Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Jennie Wayne and Lindsay Clark @ the Flying M Concert-Garage (8/15/13)

I was a wreck this day.  I'd stayed up all night writing a handful of articles for the Boise Weekly and only gotten three hours of sleep.  When the evening came, I didn't feel like doing anything other than sit on my couch and stare vacantly into space.

Then I saw a Facebook event page for this show.  Then I listened to Jennie Wayne's latest album.  Then I said to myself, "Y'know, I could really use some more of this right now."  So I dragged my carcass into my car and made the drive out to Nampa.

There were eleven people inside the concert-garage when I arrived.  The audience peaked at seventeen.  A modest crowd, but at least the people were into the music; they alternated between respectful silence and warm applause throughout the show.

Jennie Wayne played first.  This Portland musician's clean, breathy vocals and soothing melodies helped level me off from the iced coffee I'd gulped down.  Her lyrics were consistently thoughtful and well-turned, but frankly, I could've listened to her coo the Flying M's menu.  During her Prince cover, I could've closed my eyes and sworn I was listening to Alison Krauss.  Sweet, soulful, gorgeous.

Fellow Portland musician Lindsay Clark played next.  Her subdued, fluttery vocals were more austere than Wayne's.  Similarly, her lyrics were edgier and more ominous.  Nothing wrong with that, though; her cryptic, fascinating songs and her spare banjo picking made me think a little of Five Leaves Left or Pink Moon.  Also, I appreciated the determination of her closing song: "You say the grass is greener, but I know the grass is one shade. / And I will see it through, and I will see it through."

You can find info on Jennie Wayne and Lindsay Clark on Facebook and elsewhere online.

Red Hands Black Feet and Iconoplasty @ the Crux; Icarus the Owl and a.k.a. Belle @ the Red Room (8/11/13)

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Red Hands Black Feet.  Indeed, I've probably written more about them than any other band.  So of course I was gonna see them at the kickoff show for their and Iconoplasty's West Coast Tour.

Sidenote: They've been on tour for a couple of weeks now.  It's gone pretty well overall, but it's also had some hardships and difficulties.

I counted twenty-three people when I got to the Crux.  When Red Hands Black Feet played, I counted about seventy.  A very respectable crowd.

Iconoplasty opened the show.  Josh Gross certainly sounded raring to go: his guitar playing was sharp, his layering of riffs, licks and beats was precise and confident and his transitions between passages were smoother than ever.  It might have been nice if he'd stretched the individual passages out a little more, but then again, the quick change-ups were a good way of keeping people on their toes.  Figuratively, anyway--no one danced, but most everyone watched the stage.

This set featured a booming cameo from Jessica Johnson and a brief section where Gross invited people to say what they thought of the music.  Three people did so.

Jake Myers: "I like it!"

Dillon from San Francisco: "Although I like your music, it makes me feel like a I'm in a Beverly Hills nightmare."

Eric Gilbert: "More rock, less talk."

After Iconoplasty finished, I headed over to the Red Room.  Heather Roberts's Ten Gallon Cat had set up an intriguing bill featuring a.k.a. Belle and Portland rock band Icarus the Owl (she's actually been setting up quite a few interesting shows lately).  I can't lie, though: part of what attracted me to this show was the chance to see Roberts and the Fiddle Junkies' Austin Clark as Bette and Yvette, a.k.a. Belle's two "dancers."

a.k.a. Belle played first and sounded as strong and swinging as ever.  Chris Galli and Louis McFarland's smooth, assured grooves carried along Sam Merrick's screeching guitar and Catherine Merrick's warm, lovely voice.  Once again, it occurred to me that the touch of jazz in this group's sound helps make it a bit sexier than your average Americana act's.  This set featured a brooding new number entitled "Crooked Path" and a clever little quotation from "Like a Hurricane."

And yes, this was about as awesome as I'd hoped.

Icarus the Owl played soon after a.k.a. Belle.  The slight emo whine to Joey Rubenstein's vocals was counterbalanced by the band's rippling guitar licks and angular, disorienting tempos.  Conversely, the emo elements of the music helped keep the math-rock stuff from feeling too arch.  Sharp as a razor and chops to spare but not so's they'd brag about it.  Good stuff.

I would've liked to have stayed for Icarus the Owl's whole set, but I wanted to get back to the Crux in time for Red Hands Black Feet's set.  Walking over, I could hear them from a block away.

Red Hands Black Feet sounded more than ready to hit the road as well.  The material from their upcoming EP sounded as roiling, majestic and achingly beautiful as their older stuff.  The crowd did the expected whooping and nodding to the beat.  During one lyrical guitar intro, Jessica Johnson jumped offstage to hug people in the audience.  Then she got back behind her drum kit and bashed away.

You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Heather Roberts and Ten Gallon Cat.  And in case you didn't click on the link earlier, go here to learn how you can help Red Hands Black Feet get out of the red.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Yellow Red Sparks, Ronnie and the Reagans and Starlings Murmurations @ Gramma's House (8/9/13)

I'd heard of Gramma's House but never actually seen a show there.  This show caught my attention for that reason.  It also caught my attention because it was a collaboration between Evil Wine/Wes Malvini and Heather Roberts, who's started promoting shows under the name Ten Gallon Cat.

I counted thirty people when I got to Gramma's House.  The place turned out to be across the street from my old high school.  Walked by it for half my life.  Who knew?  Anyway, Wes Malvini put the final headcount at around forty.  Not bad at all.

Starlings Murmurations opened the show.  Kirsty Scott played without her iPad recordings this night, which she said she found a bit strange (so did playing without a monitor, she added).  She did fine, though, since she still had one of the most gorgeous voices in the Boise music scene.  Stretched out a bit more with it too.  The darkness added an appropriately intimate feel as well (though Malvini did set up a light behind Scott midway through her set).

Ronnie and the Reagans played next.  This Idaho Falls group impressed me when I caught them at the Crux back in April.  With their funky beats, fluid basslines and lyrical guitar solos, their expanded lineup impressed me just as much.  It's just too bad I probably won't see it again; Franklin Tillo said that this was the band's second-to-last show as a quintet.

The things you get to see at house shows.

Last up was Los Angeles band Yellow Red Sparks.  It's always nice when a folky band doesn't lay on the cornpone too thick.  Indeed, the lovelorn lyrics, winsome melodies and smooth, swinging beat won me over so thoroughly that when the group invited the audience to sing along to an excerpt from Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love," I did (also, I just love that song).  Most of the crowd didn't, but they did give the band some good whoops and cheers.  The handful of numbers that Yellow Red Sparks played unplugged and without mics added to the set's intimacy.

You can find info on these acts, Evil Wine and Ten Gallon Cat on Facebook and elsewhere online.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Finn Riggins, Jared Mees and Lionsweb @ Neurolux (8/1/13)

As I've written elsewhere, Finn Riggins was the band that sparked my interest in the Boise music scene.  After I saw them play the VaC one night (opening for tUnE-yArDs, if I recall correctly), I thought, "Wow, if a band like this calls Boise home, what else could be out here?"

This band represents another first for me: I wrote my first Boise Weekly feature about them recently.

So with all of this going for them, no way was I going to miss their last show for the foreseeable future.  As an added bonus, this concert presented me with a couple more firsts--specifically, the chance to see Portland musician Jared Mees and local act Lionsweb for the first time.

The audience at Neurolux already numbered about sixty when I arrived.  When Finn Riggins took the stage, there were so many people that I didn't even bother to count.  Unsurprisingly, I saw quite a few familiar faces in the crowd (Kelsey Swope, Sun Blood Stories, Lori Shandro, Sam Stimpert, Stephanie Coyle, etc.).

Lionsweb a.k.a. Bronwyn Leslie kicked off the show.  I'd heard good things from quite a few people about this local musician.  As soon as she launched into her a capella opening number, I realized that they weren't jiving.  Leslie's bluesy, powerful voice silenced all of the chatter in the room within seconds.  Her vocals and her haunting, Appalachian-esque songs sounded just as impressive bedecked with her simple guitar and piano (even if the chatter picked back up by the bar).  Andy Rayborn contributed some tasteful clarinet.  Some oddball black-and-white montages by Tyler Walker complemented the music's ominousness.

I'm lucky that I got to see her here; she and Kelsey Swope will be going on tour soon with their new project, Psycho Adorable (which, incidentally, I also wrote about in the Weekly).

Jared Mees played next.  When I interviewed him for the Finn Riggins piece, Eric Gilbert urged me to check out Mees's music.  Said he thought it'd be just my thing.  I doubt that he said that because Mees runs Tender Loving Empire, the label which Finn Riggins is signed to.  Anyway, he wasn't wrong.  The slight whine in Mees' rough tenor just added a little flavoring to his conversational delivery.  His punky folk/country tunes and smart, no-bullsh*t lyrics hit the part of me that admires Patterson Hood and Jason Isbell.  "Hiccup drunk in a pickup truck" has to be one of the best rhymes I've heard in a good while.

Finn Riggins' performance wasn't the most intense I've heard from them.  The set's casual feel didn't seem like a bad thing, however; it was like they were saying, "Hey, we're not going anywhere."  Besides, it's not like they didn't sound good: Lisa Simpson's pregnancy didn't seem to have affected her pipes much, Eric Gilbert's keyboards clanged and droned nicely and Cameron Bouiss was as smooth, precise and hard-hitting as ever (I feel kinda bad that I didn't include more about him in the Weekly article).

Anyway, what came through strongest during this set was the groove, the rapport both between the three bandmates and between the band and their audience.  This was especially true at the end, when Jared Mees came onstage to play a loose, loping jam with Finn Riggins.  The crowd cheered and whooped when the band finished and Bouiss wrestled playfully with Mees on the floor.  A good farewell (for now).

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

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Soft Metals, Psychic Rites and EVILS @ Neurolux (7/30/13)

I'd never seen any of the three acts on this bill before.  That, of course, gave me all the reason I needed to check this show out.  It helped too that the bill featured Psychic Rites, a band that I'd missed at Treefort, and Soft Metals, a Los Angeles-based group that makes my kind of electronic music (i.e. subdued, moody, sexy).

I counted about forty people when I got to Neurolux.  When Soft Metals played, I counted about the same number inside.  Pretty good turnout for a Tuesday.

EVILS, the new project of First Borns' Christopher Smith and Erik Butterworth, opened the show.  With their driving basslines, straight-ahead beat tracks and snarling guitar, they sounded closer to the Sisters of Mercy than to Joy Division (though a couple of slower numbers made me think of "The Eternal" and "Day of the Lords").  This didn't bother me--I've got a soft spot for Floodland and Vision Thing.  But while the music was enjoyable, it somehow felt a little static.  Maybe they'd do well to beef up the bottom end of their sound.  Or maybe they just need to play a few more gigs.

Psychic Rites played next.  Stasis wasn't this group's problem.  Their bouncy, throbbing beats pushed their chiming guitar and layers of synth hooks forward.  Meanwhile, their lead singer spent a good deal of time hopping around the stage.  The only rub was the caterwauling vocals.  While they did have a certain rough charm, they also seemed to throw the music off slightly.  Then again, I felt the same way about Annex Madly at first.  Besides, the lyrics that I caught had a nice off-kilter humor to them.

Soft Metals' set felt a little off.  Not that the music wasn't good; the chant-like tunes, Ian Hicks' bubbling beats and Patricia Hall's cool, siren's-call vocals were plenty enticing.  The swirls and colored shapes on the screen behind the band augmented the music's hypnotic quality.  But in spite of some bobbing and swaying, the crowd's reaction seemed too subdued.  Maybe the music would've worked better at, say, China Blue during Treefort.  Still, the duo received some good cheers and whistles at the end of the set.

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 keep it going, click the yellow "Give" button and donate.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Soft White Sixties, Sun Blood Stories and Northern Giants @ Neurolux (7/28/13)

In a way, I'd been waiting for this show for about nine months.  I'd seen the Soft White Sixties each time that they'd played Boise, and I'd walked away from each show convinced that they were a great band.  So I put this show on the schedule the second after I saw the Facebook event page for it.

I counted about forty-five people when I got to Neurolux.  When the Soft White Sixties played, I counted about eighty, sixty of whom were inside.  Part of me wondered if my little preview for this show helped bring some of these folks down, but that was probably just hubris.

Anyway, I bought a copy of the Sixties' new album Get Right as soon as I arrived.  As I took it back to my car (didn't want to risk having it stolen or damaged), I saw and heard Andy Rayborn practicing outside.

Northern Giants (formerly known as Modesto) opened the show.  At first, they sounded terrific: grinding metal, swaggering funk, terse solos, more nuanced vocals.  After a while, however, the songs started to blur together in spite of the sharp arrangements and solid chops.  I love my RAWK as much as the next guy, but this felt like a bit too much of a good thing.  Maybe these guys could vary it up some.  A couple soulful 5/6 numbers, perhaps?  Or some folky, acoustic stuff?

Sun Blood Stories played next.  I don't quite know why, but this group sounded colder, darker, more menacing here than they have in the past.  At times, I coulda almost sworn I was listening to Sabbath.  That wasn't a bad thing, I think--it could've just been a sign of how polished and confident that they've become.  In any case, Brett Hawkins added some nice little embellishments to his drum-work, and Amber Pollard showed off a pretty fearsome growl.  Meanwhile, Ben Kirby's gritty moan and yowling slide and Andy Rayborn's screeching sax sounded as strong as ever.

The Soft White Sixties's set confirmed my belief that this is one of the best modern rock bands.  While he slid all over the stage and yanked the mic stand around a la James Brown, Octavio Genera's raspy, honeyed croon evoked Al Green's sly tenderness.  Between the locked-in groove, the new guitarist's ripping solos and touches like the bass-and-drums breakdown on "Knock It Loose," Genera's bandmates sounded more than ready to play larger venues.  The band's smart blend of pop, soul and hard rock got the crowd dancing and cheering (especially the girls).

I sure will miss the days when you could see the Sixties play for $6.  There can't be many left.

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.