page after the show and was a little surprised to find just Neil Young, Todd Rundgren and Young Money listed under "Artists We Also Like."  I suppose that those names are more indie-correct than, say, the Delfonics.  Their glimmering guitars, watery keyboard, steady rhythms and falsetto vocals mixed 00's indie rock and 70's soul.  Not many folks danced during their set, but this stuff had more of a 2 a.m. make-out feel anyway.  Fascinating.

Lord Huron played next.  This Los Angeles group's sound proved even more unlikely than Night Moves', combining folk-country melodies and harmonies with quasi-African rhythms.  If their lyrics had been equally idiosyncratic, the blend might have gone down a bit easier.  From what I could make out, however, they stuck to standard-issue old-timey themes and language ("I was born on the lake and I don't want to leave it...", "I'll share my life with you, brother...").  This made the whole enterprise feel kinda hollow and maybe even a little condescending.  Their outdoorsman shtick--misty mountain backdrop, blue jean and corduroy attire--didn't help on that front.  Still, the sweetness of their tunes and the litheness of their grooves were awfully hard to resist.  God knows the crowd didn't put up much of a fight: they danced, jumped and shouted throughout most of the set.

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

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Friends, Hey V Kay and S.L.F.M. @ Neurolux (10/18/12)

This show caught my attention thanks to an email that I'd received a couple of weeks prior.  The email, which came from a PR agency that represented the Brooklyn-based group Friends, asked if I'd be interested in writing a preview for this show and reviewing it.  After listening to a few of Friends' songs, I most definitely was.  I emailed the agency's representative back and said that I'd be game if I could write an honest review.  To the representative's credit, he consented and put me on the guest list.

I posted a preview on my blog's Facebook page the morning of this show.  When I got down to Neurolux around 8:40 pm, I only counted about twenty people there.  I'm a regular Walter Winchell, I am.  Oh well.  Just goes to show that New York City isn't the only city of things unnoticed.

First up this night was S.L.F.M., a solo musician from Salt Lake City.  I missed the first little bit of her set, but since she averaged something like twenty songs every ten minutes, I didn't feel too bad.  Her manic strumming, cutesy vocals and jagged, goofy punk-tunes were abrasive in a charming way and charming in an abrasive way.  Her amplified ukulele sounded so loud and harsh that I actually put in my earplugs (that's a compliment).

Next up was local electronica group Hey V Kay.  If Snake Rattle Rattle Snake ever comes back to town, they've got their opener right here.  Elegant guitar lines, spare synthesizer hooks and steady dance-beats wrapped around Karen Havey's low, breathy vocals and tormented but tough-minded lyrics.  While her partner worked out some problems with their recorded tracks at one point, Havey played a solo-electric cover of "Toxic" that sounded closer to PJ Harvey than to Britney Spears.  Somber, sexy, astonishingly catchy stuff.  Definitely a group to watch out for.

Friends closed out the night's music.  Performances like this remind me why I started writing reviews of live shows in the first place.  Clad in thrift-store chic and mixing sugary synth-pop with muscular funk, this group ripped through one quirky, playful, irresistible song after the next.  Their cooed vocals, chicken-scratch guitar, dreamy synthesizer and driving, always-on-the-one bass and drums got almost everybody in the bar on their feet and dancing.  Their two singers and their bassist took turns hopping off the stage and mingling with the crowd, and there were plenty of time-outs for warm banter, jokes, slapping of butts, etc.  The small audience grew so ecstatic that lead singer Samantha Urbani asked, "Would you guys just follow us?"  This group would certainly deserve such a following.  Without a doubt, this was one of the best performances that I've seen all year.

You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to BB Gun Press.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Rubedo, Sun Blood Stories and Milo Duke @ Neurolux (10/16/12)

This show excited me because it gave me the chance to see Rubedo again.  This Denver-based group's show back in June was, to put it mildly, rough: their van broke down on their way to the Shredder, and they wound up playing at 1:30 in the morning to nine people.  I hoped that this show went better for them.  At the very least, maybe the fuses wouldn't blow out this time around.

I counted thirty-five people at Neurolux when I arrived around 8 pm.  The show was off to a better start and the music hadn't even begun.

Portland-based musician Milo Duke kicked off the show.  His clean, high tenor, his sturdy folk melodies and his funny, twisted lyrics went over very nicely.  Highlights included the most heartwarming love song to a zombie I've ever heard and an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road.  "If you like the song, you should read the book," Duke said after playing the latter.  "It's really good... So I'm told."

Next up was Sun Blood Stories.  This night's lineup featured Andy Rayborn and Brett Hawkins, both of whom had backed up Ben Kirby at the show with Brother Dan last month.  Rayborn's trotting basslines and Coltrane-esque sax bleats, Hawkins's steady drumming and Kirby's scorching slide guitar fell into such an easy, relaxed groove that I hope that they'll keep playing together.  I imagine that the ladies in the crowd felt the same way: they swayed like tall grass in the breeze to the loose, brooding funk.

Blessedly, Rubedo's headlining set had much fewer difficulties than their Shredder show did.  Kyle Gray's soulful, slightly pained vocals and otherworldly synthesizer noises, Alex Trujillo's quicksilver guitar and Gregg Ziemba's Industrial-strength drums all sounded in excellent form.  A new song, "Ain't It Funny," sounded as if it could've come off a Tom Waits album (Gray even sang through a megaphone).  That cast a new and welcome light, I thought, on the roots of this group's genre mashup (funk, metal, dub, etc.).  It also said good things about their warmth, earthiness and potential longevity.  Meanwhile, the crowd got rewarded for their dancing and warm applause with what Rubedo claimed was their first encore in a year.

You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Radio Boise.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cheap Time, James Plane Wreck and Lakefriend @ the Red Room (10/15/12)

This show interested me because it featured a band I'd never encountered before, the Nashville-based trio Cheap Time.  The presence on the bill of solid local acts James Plane Wreck and Lakefriend was a nice little bonus.

I got down to the Red Room around 8:15.  The crowd started out pretty thin but built to about thirty people.  Pretty respectable for a Monday.

Lakefriend's strong opening set built upon the progress that they'd shown at their Flying M gig back in August.  Particularly impressive was Jacob Milburn's drumwork; at once more flexible and more solid, it provided the foundation and the ignition for the chugging basslines and for Mason Johnson and Matt Stone's blending, weaving guitars.  Their marginally slower tempos just allowed them to show off how assured their groove has become.  Very well done.

James Plane Wreck played next and kept the ball rolling.  The crowd whooped and hollered as this group's grinding riffs, terse solos, rumbling bass and thunderous drums hit with more concentrated force than ever before (as far as I've heard, anyway).  Aaron Smith's rough, charming tenor worked his rough, charming lyrics with increased finesse.

"F*** YEAH!" shouted an audience member at one point.

"Quoth the Raven," Smith quipped back.

Cheap Time closed out the night's music.  If the Sex Pistols had tripled their weed intake, they might've sounded a little like these guys: droning riffs, clipped but fluid soloing, slippery basslines, relentless drumming.  I didn't catch more than ten words out of their entire set, but I'd be willing to bet that the snotty, can't-be-bothered sneer in Jeffrey Novak's vocals told me all I needed to know anyway (possible giveaway: they named their latest album Wallpaper Music).  Luckily, they rawked more than hard enough to purge me of my desire to smack Novak in the face.  Songs for the bored, surly malcontent in all of us.

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

The Helio Sequence and Slowdance @ Neurolux (10/13/12)

I hadn't planned to check this show out originally.  A friend was throwing a housewarming/early Halloween party this same night, and I'd promised that I'd attend.  Then I listened to some Helio Sequence earlier that afternoon.

I'm lucky to have such understanding friends.  Who stay up late.

I counted about 30 people inside Neurolux when I arrived around 8 pm.  I grabbed a stool by the bar.  This became prime real estate fairly quickly...

The aptly named Slowdance kicked off the night's music.  This Brooklyn group's massive bass sound, mid-tempo dance-beats, ethereal keyboards, brightly hazy guitar and sweetly pensive tunes shot right to the part of me that gets off on Joy Division and the Cure.  Lead singer Quay's light but firm vocals floated and soared above the music.  Very sexy stuff, in a slow-boil kind of way.  They turned the heat up as the set progressed, however.  By the time that they reached their hard-swinging closer, they sounded downright happy.

The Helio Sequence played next.  This Portland duo's smoothly percolating beats, soothing tunes, misterioso guitar sounds and calm, focused vocals sounded just as beguiling live as they did coming through my tiny earbuds.  Actually, I enjoyed the live show more: it gave me the chance to witness firsthand Benjamin Weikel's human-metronome, unassumingly powerful drumwork and Brandon Summers's warm, generous stage presence.  The crowd danced and roared with applause as one song after the next washed over them.  Wondrous.

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