Wednesday, November 20, 2013

a.k.a. Belle, Brett Hawkins, Calico and Woodwind @ the Crux (11/1/13)

This show was a two-birds-one-stone opportunity for me and my lady-friend: it gave us the chance to see a show at the Crux, which she hadn't done before, and to see a.k.a. Belle, about whom I'd chewed off a decently sized portion of her ear.  As an added bonus, this gave us the chance to show some support for Go Listen Boise, who had teamed up with Heather Roberts's Ten Gallon Cat to make this show part of the former's Local Music Spree.

I counted about nineteen people when we got to the Crux.  The crowd looked mostly on the younger side (early 20's or under, I'd guess).  When a.k.a. Belle soundchecked, the crowd numbered about forty and looked mostly middle-aged.  By the way, the woman in the black-and-white striped blouse is Jenn Siegel, my lady-friend.  It's hard to tell from this distance, but she's pretty gorgeous.  She'll probably appear fairly regularly in future blog posts.

Woodwind opened the show.  Back when my friend Keesha Renna ran the Crux's open mic, I saw a young gentleman perform.  He played one song that blew me away--lovely folk melody; clean, boyish tenor; understated, pained lyrics.  Made me think a little of Nick Drake or maybe Ronnie Lane.  I'd wondered in the months that followed what that guy was up to.  When local newcomer Samwise Carlson played his finale, it hit me: "Holy crap, it's him!"  That last song's melody sounded just as beautiful as I'd remembered, and Carlson's other tunes were almost as pretty.  The stray lyrics that I caught didn't sound too bad either.  Now that I have a name to attach to him, I'll be sure to keep my eye on him in the future.

Calico played next.  I worked the Record Exchange's merch booth when this young group played Alive After Five.  As I recall, they sold about seventy copies of their debut EP, which NEVER happens with a local act.  It's worth noting too that Calico's song "In Our Town" supplied the name for Boise 150's special CD compilation.

Now, do these achievements mean that Calico will be the next big thing for Boise music?  I wouldn't say that.  I would say, however, that they definitely have potential.  Their rhythms could use some livening up, and they come across as a little too solemn and serious right now (so people will take them seriously?).  Still, their melodies are unfailingly pretty, they've got some impressive poise and lead singer Ruby Somoza has the warmth, smarts, sass and straight-up charisma of a natural front-person.

Sun Blood Stories' Brett Hawkins played a surprise 20-minute set of his solo material after Calico.  Hard to tell if he's affected or not, Jenn said of his bone-simple guitar picking, saccharine folk-country tunes, reedy vocals and oddball, sardonic lyrics.  She also noticed that his shirt was buttoned wrong.  Like a drunken uncle playing songs for you, she added later (she meant that in the best possible way).  That trumps everything I had, so I'll just move along.  (And you wonder why I'm crazy about this woman.)

a.k.a. Belle kicked off their set with the premiere of their music video for "Mess You Up," a track from their new album (hopefully coming in February 2014).  It's a cute, funny bit of stop-motion animation created by Catherine Merrick herself.  I grinned when I caught a reference to an old Sam Merrick song (or was it band?), "Don't Pass Up the Chance to See Neil Young."

In the interests of transparency, I should probably mention that Catherine Merrick and I are co-workers now; she works at the Edge (the Record Exchange's coffee shop), and I work at the Record Exchange's main register.  I should mention as well that Catherine tipped me off that the Record Exchange was hiring and recommended me to the owners (I didn't ask her to do that; she just heard that they were looking for a music-savvy individual and thought of me).  Readers will make of that what they will, of course, but I've been praising Catherine since well before we started working together.  And unless she starts to suck, which seems highly unlikely, I don't see any reason to stop doing so.

Anyway, I don't know if everybody drank some coffee beforehand or what, but the band seemed more amped up than usual.  Chris Galli's bass-playing seemed especially fluid and nimble this night (I spotted him nursing some kind of warm beverage earlier).  Whatever the reason, they went a long way towards helping Jenn understand why I love this band so much.  Louis McFarland was as strong and swinging as ever (got off a badass solo on the Link Wray-esque instrumental "Here Come the Deathtraps").  Sam Merrick ripped it up on guitar and joked it up between songs, the latter of which got a great eye-roll and an Oh-God-he's-an-idiot-but-I-love-him look from his wife at one point.  As for Catherine Merrick, I've called her the best singer in Idaho before, right?  Yes?  Okay, I'll just move along, then...

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