Friday, May 13, 2016

Yo La Tengo at the Orange Peel - 4/2/2015

Yo La Tengo
The Orange Peel
4/2/2015

There was nearly a fight at a Yo La Tengo show.  It never would have come to blows, but there was definitely some chest puffing and angry jostling for a particular piece of real estate not far from the stage.  Fittingly, one of the guys was a middle-aged, overweight, bearded man who likely is a brewmaster at one of Asheville's 45,772 breweries, and the other was wearing a scarf and surely worked as a barista.  I wonder if anyone wearing a scarf has ever actually got into a fight?  Seems like you would be giving your opponent a pretty good weapon to use against you and choke you out.  Anyways...

I was up in the mountains to see the family anyways, so it was fortuitous that I actually looked at the calendar and saw Yo La Tengo would be appearing at the Orange Peel after performing at the Big Ears festival in Knoxville the night before.  I had never been to the Orange Peel before (a couple of Morrissey cancellations were my only other attempts) - nice venue, good sound...like a wider and shallower Cats' Cradle maybe.  It was just them, no openers, and they played one acoustic set, took a break, and then played an electric set.  The acoustic set was made up mostly of songs from their most recent record "Stuff Like That There," and I was glad to finally see some of that material live; when they passed through the Triangle last Fall after that record came out, I had a newborn baby and couldn't make it.  For the electric portion of the evening, they included three of my favorite songs: "Tom Courtenay," "Sugarcube," and "Ohm," as well as an encore of Half Japanese's "No More Beatlemania" and some sort of double drum funk cover that involved the word motherfucker being used repetitively. 

I know it's the old person in me, but I'd love it if more bands took this route of playing shows by themselves sans opening acts.  In the case of Yo La Tengo (or Low earlier in the year who had the same approach), getting to see more of the headliner you actually want to see is always a better option.  Hell, even if the band didn't want to play longer and only played their normal set, that still seems better than slogging through most openers.  Okay, I'm going to return to yelling at clouds and telling stories about wearing an onion on my belt now, at least until Yo La Tengo comes back through town.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Bandway / Pipe at the Cat's Cradle - 10/24/2015

Bandway
with Pipe
Cat's Cradle
10/24/2015

It had been a little over four years since I last saw Bandway, at 2011's Hopscotch Music Festival, which was the last time they performed live as far as I know.  That seems to be pretty much the norm for them, get together every few years to rock the balls off the select few people with the goddamn good sense to show up.  There were probably a couple hundred of these smart people on this night, and I recognized a ton of them - I would bet 90% of the crowd was probably at any Bandway show I attended nearly twenty years ago.  We were all older and some of us fatter, but our love of a good time has never diminished. 

The big difference between this gig and the couple of others they've played over the last, well, decade, is they actually recently released a new album, "Buddies," their first since 2002's "Night Rock."  They were playing new songs!  Awesome new songs that is, to go along with classics like "King Kong" and "Balls Out" and "Champagne" and all those other gems that gets the crowd singing along vigorously.  It was, in a word, glorious. 

I think you can sum up the awesomeness that is this band with the following quote from Brooks Carter, frontman of the gods:
"This song is about love...the purest love of all...the song is called 'White Nipples.'"

Pipe opened the show.  To paraphrase Wooderson from "Dazed and Confused" - "That's what I love about Pipe, man. I get older, they stay the same band."  They started with "Gutterball," ended with "Ashtray," and there was plenty of high-quality, high-kick filled punk rock in between.  It's always sort of the same thing with them, but it's a same thing I'm always happy to see.  Singer Ron Liberti was full of antics as usual, laying down flat on the stage while still singing at one point.  It was a quality night of rock all around, one that doesn't happen nearly often enough. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Caspian / Circle Takes the Square at Kings - 10/20/2015

Caspian
with Circle Takes the Square
Kings
10/20/2015

Decided on a whim to go get my post-rock on with Caspian.  I hadn't paid much attention to them since their first record "The Four Trees," but I was pretty sure they would deliver live.  I might have even seen them in concert once back in my SF days, but it's been so many bands over so many years, shit is starting to get fuzzy.  They're on the the heavier side of the post-rock spectrum but not quite metal, and despite vocals on a couple of songs they very much feel like an instrumental band who just happens to forget to accidentally not sing every once in a while.  They showed up at Kings like a pro outfit with a full light show including glowing matching boxes(?) on top of each of their amps and lots of strobe.  More importantly they sounded amazing - even though I barely know their material, they held my attention throughout.  Yeah, they do that same quiet-loud-quiet thing that all these bands do, but they did it at about the highest level possible.  I'd gladly go see them again, and I bet I even remember this show this time!

Technically the opener was Circle Takes the Square, but the gig was advertised as a co-headlining tour...maybe they take turns each night headlining or something, I'm both too lazy to figure it out and don't really care.  They were what I guess you'd call prog metal...not my bag.  It can be fun to watch prog bands play because you never know what kind of crazy direction it is going to go, but that got old pretty quick.  Even worse, as near as I could tell none of the songs were about the game show Hollywood Squares...I wanted songs about Jim J Bullock and Shadoe Stevens goddammit!!!  For the record, all of my Hollywood Squares humor fell on deaf ears with my British show companion. 

Archers of Loaf / Flesh Wounds at the Cats Cradle - 10/17/2015

Archers of Loaf
with Flesh Wounds
Cats Cradle
10/17/2015

How many times have I even seen Archers of Loaf at this point?  I think this is the fourth time since the "reunion," and who knows how often during their initial run.  What I do know for sure is they instantly make me feel like I'm a kid again - no different than that first time I saw them in high school, senior year I think, just after "Icky Mettle" came out.  No different mentally at least - my back, legs and feet might argue differently.

What can I say about a show that I've seen so many times before though?  It was highly entertaining, but that's no surprise.  Matt Gentling has let his hair grow out, which adds an extra layer of movement to the lurching he already does while playing bass.  Eric Johnson was wearing a bad ass Pipe shirt and I would gladly stab a drifter in the buttocks to get one exactly like it that fit me.  They played all of the "Vs. the Greatest of All Time" EP, though not in order.  They were playing a lot of "d ep cuts" according to Eric Bachmann, and after a false start on "South Carolina" Eric commented "...deep cuts so deep I can't remember how to play them."  There was a ton of tracks off of "Icky Mettle," 3/4ths of the album maybe.  Other highlights included "Fabricoh," "Harnessed in Slums," "Dead Red Eyes," "Nostalgia," "Form and File"...fuck it, every song was a highlight.  The encore was the biggies - "Wrong," "Web in Front," and finally "White Trash Heroes," with everyone (plus an extra dude) playing guitar except for Gentling.  The crowd was singing along so loudly to some of the songs it sounded like an adult version of Kidz Bop was being held in the Cradle.  It was a great night.

Local punk rock killers Flesh Wounds opened the show and burned through fifteen or twenty songs in barely over thirty minutes (probably the longest set I've ever seen by them).  The constant touring as both this band and as Mac McCaughan's backing band the Non-Believers has made them incredibly tight.  Guitarist and lead singer Montgomery Morris seems angrier with each passing show - it's like he's trying to dominate the music more than actually just play it.  Considering how many punk bands these days seem like lovable good guys on stage, it's kinda nice to have a little snarling attitude come at you.  Also, he spits a lot.  Speaking of Pipe, they ended their set with a cover of the local legends, and Flesh Wounds did a great job of owning it like they wrote it.

Jeff the Brotherhood at the Odditorium - 10/11/2015

Jeff the Brotherhood
The Odditorium
10/11/2015

It's been so long since Jeff the Brotherhood came to the Triangle to play, I had to go to Asheville to see them.  Ok, technically I was already up there showing the new baby off to the family, but when I saw they were playing I extended my stay through Sunday night so I wouldn't miss them since they never make it any further into the state these days. 

As expected, it was a weird and mostly young crowd - kids with crazy tattoos and piercings talking about train hopping, rowdy crowd surfers, someone hanging from the rafters (the ceiling is really low in this club), and at one point a girl was on stage next to the band doing difficult yoga poses, which even seemed to amuse the band.  One guy in the front extended his hand out and held it in a thumbs up for a large chunk of the show.  Also, it was hot as goddamn balls in there, and packed, so the smell was just lovely.

Despite all of that, I had a damn good time, mostly because JtB were killing it.  It had been a little while since I had seen them last, and their set-up had changed a little - Jake is now playing a full six-string guitar instead of only three strings like he had every other time I've seen them.  He killed it on his clear acrylic guitar regardless, and probably would have done so even on one string.  Jamin no longer was running their own personal light show via some foot switches and cheap mechanic lights, which I always enjoyed for the record, but I guess it's a little less shit to set up at every show for them.  The set was a good cross section across their whole catalog, including a couple of covers - Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl" and Teenage Fanclub's "Mad Dog 20/20" (this cover also available on their EP "Dig the Classics").  They had a giant set list on the ground, but it seemed to be used more as a suggestion than a bible as they seemed to kinda play whatever they felt like.   

It was a damn good time, smelly street rat kids and all.  I was so sweaty when I left that I put on an unwashed thrift store t-shirt I had in my car just to get dry.  You can't catch herpes from a t-shirt can you?  Eh, it's too late now. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Protomartyr / Amanda X at Kings - 10/20/2015

Protomartyr
with Amanda X
Kings
10/20/2015

The last time Protomartyr played at Slims was one of the best shows in recent years - not only did they kill it, but Whatever Brains and Spray Paint were also on that bill.  I really, really miss Whatever Brains.  Anyways, this time through town they stepped up to a larger club and made Kings their home, a smart choice given how packed Slims was last time around.  As this was a tour for their newest record "The Agent Intellect," there were lots of songs off of that excellent album, an album that will definitely be one of my top three favorites of the year.  Plenty of older songs too, including the amazing "Scum, Rise!" - as long as I get to hear that track, everything else is gravy.  As per usual, singer Joe Casey stalked around the stage like a drunk professor, usually with a beer in his hand.  If this band played live once a month I would go every time, happily. 

The opening band was a trio of females from Philadelphia called Amanda X that I knew nothing about, but I'm pretty sure none of them are named Amanda.  You very rarely meet anyone named Amanda anymore ya know?  My very first thought when I see a band made up of three ladies is Ex Hex, who I've been obsessed with for the last couple of years.  Amanda X sound nothing like Ex Hex unfortunately, but you could definitely draw some comparisons to Mary Timony's old band Helium - heavy nineties indie-pop vibes with some Sonic Youth-style guitars going on.  It was a pretty enjoyable set, but short - I'll hold off on final judgement until I hear some recordings by them.  I'm definitely intrigued though. 

Destroyer at the Cat's Cradle - 10/8/2015

Destroyer
Cat's Cradle
10/8/2015

You never know exactly what you're going to get at a Destroyer show.  Well, you know some of what you will get - you'll get a large, professional band, and Dan Bejar will barely move while he performs, other than stooping to attend to his selection of alcoholic beverages on the stage.  The biggest question mark is that the set-list can vary greatly - despite the new record, Bejar & company decided to widely sample the entire Destroyer catalog.  I mention this because on their tour a few years back for "Kaputt," they pretty much only played that record.  Not that they avoided the excellent new album "Poison Season" - I believe they actually kicked off the set with the Al Stewart-gone-disco jam "Forces from Above," and also played "Dream Lover" along with a few other new tracks.  Other highlights included "Savage Night at the Opera," "Chinatown," "Rubies," "It's Gonna Take an Airplane," and "European Oils."  Bejar still continues to ignore his best record "Streethawk: A Seduction" as well as my mental pleas for them to play "Notorious Lightning," but overall I have no complaints.  Possibly the most entertaining part of the whole night was the girl standing next to me, who was having her own personal Beatlemania moment for the duration of the show - complete with high pitched squeals, lots of tightly clenched hands waving in front of her face, and erratic jumping up and down.  She was acting so wacky that even the band took note of her a couple of times.  I hope to someday get that excited about...well, anything.  Maybe if Destroyer ever plays "Notorious Lightning" I'll have the same reaction.