Tuesday, April 30, 2013
I'd liked what I'd heard by the Hoot Hoots but missed them at Treefort, so this show caught my interest right off the bat. And sure, I've seen Sun Blood Stories and JamesPlaneWreck more than a few times, but it ain't like I can't stand to see 'em again.
I grew a little concerned when I got down to the Red Room and found only seven people there. "On a warm Friday evening in Spring?" I thought. "What is this town coming to?" Thankfully, the crowd would build to over fifty as the night wore on.
Sun Blood Stories opened the night. I don't know if their Country & Western look (sequined shirt, bolo tie, Mexican dress) was a tip of the hat to the late George Jones, but regardless, they sounded in excellent form. Amber Pollard's vocals sounded especially fine--gal's got some heat in her voice. Not that Ben Kirby got caught slacking: he worked his purr and growl with even more nuance than usual. Meanwhile, Kirby's primal riffs and shrieking solos, Brett Hawkins's lumbering drums and Andy Rayborn's cooing, bleating sax fell into an easy, seemingly effortless groove. The sound was just clear enough and just murky enough to create a nice, sweaty Exile on Main St. feel. I'll admit, though, that I kinda missed seeing this group on a big stage. Oh well. All in good time, I'm sure.
JamesPlaneWreck played next and kept the ball rolling. Aaron Smith and Shane Brown's vocals were strong and on-key (the soundboard work did right by them too: I don't think Brown's voice has ever sounded clearer). Their guitars snarled, Shaun Shireman's bass zoomed down the tracks and I'm still amazed that Andrew Bagley's arms don't just fly off his body. Sure, they hit a few sour notes, but with music so proudly down-and-dirty, you almost want a few sour notes. In any case, the crowd whooped and boogied throughout and sang the chorus to "Fuckin' With Ghosts" good and loud. A couple people told me during the set that JPW is their favorite local band. Can't fault 'em for that.
Up next were the Hoot Hoots. This Seattle band could've gotten over just fine on their slashing guitar, bouncy beats and mega-catchy tunes. However, with the addition of Christina Ellis's 8-bit synthesizer and hilarious pantomiming and dance moves (the Monkey!), they were utterly irresistible. Of course, the jokey, horny, snarky lyrics didn't hurt either. Their music had a slight 60's pop-rock feel to it, but they felt much smarter and warmer than your average revivalist/appropriator. Except maybe for Andy D or Bad Weather California, I can't remember the last act I saw that was so much straight-up fun.
Apparently, Andy Rayborn got so carried away with his dancing during this set that he accidentally punched Amber Pollard and Nathan Norton in the mouth. Always gotta watch the quiet ones...
Starskate closed out the night. This Oakland band wasn't quite as enjoyable as the Hoot Hoots, but their rough vocals, rousing tunes, buzzing guitars and angular, robotic rhythms still provided a solid finale to the night. The crowd thinned out some, but about thirty people stayed to cheer these guys on as they jumped and lunged on the stage.
You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online. If you like what you've read and would like to help keep it going, click the yellow "Give" button in the upper right-hand corner and donate whatever you can. Even $5 can go a long way.
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Two acts I'd never seen before out at the Flying M? One local, one out-of-state? That was all I needed to hear. It helped too that I liked the little bit of Cait Olds's music that I'd heard.
There were five people inside the concert-garage when Nathan Walker started getting the stage set up. The crowd would peak at about twenty-four or twenty-five. Not bad for a Wednesday.
Local musician Marcus Eugene opened the show. I took the image of Johnny Cash flipping the bird on the kick drum as a good omen. For the most part, I was proved right. Eugene came packing a clean, pleasant voice, some solidly constructed tunes and some thoughtful, well-turned phrases. Meanwhile, his drummer's quietly intricate fills gave the songs some good forward motion. Some of the drum parts could've used some tweaking, though, and both musicians seemed a little unsure of themselves. Nothing a few more gigs wouldn't cure.
Cait Olds played next. Between this Portland-based musician and Ari Shine, I'm tempted to institute a test for all singer-songwriter types: if you wanna show how good you are, write a song about a grandma (not necessarily yours, just a grandma). If you can make it warm, sweet and detailed but not overly sentimental, you get an A. Olds earned an A. She did well by junkies and homicidal anger too. Between her smart lyrics, her soothing melodies, her tender murmur and her bandmates' nice loping grooves, Olds was pretty much everything I wished Angel Olsen was. Two jokes from this set:
1) Two whales are sitting in a bar. One whale asks, "How're you doin?" The second whale says, "Ooooowaaahhhhoooowaaaahhhhooooohwaaaah..." And the first whale says, "Dude, you're drunk." (That got the folks at an Astoria brewpub to pay attention to them, Olds said.)
2) Why did the scarecrow win the Nobel Prize? Because he was outstanding in his field. (Olds's banjo player said he got that one from Garrison Keillor.)
|photo by Jen Patrick|
Newer songs dominated what I heard of the show. This included a droning, sinister number that featured some scathing slide guitar from Z.V. House and a big chunk of stuff from their upcoming second album Welcome to Anhedonia. I actually got the chance to listen to some rough mixes, and they sounded fantastic. They recently started an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for the pressing and mastering. If you'd like to contribute, go here. Trust me, it'll be worth it.
You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online.
Friday, April 26, 2013
I'd heard from a few folks that Marnie Stern could do some serious shredding on guitar, so I figured that this show would be something to see/hear. The chance to see SISU, whose Treefort set I'd missed, made this concert doubly attractive.
There were about twenty-five people at Neurolux when I got there. When Marnie Stern started her set, I counted over seventy. Now that's what I'm talking about.
The Funs, a duo from Chicago, opened the show. "Wow," I thought, "those dudes in Art Fad have really let themselves go. Jacob Milburn's put on some weight, and man, I don't even recognize Theo Maughan now. I guess the slower tempos make sense, under these circumstances. But how come their tunes and riffs don't sound nearly as good? And why's Jacob's voice sounds so sad and high-pitched? And when did he dye his hair blond?" I'm kidding, of course. But not about those tempos, tunes and riffs, unfortunately. And while it feels awfully mean to fault musicians for their age, the four or five years (I'm guessing) that Jessee Rose Crane and Philip Jerome Lesicko had over Milburn and Maughan didn't do their brand of punky incoherence any favors. Indeed, they made it feel less like growing pains and more like protracted adolescence. A lot more insular than Art Fad, in other words, and a whole lot less fun.
Just to show that I wasn't kidding too much about that whole Art Fad thing...
SISU played next. Now this was more like it. Between their massive bass sound, their propulsive drums, their spooky keyboard hooks, their spindly guitar and their breathy, cooed vocals, this Los Angeles group could've sprung fully formed from Ian Curtis's anima. Some lights, lasers and black-and-white projections augmented the music's ominousness. I couldn't ID their cover song (New Order? The Cure? The Jesus and Mary Chain?), but whatever it was, it sounded just as good as their originals. Eerie, enticing stuff.
Marnie Stern closed out the night. While her playful, squealing vocals suggested Kimya Dawson on helium, her hummingbird-speed strumming and tapping suggested Robert Fripp or Richard Lloyd on speed. Her bassist served as the maypole around which she and her drummer danced and skipped. They wore their chops lightly, however, which suited both the punk enthusiast and the pop enthusiast in me just fine. Spunky, dexterous fun. I just hope that the broadcast didn't get cut because of that F-bomb that Stern accidentally dropped.
You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online. Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Radio Boise. If you like what you've read and would like to help keep it going, click the yellow "Give" button in the upper right-hand corner and donate whatever you can. Even $5 can go a long way.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
I'd originally planned to see Captured By Robots at the Shredder this night, but then on the night before, I received an email from Rob Lanterman from the local band Sheep Among Wolves. They were opening for Lydia and From Indian Lakes at the Venue this Saturday, the letter said, and they'd hook me up with a ticket if I was interested in reviewing them. After listening to a handful of their songs and weighing the four acts I'd never seen on that bill against the two that I already had on the Shredder's, I decided that it'd be worth a shot. So, after Mr. Lanterman didn't balk at my standard don't-expect-a-good-review-just-cuz-you-give-me-a-ticket warning, I took him up on his offer.
Thirty-five people were already hanging around outside when I got down to the Venue. When the doors opened, I counted at least seventy. By the time that From Indian Lakes played, I estimated somewhere between 110 and 120 people in the crowd. A darn good turnout. I appreciated as well that the crowd was composed entirely of young, unfamiliar faces. When you see enough of the same people at show after show, you can start to worry that those are the only people checking out live music in this town.
Sheep Among Wolves opened the show. Their lead singer, Trevor Adams, had to attend a family reunion and couldn't make this gig. However, while Lanterman and company's light tenors had their limits, I've heard bands get by with much less. Besides, they had plenty of other stuff going for them: ringing guitars, hard but flexible grooves, an agreeably punk-ish stage act (lots of jumping and headbanging) and some droll, goofy banter. And while this group's explicit and unapologetic Christian beliefs would've undoubtedly made some of my fellow atheists/agnostics uncomfortable, I appreciated that their lyrics emphasized guilt, pain and struggle much more than redemption. Because of this, the Jesus Saves stuff felt hard-won rather than smug when it reared its head. I'd like to see the complete lineup, but going off what I saw and heard here, this is a very respectable group.
Sweet Talker played next. Just when I think I can't bear to hear one more friggin' cover of "Hallelujah," someone comes along and taps into that song's heartbreaking, unfathomable beauty once more. Thanks in no small part to Kevin Fisher's caressing, angelic high end, this Phoenix duo's take on the Cohen classic rivaled John Cale's and Jeff Buckley's. The misty keyboard, jangling guitar and smooth dance-beats of their originals proved equally enthralling. That name ain't no joke. Ethereal, utterly beguiling electro-pop.
From Indian Lakes played next (no points for guessing where they're from). Here was just the thing to amp the crowd back up after Sweet Talker. While their clean guitars and harmonies were plenty dreamy, their wailing distortion and lean, driving rhythm section brought the rawk. They got some big applause from the crowd and rightly so.
Lydia closed out the night. This Gilbert, AZ band's sound left a lot more room to breathe than From Indian Lake's did, but it was still plenty massive. Steady beats and fluid basslines supported breathy vocals, tingling keyboard and chiming, Edge-y guitar lines. Their tunes were so anthemic that I could've sworn I'd heard them before if I didn't know better. The audience had certainly heard them before, though: they cheered wildly at each song that frontman Leighton Antelman called and at quite a few of the ones that he didn't. Antelman gave as good as he got too--he playfully teased the crowd a little and seemed genuinely grateful for the adoring reception (even if they didn't play an encore).
You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online. Special thanks to Rob Lanterman. If you like what you've read and would like to help keep it going, click the yellow "Give" button and donate whatever you can. Even $5 can go a long way. And all the best to Trevor Adams's grandma, who just turned eighty.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
What I value, others do not (my thinking goes). I don't have any real friends, anyone I can truly depend on. People only show interest in me when they think they can use me (not that I mind playing the game, but when I start thinking that that's ALL there is...). In these moments, I often wonder why I do anything at all. Why do I write this blog? Why do I talk to these people? Why do I even set foot outside the door? All is vanity and vexation of spirit and so on and so forth.
Judging from "Go Hang," the opening track of We're From Here, Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray have been there too:
Well, maybe I'll let my pipes rust.
I've run out of fools I can trust.
I'm gonna cry my nose runny
While I'm making my money
And my guitar is covered in dust.
I saw Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray play the Crux back on March 30th. I was waist-deep in my Treefort write-ups at the time, so I'd decided beforehand that I wasn't going to write about the show. I liked this group's performance so much, however, that I introduced myself afterwards and gave them a business card. In turn, Chris Stelloh (a.k.a. Yuma Wray) handed me a copy of their album. If I liked it, he said, I could write a review of it. If I didn't, we'd just forget the whole thing.
I listened to We're From Here a few times and knew that I liked it, but it didn't really sink in until I found myself in one of those (admittedly narcissistic) funks I mentioned earlier. The album ain't exactly sunshine and roses: its lyrics are filled with hard times, broken dreams and heartache. The punchline of "Morning Is Breaking" is "breaking my heart." The most hope that "No Surprise" can muster is "It's not too late, but it's improbable." Even the yearning of "Pneumonia" is tempered by lines like "Oh, better off alone" and "I'm gonna be with you 'til my blood runs cold/ Or 'til you just get old."
Of course, blues and country were built from the get-go to handle hard times, broken dreams and heartache. Consequently, Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray's firm footing in these genres lends a durability and tough-mindedness to We're From Here's somber, skeptical moments. Also, listening to Erin Frisby (a.k.a. Miss Shevaughn) dip these songs in her warm, rich, hundred-proof voice, I react in the same way that I do when I hear Aretha Franklin wail about being a fool over some guy: I imagine that at any minute, she'll shake those doldrums off and get back to kicking the world's a**. The stinging guitar, the glowing organ and Chris Stelloh's pleasantly unvarnished croon add to that defiant, keep-your-chin-up spirit.
You don't need to look too deep for that spirit either. The resolution and independence of "Make It Out Alive's" lyrics help make up for that track's slightly stiff performance. "Martha Ann" celebrates the life of a woman who was given less than nothing, made plenty of bad decisions and still grabbed life by the balls. And whether Frisby's telling her mama to go hang from a tree ("Go Hang") or Stelloh's putting the noose around his own neck ("Cloin's Lament"), the ultimate message is the same: "F*ck you--if I'm going out, I'm going out on my own terms."
We're From Here saves its most hopeful, life-affirming moment for last. "Anniversary Song" tells of a couple whose piss and vinegar drove them apart but who start to reconnect after taking some knocks. "Each painful moment, every toll, every tear/ Paid for the ticket that brought me here," Frisby sings. This puts all of the hard times etc. that have come before into perspective. A brief instrumental coda entitled "Prelude to Go Hang" further accentuates the idea that Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray had to endure all of that stuff to reach this point. We will grieve not, rather find and so on and so forth. Or, if your Wordsworth's a little rusty, you can't always get what you want...
You can find info on Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray on Facebook and elsewhere online. You can stream and purchase We're From Here on Bandcamp. If you like what you've read and would like to help keep it going, click the yellow "Give" button in the upper right-hand corner and donate whatever you can. Even $5 can go a long way.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Ronnie and the Reagans, Matt Stone and Starlings Mumurations @ the Crux; RevoltRevolt and Cusses @ the Red Room (4/19/13)
There were so many promising shows this night that it was a little ridiculous. In addition to New Transit and the Blaqk Family Band at the Knitting Factory and Method Man and Redman at the Revolution Concert House (don't give me that look--Method Man is a smart dude), there were the Mowgli's and A Seasonal Disguise at Neurolux and Cusses, RevoltRevolt and Lucid Aisle at the Red Room. In the end, however, I chose this show set up by Sun Blood Stories' Ben Kirby at the Crux. For one thing, the price was right ($2 donation). For another, it featured three Idaho acts who were all relatively new to me.
I counted about twenty-five people when I arrived at the Crux, including Ben Kirby, Amber Pollard and her daughter and Andy Rayborn (Brett Hawkins would show up later on). There would only be fifteen in the crowd when Ronnie and the Reagans played. Oh well.
Starlings Murmurations opened the show. Show me someone who can nail a PJ Harvey cover and I'll show you someone who knows the way to my heart. Even more than PJ Harvey, however, Kristy Scott's pristine, lonely voice, gorgeous melodies and cryptic, evocative lyrics made me think of Neil Young at his tersest and most haunting ("Helpless," "The Needle and the Damage Done," "Don't Let It Bring You Down"). Her gently jolting electric guitar gave the music some edge, but her eerie harmony tracks and atmospheric recordings of rain, flowing water and wind chimes were even more inspired touches. And not only did she have great taste in literature--she played songs inspired by John Keats, Virginia Woolf and Emily Dickinson--she showed it off without sounding stuffy or precious. Breathtaking.
Matt Stone played next. I already liked this guy plenty from his work in Fountains, Lakefriend and Deaf Kid, but this was something else entirely. His catchy folk/country tunes, pleasantly crinkled tenor and detailed, witty, self-deprecating lyrics called to mind John Prine. Then he busted out a cover of "Far From Me." Sang it better than Prine too. Very, very promising.
Ronnie and the Reagans from Idaho Falls closed out the show. I caught a little bit of their set at the High Note Cafe back in February and thought that they sounded pretty good. Happily, the full meal proved as satisfying as the bite size. Franklin Tillo's fine-grained croon, Jean Caulfield's sweet growl and Zach Sherwood's agreeably rough shout rode atop lyrical, Clapton-esque guitar solos, soothing keyboard and swift, rumbling drums. They shifted between swaggering funk, full-throttle hard rock and slow-burn soul with impressive ease. Their menacing take on Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" rounded out this show's series of sharp covers. My only complaint--and really, it's more an observation than a complaint--is that I thought they sounded just a little tame here. That probably stemmed from the fact that they knew almost everyone in the modest crowd personally. Give 'em a sizable audience to win over and I'll bet they could really rip it up. Hopefully, they'll get that chance soon.
After Ronnie and the Reagans finished, I headed over to the Red Room. Pete Thomas from Hopeless Jack and the Handsome Devil had recommended Cusses to me, so I wanted to see if I could catch at least some of their set.
I counted about thirty-five people at the Red Room. A far cry from the 400-plus crowds that, according to Pete Thomas, Cusses draws in New York and L.A., but I guess that's how it goes when you're breaking into a new market.
The two songs that I caught by Cusses made me wish that I'd gotten to hear more. Angel Bond belted out the tunes in a high, strong snarl. She bounced, headbanged and strutted around so much that it was hard to get a picture of her where she didn't just look like a tornado. Bryan Harder's gargantuan riffs and Brian Lackey's booming drums backed her up every step of the way. A gentleman I spoke with at the bar compared this Georgia trio's decadent hard rawk to Motley Crue, and he had a point. I'll add, though, that they sounded like they could eat Vince Neil and company for breakfast. If they got up early enough for breakfast, anyway. Definitely worth further investigation.
Local group RevoltRevolt closed out the night. This set didn't surprise me as much as Matt Stone's did, but it came close. They sounded three times better than they did when I saw them back in July, and I don't think it was just because I was a little out of it that night. The sharp groove formed by Ben Wieland's rapid-fire drums and Jacob Frederickson's snaking basslines gave Chris Bock's tuneful drones and howling wah-wah noise liftoff. Also, while I found Bock's shouted vocals a little irritating before, they proved very agreeable here in a D. Boon or Lee Ranaldo sort of way. It's just a shame that the crowd thinned out significantly during this set. Oh well. At least Reggie Townley showed up with a couple of girls in tow to give his compatriots moral support.
You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online. If you like what you've read and would like to help keep it going, click the yellow "Give" button in the upper right-hand corner and donate whatever you can. Even $5 can go a long way.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Originally, I'd had Black Mountain at Neurolux marked for this night. However, I balked at the $12 cover; as I've said, the war chest's a little bare right now. Besides, I figured that most everybody else in town would be at that show, so I decided to check out this Red Room show instead. Some talk I'd heard about Benyaro's impressive live act helped sway my decision as well.
There were ten people at the Red Room when I arrived. By a quarter to midnight, that number would dwindle to five. Being right sucks sometimes.
Benyaro opened the show. Who says there's no such thing as multitasking? Wyoming-based musician Ben Musser played guitar with his hands, bass drum with one foot and high-hat with the other while singing his blues and country tunes with his big, ductile voice (oh yeah, and he played harmonica too). As if this weren't impressive enough, his originals were smart, funny and catchy enough to hold up fine next to his Blaze Foley and Etta James covers. He wasn't as nice to Eureka, CA as he was to New Orleans, but judging from the details in the former song's lyrics, the town had it coming.
Screen Door Porch played next with Musser supporting them on drums. You hear enough hokey, smarmy roots-related acts and the whole Americana genre starts to feel phony as a three-dollar-bill. Then an artist or group comes along and makes it feel like the genuine coin of the realm. This Jackson Hole, WY duo fell into the latter category. Seadar Rose's smoky drawl and Aaron Davis's light grit and liquid slide guitar struck just the right balance of hot and cool. Their songwriting showed enough savvy that their original about 1937 didn't sound like bullsh*t next to their Big Mama Thornton cover. It's just too bad that more people weren't there to dance to their smooth grooves.
Betcha Black Mountain didn't have a "trumpet-kazoogle."
You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online. If you like what you've read and would like to help keep it going, click the yellow "Give" button in the upper right-hand corner and donate whatever you can. Even $5 can go a long way.
Saturday, April 20, 2013
I was curious about Angel Olsen, but what really attracted me to this show was There Is No Mountain, a Portland-based group formerly known as the Ascetic Junkies. I caught their show at the Flying M last July and liked them very much. Since then, I'd listened to their recordings, and my fondness had only deepened.
I counted a little over thirty people at Neurolux when I arrived. The audience would grow to about thirty-six or thirty-seven over the course of the evening. Fairly typical for a Radio Boise Tuesday. I did appreciate, though, that most of the crowd chose to sit or stand close to the stage.
There Is No Mountain opened the show. I'll admit that their name change made me sad at first (seriously, just take a moment and think about the brilliant irony of the name "Ascetic Junkies"). Anyway, since they sounded every bit as sweet and smart as they did back in July, I got over my grief pretty quickly. What's more, thanks to the stomping beats and nimble, good-enough-for-metal riffing of their newer material, they rocked harder. Matt Harmon's gliding, Michael Buble-esque croon complemented Kali Giaritta's clean, strong, subtly sultry voice like Tracy and Hepburn. Also, I'm more than ever convinced that "Good News" is one of the greatest songs I've heard in my life. I could explain why here, but I think I'll save that for my review of their new album, which will be coming soon.
Up next was experimental group Villages. From Tracy and Hepburn to David Lynch: this Asheville, NC act's waves of drones, tinkles, hisses and whooshes was by turns ominous, soothing and overpowering. The audience's attention wavered during this set, but a handful of folks kept their eyes and/or ears locked on the stage.
Angel Olsen closed out the night. This Chicago musician and her backing band made me think of a group I've always wanted to like more, the Cowboy Junkies. Everything I've heard by them (the Junkies, that is) has sounded real purty, and I do like my moody, rootsy stuff, but yeesh--would it kill them to lighten up a little? I mean, for crying out loud, even Townes Van Zandt cracked his fair share of jokes.
Anyway, with her resolutely blank expression and suppressed-sob singing, Olsen came off as a touch or three too solemn and self-serious for my taste. Still, she did sound real purty. So did her band's jangling riffs, serene cello, stately beats and dash of Velvet Underground drone. Also, when Olsen turned up the heat a little on her vocals, she got a nice Dusty-in-Nashville feel going. And I'll note for the record that the crowd's appreciation seemed much more unequivocal than mine: about twenty people lined up along the edge of the dance floor and hung on Olsen's every sigh.
(Sidenote: I just listened to a song off the Cowboy Junkies' latest album entitled "F*ck, I Hate the Cold." Its lyrics live up to its title. Guess there's hope for everybody...)
You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online. Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Radio Boise. If you like what you've read and would like to help keep it going, click the yellow "Give" button in the upper right-hand corner and donate whatever you can. Even $5 can go a long way.