Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Future Islands at Carrboro Commons - 7/26/2015

Future Islands
Carrboro Commons
7/26/2015

Sorta-local rock stars Future Islands were playing their 1000th show, and decided to do it via an all-day part in Carrboro.  Between the pregnant wife and general laziness we only arrived in time for the headliner, but the line-up for the whole day was pretty great - Lonnie Walker, Valient Thorr, Ed Schrader's Music Beat, Dan Deacon and Danny Brown - the crowd definitely got their money's worth.  A crowd that, by and large - at least where I was standing - was awful.  I'm stoked for Future Islands that they are as big as they are, they certainly deserve it, but this level of popularity really has a way of stirring up the dregs of society.  I mean, yeah, I bitch about how awful the crowds are all the time, because I generally hate everyone - but this was probably a new level...we're talking water park level patrons. 

Anyways, back to the actual performance - the band sounded great and played a nice cross-section of their music, including a few rare early tracks.  Lead singer Sam Herring was a little more subdued than usual, possibly because the of the outside heat, or maybe the whole gravity of it being their 1000th show was weighing on him.  He also talked a ton between songs, lots of reminiscing about the band's early days which led to the wife stating "too much yapping"...she's not known for her patience.  I think it was expected though, and the crowd didn't seem to care - after a day of music and heat and sweating and drinking, they were all lubed up pretty well and not feeling any pain. 

Not the ideal scenario, but it was still fun...and maybe we can take the kid to their 2000th show, this time outside of the womb. 

Morrissey at Carolina Theatre - 6/15/2015

Morrissey
Carolina Theatre
6/15/2015

Finally, after more cancellations than the current NBC sitcom schedule, Morrissey showed up in North Carolina for the first time since 2009.  On that tour I drove to Myrtle Beach and saw one of the oddest shows ever put on by him, from the setlist to his clearly shredded voice to the insane crowd.  This outing was better than that one to be sure, though much more subdued, due partially to the theatre being all assigned seats, and even more because of the setlist that focused so heavily on his new songs...at this point I've come to expect the second part from Morrissey, but that doesn't make it any less of a disappointment.  The highlights of the night for me were three-fold: He kicked off the gig with "The Queen is Dead," and how could you not get excited about that; "Speedway," a long-time favorite with an added twist when one of the band members sang the last verse in Spanish; and most importantly, his voice sounded fantastic.  Other top tracks included classics "Suedehead," "Everyday Is Like Sunday," and "Now My Hear Is Full," and newer hits like "First of the Gang to Die" and "The World Is Full of Crashing Bores."  From my spot in the balcony I couldn't really see the video board, which ended up being a plus when he aired a graphic animal abuse video during "Meat Is Murder" - though it was still cool to hear the song.  The only other noteworthy thing that come to mind was the use of a didgeridoo during "World Peace Is None of Your Business" - it was nice seeing it used as an actual instrument and not just a hippy accessory.  It was an expensive show, and he only played a few songs I was really excited to hear, but any chance to see Morrissey is one worth taking. 

Belle & Sebastian / Alvvays at Echostage - 6/11/2015

Belle & Sebastian
with Alvvays
Echostage
6/11/2015

Another year, another trip out of town to see Belle & Sebastian, since they will never play here in the Triangle apparently.  At least this time we didn't have to get on a plane, instead driving up through the never-ending abyss that is Virginia to our nations capital, Washington DC.  The band was playing in a giant box called Echostage that usually hosts the drug-addled EDM crowd, and based on the level of police presence outside no apparently informed them that the twee pop crowd B&S draws isn't likely to cause the same level of problems.  In fact, as the wife noted, the only work they seemed to perform on the night was to tell concert-goers that they would have to go to the bottom of the hill to catch their Uber rides after the show. 

Strange setting aside, the band put on a rousing performance - eighteen songs total including the encore, with many from their new record "Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance."  They did not spare any part of their catalog though - at least five of the tracks were from early records "Tigermilk" and "If You're Feeling Sinister," plus some of their early singles like "Jonathan David" and "I'm Waking Up to Us."  Stuart mentioned a few times had put together a set of animal songs, and he wasn't lying - included on this night was "Funny Little Frog," "Judy and the Dream of Horses," "The Fox in the Snow" and "Dog on Wheels," much to my delight.  They had created videos for the backdrop for a couple of the new songs last time around in Miami, but this time it appeared that more tracks had video accompaniment than didn't.  The band was running fourteen deep this time with a local quartet of strings and a trumpet rounding out their sound, as seems to be the norm.  The strings seemed much bolder in the mix than the last couple of times we've seen them - not sure if this was a decision of the band or something the club did, but either way I liked it.  The club was hot as balls, and much more crowded than last time, but in the end it was a glorious good time as always. 

We caught most of the set by the opener Alvvays, and they get a big thumbs up (not something I can often say about B&S opening acts).  I had listened to their self-titled debut a few months back and thought it was fine but nothing spectacular; live, though, it really worked - retro jangly guitar pop with a little surf twang.  As is my way, I immediately start trying to figure out who they sound like, and for some reason I kept coming back to Velocity Girl - not an exact match, but a similar vibe.  A couple of the songs had the pop hooks of a modern pop act like Best Coast, but with a heavy C86 vibe...and if any of the band members of Alvvays were even a thought in their parents eyes when that original C86 compilation came out, I would be shocked.  I'm now going to revisit that self-titled record of theirs, because I have a feeling I'll have a much greater appreciation for it the second time around after experiencing them live. 

Spider Bags at Person Street Bar - 6/6/2015

Spider Bags
Person Street Bar
6/6/2015

A free Spider Bags show at a matinee hour...it's like they read my mind, everything I ever wanted in a live show.  They were playing as part of the Indy Week's "Best of the Triangle" party, held in the parking lot of Person Street Bar.  For an outside show the sound was pretty damn good, if a bit loud - then again, I was standing up front taking photos and forgot my earplugs so it's my own damn fault my ears were ringing for a couple of days afterward.  I suppose it was like any other Bags show, and I've seen them a lot of times, only this time it was in broad daylight, had random non-fans, dogs and children wandering around, and people were feasting on Mexican food from the food truck parked near the stage (for the record, I support more Mexican food being available at rock shows...and non-rock shows...well, pretty much all the time, everywhere).   They played all their hits like "Keys to the City" and "Que Viva Rock n' Roll" and a lot of their most recent record, "Frozen Letter," plus a couple of new songs, one of which was an epically long, mostly instrumental kraut/swamp/boogie affair.  As with all Spider Bags shows, I left the affair completely satisfied, already plotting when I'd next get a chance to see them again. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mac McCaughan / Flesh Wounds at the Cat's Cradle Back Room - 5/23/2015

Mac McCaughan
with Flesh Wounds
Cat's Cradle Back Room
5/23/2015

I've not spent nearly enough time seeing Flesh Wounds live, for reasons that are entirely not clear to me.  They put on a great live show and I'm way into their brand of punk rock, and yet...this is only the second time I've seen them play.  To no surprise they were fantastic, burning through a dozen or so songs in probably not much longer than twenty minutes, barely stopping to catch their breath.  It's unclear how much the mostly middle-aged crowd was feeling their youthful exuberance, but I was certainly up front and way into it.  I've really gotta make an effort to see them more often. 

For the second time this year I would get to see Mac McCaughan play a solo set apart from my beloved Superchunk; for the first time this year, I would be able to see his set in it's entirety since I didn't show up late like a damn fool.  His performance was really three sub-sets, with Flesh Wounds (or as he referred to them "the Non-Believers") acting as his backing band at the beginning and the end, and Mac all by himself for a little while in the middle.  The full band portions were made up mostly of songs from his new solo album "Non Believers" and at least one Portastatic track - it was all quite enjoyable, but since I've not really digested this solo material yet I wasn't quite as invested as I usually am at a show by Mac or any of his bands.  But that middle portion where he was all by himself - yep, all Superchunk, and real goddamn exciting as always.  Some highlights included "Detroit Has a Skyline," "Driveway to Driveway," "Iron On," and "Watery Hands."   Of course he didn't play even close to everything I wanted to hear with such a small portion of his set dedicated to the Chunk, but it was a nice selection and a fun night. 

Lightning Bolt / Whatever Brains at Kings - 5/11/2015

Lightning Bolt
with Whatever Brains
Kings
5/11/2015

Lightning Bolt might have been the headliners, but make no mistake Whatever Brains were the main draw on this night.  Sure, I've seen them dozens of times, but word on the street (aka my friend John who is friends with the band) is this was going to be their final show.  Upon hearing this news a different friend asked me "what are you going to do for fun now?" - the only answer is there will be no more fun ever again.    Now, this word of the end of WB comes from a reliable source, but the band hasn't explicitly said anything about it themselves, and they are planning on recording a new record, so who knows what happens at this point.  I certainly wasn't going to take a chance of missing the gig if it did end up being their last performance, and worst case scenario is they keep playing but I just saw another show by them, something I've never had a problem with.  Anyways, yadda yadda yadda, it was a great show with lots of whistles and rototoms and dual drumming and Rich making crazy faces while he plays guitar, just as we've come to expect from these guys.  I think I was sorta expecting one of their more "weird" shows since it was supposed to be the last one, but it was a pretty straight-forward effort.  No complaints outta this guy though. 

I saw Lightning Bolt a few times back in my San Francisco days - they played all the time for a non-local band, or maybe they just never stopped touring so it felt that way.  They were always a fun show, even if every gig pretty much felt (and sounded) the same.  After a number of years out of the loop, I stuck around after Whatever Brains to see what has changed for them - apparently, the big difference now is they play on stage in stead of the floor.  But they're still a two piece, still play brutal barely melodic noise rock, still with the singing drummer wearing a creepy mask with the mic attached to it, and still attracting a mosh heavy crowd of bearded dudes.  And still fun too, to be fair, though after five or six songs I felt like I'd had enough of it all and headed home. 

USX / Generation of Vipers / Sinister Haze at the Cave - 4/29/2015

USX
with Generation of Vipers and Sinister Haze
The Cave
4/29/2015

I've probably mentioned it before, but I've been friends with Nate Hall, the front man of USX (aka US Christmas) since high school when he wore ridiculous vertical striped polo shirts and had a bowl haircut.  I saw him perform not too long ago but it had been quite some time since I had seen him with this particular outfit (he also has another band called Nate Hall and the Poison Snake, as well as releasing solo records) - USX was the first, and continues to be my favorite of all his different efforts.  The band has had many forms and different members, but the current line-up of Nate singing and playing guitar, Meg on violin, Josh on bass, and Billy on drums appears to be the most stable they've ever been, and their most enjoyable for my money.  Their set was a nice mix of songs from across their spectrum of albums, a concise and powerful 45ish minute set; it was a stoned, sludgy, slow metal dirge with occasional bursts of power and aggression.  As always, I dug it; nevertheless I still made fun of Nate after the show, as I've always done, as it shall always be.   

This was my first time seeing Knoxville's Generation of Vipers, even though I've known 2/3rds of the band for quite a while.  Josh and Billy of USX make up the guitar/vocals and drums along with a cat named Travis on the bass.  Unlike USX, GoV is much more straight-forward metal - heavier, faster, etc - but that's not to say it's generic or rote.  And maybe it's just me, but there is a heavy punk vibe infused into their songs, though I'd be hard pressed to give an adequate answer as to why I feel that way - just a feeling I guess.  I get a similar vibe from a band like Coliseum, and I think you could make a very light comparison between them and GoV. 

The first band I saw this evening was Sinister Haze, an almost totally instrumental trio out of Richmond (there was a touch of vocals on their last song).  Knowing very little about metal (I'm pretty sure you already realized that), I'd say they reminded me a stoner rock version of Russian Circles or someone of that ilk.  The drummer was absolutely ruthless and killed it the entire set.  I'd definitely see them again, and hopefully being only a few hours away will mean that happens sooner rather than later.