Sunday, December 22, 2013
I caught Afrosonics' set at the Boise 150 Sesqui-Party back in July and liked what I heard. Upbeat, multicultural funk--just the thing for a James Brown-enamored music writer who gets awfully tired of the same old surf-garage stuff. I was also impressed with bandleader Dayo Ayodele's nonprofit Global Lounge, which seeks to help immigrants adjust to living in the Treasure Valley.
I got the chance to write a Boise Weekly feature about Afrosonics and Global Lounge. When some free time came up on my calendar, I decided to come down and check out the band's new lineup. I also looked forward to checking out two local groups I'd never seen before, Rosa dos Ventos and Henchmen for Hire.
I counted about 40 people at Neurolux when I arrived. When Afrosonics played, I counted 65. I'd like to think that my article helped persuade some of these folks to come down, but that's probably a little hubristic.
Henchmen for Hire opened the show. This band's soul- and reggae-tinged sound had an adult alternative feel to it--Dave Matthews, Counting Crows, like that. I'm sure that's enough to make some readers run screaming for the hills, but really, this group wasn't as bad as all that. For one thing, their lead guitarist was sharp--terse, tasteful but capable of letting off some fireworks. For another, lead singer Gabe Hess managed to deploy some soul mannerisms (some moans here, a little melisma there) without embarrassing himself. The band sounded stiff and nervous at times, but a few more gigs should limber them up. Also, any group that can do all right by Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" and Van Morrison's "Sweet Thing" (not to mention cite James Brown and Marvin Gaye as influences on its Facebook page) has its heart in the right place.
Rosa dos Ventos played next. This Portuguese/Brazilian/Latin American music group sure didn't need to limber up. Their horn-like keyboard, fluid rhythm section and snarling guitar hit so fast, tight and hard that they could've been auditioning for the JB's. Kristine Nunes's warm, low voice had some impressive power, but like the rest of her bandmates, she didn't feel the need to show off her chops too much. It took the crowd a little while to get on its feet, but the dance floor had filled in pretty well by the end.
Afrosonics closed out the show. "Rhythm is the key," Dayo Ayodele said at the start of the set, and his band's funk/jazz/reggae-inflected grooves proved him right. Malleable, hard-driving bass and drums weaved with manic guitar and quirky, dexterous keyboard solos. The rough, friendly vocals added a nice human touch. At times, the whole mixture called to mind one of my favorite groups, Sly and the Family Stone. I don't know if the folks in radio-land caught Ayodele's closing admonition to support local music, but hopefully, they at least caught his opening shout-out to the late, great Nelson Mandela.
You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
A few days prior to this show, my now ex-girlfriend Jenn (long story, don't wanna get into it here) heard a song by Hollow Wood on Radio Boise and loved it. She couldn't believe that a band like that was local, she said. So when I told her about this concert, she readily agreed to check it out. This worked out well all around, since the show gave me the chance to see Psycho Adorable's first performance back from their 11-week tour and to see the fantastically named Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant for the first time.
I counted over 50 people when I arrived at the Crux. I saw some of my now former Exposition/Noisefan Music News colleagues (short answer: my connection with the Weekly made my continued association with NFMN untenable), Aaron Christensen (Mt. Joy), Samwise Carlson (Woodwind) and various scene regulars. Jenn showed up midway through APTWE's set.
While I waited for the music to start, Amber Pollard's daughter Aubrey (possibly one of the most adorable children in the Treasure Valley) ran past me. "Hi Ben!" she said. She circled around and ran past me again. "Hi Ben!" she said again. Thinking about this now, I still smile.
Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant--which turned out to be Brett Hawkins's solo act backed by his brother Taylor on drums and Sun Blood Stories' Ben Kirby on bass--opened the show. I liked Hawkins fine with just a guitar, but he got farther with a little help from his friends. With Taylor Hawkins' steady beat and Kirby's viscous bass giving them support, Brett Hawkins' droning riffs had greater force and his vocals greater confidence. Also welcome were Judah Claffey and Austin Lucas' maudlin violins (that there Lucas can play). The set's earlier songs took me back to the days when "Creep" played on MTV. The later songs sounded like Daniel Johnston having a drink with Jimmy Reed.
Psycho Adorable played next. Their debut performance back in August left me with mixed feelings; it certainly wasn't bad, but it wasn't the fusion of styles and spirits I'd hoped for. The bond between Bronwyn Leslie and Kelsey Swope felt much stronger here. Even their outfits seemed to complement each other--grandma-ish blue house-dress and white mesh sweater for Leslie, grandpa-ish short-sleeve blouse and baggy gray trousers for Swope. Also, while she's never seemed like a pushover (I saw her one time dressed as Kathleen Hanna), Swope gave off a much tougher vibe than last I'd seen her. On the numbers where she took lead, her vocals sounded rougher. On the ones where Leslie took lead, Swope stood and hovered (protectively?) over her partner while singing backup.
I'd be interested to hear more about their experiences on the road. And I'll definitely be interested to hear what they come up with from here, together or individually.
Hollow Wood closed out the night. Speaking of tougher, this group rocked a lot harder than last I saw them. I don't know if Adam Jones was trying to channel Clint Eastwood with his poncho, but between the grinding guitars, the vrooming bass and the bubbling beats, the music almost channeled Zeppelin at times. The vocals and the lyrics were edgier too ("OMG!" I thought. "Did they REALLY just say, 'I could f*ck a virgin'!?"). For me, everything came to a head with the dance-y number about 100 years full of pain and fear. Instead of sounding trepidatious or despairing, the band barreled ahead as if they couldn't wait to enter the fray. Sounded as melodious as ever too. God bless 'em. And Godspeed.
You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online. Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Duck Club Presents.