Sunday, April 1, 2018

Destroyer at the Cat’s Cradle - 1/30/2018

Destroyer
Cat’s Cradle
1/30/2018

I almost forgot to write about this Destroyer show, and I likely would have totally forgotten had I not also taken photos and if those same photos haven’t been staring at me for well over a month begging me to edit them.  There’s a good reason one might forget about a Destroyer show – they’re all more or less the same.  Well, the songs change, as Dan Bejar and company tend to mostly just play their newest record (in this particular case, “Ken”) with a couple of recent classics thrown in, but their subdued performance doesn’t lend itself to strong memories or compelling reasons to rehash a gig.  Despite that, every time they come through town  I can’t buy my ticket fast enough...I’ve gone through this cycle a number of times, and at no point has it ever really made sense to me.  I guess there’s that part of your brain that wants to hear these songs you love live no matter how interesting the journey is…it also doesn’t hurt that despite barely moving, Bejar is still pretty damn photogenic.  It might be the Kramer hair.  I’m really jealous of that hair.  Well, I’m really jealous of any hair these days, but his is particularly fantastic.

Anyways, Destroyer played a show.  It was totally fine,  Sounded great.  Not much happened.  I can't wait to see them again.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bat Fangs / Pipe / Solar Halos at the Cat’s Cradle Back Room - 2/3/2018

Bat Fangs
With Pipe & Solar Halos
Cat’s Cradle Back Room
2/3/2018

Bat Fangs were one of my favorite new acts from Hopscotch 2017, and when the pseudo-local duo (drummer Laura King is from Chapel Hill, best known for her work with Flesh Wounds, while guitarist Betsy Wright, also of Ex Hex, is from the DC area) announced this record release show I bought a ticket right away.  And a good thing too, because the damn thing ended up selling out!

I got there in time to see the last couple of songs from Solar Halos, one of those local groups I've been meaning to check out for ages but, you know, laziness or something prevented me.  I liked what I saw - the three piece was doing sort of a space metal thing (is that a thing?), and I recognized one of the members as being from Fin Fang Foom.  Minimal (and non-Cookie Monster) vocals, good guitar work, heavy but not overbearing.  I'll have to make more of an effort to catch them again, or at least not drag in late if they're opening a bill I'm already planning on attending. 

Much to my great delight, I got to see Pipe again.  Much to my even greater delight, they're still the same band playing the same songs I've loved for the last 20+ years.  They really don't need a review at this point - the gist as always is catchy, sloppy punk with a charismatic singer (Ron Liberti) who is damn funny.  As always, Ron is very quotable - he kicked off with "We’ve got 12 [songs] tonight - pace yourselves accordingly!"; at some point he commented out of the blue "I heard Buddy Holly died last night"; and then for reasons that likely only make sense in his brain, he let everyone know "If you don’t love the moon, get the fuck out."  I need to remember to write down his nonsense every time I see these guys. This was just the tip of the iceberg. 

If Bat Fangs aren't already sponsored by Adidas, they should be - between the matching shoes and their love of the brand's signature track suits, you couldn't ask for better advertisement.  Given this was the release of their debut album, you can probably guess that most of their set was them playing their new self-titled record.  Betsy Wright is a natural as a front woman - tons of stage presence, a boatload of charisma, and, as always, bonus points for looking like OG Pat Benatar.  At some point a shitload of balloons got released into the crowd, so it felt like we were celebrating catchy-ass songs and a winning election at the same time.  They closed the evening in grand fashion - a cover of Poison's "Talk Dirty To Me."  You might think that an odd choice, but go back and give that song another listen - hairspray and ridiculous spandex outfits aside, that's a fuckin' gem of a pop song. 

Howard Ivans / Skylar Gudasz at the Cats Cradle Back Room - 11/17/2017

Howard Ivans
With Skylar Gudasz
Cats Cradle Back Room
11/17/2017

The name Howard Ivans might sound familiar - supposedly he's the long lost twin brother of Rosebuds singer Ivan Howard, but I have a sneaking suspicion they might actually be the same person.  It's unclear what the status of the Rosebuds are these days and if they'll ever make any more records, but this alter-ego allows Howard to explore his more sultry, soulful side.  The vocals might be mostly the same between the two outfits, but the music is...slinkier?  Sure, why not.  His debut solo record was recorded with the help of Richmond's Spacebomb Collective, but live he had a trio of local lads backing him up (Rob Lackey, Mark Paulson, and Brian Weeks)...all of which are my friends, one that might have even been my roommate years ago so I'm definitely not being biased here.  Obviously.  And my totally unbiased take is that while more stripped down than the record, they were really great live.  Rob and Mark held down the backbone, Ivan handled the rhythm guitar, and Brain spent most of the night playing a bunch of solos and leads that were straight out of the score from an eighties Michael Mann movie...given his hair metal background, it was a gig that well suited him.  I was way into all of it, and my only regret is with Ivan living in Portland now these shows will be few and far between. 

The opener this evening was Skylar Gudasz, who I've reported on a few times.  I don't have anything particularly new to say here on her, just know her voice is one of the best in the business (not just locally, anywhere), and it's always a joy to hear her live.  She had a four-piece backing band this time, made up of four well-traveled local musicians sporting four high-quality beards.  Skylar had no beard, which might be a sign she's not a very good team player.  We'll monitor this situation in the future and see if she gets on the beard program, or continues to flaunt the best interests of band unity. 

Hot Snakes at the Chapel - 11/10/2017

Hot Snakes
The Chapel
11/10/2017

I didn't necessarily travel all the way to San Francisco to see the recently reunited Hot Snakes play, but I did choose this particular weekend to take a trip I had been wanting to make all year because of them.  After having now seen them perform for the first time in probably a decade, it actually would have been entirely reasonable to make that cross-country pilgrimage based on the performance they gave at the Chapel.  The place was packed, the show sold out long ago - I actually bought my tickets to this gig before I bought my plane ticket, because it was the much more important purchase.  The sausage party levels in the club were off the chart - from where I was standing, I couldn't count more than a half-dozen women in the crowd, and three of them were from the opening band.  I'm not entirely sure why this is, as I've known a number of women who like Hot Snakes, but the facts remain that most metal shows I've attended were more diverse than this one. 

The whole band is great fun to watch, but I had forgotten just how amazing it is to see John Reis on stage.  He is truly possessed - prowling the stage like a wild tiger in a small cage, a crazed look on his face, spitting everywhere, and mixing it up with the crowd constantly (those interactions include occasionally berating them for their lack of energy).  He has a smile on his face almost the entire time, but it's the type of smile you see on a demonic toddler after they just decided to dump all of their food on the floor while staring you straight in the eye.  They were also touring with both of their drummers - the first half of the show was with with their original drummer Jason Kourkounis, the second half with Mario Rubalcaba, and then Jason came back out for the encore.  Given we're all getting older and how hard they play, two drummers might not be bad idea for any band that's been around this long. 

Other than them not playing my favorite song "Mystery Boy," I have zero complaints about this performance and I'm so glad I made the trip for it.  Word is this reformation isn't meant to be short-lived - a fourth record is on the way for Sub Pop, and a tour in support of that album to hopefully/probably follow.  I'll go pretty much anywhere to see them again, though financially I wouldn't be mad if they decided to play closer to my home. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

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

Moon Duo
With Birds Of Avalon
Kings
10/8/2017

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
Motorco
10/13/2017
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 setlist.fm, 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

BODYKIT
with Essex/Muro
Kings
9/1/2017

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.