Saturday, June 29, 2013

Carrie Rodriguez and Fulton Sanders @ the VaC (6/25/13)

I'd heard good things about Austin musician Carrie Rodriguez--anybody who can open for Lucinda Williams will be worth seeing, I figure--but I missed her at the VaC last August.  When I saw that she'd be coming back, then, I jumped at the chance to check her out.

I counted over fifty people when I arrived at the VaC.  When Carrie Rodriguez played, I counted around ninety.  Most of the crowd looked to be in their forties or older.  I imagined that the young'uns were freaking out to Wooden Indian Burial Ground over at Neurolux (and judging from the crowd I saw there later, I was right).  In any case, a good turnout.

Local duo Fulton Sanders opened the show.  At one point, Steve Fulton told the audience that he'd received a message on Facebook before the show: "I hope you don't play too long, Steve!  I want to go home early tonight."  No one seemed to mind the length of his and Shon Sanders's set, however.  Between their clean, sweet harmonies, their smoothly funky rhythms and their weaving guitars, I certainly didn't.  Listening to Fulton croon through a clenched jaw a la George Jones, I realized that he doesn't just work with good singers (e.g. Catherine Merrick); he's a pretty respectable one in his own right.  Sanders' lower, smokier voice complemented Fulton's tenor nicely.

Carrie Rodriguez played next with guitarist Luke Jacobs.  Between this set and Fulton Sanders', Merle Haggard songs played on the VaC's speakers.  "Wow," I said to myself.  "That's setting the bar a little high." However, with her well-groomed tunes and conversational, offhandedly sharp lyrics, Rodriguez met that challenge.  Indeed, her yearning, gorgeous ballad "Get Back in Love," her impressionistic narrative "Seven Angels On a Bicycle" and her sassy rocker "I Cry for Love" didn't sound too shabby at all next to her and Jacobs's duet on "Today I Started Loving You Again."  Of course, it didn't hurt that Rodriguez has to be one of the sliest, sultriest singers I've heard in a good long while.  Most welcome as well were her shredding violin solos and Jacobs's nimble picking and jolting slide.  The crowd whooped, clapped, snapped and stomped during the rowdier numbers.  During the softer ones, they were so quiet that I grew a bit self-conscious over my pen's clicking.  Easily one of the best performances that I've seen so far this year.

You can find info on Steve Fulton, Shon Sanders and Carrie Rodriguez on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Sam Stimpert and the Visual Arts Collective.  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.  Even $5 would help.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sama Dams, Catherine Feeny, Judson Claiborne and the Boise Cello Collective @ the Crux (6/22/13)

This night offered cello enthusiasts a couple of options: they could've checked out this Crux show, which featured the Boise Cello Collective, or the Portland Cello Project at the VaC.  I chose the Crux, but not so much because of cellos.  Instead, I'd listened to a couple of songs by Sama Dams and grown intrigued.

There were over fifty people at the Crux when I arrived.  That number would drop by the time that Sama Dams played--that was around 11:30--but about thirty folks still stuck around to see them.  Overall, a good turnout.

I showed up late but got there in time to catch about half of the Boise Cello Collective's set.  I'll admit that this music made a bit nervous at first.  I ain't no classical musics expert, I thought.  How'm I s'posed to write about this?  Thankfully, a few pop song covers helped me find my bearings.  Danika McClure may have leaned a little too hard into an Elliot Smith song, but her high, fluttery voice was quite pleasant nonetheless.  Besides, the other cellists' playing and arrangements were as smart and sensitive as you could've wanted.  It may not have been much of a trick to make the Beatles' "Yesterday" sound pretty, but their Vivaldi-esque retooling of the Who's "Baba O'Riley" impressed me greatly.  Also impressive were a pair of originals by cellist Mark Doubleday that ended the set.  The first was a mellow, swooning number that made me think of a warm autumn day.  The second, which was tenser and more slashing, rubbed the Bernard Herrmann fan in me the right way.

Up next was Chicago/Olympia musician Judson Claiborne.  I couldn't figure out exactly whose voice Claiborne's warm, sturdy tenor reminded me of (Bono without the preening melodrama, maybe?).  In any case, his occasionally cryptic lyrics and his serene yet somehow disquieting tunes made me think a little of Nick Drake.  Claiborne was a good deal tougher, however; I can't picture Nick Drake singing lines like "I been walkin' down the road, / I got piss all over my clothes."  (I think that's what he said, anyway.)

Catherine Feeny played next.  I imagine that Suzanne Vega might sound like this if she hooked up with Joe Strummer.  Feeny's high, eerie wail and spare, tense ukulele lines kicked any hint of twee to the curb, and her Occupy-inspired lyrics drove a stake through its heart ("Calling all souls / Before it's too late / Lie in the way of the police state.").  Her three-piece band backed her up with bright, misty keyboard, funky guitar and delicate, jazzy, propulsive drumming.  The audience applauded Feeny so loudly that they managed to squeeze an encore out of her.

Sama Dams finished the show.  Catherine Feeny was an awfully tough act to follow, but this Portland band managed just fine with their subdued, Thom Yorke-ish wails, hazy guitar, glowing keyboard and supple, jagged beats.  The lyrics that I caught weren't as pointed as Feeny's, but I still found their ominousness plenty agreeable.  A cameo from Sun Blood Stories' Andy Rayborn didn't hurt either.  The crowd stayed in their seats but applauded warmly throughout.

You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Duck Club Presents.  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.  Even $5 would help.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Weatherbox, LA Font and A Sea of Glass @ the Red Room (6/20/13)

I'd never heard Weatherbox and LA Font before.  This, of course, gave me all the reason I needed to check this show out.  The chance to see A Sea of Glass again was a nice bonus.

I counted thirty-five people at the Red Room when I arrived.  When Weatherbox played, not more than fifteen or sixteen people were watching them.  Bummer, but it happens.

A Sea of Glass opened the show.  The audience stood a few feet away from the stage during this set.  In a way, I found that fitting.  There's a certain fragile majesty to this group's music; it's grand and soaring, but it feels as if it could vanish if you get too close to it.  The ebb and flow of their surging rhythms, airy guitar, swooning violin and angelic vocals sounded as gorgeous as it did the past two times that I've heard them.  The moments when Joseph Lyle didn't quite hit those high notes just added a nice human touch.

LA Font played next.  I dig pretty melodies and twang-jangle-and-drone as much as the next guy.  If you ask me, however, it's the bass and drums that separate the men/women from the boys/girls when it comes to 60's/70's pop/surf/garage knock-offs.  This L.A. (Echo Park, to be precise) band was a perfect case in point.  The sunny tunes were plenty catchy and Danny Bobbe and Jon Perry's guitars plenty sharp, but they wouldn't have gotten as far without Greg Katz's tuneful basslines and Harlow Rodriguez's smooth, strong drumming pushing them forward.  The smart lyrics were a nice bonus.  And sure, Bobbe may have sounded like an a**hole, but I'll take punky sneer over indie reediness most any day.

Besides, anybody with merch like this can't be too bad.  Go Dodgers!

Weatherbox closed out the night.  This San Diego band's mix of poppy melodies, grinding riffs and galloping drums struck a fascinating balance between thunderous and light or even playful.  The pockets of space in their sound (riff-riff-stop riff-riff-stop, quiet verses and LOUD choruses) probably helped.  It really was too bad that more people didn't stay to check them out.  At least they got some good whoops and cheers from those who did as well as an offer to put them up for the night.

You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Duck Club Presents.  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.  Even $5 would help.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Slam Dunk, Radar Brothers and Ola Podrida @ Neurolux (6/18/13)

I didn't get to see Slam Dunk at Treefort this year; I saw Grandparents instead (but I SHOULD have seen YACHT).  Anyway, this show caught my interest because it gave me a chance to check them out.  It didn't hurt either that I'd never seen Radar Brothers or Ola Podrida before.

I counted about thirty people when I got to Neurolux.  When Slam Dunk played, I counted a little over fifty people watching.  A very good audience for a Tuesday.

Ola Podrida opened the show.  This Austin band made me think of different bands at different points--maybe some R.E.M. or early Built to Spill here, maybe some Sleepy Seeds or Wilco there.  Which, I guess, indicates how much I liked them.  Jangling, misty guitars and smooth, steady rhythms carried David Wingo's breathy tenor along.  The touches of howling distortion helped keep the dreamy tunes from floating off into the ether.  Very cool.

Radar Brothers played next.  There's a thin line between dreamy and sleep-inducing.  With their ambling, stately tempos, their unwavering drones and their light, subdued vocals, this Independence, CA group might have wandered a bit too far on the latter side of that line.  Those drones were still plenty tuneful, however, and their synth buzzes and squiggles added a neat pinch of new wave to their straight-ahead indie-rock.  The lyrics that I caught were intriguing too ("You don't love me, so you don't pay me anymore. / You won't hide me, you won't pay me to clean your floor.").

Slam Dunk closed out the show.  These Victoria, BC guys and gal kept you awake, that's for sure: swinging, muscular drums, honking sax, charmingly caterwauling vocals.  Something about their hodgepodge of punk, surf, doo-wop and who knows what else nagged at me, however.  It wasn't sofistimacated enough to be called postmodern; instead of Derrida-obsessed caffeine junkies, this group called to mind bright adolescents who'd had too much sugar or gone off their ADHD meds.  Which, I guess, is just a pretentious way of saying that their music felt a bit too scattered and miscellaneous.  Still, their high energy and good cheer were impossible to dislike.  Call them Scarf with better chops and better tunes, maybe.

In any case, the rest of the audience didn't seem to share my quibbles.  It only took two songs to get people moving, and the dance floor stayed bubbling for the rest of the set.  When Slam Dunk started setting down their instruments, the calls for an encore were so loud that they didn't even bother with the ritual of stepping offstage, waiting and then coming back up.

You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Radio Boise.  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.  Even $5 could go a long way.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Very Most, PETS, the Dirty Moogs and Hey V Kay @ the Crux (6/14/13)

I've always liked the Very Most, but I hadn't written about them in over a year.  This show attracted my interest for that reason and also because it celebrated the release of their new EP Just a Pup.  The presence on the bill of the Dirty Moogs, whom I also hadn't written about in a good while, and Hey V Kay, one of my favorite local acts, didn't hurt either.

I counted eleven people when I got to the Crux.  The audience would peak at about forty-five, by my estimate.  The Very Most didn't play until around 11:40, but over thirty people stuck around to watch them.  Pretty good.

Hey V Kay opened the show.  Karen Havey told the crowd up front that she'd come down with a cold and apologized if she sounded nasally.  Given her low, breathy singing style, however, I couldn't hear much of a difference.  Indeed, her voice, her melancholy tunes, her dance-worthy beats and Owen Havey's elegant guitar lines all sounded as irresistible as ever.  "Middle-Class Sweetheart" was as impressive here as it was at Treefort, and a frantic, intricately crafted new number matched both it and the older material.  The cherry on top was a swooning, disco-ish take on Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game."  I've said it before and I'll say it again: Hey V Kay needs to do a covers album.

The Dirty Moogs played next.  In keeping with the Very Most's sunny pop sound, the Moogs opted to twee things up here: tinkling keyboards, purposely dinky beats, even an acoustic guitar.  That the songs held up under the cutesification was a testament to their charm and craftsmanship.  Having Gia Trotter sing harmony on "Julie's an Android" was an especially nice touch.

After a DJ set by Discoma a.k.a. Jake Hite, PETS played.  I can't think of any other group that could call to mind both Beat Happening and the Ohio Players.  Melodic, buoyant basslines and smooth, steady drums anchored ringing guitar and high, murmured vocals.  I couldn't make out all of the lyrics, but what I heard didn't threaten to turn my stomach (not even the song about drinking apple juice).  Twee but funky: a very interesting combination.

Jeremy Jensen dropped a bomb near the end of the Very Most's set: he announced that this might be the band's last live performance ever.  That'd be too bad, but happily, he mentioned afterwards that they still planned to record.  Besides, they picked a good show to go out on.  The groove between Jake Hite's lean, swinging drums, Brion Rushton's driving basslines and the Jensen brothers' elegant, jangling guitars felt as lived-in and comfortable as your favorite sweater.  In addition to her usual gorgeous harmonies, Gia Trotter took the lead on "It's Not Unusual" and brought a nice bit of sultriness to it.  Last but not least, the melodies sounded as sweet and fresh as I remembered.  Congratulations indeed.

You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online.  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.  Even $5 would help.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tango Alpha Tango, Sun Blood Stories and Modesto @ Neurolux (6/11/13)

I saw Tango Alpha Tango at Tom Grainey's last year.  I'd started a blog only six days prior and didn't have a clear conception for it.  As I listened to them and another Portland band, Violet Isle, a light bulb went off over my head.  "Hey," I thought, "why don't I write about these guys?"  The rest is history.

So when I saw that Tango Alpha Tango would be returning to Boise, I didn't care that I'd seen all of the acts on the bill before.  I immediately gave the show a spot on the calendar.

I counted over thirty people when I got to Neurolux.  When Tango Alpha Tango played, there were about fifty, thirty of whom stayed inside.  Not bad.

Modesto opened the show with their best performance yet (that I've seen, anyway).  Their groove struck just the right balance of tight and loose.  Their shifts in dynamics and tempo felt smoother, which rendered their sharp arrangements even more impressive.  And while I could complain that their lyrics still felt a little too generic, songwriting in and of itself seemed a bit beside the point.  Instead, the songs served more as excuses for the thunderous riffs, yowling solos, liquid basslines and sly, slippery drumming to weave with and bounce off each other.  For now, that's enough: more than any band I've heard lately, these guys conveyed the pure joy of making music as a group.

Sun Blood Stories' set proved a bit disconcerting.  Not that they sounded bad; their scorching wah-wah guitar, screeching sax and lumbering, funky grooves sounded as sexy and menacing as ever.  It was just strange to see so few people watching them.  Eh, whatever; there were still a handful of folks getting down, and they got some good applause at the end.  This set featured some pounding, hypnotic new material that should go over well with larger audiences.

Tango Alpha Tango closed out the night and sounded even better than I remembered.  While Nathan Trueb's protean soloing called to mind Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan once again, his vocals sounded fuller, deeper and defter.  He found strong support in Mirabai Carter-Trueb's unassumingly fluid bass, Aaron Trueb's spooky keyboard and their new drummer's subtle, steady work.  They handled jazzy swing, roiling funk, Zeppelin stomp, country-blues bounce and Crazy Horse chug with equal assurance.  Nathan Trueb promised that they'd come back again.  Judging from the dancing and cheering, I doubt that the crowd will mind.  I sure won't.

You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Radio Boise.  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.  Even $5 would help.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

High Desert Hooligans, Trigger Itch and Piranhas BC @ the Red Room (6/7/13)

This night's Neurolux show had a definite buzz to it, no doubt owing to its headliner, the Grizzled Mighty, having played Treefort this year.  However, I'd already written about that concert's openers, the Blaqks and Parade of Bad Guys, a few times before.  This Red Room show, on the other hand, featured two acts I'd never seen.  That was enough to tip the scales in its favor.

I counted about fifteen people when I got down there.  There were about forty there when High Desert Hooligans played, but most of them chose to hang out on the patio during that set.  So it goes.  At least, judging from the crapload of people that I saw when I walked by earlier in the evening, the Neurolux show was well-attended.

Piranhas BC opened the show.  Boy, these guys sure do grow on you.  I've liked their catchy tunes and fluid, piercing solos from the first time that I heard them.  The more that I see this group, however, the more impressive that their tunes' consistency and their groove's sturdiness become.  The same goes for their smart arrangements and James Thomason's offhandedly deft vocals (a little mock-Phil Anselmo here, a little rapid-fire reciting there).  I dig Thomason's non-stop hopping, strutting and mugging as well (though he does make it difficult to take a picture of him without using a flash).  Winningly unpretentious.

Local group Trigger Itch played next.  Between their manic rhythm section, their metallic, rockabilly-ish riffs, their ferocious soloing and their rough, shouted vocals, these guys called to mind my favorite metal band, Motorhead.  They seemed to drag the beat a little on one song, but then I realized that it was a split-second tempo shift.  Most of the Red Room's patrons were outside when this set started, but it didn't take long for people to come back in and cheer the band on.

Redmond, OR rock band High Desert Hooligans closed out the night.  If you look up this group on Facebook, you'll find plenty of bands listed under "Influences": Dead Kennedys, the Runaways, the Ramones, AC/DC.  Respectable names, no doubt.  Influential, I'm sure.  Still, I smell what Harold Bloom might call an "evasion."  With their hard-driving rhythms, buzzsaw riffs, harshly catchy tunes and growled vocals, these guys and gals were damn near a dead-ringer for L7.  Nothing wrong with that, especially when you factor in the Hooligans' funny, bitchy lyrics and playful stage presence (sarcastically golly-gee mugging, some gentle nudging).  It really was a shame that most people drifted back out onto the patio during this set.  At least they got a chance to see the lead singer and bassist when they hopped down and ran out the door during a massive drum solo.  They didn't get to see Piranhas, Trigger Itch and others dancing and jumping around onstage with the Hooligans during the finale, though.  Smart, rowdy fun.

You can find info on these acts 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.  Even $5 would help.

A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Phantahex and Fleet Street Klezmer Band @ Neurolux; Sun Blood Stories @ the Crux (6/6/13)

Initially, I'd thought about covering Sun Blood Stories' fundraiser show at the Crux; they're one of my favorite local bands right now, and I wanted to support their efforts to get their new album out.  In the end, however, this Neurolux show was too intriguing to pass up.  I mean, Phantahex and Fleet Street Klezmer Band on the same bill?  I had to hear how that would play out.

I counted about twenty-five people when I got to Neurolux.  I counted over fifty when the headliner, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, played.  Half of that number chose to hang out on the patio, but that still made for a decent enough audience.

Fleet Street Klezmer Band opened the show.  I've seen this group quite a few times and enjoyed each performance, so it surprises me that I hadn't noticed before how good a singer Shlomo Kostenko is.  That may be because their Romanian/Russian/gypsy tunes tend to call for a certain amiable roughness; they work better if he sounds like some dude from your village who just got up to sing a song.  Certain moments here, however, allowed Kostenko to show the power of his baritone moan--its strength, its range, its sonorousness.  Meanwhile, the rapport between his rock-steady strumming, Victoria Kostenko's gliding violin and Matthew Vorhies's jaunty accordion felt especially strong.  Drummer Alfonso Sanchez stumbled more than a few times but generally got back on the beat quick enough.  Last but not least, Cecilia Rinn pitched in with some pleasant finger cymbal and some lissome belly-dancing.

Phantahex played next.  In with the old, in with the new.  This set featured Tristan Andreas playing a monochord again as well as a continuation of the tuneful, rhythmic bent of this duo's Red Room set back in January.  The jittery, booming beats and the spare, somber melodies made the hisses and screeches stand in sharper relief.  Grant Olsen's detached, auto-tuned vocals made the mixture even more haunting.  Abrasive yet accessible.  Both cool as in brrr and cool as in whoa.

Next up was A Hawk and a Hacksaw.  This Albuquerque duo's ersatz, postmodern mashup of various world musics--Balkan, Klezmer, Arabian, a little Buddhist chant and taiko drumming (I think)--helped the pairing of such disparate openers make a bit more sense.  I wondered at first if this was all a big hipster joke--an evocation of community and solidarity undercut by a smug, savvier-than-thou obscurantism.  Heather Trost's frantic, zipping violin and Jeremy Barnes's scurrying accordion work did little to ease my misgivings, impressive though they both were.  However, as the set progressed from a stolid anthem to some lively, buzzing, poly-rhythmic material, they started to win me over.  It was as if they wanted to take you from an institutionalized or state-imposed vision of community to the flesh-and-blood experience of it.  Or maybe I just appreciate dance-beats much more than accordions.  In any case, the crowd was with them right from the start.  By A Hawk and a Hacksaw's encore, which they played unplugged among the people on the dance floor, I was with them too.

After the Neurolux show wrapped, I swung by the Crux in time to catch the tail-end of Sun Blood Stories' set.  The place was as crowded as I'd hoped, and the performance was as ass-whomping as I'd expected.  Some psychedelic montages courtesy of Jason Willford upped the intensity level a notch.  What with all the painted faces, all the roars of applause and all the used clothes, books and tapes on a table in the back, the band hopefully made enough money to get their new album, The Electric Years, out.  But even if they did, you should go to their web store and contribute because dammit, their very presence here makes this town twice as sexy.

You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online.  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.  Even $5 would help. And special thanks to Tristan Andreas for looking up A Hawk and a Hacksaw's cimbalom and stroh violin on his smartphone.