Thursday, February 28, 2013

Insomniac Folklore, Jonathan Warren and the Billy Goats and Fleet Street Klezmer Band @ Neurolux (2/26/13)

Some readers out there may be wondering, "Hey, where's the post on the Youth Lagoon show?"  The answer is simple: there isn't one.

Judging from this Boise Weekly write-up, last Monday's "secret show" at Neurolux was something.  As one gentleman says in the article, "Every hipster who is any hipster is here."  Which, I suppose, proves that I'm not any hipster.  For all of my vanity and ambition, I simply couldn't bring myself to spend time and money on a group I have never particularly cared for and consider grotesquely overrated.  But God help me, I may yet write about Youth Lagoon in the near future.  For one thing, not to do so feels more and more like ignoring the elephant in the room.  For another, while the adoration that their/his music receives from a certain portion of the population frustrates me, it fascinates me as well.

Just thought that I should make some kind of statement before starting this post.  Moving right along...

As some readers may recall, I saw Insomniac Folklore play the Red Room back in August.  I enjoyed their set so much that I actually posted on Treefort's Facebook page a request that they be added to this year's lineup.  So much for the influence of bloggers, I guess.  Anyway, when I learned about this show, I jumped at the chance to see them again.

I counted about thirty people at Neurolux when I arrived.  When Insomniac Folklore played, I counted about sixty.  A very respectable number.  What made it even better was the fact that a good chunk of the crowd seemed familiar with their music; when the band asked the crowd what they'd like to hear, Tyler Hentschel looked impressed by the requests that they received.

Fleet Street Klezmer Band opened the show.  They might have sounded a bit loose this night, but that didn't do much more than lend a certain woozy charm to their gypsy folk tunes.  It helped that they seemed to be in a good mood: Victoria Kostenko wore the sweetest smile on her face as her fiddle swooped and fluttered while newcomer Hollis bounced all over the stage and let rip on bouzouki.  Shlomo Kostenko's deep, droll, friendly moan sounded in good form, and he very helpfully recommended that the crowd consult the alcohol behind the bar if they didn't understand the lyrics.  Their cover of "Turkish Song of the Damned" helped me feel like less of a presumptuous ass for my earlier Pogues comparison.  Another nice moment was when Adrienne Hentschel and Amanda Curry from Insomniac Folklore got up to dance.

Jonathan Warren and the Billy Goats played next.  Asked 'em for the Louvin Brothers, they brought me Old Crow Medicine Show.  These local favorites' roots seemed to run about as deep as a few skimmed-over issues of No Depression and maybe some fond memories of Hee Haw.  Of course, the same could probably be said about any number of so-called Americana acts nowadays.  Besides, their songs did show some decent craftsmanship.  Quite pleasant as well were Jonathan Warren's weathered vocals, Dave Sather-Smith's groaning cello, Andrew Smith's sprightly drumming and newcomer Abraham's fluid violin solos.  It would've been nice, however, if Sather-Smith had eased up with that gratingly phony hillbilly accent.

Insomniac Folklore closed out the night.  Man oh man, it woulda been something if this group had played Treefort.  If anything, their warm, witty, playfully sardonic songs and sweet, slyly cartoonish stage act were even more enjoyable than I remembered.  Tyler Hentschel's clanging riffs, stomped-out beats and humorously portentous baritone played Ring Around the Rosie with Adrienne Hentschel's tart harmonies and Amanda Curry's viscous basslines.  Song topics included playing with Legos, arson, the meaninglessness of existence, the best way to not be afraid of the dark and how you should listen to your parents but not the government.  Beneath all of the sarcasm and smirking gloom, however, lurked hearts of gold: their finale, "Earplugs," pledged eternal love and closed with the chant "L'Chaim to life."  The crowd didn't leave their seats, but they did clap to the beat, sing along and give the band some warm applause.

And now, for the benefit of those who weren't there, here are some shots of Insomniac Folklore's fourth member: Wallace, the World's Only Singing Sheep.

"He talks a lot when we're in the car, but he gets kinda shy when we're onstage."

Another cute touch: Adrienne Hentschel blowing bubbles.

You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Radio Boise.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

James McMurtry and Lady and Gent @ Neurolux (2/23/13)

There was some cool stuff happening around town this night.  While the Linen Building hosted Edmond Dantes's EP release party, Hot Dog Sandwich Headquarters and Evil Wine threw a Who Framed Roger Rabbit?-themed show at the Red Room.  However, as tempting as these choices were (Kelly Green as Jessica Rabbit, mmm...), I couldn't pass up the chance to see one of America's greatest living songwriters again.

For those of you who don't know James McMurtry, here's a brief 411.  He's the son of Larry McMurtry, the author of, among other works, The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment, Lonesome Dove and (with Diana Ossana) the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain.  His (James's, that is) first album was co-produced by John Cougar Mellencamp.  He's earned props from everyone from Stephen King to Patterson Hood (Drive-By Truckers) to Robert Christgau to Salon to the Washington Post to... well, you get the idea.  His Neurolux show back in June was one of my non-Treefort favorites of last year.

So, yeah--I was excited to see this guy again.  And curious to see how many gropes I'd receive from middle-aged women this time around (I got two or three back in June).

I counted well over a hundred people when I arrived at Neurolux.  By the time that James McMurtry played, the crowd looked to be just a hair smaller than the one that turned out for Built to Spill a couple of weeks ago (if rather less broad age-wise; I'd guess that the average was somewhere in the early/mid-forties).

As I stood by the DJ booth and waited for the show to start, I felt a hand spidering around my ass.  For a second, I thought that maybe someone was trying to steal my wallet.  When I turned around, however, I just saw a big-boned, middle-aged lady.  I blinked, breathed a sigh of relief, and checked that off my list.

Lady and Gent opened the show.  You've seen this type of couple before (hell, maybe you are this type of couple).  He's a (lovable?) mess: drinks too much, questionable hygiene and grooming, prone to flights of cockeyed enthusiasm.  She's much more together: works out at the Y, has a steady job, wears just a little makeup, looks like a million bucks even in jeans and a t-shirt.  Even though they're not really a couple (she's married, he said, but not to him), this Salt Lake City duo seemed to fit that template like a glove.  Dana Sorensen's tender, thoughtful harmonies and demure stage presence complemented Garret Williams's false starts, manic expressions and hoarse, nervous vocals.  Williams's charming melodies and considerate, self-aware lyrics helped answer the question of why she stays with the S.O.B.

He wrote all the songs himself, Sorensen told the crowd near the end.  "They're OUR songs!" Williams countered with a smile.  "Cute, Garrett," Sorensen said.

James McMurtry played next.  He didn't play with a band this time, but that gave him the chance to show how warm and nuanced his stolid baritone croon can be.  It also let him show how deftly he could play his ringing 12-string guitar.  And of course, it let his witty, detailed, incisive, sardonic, empathetic words shine even brighter.  I kinda missed the band on "We Can't Make It Here"--their relentless beat really accentuates the song's righteous anger--but I'm more convinced than ever that its lyrics should be carved in stone and placed at every former Occupy site.  Meanwhile, "Hurricane Party" and the "prototype" about the quirks that make an unnamed ladyfriend so special sounded as sly, clear-eyed, affectionate and gorgeous as they did last year.  The crowd roared and sang along throughout the entire set.  They raised their tallboys high at "I probably oughtta quit drinkin', but that don't mean I will" ("It took me twenty years to figure out I was a liquor salesman," McMurtry quipped afterwards).  They used what little space there was to boogie during the great white-trash epic "Choctaw Bingo."

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

Monday, February 25, 2013

Stargaze Unlimited, The Deadlight Effect, Obscured By the Sun and Modesto @ the Red Room (2/22/13)

I'd known of the Deadlight Effect and Obscured By the Sun, but I'd never seen them before.  That was enough to get me interested in this show.  As an extra bonus, it gave me the chance to see the Caldwell group Stargaze Unlimited again.

I counted about twenty-five people when I got to the Red Room.  The audience would build to around thirty-five as the evening progressed.  Pretty small for a Friday night, but it could've been worse.

Local group Modesto opened the night.  These guys seem to have been rolling along pretty well since they changed their name from Whale.  The lyrics, while still nothing special, sounded decent enough as delivered by Tyler Brodt's Robert Plant-esque wail (which sounded twenty years older than he looked).  Brodt got some good support from Alex Wargo's jagged soloing and Jesse Weidmeier and Wade Ronsse's hard-shuffling rhythms.  While they sounded a little ragged at times, their youthful enthusiasm (grinning, hopping, head-banging) compensated.  Hey, Zeppelin's lyrics were never that hot either.

Obscured By the Sun played next.  Travis X. Abbott's elegant, snarling guitar, Jacob Fredrickson's sinewy basslines and Chris Santiago's rumbling drums rode tuneful, elemental riffs for all that they were worth.  Their strong rapport became doubly impressive when I learned that these guys had only played together for two weeks.  Hypnotic stuff.

Up next was the Deadlight Effect.  This local group's ominous riffs, guttural screams, jackhammer rhythms and big flashing lights were all impressively menacing.  Unfortunately, as with most metal of this kind, the monolithic quality to this group's music left me cold.  Stuff like this just feels so formalized, so hollow to me.  I will note, however, that the band's airy synth drones did add an intriguingly ethereal touch to their Sturm und Drang.

Stargaze Unlimited closed out the night.  Sheesh--seems like I can't win with these guys.  This set featured Richard Metzger manning the drum kit again, but bassist Travis Gamble was nowhere to be found (his name no longer appears on their Facebook page either).  The lack of bass led inevitably to a thinner, slightly weaker sound.  Still, Metzger's muscular drum work and Kurtis Beckwith's searing guitar gave me plenty to listen to.  It's just too bad that not many others heard it: there were only thirteen people left when Stargaze Unlimited played.  Oh well.

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

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Shawn and the Marauders, Jumping Sharks and 605 to San Gabriel @ the Red Room (2/20/13)

On the day after this Red Amp Productions show, I was telling someone about this band from Pocatello that I'd seen the night before.  "There's a band from Pocatello?" the guy asked incredulously.  I'd kinda thought that too originally, which was why I put this show down on the calendar.

There were only about twelve people when I got down to the Red Room.  By the time that Jumping Sharks were midway through their set, the crowd had built to about thirty-five.  Not too bad for a Wednesday.

Local band 605 to San Gabriel opened the night.  I'd thought that this group was pretty good when I saw them at the Shredder last August, and they sounded even more pretty good this night.  I found Tomas Fisher's singing slightly mannered back then but not here.  He and Lorraine Fisher's light, assured vocals blended nicely with the smooth, reggae-ish groove formed by the band's chiming guitar, ringing keyboard and  limber drumming.  Their secret weapon, however, was Jeff Erekson's fluid bass work.

Boise band Jumping Sharks played next.  I remembered being quite impressed by their set at the Mike Watt concert back in October, but I didn't remember them kicking quite so much ass.  Zane Norsworthy's pleasantly plain croon and fiery guitar, Reggie Townley's elastic bass, Mike Swain's elegant keyboard and Ben Wieland's propulsive drums plowed through shifts in tempo and genre like they weren't even there.  The crowd got some good cheering, whistling and dancing going during this set.  My ingrained sense of discretion made me think twice about taking a picture of Reggie Townley after he'd stripped down to a pair of red tights.  But, well...

All in the name of good journalism, people.

Pocatello band Shawn and the Marauders closed out the night.  Early on, I didn't know what to make of this group's unlikely blend of reggae, blues, country, rock and gangsta rap.  Also, I dug Jeff May's wiry guitar and Casey Johnson's sprightly drums well enough, but what was up with Dorian Hitchcock's swooning cello?  After they played a smart, funny boom-chicka-boom number entitled "Raging Alcoholic," however, everything snapped into focus.  Their instrumental and genre mash-up wasn't pandering, I realized, but defiant--the product of guys who figure that life's too damn short to worry about dignity and decorum.  Emblematic of this spirit was leader Shawn Barnby's very evident shitfaced-ness and their cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Head Like a Hole," which featured vastly different chords than the original (Barnby said that they came to him while he was high on opium).  Oddball, charming stuff.  I just hope that their hangovers weren't too bad the next morning.

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

Friday, February 22, 2013

What Made Milwaukee Famous, the Blaqk Family Band and Hollow Wood @ Neurolux (2/19/13)

When a band has a name like What Made Milwaukee Famous, they could be really good (cf. the Old 97's) or really icky (i.e. they could lay on the cornpone so thick that I choke).  Either way, I figured that it'd be something to write about, so I marked this Radio Boise Tuesday show down on the calendar.

There were already about thirty-five people at Neurolux when I arrived at 7:15.  By 8:40, I counted over eighty.  Pretty fantastic.

Local group Hollow Wood opened the night.  On paper, I really shouldn't like this band.  This bio (which, I believe, used to be on their Facebook profile) cites as influences two groups I can't stand, Typhoon and Bon Iver.  Which, I guess, just goes to show how manure can help produce a good crop.  Hollow Wood's soaring, folk-tinged melodies and harmonies sounded closer at times to Walt Whitman's barbaric yawp than to Justin Vernon's lullabies to his navel.  That expansive spirit carried over into the rest of their live performance.  Whether chanting as one or laying down some rousing beats (via drums, shaker and tambourine) to go with their steady basslines and their soothing keyboard drones and guitar jangle, this group evoked a sense of compassion and community--of folk, in other words--that Typhoon aimed for at their November VaC show (I think) and missed.  And so what if the lyrics got a little corny sometimes?  Everybody oughtta have a little bit of corniness in them.

Up next was local act the Blaqk Family Band, who made their live debut.  As excited as I am over this year's Treefort lineup, I'm disappointed that the Soft White Sixties won't be returning.  It's okay, though: should I feel my 60's hard-rock jones coming on, this group should feed it very nicely.  Jayne Blaqk's high, strong vocals rode atop Zeppelin-esque stomps, rubbery basslines and terse, snarling guitars.  They worked hard to convey that whole sex-drugs-and-rock-'n-roll vibe (this set featured some swirling, psychedelic lasers and a bouncy, Lou Reed-ish ditty about abusing medications), but their playing was too tight and focused for the drugs part to be convincing.  Hell, I've always preferred the other two parts of that combination anyway.  Watch out for this group.

What Made Milwaukee Famous closed out the night.  I've come to consider it a mark of quality in a band when they have to constantly tell themselves not to cuss on the air.  But regardless of that, while this Austin group's poppy tunes, gliding vocals and smooth groove called to mind the Old 97's, their slashing, stinging guitars and thoughtful, class-conscious lyrics called to mind the Drive-By Truckers.  Their performance got some good whoops, cheers and dancing from the crowd.  What Made Milwaukee Famous definitely didn't make losers out of us.  (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Radio Boise.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mostly Muff @ the VaC (2/16/13)

To be honest, I hadn't planned to write about this show.  I'd wanted to check out a couple of other places this night, so I figured I'd just swing by, have a beer, donate some cash, listen to a few songs and roll out.  I still took my camera along, though.  Thought I might take a couple pictures, post 'em on HCTD's Facebook page later.

I listened to A Bigger Bang by the Rolling Stones as I drove down to the VaC.  Didn't care much for that album when it came out, but it's grown on me over the years.  Mick Jagger may be a money-grubbing old lecher, I thought, but the man can write a song.  And ah, Charlie Watts.  How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways...

As soon as Rachel Preminger banged out the first two chords, a grin broke out on my face.  I didn't need to see the iconic lips and tongue materialize on the screen to recognize the intro to "Start Me Up."  The band powered through that song and then launched into "Paint It Black."  Sure enough, Mostly Muff had chosen this year to cover my second favorite band of all time.  I had no choice then; I broke out the camera and the notepad and got to work.  A few highlights of the show:

The montage of 60's riots that played during "Sympathy for the Devil."  Included images of Mick Jagger's arrest and mugshot.  That was an especially witty touch, I thought.  Ivy Meissner did quite well on lead vocals too.

Rachel Preminger's (far left) neat little fills on "Beast of Burden."  In fact, Preminger's whole Keef look--tousled hair, untucked and unbuttoned white shirt with rolled up sleeves, leather pants--was pretty snazzy.

Sam Stimpert sinking his teeth into the mock-lothario passage of "Emotional Rescue."

Andy Rayborn stepping into the Bobby Keys role.

Gia Trotter duetting with her sister Tristan on "Wild Horses."

Lisa Simpson wailing about rape and murder on "Gimme Shelter."

Annie Berical, Karen Singletary, Stephanie Coyle, Lori Shandro and others serving as the choir on "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

The crowd--which didn't quite include every person who's attended a Finn Riggins/Le Fleur/VaC show in the past few months--whooped, cheered, danced and sent out good vibes in general for the entire set.  The perverse ironist in me kinda wishes that Mostly Muff had played some of the Stones' more risque material ("Rocks Off," "Some Girls," "Starfucker"), but hey, you can't always get what you want.  (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

You can find info on Mostly Muff on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Proceeds from this show went to benefit Boise Bully Breed Rescue, which works to find homes for bully breed dogs in Idaho shelters.  To learn more about this organization, go to

(Correction: I wrote originally that Lisa Simpson played the intro to "Start Me Up."  Actually, Rachel Preminger did.  Sorry, Rachel.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Negative Approach, Bad Antics, Raid and 1d @ the Venue; Sun Blood Stories and Ronnie and the Reagans @ the High Note Cafe (2/15/13)

I was seriously pumped for this show when I first heard about it.  Initially, the headliner was OFF!, the current project of former Black Flag/Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris.  Then word spread that they had canceled the gig due to health issues and that tickets would be refunded.  That bummed me out in a big way.  Not long afterwards, however, I received word that the other acts on the bill would still play.  Since a couple folks whose taste in music I respect were more excited to see Negative Approach than OFF! anyway (they've got a pretty impressive history too), I said what the hell and headed over to the Venue.

I only counted about twenty people in the crowd when I arrived.  That number would build to about fifty-six or fifty-seven as the night progressed.  Not the number that would've turned out for Keith Morris, I imagine, but respectable enough.

Local hardcore band 1d opened the show.  Their buzzing and squealing guitar, their rumbling basslines and their flailing drums all sounded sharper here than they did at the Rich Hands show.  Nonetheless, their yelping-dog vocals, manic stage presence and haphazardly constructed songs still felt too rote and received.  Granted, it's a bit unfair to ask a bunch of teenagers to have all their crap figured out.  Also, the fact that they're getting out there and doing something like this is probably a good in itself.  Maybe I'm just getting cranky and impatient in my old age.

Local band Raid played next.  See?  I'm not that hard to please.  It's enough for me if you at least create the impression of coherence.  I caught exactly one lyric out of this entire set: "I WON'T GO QUIET!"  They weren't howling Dixie there.  But anyway, the solid rapport between their buzzsaw guitar, twangy bass and rampaging drums persuaded me that the songs would make sense with the volume turned down.  It helped too that their songs showed some sturdy construction and that their lead singer could bellow loud enough and clear enough that I could kinda make out the words.

Bad Antics, a four-piece outfit from Placentia, CA (it's to the northeast of Anaheim), played next.  I thought about describing Raid as hyperkinetic, but then I heard these guys and figured I oughtta save the adjective for them.  This band's piercing scream, furious drums, greased-lightning bass and face-melting guitar called to mind Motorhead's joyous relentlessness.  With all his strutting and hair flailing, their lead singer showed enough energy for two mortal frontmen.  The crowd matched him pretty well even if some of the folks in the moshpit started to wilt near the end.  Oh, and in case you were wondering what the lead singer's face looks like...

You're welcome.

Negative Approach closed out the night.  This old-school hardcore act didn't fool much with your standard jerky tempo shifts.  Maybe they figured that that crap would dilute their rage.  The only thing more fearsome than frontman John Brannon's slit-eyed glower was his blood-curdling growl.  His bandmates backed him up with some machine-gun drumming and yowling guitar noise.  As brutal and unyielding as their music was, however, they still managed to work in some tunes and a groove.  The crowd became a maelstrom of moshing, roaring and crowd-surfing during this set.  Brannon seemed to express his approval with a curt nod. Coming from him, that was downright heartwarming.

After Negative Approach wrapped up, I swung by the High Note Cafe to see if I could catch part of the show there.  I counted over fifty people, which made this far and away the best-attended show that I've seen at this place.  I managed to catch the tail end of Idaho Falls band Ronnie and the Reagans' set.  What I heard sounded pretty good: an arty, slightly skewed take on blues, folk and country.  Have to watch out for these guys in the future.

Sun Blood Stories played next.  The body heat was all-consuming as the enraptured crowd hollered and grooved to the hot molasses of the band's blues-rock.  The strobe light flickering behind the band added to the set's psychedelic feel.  Primal, sexy stuff.  Prophetic too--I just know that this is what it's gonna be like at Treefort.

photo by Keesha Renna

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