Thursday, December 14, 2017

Moon Duo / Birds Of Avalon at Kings - 10/8/2017

Moon Duo
With Birds Of Avalon

I wonder, is it weird that while on tour, you get to play one of the gigs at the club you own?  I'm guessing not a lot of bands have their own club at which to perform, but a third of Birds Of Avalon do - aka both of the guitarists, Paul and Cheetie.  Aside from my love of the band, the best part of BOA being the opening act is no one has to sit through them setting up their gear....between two drum kits and what I estimate to be roughly 4000 guitar pedals, it can be taxing.  Luckily, their music is good enough that it fixes everything - heavy psych/prog/pop with a shitload of vocal harmonies, I'm not sure it makes much sense on paper but it sure as shit does live.  The band just released a great new record called "Operator's Midnight," well worth checking out in my opinion. 

Here's my hot take on Moon Duo - they're terrible music for a basketball fantasy draft, their hypnotic take on krautrock caused me to space out and take a fourth mediocre point guard when I really needed to be drafting big men.  Much like Birds Of Avalon, they bathe themselves in trippy light projections that, while I have no concrete proof, were custom designed to frustrate my ability to take any worthwhile photos...but were pretty cool to watch otherwise.  Moon Duo are one of those bands that I rarely listen to recorded, but always make an effort to see live...that might be true of the style of music they play in general - it translates better to the stage than to tape. 

Guided By Voices at Motorco - 10/13/2017

Guided By Voices
To paraphrase Uncle Bob towards the end of the night - "This was billed as a night with Guided By Voices - our encore is longer than any opener we might have had!"  I mean, he's not wrong.  This write-up feels like it should be nothing but a bunch of short bullet points, basically the review version of GBV themselves. 

 - I left after two and a half hours...I felt like I had gotten my money's worth of Bob and company.  It's entirely possible they're still playing. 
 - According to, they played 52 songs.  Honestly, that number feels much lower than I would have guessed.
 - They played a lot of the last two records, but Bob also knows what most of the crowd wants to hear, and every three or four songs he's throw in a "Motor Away" or "Echoes Myron" or "My Valuable Hunting Knife" to re-energize the crowd. 
 - They played the national anthem before the band took the stage...I have no idea if this was an ironic decision or not. 
   It's possible no one knows. 

 - "KISS is the dumbest motherfucking band of all time."
 - He mentioned they already have a new album in the can for release in March and the demos for a double album that
   will be out next summer.  The man is a machine. 
 - Bob was much chattier and rantier than usual, giving Trump the business at every turn.  And plenty of entertainers as well. 
 - "With all due respect to the Foo Fighters, I hate the fucking Foo Fighters."
 - When I pointed out to the guy beside me that he was about to sit his hoodie into a pool of beer, he shrugged, sat it in the beer anyways, and then offered to share his vape pen with me - I politely declined.  The world is a weird place. 
 - "I bet Tom Brady never wrote a song in his life."

I'm so happy this band has been in my life for more than two decades. 

BODYKIT / Essex/Muro at Kings - 9/1/2017

with Essex/Muro

It seems like nearly every time BODYKIT has played lately, I've been out of town or already had tickets to something else - and that was going to hold true again for their upcoming Hopscotch performance as well.  Luckily, this last-minute benefit show for Charlottesville popped up...well, not lucky that the events of Charlottesville happened, or that Nazis still exist, but lucky for my eyes and ears.  As always, the two of them  (Rich and Josh) had set up their table full of electronics on the floor, away from bothersome intrusions like lights and sightlines.  Much to my delight and their chagrin though, there was still enough light coming from the stage that I managed to get a couple of decent photos of the band for the first time ever.  Take that, band who doesn't want their photo taken and I should totally respect that instead of being an asshole!  They still sound a lot like Liars to me (Liars of the past few years specifically, but less so their newest record "TFCF"), but as I've noted before this is not a genre of music I know a ton about and my comparison game is pretty limited.  They're heavy, they're distorted, they're electronic, there are samples, Rich sings and/or yells, and it makes me think of my early high school years listening to Ministry.  I may not be able to describe it, but I like it, and I'm excited they have a full-length record coming out soon. 

The only thing I knew about Essex Muro is they seem to play out a lot and they recently released an album on local label Sorry State - this lead me to believe that while it wasn't a forgone conclusion they were a hardcore band, the odds were heavily in that favor.   The verdict: they were a hardcore band.  Hardcore has never done a ton for me, but as far as the genre goes they were perfectly fine - the singer was excitable, the band played fast, and the set was short.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Hopscotch Music Festival, Day Four at Red Hat Amphitheater - 9/10/2017

Hopscotch Music Festival
Day Four
Red Hat Amphitheater

For the first time in the history of Hopscotch, they expanded the festival to a fourth day.  This fourth day would occur at only one venue (Red Hat), and wouldn't run that late (the final act started at 8) was like the musical equivalent to the cooling off period after a vigorous workout.  That's something that people who exercise do, right?  I was pretty damn tired from the events of the last three days, but I wanted to see at least a couple of the bands playing this final day.

When I got there Cloud Nothings were in the middle of their set.  The few recordings I've heard by them have never really moved the needle in either direction, but I'm always up to get a live read on a band I've never seen before.  I had them pegged into a pop-punk/Vagrant records category, but at least on this day they were much louder, noisier, and more chaotic than I would have expected, which was to their benefit.  There was still a bit of a pop-punk vibe, just a very distorted version of it.  I'm not sure it turned me into a fan or anything, but I wasn't mad I saw half their set. 

Helium played next, and were one of the top three reasons I bought a four day instead of Friday only festival pass (along with Metz and Big Boi) and the main reason I even came out on this fourth day at all.  Technically it was billed as "Mary Timony Plays Helium," but pretty much everyone thinks of Mary Timony as Helium, so that name seems pointlessly wordy.  The band today was her and three additional members, none of which were originally in the band - I was holding out a small sliver of hope that original member (and Polvo frontman) Ash Bowie might make an appearance since he lives here in the Triangle, but it was not to be.  A lot of the folks at the front of the crowd (where I was, naturally) were all older folks like myself, reliving those nineties college years, and then a smattering of young people who probably had no idea why all these old people were so excited to see the old lady on stage play these "classic rock" songs.  I'm terrible with Helium song names, but I know they played "Pat's Trick," the one name I can remember; the set was a ton of songs off those first two records obviously.  Also obvious: watching Mary Timony play guitar is a true delight.  I'm pretty sure I say this every time I see her with any of her bands, but that's because it's true every time I see her with any of her bands.  Rock show etiquette question: as we all know, you don't wear a band's t-shirt to their show (Iron Maiden excluded) - but can you wear a tee of another band that one of those band members is in?  I ask because I was wearing an Ex Hex shirt, and I feel like I got some looks from the cool kids.  They're just lucky my "I HEART MARY TIMONY" crop top was in the wash!

I decided to stick around for one more band, the much beloved locals Mount Moriah.  My very first thought was where is Jenks, their guitar player?  In his place was the dude who played guitar with Heather during her solo set the day's unclear if this is a temporary thing or that Jenks is no longer with the band, but that would be a real bummer if he was gone.  Mount Moriah has always had a revolving door of drummers and additional members, but Heather, Jenks and bassist Casey have all been there from the start.  Now for the bad news - during the span of their short set, they didn't play their best song "Lament."  I like everything they've released, but I love this song on a whole different level.  The good news - I'm pretty damn happy to hear Heather sing any goddamn thing, so it was time well spent regardless.  I don't mean this as an insult to the rest of the band, but her voice has always been the driving force of this act anyways. 

This ended up as a nice dessert course for this year's Hopscotch Music Festival - another successful outing in downtown Raleigh in the books. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Hopscotch Music Festival, Day Three PHOTOS around downtown Raleigh - 9/9/2017

HC McEntire, Kings

Escape-ism, Kings

Bat Fangs, Kings

DiCaprio, Neptunes

Material Girls, Neptunes

All The Saints, Neptunes

Big Boi, City Plaza

Advance Base, Lincoln Theatre

Hopscotch Music Festival, Day Three around downtown Raleigh - 9/9/2017

Hopscotch Music Festival
Day Three
Downtown Raleigh

I was more excited about the free day parties today than the proper festival line-up  - that meant it was time for daylight rock!  Even better, I never had to leave the same building - between the Merge/OCSC party at Kings and the Chunklet party at Neptunes, my dance card was full. 

Let's cover the Merge party that was upstairs at Kings to start.  The first act I took in was HC McEntire, aka Heather from Mount Moriah.  I've seen her perform solo before and she just went by Heather, so not really sure what the name change is about but [insert that shoulder shrugging emoji here].  Whatever the name, between this gig and two Mount Moriah shows, she was keeping real damn busy at this year's Hopscotch!  If you wanted to argue she has the best voice in all of music, I'm not sure I would disagree.  The whole club kept pretty much silent for the entirety of her performance, which is pretty impressive for a bunch of day drunk freeloaders.  Her solo songs are similar to the country rock of her full band, but mellower and with much sparser instrumentation.  Even with a another guitarist accompanying her, the music was as much about the silences as it was the actual sounds.  While being a creepy annoying fan after the performance she said she would have a solo record coming out next year, so that's something we've all got to look forward to. 

The main reason I even came out to the day parties was to see Escape-ism, which is the name Ian Svenonius uses for his solo act.  Much like in the Make-Up, he was dressed in a sparkly suit, but this time it was different color...I'd love to take a look in this man's closet, I bet it's delightful.   If you're wondering what solo Ian looks like, it's this: an ancient drum machine, an old school top loading tape deck, and a Silvertone guitar that I'm pretty sure he had no idea how to play.  He mostly just held the guitar (speaking from personal experience, Silvertones never stay in tune) like a prop, and would occasionally strum a mangled chord or play a ham-fisted solo that had everyone cracking up.  Mostly, to no surprise, it's all about the Ian's performance and stage presence, as it usually is with any band of which he is a part.  He wasn't quite as unhinged here as he was with the Make-Up the night before, but was still nuts compared to any other performer.  With sparse/off-kilter instrumentation and songs about rest stops and "The Exorcist" stairs, any fan of Ed Schrader's Music Beat would be a fool to pass this man's impending album up. 

The last band I saw at Kings was Bat Fangs, who it felt like played at every day party based on how many people were talking about and posting photos of them.  I'm not sure if they qualify as a "supergroup" in the same vein of Contraband or Blind Faith or the Firm (either the rock or rap version), but with Betsy from Ex Hex and Laura from Flesh Wounds making up 2/3rds of the band, they certainly qualify in my book (I have no idea as to his bonafides of the dude bassist).  Their sound actually reminded me of a bigger, bolder version of Ex Hex - it still had that power pop backbone, but with an adrenaline shot of arena rock injected into it.  I had always assumed Mary Timony was the driving force behind Ex Hex, but after hearing this second effort from Betsy, it makes me wonder if she's not doing the heavy lifting over there as well.  Regardless of all that, the band is damn impressive and already sound like weathered vets, and according to the internet their debut record is coming out in early 2018 on Don Giovanni.  I'm so excited I wish there was a countdown website I could stare at daily. 

Downstairs in the red light district aka the photographer's torture dungeon aka Neptunes, Chunklet was hosting a party that heavily featured Atlanta acts, which isn't shocking because that's where the mag/label/imprint is based.  The first band I caught was DiCaprio, a trio of young kids that made me feel bad about my old bald fatness with their youthful exuberance.  I only caught a couple of songs, and assuming those weren't outliers I liked what I heard - Suicide/Magazine-style dark punk with a smattering of nineties slacker rock around the edges.  I think if you go to that link you can "name your own price" to download some of their music, aka "I'm a cheapskate and I'm paying zero dollars and sure, I feel kinda guilty and bad about it but not so much that I'm actually going to spend anything." 

I was told by multiple people to check out Material Girls, though they never told me why.  Because of this, I assumed (or rather hoped) they were a Madonna cover band...they were not...cue the sad trombones.  Instead, it was a seven-piece of...well, mostly dudes I think with one girl but a bunch of the dudes were also dressed as women and I wasn't clear if it was just drag or a more intrinsic part of their identity...fuck it, let's just say seven people and leave it at that.  Along with the typical rock and roll instrument trappings, you had horns, bongos, wigs, face paint, god knows what else.  The music was sort of a punk rock version of the result you'd get if James chance and the B-52s joined forces.  I'm not sure if I liked it for the music or was just entertained because so much was going on, but I'd definitely go see them again if they came back to town out of sheer curiosity alone. 

My final day party show was All The Saints - that same All The Saints I saw two nights previous in the cavernous Basement, I was now seeing in probably the smallest venue of the festival.  I don't have much additional to say about them other than their set felt more aggressive, louder, and more immediate this afternoon - this might have had as much to do with the venue differences as it did with the band itself.  In the middle of their set Chunklet impresario Henry Owings came on stage and began pouring beer in the band member's mouths, allowing them to hydrate mid-song.  It's probably the next big advancement in live music technology, and it was great to get a free preview of it on this day. 

After a dinner interlude with the family at Capital Club 16 that involved stuffing mac & cheese and bratwurst into my gaping maw, my Hopscotch continued with Big Boi down on the City Plaza stage.  I've seen him a few times now and knew exactly what to expect - a mix of his solo tracks and medleys of Outkast songs, all while backed by some variation of a live band.  The one negative is his band keeps getting smaller and smaller - the first time I saw him there were fifteen or more musicians backing him up, plus a dance squad, but this time he only had DJ, guitar, a pair of trumpets, and a pair of additional singers/rappers.  That said, the day I don't get excited to hear Big Boi perform "Bombs Over Baghdad" live is the day I have completely died inside. 

I decided to end my night in the most somber way possible - Advance Base at the Lincoln Theatre.  It's really just one dude, Owen Ashworth; Owen used to record under the name Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, which was also just one dude.  It's not entirely clear why he changed the name, perhaps he was just wanted a shorter band name.  It's still pretty much the same music no matter what it's called - sad sack electronic pop, like David Bazan if all he used was a bunch of keyboards and synths.  He had a funny comment about halfway thorough his set that was roughly "Thanks for made a choice to see me over seeing Solange...I would have rather been at Solange."  I disagree, I think I made the right choice. 

I thought briefly about checking out some other acts, but after eight hours my old man feet were ready to go home and get horizontal on my couch. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Hopscotch Music Festival, Day Two PHOTOS around downtown Raleigh - 9/8/2017

Make-Up, City Plaza

Run The Jewels, Red Hat Amphitheater

Future Islands, City Plaza

Har Mar Superstar, The Basement

Preoccupations, Lincoln Theatre

Afghan Whigs, Lincoln Theatre