Saturday, April 20, 2013

Angel Olsen, Villages and There Is No Mountain @ Neurolux (4/16/13)

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.

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