Saturday, September 28, 2013

Wild Belle, Saint Rich and Hey V Kay @ Neurolux (9/19/13)

Some of my co-workers at the Record Exchange turned me on to Wild Belle (for a while, it made the regular rotation of CD's played over the store's stereo).  I liked what I heard enough to put this show on the calendar.  The chance to see Hey V Kay again was a nice little bonus (well, not so little, actually--I've put Gut Wrenching on the stereo a few times, and the listens re-convinced me of its excellence).

I counted about thirty-five people when I got to Neurolux.  When Wild Belle played, I counted about eighty.  And actually, the crowd might have been closer to ninety or ninety-five.  A very respectable turnout.

Hey V Kay opened the show.  A few songs into the set, a friend who'd never seen Karen Havey before asked me why she isn't huge in the music scene right now.  I didn't have a good answer.  "Middle-Class Sweetheart" and "Call It" (the song she debuted at the Crux show last June) sounded as tuneful and hook-laden as I remembered, and Havey's gorgeous vocals did well both by them and by her older songs.  Not only did my friend get to hear Havey's "Wicked Game" cover, she got to hear her "Toxic" cover too.  I guess I know what to get my friend for Christmas now...

Saint Rich, a five-man band from New Jersey, played next.  I came up with two different ways of describing this group's mix of ringing guitars, slinky rhythms and nasally, deadpan vocals.  The first is a sweeter, friendlier Strokes.  The second is a less interesting Soft White Sixties.  Which one you prefer will probably depend on your affection for 60's hard rock (and possibly for Delicate Steve, two of whose members are in this group).

Wild Belle closed out the show.  Whenever one of my co-workers plays something... not quite to my taste, shall we say, I just try to remember the good stuff that they've introduced me to.  Like this, for instance.  This Chicago group's blend of skanking reggae grooves and sunny, soothing pop fit together like rum and Coke.  Natalie Bergman's honeyed, lightly smoked vocals topped it all off.  The dance floor was packed and bubbling for the entire set.

You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Neurolux and the Record Exchange.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Album Preview: Modern Kin (2013)

Over the past few months, I've received numerous emails from PR firms inviting me to check out the music of various artists.  I'll give some of the tracks a listen--I try to stay on the lookout for cool new stuff--but since they're not really connected to Idaho, I haven't shared them here (though I was very tempted to share a video by this one French disco group).

Anyway, an exception to the above came my way just yesterday.  I received an email not from a PR firm but from Kris Doty (right), whom some readers will remember from her years in the Boise music scene (she came back in March and played a good set at Treefort).  She's living in Portland now, and she currently has a band with guitarist/lead singer Drew Grow (left) and drummer Jeremiah Hayden (center) called Modern Kin.

Modern Kin has been getting some good press lately.  "Abandon," a track from their upcoming debut album, indicates why:

Modern Kin's eponymous debut will be released by Hayden's Amigo/Amiga label on October 22.  It was produced by rock goddess Janet Weiss (Quasi, Sleater-Kinney).  You can check out a preview for the album below (it was directed by Weiss):

You can find Modern Kin on Facebook and pre-order Modern Kin now on Bandcamp.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires and Aaradhna @ the VaC (8/29/13)

As I've written elsewhere on this blog, I LOVE me some old-school soul/R&B/funk.  Stax, Motown, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield (with or without the Impressions)--I could go on all day.  This show caught my attention, then, because I'd heard talk of Charles Bradley being one of the best modern keepers of the old-school flame.  Admittedly, I did have some reservations after hearing his latest album Victim of Love, but they weren't enough to dissuade me from checking this out.

There were about 150 people at the VaC when I arrived.  I have no idea how many were there when Charles Bradley performed.  One thing's for sure: I'm definitely not the only one who digs the old-school stuff.

New Zealand singer Aaradhna opened the show.  This lady had me right when she sang the line "I don't wanna take that sh*t for granted" in her first song.  And with her other songs about getting bullied by the cool kids when you're younger and turning Miss Lovely's pretty smile into a frown, she kept me.  She had a whole lotta muscle in her sultry voice, but she was smart enough not to flex it too hard.  The medley that combined Willie Nelson/Patsy Cline's "Crazy" and Sam Cooke's "Nothing Can Ever Change This Love" was just gravy.  As for the song that borrowed the chorus from "Pressure Drop," hey, I love Toots and the Maytals too.

Charles Bradley played next.  This set was an object lesson in how live shows can sometimes top recordings.  While Bradley's massive vocals sounded a little one-dimensional on Victim of Love, they were just the thing to cut through the roars of applause here.  His high rasp and self-abasing scream bore the clear influence of James Brown, but he topped the Godfather of Soul for warmth and friendliness.  The same went for Bradley's whole stage act; while the set featured three costume changes, you never sensed any of Brown's vanity or control-freak egomania.  Instead, I actually believed the man when he said he loved the audience "to the bone" and "from the soul."  Meanwhile, the band couldn't match Maceo, Bootsy, Clyde et al., but 1) that's asking way too damn much and 2) they clearly learned their lessons well from Stax and Motown.  I may not have gotten a hug from the "Screaming Eagle of Soul," but this was still one of the best shows I've seen this year.

Sidenote: I feel like I should mention that I listened to Charles Bradley's 2011 album No Time for Dreaming afterwards and liked it a lot.  It features quite a few lyrics about being black and poor in America.  Now that's worth screaming about.

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

Bad Weather California, Sauna, Skating Polly and Deaf Kid @ The Crux (8/18/13)

Bad Weather California was one of my favorite acts at this year's Treefort.  Sauna was one of my favorites from last year's.  So it didn't take me long to decide to check this show out.

I counted eighteen people when I got down to the Crux.  When Bad Weather California played, I counted twenty-seven.  Not exactly a Treefort-size audience, but what're you gonna do?

Sidenote: this may be the most awesome show poster that I've ever seen.

Deaf Kid opened the show.  They changed their name to Black Lodge a while ago, but apparently, they changed it back.  I don't know why, but whatever--they sounded damn good here.  Jacob Milburn's voice sounded deeper and fuller, and Theo Maughan's sprightly drumming gave the music some extra muscle.  Even got a pretty solid groove going on the last song.

Skating Polly played next.  If you're not even eighteen and you can get Exene Cervenka to produce one of your albums, chances are you're gonna have something going on.  Which this very young duo did.  Their grungy drones, steady drums, screeching vocals and smart arrangements made me think a little of early Sleater-Kinney.  Their confident stage presence suggests that they may be in this for the long haul.  Time will tell, I guess.

Sauna followed Skating Polly.  It took them a couple of songs to get warmed up, but when they did, their serene vocals, playful tunes, propulsive grooves and fierce guitar solos sounded even better than I remembered.  The girls from Skating Polly went nuts (jumping, headbanging), and much of the crowd followed suit.  Easily one of the most fun surf/garage bands I've seen in the past couple of years (and I've seen a LOT of them).

Bad Weather California closed out the night.  At one point, it occurred to me that James Plane Wreck could've made a good opener for these guys.  Both groups seem to have a certain transcendentally trashy spirit, one which embraces the slackers, losers and working stiffs (i.e. most of us).  In any case, this Colorado band's anthemic tunes, smart lyrics and fiery guitars sounded just as fantastic here as they did back in March.  Would that every surf-garage-punk-etc. band could be this shrewd, this compassionate.

It's just a shame that this'll be their last tour.  But hey, you never know--Sauna said that they were going to break up last year, and look at them.

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