Saturday, March 29, 2014

History of Boise Rock Showcase @ El Korah Shrine (3/19/14)

As readers of this blog or my Boise Weekly stuff may have surmised, I've grown interested in the history of Boise music over the past couple of years. So of course I wanted to check out this show, which was organized by Todd Dunnigan and featured seven Idaho acts from the '80s and '90s. It was just fortuitous that the Weekly hooked me up with a Treefort press pass and said they wanted a small write-up on this deal.

I counted about 50 people inside the El Korah's main hall and some others outside when I arrived. Among these folks, I spotted Todd Dunnigan, who was an invaluable source for my big ol' Treefort feature, and Record Exchange manager John O'Neil (aka my boss). There were so many people by the last set that I didn't bother trying to count them. The audience had a high percentage of mid-30's-plus people, which you might have expected, and some younger kids (the children of the middle-agers, maybe?).

Acts who played:

Splinter: At first, this trio's country-flavored tunes, jangling guitar, tuneful basslines and steady drums made me think of Gin Blossoms. However, my friend Annie Berical thought they sounded more like Uncle Tupelo. Since she heard later that deceased drummer Andy Capps was a big Uncle Tupelo fan, I'll defer to her judgment. Smart gal, Annie. Pretty too.

Anyway, Annie also said that she wished this band were around on a more regular basis. Given their catchy melodies and their increasingly confident groove, I wouldn't have minded either. In any case, it was nice to see Mike Rundle, formerly of aka Belle, behind the drum kit again.

"We're surprised we're playing Treefort too."--guitarist Trent McNair

The Melting: Now THIS was a group I wish I could see more regularly. Their ringing guitar hooks, snarling solos, propulsive rhythms and sweet, high vocals somehow managed to fuse New Wave, disco and metal. The fact that lead singer Deidre Rodman had to rehearse with the rest of the band via FaceTime rendered their tight groove doubly impressive.

Was this group this great back in the day? I wonder, but I guess it doesn't really matter. I just hope I get to see them again. It could happen: Rodman mentioned that they'd play another show in Portland soon.

"So Mom, there's still a chance this band will ruin my life," quipped guitarist Joe Davis. "There's hope for me yet."

MC Shake: Ice-T and Eric B. & Rakim fan (not to mention James Brown obsessive) that I am, I was primed to dig MC Shake's steady flow and his band's nice, nasty '70s-style funk (chicken-scratch guitar, rubbery bass, strong 4/4 beat, sultry backup vocals). A song from the Rotating Tongues anthology had an oozing Dr. Dre-esque groove, but Shake's anti-violence, anti-racism lyrics elsewhere were much preferable to your standard blunts-and-bitches shtick.

"Just a funky little crew out of Caldwell," Shake rapped. That wasn't no joke. No, really.

El Dopamine: Another person might be wary of reviewing his/her boss's band. Me, I know John O'Neil to be a wise, kind, unfailingly gracious individual. Oh, and did I mention how handsome he is? (Please don't fire me, John.)

But seriously, knowing John outside of music--well, outside of his band, anyway--I suppose that I could've expected his smart, acerbic lyrics. The same goes for the touches of Neil Young and grunge in the music (ambling rhythms, buzzsaw guitars). But the catchy tunes and the raw solos, maybe not so much. Thomas Paul's melodic basslines were a good addition as well. When combined with O'Neil's rough but not unpleasant whine, the music occasionally called to mind a more emotionally balanced Nirvana.

The surprises that an old curmudgeon will throw at you. I mean that fondly, of course. (Please don't fire me, John.)

Haggis: When I interviewed him, Todd Dunnigan told me that Andy A (Raid, Demoni) was surprised at the demand for his old hardcore band. "Where were these people when we were actually playing?" the punk stalwart reportedly said. "It just seemed like no one came to our shows then."

There was certainly a sizable crowd this night to hear this band's full-speed-ahead hardcore, which was as thunderous as you could want and had some melodious touches too (hey, harmonies). Andy A delivered some searing guitar solos. The lead singer sounded a bit hoarse, but that could've been because of the dry Idaho air. The only thing a little odd about the set was the fact that it was at the El Korah--probably woulda suited the Shredder or the Red Room/Crazy Horse better. Still, the audience did some good moshing for the last number.

Graveltruck: I don't think it was just Jake Hite manning the drum kit that made me think of this group as a more rough-hewn Very Most. The sweet melodies and glittering guitar undoubtedly helped. Their groove sounded a little disjointed at first but congealed as the set progressed. Quirky, charming stuff.

Caustic Resin: The big-ticket item on this bill. I forget who, but I recall someone telling me he wanted to catch this set just to see how big a train-wreck it was. Actually, it really wasn't bad at all. Yeah, there were more than a couple false starts due to Brett Netson needing to re-tune his guitar (took him a while each time too). However, Tom Romich/Tommy Dirtweed's oddball banter and Netson's drier remarks helped smooth these rough patches over. Besides, when the band was on, they were ON: hypnotically droning riffs, tripped-out distortion, muscular drumming. Roiling, primal stoner rock. Some weird-ass projections courtesy of Jason Willford and a guest spot for Trevor Netson were nice touches as well.

Brett Netson: "Hey Tom! Thank you."
Tom Romich: "Thank you! I still wanna see everybody cut your hair, though."

You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online. Special thanks to Boise Weekly and Treefort Music Fest.