Monday, April 3, 2017

Paws / Dude York at the Pinhook - 3/22/2017

With Dude York
The Pinhook

I knew absolutely nothing about opener Dude York before they took the stage.  First impression: trio, bass playing gal who sings, guitar playing dude who also sings and was wearing a half shirt, and a young looking drummer who added a little bit of backing vocals.  They said they were from Seattle and were quite gregarious, lots of chatting among themselves and with the crowd - this band was very comfortable on stage, like a group of theater majors who decided to play music instead.  They talked at one point about what is punk and whether or not they are a punk band, and how that definition is so nebulous - which is certainly true.  For my money this is a pop band with a little bit of punk scruffiness, but not truly punk...but honestly, that might describe a ton of the "best" punk bands over the years like the Ramones or the Buzzcocks or a ton of others.  I wasn't totally blown away by Dude York, but they were entertaining enough live and I wouldn't mind hearing their record(s) and see if that increases my interest.  Perhaps noteworthy is that the dude singer winked at me while I was taking photos, marking the first time I've ever been winked at by a man in a half shirt...or a full shirt for that matter.  Now that I think about it, no one ever winks at me regardless of sex or shirtedness!  Speaking of firsts, on their last song the band took selfies as they were finishing their set, which I've never seen before.  Kids these days, yaknowwhatI'msayin'? 

Paws was the reason I actually left the house, and I'm glad to report it was well worth the effort.  This trio from Glasgow, Scotland do the whole melodic, buzzsaw punk thing as well as anybody...sort of like a British version of Terry Malts, if I'm being honest (and I super duper love Terry Malts so that's meant as a compliment).  They put out a fantastic record in 2014 called "Youth Culture Forever" that was one of my favorites of the year - they played a few songs off of that one on this night, but I think most of their set focused on their new album "No Grace" which I don't know nearly as well (but I loved what I heard).  There was a little bit of banter from the band while tuning, but mostly they just burned through their songs one after another in a very aggressive, immediate way that befits their sound.  They finished their set with the rhythm section playing in the crowd, though in a just world there would have been so many fans in the crowd that this would not have been physically possible.  Hopefully the light attendance doesn't prevent Paws from returning to our area, because I very much would love to see them again.

Side note number 1: This was my first time eating at the (somewhat) newly opened Pie Pushers just above the Pinhook.  Just as tasty as the truck, and an awesome option to eat when going to a show.  Now if they could only get Parlour to open a little scoop shop annex in there as well, I'd never have to leave that building. 

Side note number 2: They played Squeeze between the bands,  I always forget how good Squeeze was, criminally underrated.  Now "Goodbye Girl" is going to be stuck in my head forever.

Natural Causes / Bodykit / Patois Counselors at Local 506 - 3/4/2017

Natural Causes
With Bodykit and Patois Counselors
Local 506

This was a rare three band bill where not only did I see all three bands, I did so intentionally - not just because I was in town in time to eat at Carrburritos.  

The only act of the three I hadn't seen before were openers Patois Counselors.  Part of me hopes they originally wanted to call themselves Patio Counselors, but after finding there was a local landscaping company by that same name they went with something slightly different.  A six piece from Charlotte with the rarely seen lead singer, they had a nineties art punk vibe to them ala the Van Pelt or a number of other bands that put out records on Gern Blandsten back then (speaking of which, if someone would go ahead and do a repress of the Van Pelt's "Sultans Of Sentiment" that would be awesome).  I'm not sure what else to say about them, but I quite liked Patois Counselors and was mentally kicking myself for taking so long to finally see them.  Also, the bassist looked exactly like a young Joe Lally from Fugazi, even down to how he played the bass.  Why I fixated on this and couldn't stop thinking about it, I have no idea. 

I was quite happy that the middle band is our very own local version of Meat Beat Manifesto, Bodykit.  Actually, they don't sound that much alike, I just like any chance to say the name Meat Beat Manifesto.  The duo of Rich and Josh, formerly of Whatever Brains, is much noiser, a punk version of electronic music or something to that effect.  I don't know enough about this genre to have many comparisons, but they do occasionally remind me of Liars.  Like the last couple of times I saw them, they played on the floor with no lights, which means I got no photos that were worth a shit.  In my notes I wrote "Rich one shoe" and don't remember why, so let's just assume that Rich performed the whole set with a show balanced on his head. 

The reason this bill existed was to celebrate the release of the second record by Natural Causes.  Like their first one, it appears to be self-titled - that surely won't be confusing at all.  Apparently there was some delay in getting the sleeves for their new albums before the gig, so either the band or their label Sorry State (or both) silk screened a handful of "limited edition" covers so there would be copies available this night.  Extra bonus cool souvenirs for dumb nerds like me!  In case you aren't familiar, Natural Causes are three-quarters of the great Last Year's Men, with a couple of the guys playing different instruments and the results more in a synth punk direction, ala Jay Reatard's Lost Sounds or maybe Magazine on occasion.  There's no bass, but the synths / keyboards more than fill in that low end.  The set was short and to the point, just like most of their songs.  Local sax man about town Crowmeat Bob (of Enemy Waves and many other things) joined them on their last song to close out the night's proceedings.  I'm not against more horns in rock bands, if it's good enough for Huey Lewis it's good enough for me! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Guided By Voices at the Cats Cradle - 11/12/2016

Guided By Voices
Cats Cradle

It was nearly twenty years ago that I saw Guided By Voices for the first time in this same club, standing only a couple of feet to the left from where I stood on this night.  "Under the Bushes, Under the Stars" tour if I'm not mistaken - June of 44 opened.  It was a damn good time.  These days, Robert Pollard might do a few less high kicks and drink a few less beers during the performance, but not much else has changed.  The band has nearly always rotated members, and of course this time was no different  - frequent collaborator Doug Gillard made up one-half of the guitar corp, and the other half was a real treat - Bobby Bare Jr, an alt-country star with a long solo career who I guess decided it might be fun to learn 50 or 60 short pop songs.  GBV didn't play any of his songs or anything, but he was still a nice addition to the performance. 

The band had the set down to a science - play a couple of new songs, then a classic song, a couple more new ones, back to a classic or two, etc.  In this case "classic" means songs from what most people consider their golden era - tracks like "Motor Away," "Game of Pricks," "Teenage FBI," "Tractor Rape Chain," etc; and "new" songs are not only tracks from the more recent GBV releases from the last half-decade, but they also mixed in plenty from Pollard's various other bands - Boston Spaceships, ESP Ohio, Circus Devils, Ricked Wicky, etc.  I'm of course only speaking for myself here about new or classic - the more knowledgeable fans all around me seemed to know every track regardless of era or band.  Of particular note was the annoying middle aged man next to me, who spent the entire performance not only singing along to every song, but pointing at Robert Pollard aggressively from start to finish.  I was also entertained when he decided to put earplugs in around an hour and a half into the set.  I'm sure that will make everything better, fella.  Anyways, they played at least two hours with three encores; it's impossible to leave a Guided By Voices show and not feel you got your money's worth.

Ted Leo / Outer Spaces at the Pinhook - 11/10/2016

Ted Leo
With Outer Spaces
The Pinhook

Until I saw the listing in the Pinhook calendar, I hadn't thought of Ted Leo in ages.  I knew he had a band with Aimee Mann that played occasionally, but otherwise he had sort of disappeared, at least from my radar.  I decided why not go see him perform and find out what the hell he's up to these days?  It was a solo gig, no Pharmacists in sight - just him, his electric guitar, and a super fancy microphone running through a very elaborate amp set-up.  I'm assuming the mic was fancy based on how good his vocals sounded - that is, exactly like the record.  If the songs weren't slightly different, you'd almost think he was lip-syncing they sounded so much like the records.  He would talk to the crowd a bit, play a classic song or two, talk to the crowd some more, play a new (or newish) song or two, more get the idea.  Any time he played one of those classic songs the crowd treated it like a singalong, and even though that often annoys me I might have been guilty of it myself in this case.  What can I say, the dude has written a lot of damn catchy songs!  He even played a Chisel song that someone in the crowd "requested" aka yelled out ("The Town Crusher" if I remember correctly)  - if it had been a while since I had thought about Ted's solo work, I really REALLY hadn't though about Chisel in a long time.  Probably the funniest moment of the evening is when a clearly over-eager fan standing right in front of the stage yelled out what gauge strings he was using - this both confused and amused Leo, who after answering the question went own to plead for a sponsorship from D'Addario, because he's tired of buying his own strings after all the years.  Whether I knew the songs or not, the man is a very engaging & capable performer.   

The opener tonight was Baltimore's Outer Spaces, a trio that I was nearly as excited for as the headliner Ted Leo.  Their full-length debut "A Shedding Snake" is excellent (as is the EP the preceded it), and they were great the last time I saw them a year or two ago at Nice Price Books in Raleigh.  I struggle to find a comparison for this band - it's mid-tempo pop with a nineties tinge, a lot of piano (which takes the typical spot of the bass in this trio), and fantastic vocals by bandleader Cara Beth Satalino.  They played a number of tracks from that record as well as a couple of new ones - it was a fairly subdued performance and reception, as I'm not sure this crowd of mostly Ted Leo superfans really knew anything about them prior to this gig.  Hopefully they won over some new fans though, as more people should treat themselves to this great, underrated act. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Bull City 11th Anniversary Party at Ponysaurus Brewing - 8/6/2016

Bull City 11th Anniversary Partywith Superchunk, Pipe, Last Year's Men, and Daniel Bachman
Ponysaurus Brewing

Ponysaurus is located just a few blocks from the more "newly developed" parts of downtown Durham, but it's like a different world - boarded up buildings, blight, and the typical trappings of inner city poverty abound.  You can see the changes creeping that way though, that new money slowly overtaking block by block in the same fashion kudzu covers everything it encounters.  I suppose Ponysaurus itse;f would be one of those agents of change themselves.  I'll leave it up to the reader to decide if this a good or bad thing (or as is almost always the case in these situations, both), I'm just painting the scene...

I got there and Daniel Bachman was already well into his set.  Just him and his guitar performing really pretty, intricate instrumental music.  He also played this weirdly shaped lap guitar that I'm going to assume was a dobro until I'm told different.  He's really damn young!  Way younger than you'd probably expect given his talent level...his recordings make you would assume he's a much older cat, or at least that applied to me.  Maybe he just has an old soul, whatever that means.  These instrumental guitar dudes are really hot right now, right?  It feels like there are a lot of them.  Daniel is as good as any of them if not better. 

I was pretty excited Last Year's Men were playing this party, because I was pretty sure they had broken up.  Maybe it was just a "hiatus," but either way they sorta fizzled out and I believe it had been quite a while since they last performed live.  Does this gig signal that the band is back for real or was this just a one off, a favor for Bull City Records?  I guess time will tell.  They were as good as ever, playing a number of tracks from their great album "Sunny Down Snuff" as well as that second record they released only as MP3s that I must confess I haven't really heard.  I was into the jams anyways though.  One noteworthy change was Montgomery was back in band - before their previous hiatus (or whatever it was) he was no longer with the group, instead focusing all his attention on Flesh Wounds.  It was nice to see him back in the fold.  I hope I get to see them again, and soon, because they're one of my favorite local acts. 

Pipe!  PIPE PIPE PIPE PIPE PIPE.  That's really all the review of this band should be.  I've seen them dozens upon dozens of times and it's always the same...the band rocks out to pretty much the same songs they always play, holding shit down in a straight-forward but necessary fashion; singer Ron Liberti, Robert Pollard's long lost twin, puts on a performance that is somewhere between pantomime, modern dance and your favorite drunk uncle; the crowd throws beer cans at the band; I smile and laugh the entire time.  They played a lot of great hits, including two of their best "Biscuits" and "Yr Soaking in It" and a cover of Joe Jackson's "One More Time." At one point Ron caught one of the beers thrown at him, took a drink from it, and then threw it back at the crowd as if the whole thing was choreographed.  He also sang at least one song standing under a giant plastic tarp like he was wearing the world's most suffocating ghost costume.  Pipe is everything rock bands should aspire to be. 

In a lot of ways what I said about Pipe also holds for Superchunk, minus the difference in antics of the respective singers - about the most you get from Mac is a jump off of the drum riser and/or some windmill guitar work.  Like Pipe, I've seen Superchunk dozens upon dozens of times, they play a ton of songs I've seen them play a more times than I can count, and they're incredibly dependable.  Unlike Pipe, they've actually continued to write songs and release albums since the nineties, and their material is a lot more fun to sing along to (sorry Pipe, I still love you).  In the run-up to this show the band mentioned that this is the first time they've played locally since Merge 25 in the summer of 2014, which makes sense because I've been grousing about not getting to see them for a good two years.  There's not a whole lot I can say about these guys at this point, just know that other than Laura no longer playing with them live, they've not lost a step. 

Superchunk / Skylar Gudasz at Dorton Arena - 10/19/2016

With Skylar Gudasz
Dorton Arena

The folks that used to handle the music booking for the North Carolina State Fair made a great decision last year - instead of throwing a lot of money at washed-up and never-has-been rockers, country crooners, and family friendly fare, give a little money to a local agency who can book local musicians and actually support local North Carolinians, one of the main reasons to even have a state fair.  The hard work of local scribe Grayson Haver Currin probably helped them make this decision to change by digging up just how much money the Fair folks were losing on the crappy, mostly unwanted acts they used to book - it was going so wrong, why not try something else?  Long story short, a bunch of shit changed behind the scenes at the State Fair and now I get to see Superchunk in Dorton Arena for free after walking around eating junk food all day. 

First though was Skylar Gudasz, their opener for the night.  I got to the venue in time to see most of her set, getting slightly delayed because I stopped first to eat a cinnamon roll half the size of my head.  One of my better life decisions.  She was fronting a six-piece band featuring two keyboardists (one of which was sometimes Skylar) and the drummer from Flesh Wounds (I'm not sure what bands the other members are from, but they all looked familiar).  Most of Skylar's performance focused on her debut album "Oleander," but there was a couple of new songs as well - if those are a preview of her next release, I predict another gem.  Her voice was as strong as ever, and sounded damn good in Dorton - I've always heard folks say the sound in there was subpar, but it seemed pretty dialed in this night.  It should be noted that she doesn't sound quite as much like Karen Carpenter in person as she does on record...though it would be totally fine if she did. 

After not getting to see Superchunk for a couple of years, this would be my second time in three months.  That's great and all, but it's still not as often I'd like - once a month would be a lot better.  You could tell they were excited to play such a legendary venue - drummer Jon Wurster even posted a selfie on Instagram in the backstage shower where "Gene Simmons might've had 2-minute workmanlike sex in 1976."  For whatever reason they leaned heavily on their classic hits this night, putting together what might be the strongest set list I've ever seen by them.  The highlights included "For Tension," "Detroit Has a Skyline," "Skip Steps One & Three," "Driveway to Driveway," "The First Part," a very rare appearance of "Her Royal Fisticuffs," "Nu Bruises," "Cast Iron," a cover of the Magnetic Fields' "100,000 Fireflies," and they ended the night with "Throwing Things."  That's basically every single one of my favorite Superchunk songs minus "Animated Airplanes Over Germany" and "Why Do You Have To Put a Date on Everything."  Due to profanity rules from either Dorton Arena or the State Fair officials, for the first time in forever they didn't play "Slack Motherfucker" so as not to offend any old church ladies or small children or old church children or small ladies that might have wandered into the free show.  Fuck it though, they would have been a little better off in life to hear a little live Superchunk, curse words or not. 

Nada Surf / Amber Arcades at the Cats Cradle - 10/3/2016

Nada Surf
with Amber Arcades
Cats Cradle

The last time I saw Nada Surf live was back in my SF days (aka pre-2008) - much to my dismay, the band doesn't seem to have much love for shows in North Carolina.  This is especially surprising since Matthew Caws has family in the state, and some were even at this show, at least according to his stage banter.  Perhaps their reticence to play is the crowd, or lack thereof.  My (often poor) estimate is there were probably a couple hundred people there, but I was truly shocked that the place wasn't full, or close to it - sure it was a much more comfortable environment, but Nada Surf deserve better.  They're probably second best pure pop band working after Teenage Fanclub. 

They're a pro outfit - every song sounds impeccable, they had their own fancy light rig synced up to the music, and you can tell by the way they interact with the crowd that they're very comfortable on stage.  To my surprise Doug Gillard is now in the band - I guess this happened a few years ago, but like I said, I haven't had the chance to see Nada Surf live in quite a while.  This is at least the third band I've seen him with - Guided By Voices and Superdrag being the two others (for some reason I feel like there is one more, but my brain just can't recall).  They played for probably an hour and a half, hitting nearly everything you might want to hear - there were classics ("Always Love," "Blonde on Blonde"), new favorites ("Friend Hospital," "Rushing"), and they even played their nineties hit "Popular," which I don't think I've ever heard them perform before.  They closed out the night with a totally acoustic (as in no amplification at all) version of "Blizzard of 77," complete with a robust crowd sing-along.  There might not have been as many people at the gig as there should have been, but those that did show up were very enthusiastic. 

I caught about half of the set by openers Amber Arcades, who I knew not a single thing about.  They were a five piece with a female singer who reminded me of Mac DeMarco for some reason - visually, not musically.  I think it was the hat she was wearing, or maybe I'm just an idiot (or both).  Musically they made me think a lot of the Aislers Set, a clean shoegaze/jangle pop hybrid, and I quite liked it.  When I'm dictator more bands will sound like the Aislers Set, per official decree.  Oh, and then after the show I googled the band and it turns out they're Dutch, it's primarily the work of the singer Annelotte de Graaf, and she has two law degrees and works for the international war crimes tribunal.  I wonder if I play nothing but Amber Arcades around my daughter she will turn out that awesome?