Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Gunfighters, The Horde and the Harem and a.k.a. Belle @ the Red Room (3/27/13)

I'd had this show marked on the calendar for weeks, but when the day came, I wasn't sure if I'd go.  I'd had enough time to recover physically from Treefort, but I still needed to finish my write-ups.  In the end, however, I just couldn't pass on the chance to see a.k.a. Belle and the Gunfighters, both of whose Treefort sets I'd missed.  I was also curious about the Seattle band the Horde and the Harem.

There were maybe five non-musicians at the Red Room when I got there.  There might have been eleven or twelve when the music started.  Guess folks needed more recovery time.  Still, I did count more than thirty people in the crowd by the time that the Gunfighters played.

a.k.a. Belle's opening set featured a couple of pleasant surprises.  The first surprise was Brion Rushton and Zane Norsworthy as Bette and Yvette, the "dancers" on a sleazy, Link Wray-esque instrumental.  The second was Gia Trotter, whose utterly gorgeous harmonies made me think that she really oughtta get out and do more stuff around town.  The setlist, which leaned heavily on material from their upcoming second album, wasn't as surprising for me; Catherine Merrick had actually invited me to sit in on some of their recent recording sessions.  The songs all sounded as smart, tough and melodious as I remembered, however, and the band was definitely on their game.  Highlights included the morning-after vignette "Collecting Songbirds" and Sam Merrick's "High Inane Drifter," a pitiless portrait of a screw-up which would sound right at home on Tonight's the Night.

Bette and Yvette.  I'm not sure which is which.

The Horde and the Harem played next.  A couple members of the band told me later that they'd applied to play Treefort this year but didn't make the cut.  That's a pity: their layered harmonies, compassionate lyrics, jangling guitars, rumbling grooves and playful, inviting stage presence would have gone over very nicely at Pengilly's or the Linen Building.  They certainly went over well here; the modest crowd danced and cheered warmly.  They tossed a pinch of African music into their folk/country tunes, but their words were so smart and grounded that this felt less like arty hipster dabbling and more like genuine multiculturalism.  Here's hoping that this group comes back around sometime.

The Gunfighters closed out the night with a flat-out astonishing set.  Spencer Sanders's recovery from his coma and brain injury seems to have not only reinvigorated this band but transformed them.  A tip-off came when one of the guitarists played a little bit of "Hell's Bells" during soundcheck.  However, that still didn't prepare me for their locked-in groove and hard-rocking force.  Sanders's vocals sounded slier and more confident than ever.  Also, the man was so pumped-up that he couldn't seem to stand still: he strutted all over the stage and dropped down to dance with the crowd.  Meanwhile, the guitars roared, the rhythm section flexed their muscles and Katie Vant's harmonies soared.  Bravo.

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

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