This TO Entertain U show caught my interest because it featured the Blaqks, whom I'd wanted to see again for a while, and Super Water Sympathy, whose songs I'd liked quite a bit. Also, I found the concept of Hollow Wood playing the Red Room intriguing. Not only had their opening set for Hey Marseilles blown me away, I wondered if the band would actually fit onto that stage.
There were about twenty people at the Red Room when I arrived. By the time that Super Water Sympathy played, the crowd had grown to about forty-five. Very respectable for a Wednesday night.
Glimpse Trio opened the show (they really are a trio; for some reason, their bassist just wasn't there). This Oakland group got added to the bill at the last minute. Talk about happy accidents: between Mike Sopko's friendly bark and quick, dexterous fretwork and Hamir Atwal's fluid, rock-steady drumming, they made me think of what the Minutemen might sound like if they'd stretched out past the two/three-minute mark more often. This applied as well to their playfully disorienting tempo shifts and touches of atonality. A most pleasant surprise and a fine start to the evening.
Hollow Wood played next. As it turned out, they did indeed fit on that stage and probably would've done so even if cellist Danika McClure and violinist Katelynne Jones had made the gig. But leaving that aside, this group impressed me once again. Their gorgeous harmonies, propulsive beats and natty arrangements showed considerable polish and assurance, but their music and stage presence still felt surprisingly fresh and free of self-consciousness. Adam Jones's jokes and patter struck a similar balance of savvy and candor ("'Are you straight edge?' And I said, 'I'm buying cigarettes! What do you think?'"). Here's hoping that they can maintain that balance once they get old enough to stay in the bar after their set. In any case, the group cast the same spell here that they did at the VaC last month; the audience stayed almost completely silent during each number and burst with applause afterwards.
Boy, you gotta love this Jimmy Valentine lighting.
Super Water Sympathy played next. With their muscular vocals, anthemic pop-tunes and elaborate, well-honed stage show (smoke, lasers, flashing lights), I'll bet that this Shreveport group was dynamite when they played with Matt Hopper at the Knitting Factory. By cramming everything into this more modest venue, this became one of those oh-man-you-shoulda-been-there sets. Ansley Hughes's warm, massive voice soared above Clyde Hargrove's ringing guitar, Billy Hargrove's driving basslines, Jason Mills's airy keyboard and Ryan Robinson's smooth, intricate drumming. At once tender and powerful.
The Blaqks closed out the night. I still find their studiously decadent image disquieting, and part of me wonders whether their getting 86'd from the Knitting Factory as well as Jayne Black's departure might portend some ugly scenes down the road. For the time being, however, there's simply no denying that this is a damn good band. Danny Blaqk a.k.a. Cary Judd ably stepped into the role of frontperson while Jonny Blaqk a.k.a. Jeremy Coverdale served as the resident Keith Richards. Their rough vocals put the smart lyrics and well-crafted tunes across winningly. Meanwhile, the other Blaqks backed them up with snarling riffs, shrieking solos and sturdy, dance-worthy rhythms. Their strong onstage rapport gave this performance a most welcome collegial if not familial feel. This group may have some question marks attached to them, but they've got more than their share of exclamation points too.
You can find info on these groups and TO Entertain U on Facebook and elsewhere online. Special thanks to Wes Malvini and the Red Room. 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. Every little bit helps.