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.

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