Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Slim Cessna's Auto Club, Munly and the Lupercalians and A Seasonal Disguise @ the VaC (7/26/13)

I'd heard the name Slim Cessna's Auto Club, but I hadn't thought to look into them until I received a press release about this show.  A listen to a few songs, some glowing write-ups in the Weekly and the fact that this band got Jello Biafra to sing a song about how Jesus Christ died for our sins persuaded me to put this show on the calendar.

There were already about sixty people when I got to VaC.  The official head count for the night was approximately ninety.  Not the 300 that showed up for Peter Murphy, but certainly not bad.

A Seasonal Disguise opened the show.  This performance made good and then some on the promise of the band's Red Room set back in January.  Z.V. House's unvarnished vocals sounded in fine form, and his guitar solos were as tuneful, elegant and fierce as ever.  Meanwhile, Karen Singletary's clean harmonies, Aaron Sup's rippling keyboard and Reggie Townley's roaring distortion blended and weaved with Josh Shapel's steady basslines and Jake Hite's implacable drumming.  The cool, spacey aura of the music didn't quite sound like anything I've heard by anyone else in town.

Munly and the Lupercalians played next.  I imagine that Wovenhand might have looked and sounded like this if David Eugene Edwards went out to the crossroads and sold his soul to the devil.  Munly J Munly's sepulchral croon and bluesy, hypnotic drones fused with tribal drums and atmospheric keyboards.  The band's bizarre outfits--straw/twig masks, KKK hoods and gowns (that's what they looked like, anyway)--augmented the sinister feel of the music.  Strange, powerful stuff.

Slim Cessna's Auto Club closed out the night.  Their music wasn't as creepy as Munly and the Lupercalians' but was still plenty weird.  Frantically plucked basslines, hard-charging drums and buzzing guitar decorated twangy, wailed vocals and cockeyed, religious-themed lyrics (one song celebrated hard-rocking Baptist church founder Roger Williams).  Happily, these guys rocked more than hard enough to keep from drowning in their own shtick.

The crowd worked itself into a nice frenzy during this set.  They danced, bounced, raised their hands high and shouted along.  One mustached gentleman got particularly unruly; he peeled off his shirt, writhed around on the floor, tugged people around, stole one guy's hat (the guy's friend stole it back) and formed a one-man mosh circle.  He also ran onstage and jumped around during the final number.  Slim Cessna and Munly stayed deadpan until he left.  They then gave him a golf clap, did some humorously robotic dance moves and went right back into the song.

You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Wes Malvini and the Evil Wine Show.  If you like what you've read and would like to help keep it going, click the yellow "Give" button and donate.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Boise Weekly Review: Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk, Holly Johnson Loves You, Starlings Murmurations and Kevin Schlereth @ Neurolux (7/25/13)

photo by Tyler Carney

“You guys can join us up here if you want,” Lauren Mann told the 15-person crowd at Neurolux near the start of her set.

No one moved. However, the song that followed the Calgary musician’s invitation earned a round of loud applause.

In spite of a meager turnout, Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk delivered a polished, enthusiastic performance on Thursday, July 25. The audience responded by whooping, whistling and clapping to the beat.
To read the rest of this review, go to the Boise Weekly's Cobweb blog.  Special thanks to Tyler Carney for his photos.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Boise Weekly Review: The Maldives, Star Anna and Jan Summerhays @ Neurolux (7/23/13)

photo by Tyler Carney

When The Maldives played Neurolux last July, lead singer Jason Dodson wore a Neil Young T-shirt. That seemed a bit redundant, given the Seattle band’s folk/country melodies, steady tempos and terse, yowling guitar solos.

Dodson’s shirt read “Mississippi Records” this time around, at Neurolux July 23, but the music still suggested that he and his bandmates have worn out a few copies of Harvest and After the Gold Rush.

In spite of the derivativeness of their material, The Maldives turned in an enjoyable performance. But the two openers, Jan Reed Summerhays and Star Anna, were far more distinctive.


For the rest of this review, you can go to Boise Weekly's Cobweb blog.  Special thanks to Tyler Carney for his photos.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Strange Americans, Brass Bed and Marshall Poole @ the Red Room (7/11/13)

Okay, so you've probably noticed that I'm posting this review waaaaaay after the actual show.  I don't think it's ever taken me this long to get a post out (not one on a live show, anyway).

I've got a good excuse, though.  A couple of weeks ago, I had a meeting with a couple of editors at the Boise Weekly.  They were interested in having me do some freelance music writing for them.  I've already completed a handful of assignments, including a review of the Blaqks' first headlining show.

Don't get me wrong; my blogging days aren't over.  It just means that I may not have time to write as many posts.  I'll post links for the stuff that I get published in the Weekly, though, so y'all can check it out.  If you want to, anyway.

Anyway, back to our normally scheduled programming.

Both Brass Bed and Marshall Poole had impressed me very much when I saw them last year.  So when I had the chance to see them both again, I took it.  It didn't hurt either that I'd never seen Strange Americans before (I do like a promising name).

I counted twelve people when I got to the Red Room, most of whom were out on the patio.  When Strange Americans played, I counted thirteen.  So it goes.

Marshall Poole opened the show.  If anything, this young Caldwell trio sounded even more impressive that they did last September.  Their thunderous riffs, fluid basslines and swift, muscular drums had slightly more of a punk feel than I remembered.  That could've just stemmed from their tight groove and sharp, concise songwriting.  As scorching as Rider Sloan's guitar solos were, what amazed me most was how Melanie Radford could sing while still plucking the strings like crazy.

Brass Bed played next.  In my post on their Neurolux show, I wrote that this Louisiana band sounded like the Beatles one minute and Black Sabbath the next.  I didn't quite hear that this time around, but that's not to say that they sounded bad.  Far from it: light, murmured vocals blended with pounding drums, twangy bass and phantasmagorical guitar sounds.  Both dreamy and rousing.

Strange Americans closed out the night.  Their massive riffs, hard rhythm section and soothing vocals and melodies weren't all that strange (kinda reminded me of Kings of Leon, actually), but they certainly weren't bad.  If the modest audience disappointed them, they didn't show it: the guys bounced, lunged and bent low as they played.  They also joked around between songs ("Can you tell we've played enough G-rated shows?").

You can find info on these groups 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.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas, Bread & Circus and Cutting Cages @ Neurolux (7/9/13)

When I learned about this show, I looked Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas up on Spotify.  I found an EP entitled Weird Looking Women in Too Many Clothes.  Interesting, I thought.  Then I played a couple songs.  Very interesting, I thought.  So, on the calendar this show went.

There were about thirty-five people when I arrived at Neurolux.  When Jessica Hernandez took the stage, I counted over fifty.  Very respectable.

Cutting Cages opened the show.  As Nirvana and Sleater-Kinney have showed, there's nothing like a good drummer to help you channel your angst.  New recruit Brandon Walker's jazzy rumble on the "With Or Without You" cover couldn't match Larry Mullen's straight-ahead one-two beat.  However, his frantic work on the originals lent some release and forward motion to the group's pained vocals, cool saxophone and elegant guitar.  The mix sounded a bit cacophonous at times, but that kinda suited the messy emotions of the lyrics.

Local band Bread and Circus played next.  Their Facebook page has an explanation for their name: "A musical metaphor for superficial means of melodic appeasement.  Bread & Circus for the masses!"  Smart enough and unpretentious enough for me.  This group's steady tempos, fat bass, tingling mandolin and pleasantly unvarnished vocals create a nice hang-loose feel.  Some sharp guitar soloing added some kick.

Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas closed out the show. They hailed from Detroit, but their music sounded just as much like Stax as it did like Motown.  Between Hernandez's strong, smoky vocals, the quirky lyrics and her bandmates' forceful trombone and tough, Latin-tinged funk, this group would've made a killer double bill with Pickwick.  The dance floor got good and lively as this set progressed.

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

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Welcome to Anhedonia by Like A Rocket (2013)

Anhedonia (noun): a psychological condition characterized by inability to experience pleasure in normally pleasurable acts.
--Merriam-Webster Dictonary

I like Like A Rocket's first album Hey Man quite a bit; it's got well-crafted songs, smart vocals and some clever production (I especially like how "NY Girl" sounds like the Strokes).  After I'd listened to it for a couple of months, however, a voice in the back of my head started talking.  "Yeah, the songs are good," the voice said, "but the whole thing feels a little safe, a little tame.  Also, the drums don't sound quite right; they don't have the meaty thwack that they should.

"I get that these guys were just figuring stuff out on that one, and I know that they kill it live.  Still, when are they gonna record that devil's child song?  Or that waiting-on-the-fall song?  When are they gonna put something out that'll justify my calling them one of the best bands in Idaho?"

Well, they just did.

The warning shot came in March with the release of the solo acoustic single "Reason for the Gun."  A stark, chilling sermon that wouldn't sound out of place on one of Johnny Cash's American albums, the song signaled a broadening of scope and ambition.  The band got a small reward for stepping up their game when "Reason" was featured on No Depression's website.

If there's any justice, the release of Welcome to Anhedonia should garner Like A Rocket even more attention.  The album is a full-bodied dose of lust, fear, guilt and rage.  It improves upon Hey Man in almost every way--songwriting, musicianship, production.

Anhedonia's twelve tracks are loosely connected by a noir-ish story about a couple who embark on a robbery/murder spree.  But unlike, say, Quadrophenia or Southern Rock Opera, the album doesn't really unfold in a linear fashion.  Instead, it plays more like a fugue or a reverie.  It's as if the songs are running through the guy's head as he's sleeping on death row.

The title's a bit ironic, considering Anhedonia's numerous pleasures.  The album has enough fiery guitar to make any red-blooded Skynyrd fan tumescent.  The outro to "Legend of a Fool," for example, features not just one but three solos all stacked on top of each other (the first by Built to Spill's Brett Netson, the second by Z.V. House, the third by Speedy Gray).  That tapestry of guitar is just one of many inspired production touches.  Others include the smoky saxophone playing beneath the bluesy guitar solo on "China White" and the shimmering strings and sarcastically rising harmonies on "Ready for the Fall."

Throughout, the groove laid down by Z.V. House's rock-steady bass and Max Klymenko's tough, meaty drums will sound familiar to anyone who's heard the band firing on all cylinders on a Saturday night.  Speedy Gray's weathered drawl handles drugged-out languor ("China White"), psychotic fury ("Graveyard") and gnawing dread (just about everything else) with equal ease.  The tunes stick to your ears, and the lyrics are as clear and sharp as a broken bottle of Jack Daniel's on the pavement.

As satisfying as Anhedonia is, one can reach the woozy mandolin and autoharp at the end and feel that there should be more.  This is undoubtedly intentional; Speedy Gray has stated that the band hopes to release a follow-up EP entitled Police Report later this year.  Time will tell how that turns out.  One thing's for sure: the bar has been set very high indeed.

You can find info on Like A Rocket on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Welcome to Anhedonia is available now on Bandcamp and will be released on CD on July 20.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Adventure Galley and Blurred Vision @ Neurolux (7/2/13)

As faithful readers know, I don't mind seeing a band I've never heard much about.  Quite the opposite.  And hey, with a name like Adventure Galley, it almost felt like a dare to go see them.

I counted about thirty people when I got to Neurolux.  About forty-five people were there when Adventure Galley played.  A pretty good turnout.

I sat at the bar for a while, wondering why the show hadn't started.  Then I realized that local DJ Vestral was doing his set.  It wasn't too bad at all--your straight-ahead booming, bombastic clubbin' stuff.  I recognized one sample from a TV commercial.  Nobody danced, but that was probably less the music's fault than the unsuitable sunlight and blood alcohol levels.

Blurred Vision's set surprised me.  I haven't cared much for these guys in the past, but they sounded better here than I remembered.  It could have been due to a better mix or better acoustics.  Whatever the reason, I could hear more little layers and rhythmic wrinkles to their simple synthesizer riffs and stomping, steady beats.  Their detached, heavily filtered vocals stood out more as well.  Not that the lyrics seemed particularly important; I did appreciate having my rational mind tickled, however.  The flashing lights, smoke and lasers were nice touches too.  I still prefer Cloud/Splitter and Edmond Dantes, but pretty good nonetheless.

Adventure Galley played next.  At first, their airy synth drones and squiggles seemed a bit like the fluff on the lead singer's pirate hat: cute and fun but not especially crucial.  However, as their material progressed from a blend of surf, disco and New Wave to a more straightforward, Killers-esque dance-rock, they felt more integral.  In any case, their strong beats, snarling guitar, charmingly cheesy keyboards and pleasantly rough vocals got the dance floor to fill in pretty nicely.  If this group comes back, maybe they can get the Dirty Moogs to open.

You can find info on Blurred Vision and Adventure Galley 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.  Even $5 would help.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Garage Voice, Wellspring and Honor and Starlings Murmurations @ Neurolux (6/30/13)

With their alt-gospel sound, Garage Voice was one of the most interesting bands that I saw last year.  When I saw that they'd be coming back, I jumped at the chance to see them again.  As an added bonus, the bill included Wellspring and Honor, a group I hadn't seen in well over a year, and Starlings Mumurations, whom I could probably stand to see a couple dozen more times.

I counted about fifteen people when I got to Neurolux.  When Garage Voice played, I counted about twenty-five.  So it goes on a Sunday.

Starlings Murmurations opened the show.  Kristy Scott seemed even more confident this time around.  She played while standing, and her singing had an extra ease, depth and nuance to it.  Her guitar playing felt stronger and steadier as well.  All of this gave her music added power; at times, she even reminded me a little of Sera Cahoone.

Wellspring and Honor played next.  This group sounded much more together than they did at Grainey's Basement fourteen months ago.  Slashing riffs met with curling basslines and rumbling drums.  They still didn't quite seem to hit at the same time at points, and Marco Montero didn't seem to have the pipes or the conditioning to belt and stretch out like he wanted.  However, that didn't detract much from the appeal of their well-crafted songs.  Put them at eighty-five or ninety percent of the way there.

Garage Voice sounded a little different than I remembered.  Not that they sounded bad--their music just seemed to have a much stronger soul/R&B feel here.  Stax and Motown devotee that I am, this didn't bother me at all.  Tommy Paginot's clean vocals and fiery guitar blended with Bruce Pearson's spooky, jolting organ and Patrick Toney's tight, swinging drum work.  I worried for a while that no one else was paying attention, but I noticed a few people going up to talk with the band afterwards.  Hopefully, there'll be more next time.

You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Wes Malvini and Evil Wine.  If you like what you've read and would like to help keep it going, click the yellow "Give" button and donate.  Even $5 would help.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Le Fleur, the Raven and the Writing Desk and Color Animal @ the Red Room (6/29/13)

Le Fleur was one of the handful of bands who made me think, "Hey, there's something going on in this here Boise music scene."  So when I learned that this would be their last show ever, I felt obliged to go and bid them farewell.  Talk about the Raven and the Writing Desk's dynamite performance at the WavePOP house gave me extra incentive to check this show out.

I counted twenty people when I got to the Red Room.  When Le Fleur took the stage, I counted around ninety (there could've been more).  A fine turnout.

Unfortunately, I worked the closing shift at a new part-time job, so I missed Storie Grubb's opening set.  Oh well.  Hopefully, I'll get to see/hear him and the Holy Wars soon--they've been working on some promising stuff lately.

Color Animal sounded murkier here than they did at the Flying M; I couldn't hear the guitars weave together quite as well.  Most likely, this was just due to the Red Room's acoustics.  Anyway, that was a pretty minor quibble since they sounded just as tuneful and rocking as they did the night before.  Hopefully, the slightly larger crowd will encourage them to come back around sometime.

The Raven and the Writing Desk played next.  One gentleman described this Denver band to me as sounding like King Crimson joining with the Dresden Dolls to cover the Murder City Devils and Black Sabbath.  That trumps pretty much anything I can come up with ("a more symphonic Tom Waits or Murder By Death" sounds awfully weak by comparison).  Eerie violin, rumbling drums, crunching guitar, pounding piano and cool xylophone swirled around Julia LiBassi's soaring, swooning moan and cabaret-tinged tunes.  Would've made a helluva double bill with Minor Birds.  They'll be back, LiBassi said.  I hope so.

Le Fleur closed out the night with possibly their best set ever (that I've seen).  Their steady, relentless rhythms and howling fog of guitars sounded good and fierce.  Meanwhile, Ivy Meissner worked some grit into her growl, snarl and wail.  The crowd bounced, swayed and cheered wildly as the band scraped their repertoire bare ("At this point, we really only have a couple left.  For reals!").  It's sad that there won't be any more of this.  Still, a very fine note to go out on.

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

First Borns and Color Animal @ the Flying M Concert-Garage (6/28/13)

A band I'd never seen before was going to play the Flying M out in Nampa.  That was all I needed to see.  I marked the show down on the calendar.

Not many others did.  There were six people at the concert-garage when I got there.  The audience never rose over fifteen.  So it goes, I guess.

Color Animal played first.  I knew that this Salt Lake City group would play the Red Room the next night.  By the end of this set, I was hoping that they'd play to a much larger crowd there.  Their boyish vocals, their sunny tunes, their bright, weaving guitars, their straight-ahead basslines and their fluid, driving drums sounded like a cross between the Strokes and the Very Most.  Wiry, dreamy, rocking.

In the modest crowd was a family whom the band apparently knew from SLC.  Didn't hear them griping about the drive out to Nampa...

First Borns played next.  This group seems to rock harder each time I see them, and this set was no exception.  Christopher Smith worked a little sneer into his vocals, Alex Hecht slashed away at his guitar strings and Erik Butterworth's drumming had a nice muscular swing to it.  They may have sounded a little ragged at times, but that just added to the punkish feel of this set.  Smith said that they might retire "Gene," the first song that they wrote together, after this set.  I like that song okay, but considering their uptick in intensity, I'm more interested in what they'll come up with next.

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

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hillfolk Noir, Hymn for Her and Angie Gillis @ the VaC (6/27/13)

According to the press release that I received, Hymn for Her play a guitar made from a cigar box and a broomstick.  They also recorded an album in their 1961 Bambi Airstream trailer.  These two bits of information were enough to get me intrigued.  The reported comparisons to Captain Beefheart, Primus and X and a listen to a couple of their songs sealed the deal.

Sadly, not many others seemed to have shared my interest.  I counted four civilians when I got to the VaC.  Not even ten people showed up over the course of the night.

Angie Gillis opened the show.  She seemed more comfortable and confident here than she did at the Sapphire Room back in May.  Playing to a nearly empty room may have helped.  So could her having run a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for her first EP.  In any case, Gillis's plainspoken lyrics and simple tunes sounded just as impressive.  The slight tartness of her singing suited the directness of her words; it seemed to say, "You can take me on my terms or get lost."

Hymn for Her played next.  The press release didn't mention anybody comparing this Philadelphia duo to the 13th Floor Elevators, so I'll lay claim to that one right now.  Booming, stomping drums mixed with massive, buzzing guitar riffs and alternately ominous and sweet blues/folk/country tunes.  Lucy Tight plucked all kinds of mind-bending screeks, scrapes and wakka-wakkas out of her one-string, cigar-box slide.  Her angelic croon complemented Wayne Waxing's friendly deadpan nicely.  Their godalmighty racket was at once so bizarre and so earthy that it transcended any kind of white trash shtick.  I just wish I'd had the money to buy a bottle of their banana jalapeno hot sauce.

Hillfolk Noir closed out the night.  My kingdom for a tape recorder: Travis Ward kicked things off with a hilariously profane rant about Boise people sucking for not coming to see Hymn for Her.  That set the tone for the rest of their set, with Ward's raucous vocals and greasy slide carousing around with Mike Waite's nimble bass and Alison Ward's limber washboard.  Between the riled-up performance, the oddball lyrics ("Give it up for the hobo with the magic hand"?) and the kazoo solos, I couldn't imagine how I'd ever considered this band hokey or genteel.  And on a non-musical note, I'll add that I dig Ward's scruffy new look (reminded me a little of Levon Helm).

You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Wes Malvini and the Evil Wine Show.  If you like what you've read and would like to help keep it going, click the yellow "Give" button and donate.  Even $5 would help.