Friday, February 13, 2015

Parquet Courts / Priests / Whatever Brains at Kings - 1/26/2015

Parquet Courts
with Priests and Whatever Brains
Kings
1/26/2015

To be perfectly honest, I was mainly at this show for openers Whatever Brains.  Sure, I've seen them probably two dozen times at least, but any chance I get to soak in their insanity I try my best to jump on it.  And luckily I jumped on this one early, because this show sold out a while ago.  What can I say about a WB show that I haven't said so many times before?  It was awesome, as always.  There was multiple uses of whistles from multiple band members.   LOTS of roto tom drum action.  Even though they just had a release party a couple of months ago for their new record, they've already released a cd-r of nearly 80 minutes of new material - from a sheer quantity standpoint, they're turning into the Guided by Voices of noisy punk or whatever the hell category you might try to put them in (they don't seem to fit anywhere, so you probably shouldn't bother). 

I had gotten the value of my ticket from that performance, so anything else good from tonight was gravy.  I knew absolutely nothing about Priests other than a couple of friends had spoken highly of them, so I was going in completely blind.  This is my very rudimentary take on the band - a four piece from DC; all women except for the guitar player; music is bass heavy, almost verging on funky, but still more-or-less punk; guitar was as likely to be adding texture and noise to the songs as playing chords or rhythm; the singer was very engaging, partially for her performance (lots of stalking around the stage and dramatic flair), and partially for her outfit (tight dress that you'd expect to see at a nightclub rather than on a stage, plus giant stiletto heels).  If I had to make a comparison, I'd go with Sonic Youth meets the Slits, but would to hear some of their recordings to further flesh out this vibe I got.  I quite enjoyed their set, and would definitely see them again.  Luckily, they seem to play down here fairly often. 

The headliners were Parquet Courts, but I was already waning to be honest.  I don't have the youthful exuberance that most of the crowd seemed to have, but I stuck out at least half of their set.  They're one of those bands that I enjoy when I randomly hear them, but I never actively seek their material out.  Their records are pretty straight forward garage pop, or at least what I've heard, but their live show had an injection of, I don't know, Pavement-style slack or something of that nature.  I think I actually enjoyed the live renditions more than their recordings to be honest, there was an extra bit of life to them.  I'd see these guys again, though probably not after standing around at the club for three hours.  The slow down in live music attendance on my part in the winter really takes the life out of my show legs!

Ex Hex / Birds of Avalon at Kings - 1/3/2015

Ex Hex
with Birds of Avalon
Kings
1/3/2015

Almost two months after seeing them for the first time, here I was at Kings to watch Ex Hex again.  The first time I saw them was so great, it wasn't particularly hard to talk myself into making the effort to show up at Kings.  Since they only have one album, the set list this time was pretty damn similar to what I saw at the Pinhook, the band as tight as ever while performing their upbeat, snarling garage-ish pop.  The only real difference was the cover songs - last time we only got the Kids' "All Kindsa Girls," while this time not only did we get that gem, but also Johnny Thunders' "You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory" and Sweet's "Fox on the Run."  The last one especially got me (and clearly much of the crowd) excited.  It was a great time, and if they come back in another two months chances are I'll be there again.

As great as Ex Hex was, I was possibly more excited for openers Birds of Avalon.  Despite being local (so local a couple of the band members are actually part-owners of Kings), they don't play a ton - but every time I see them, I love them more than the previous gig.  They were playing with the drummer of Valient Thorr as a fill-in, but the band sounded as stellar as ever.  Where you might have once made classic rock references to their performances, these days they are fully ensconced in the Can/Neu! bubble of sound. Most of what they played this night was from their new EP out on Third Uncle records, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes their ears full of goodness. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Thee Oh Sees at Kings - 11/16/2014

Thee Oh Sees
Kings
11/16/2014

I've never been a super fan of Thee Oh Sees, and haven't even seen them live since I lived in the Bay Area from where the band once hailed, but for some reason I got all excited for this show.  Sometimes you just need a little raucous garage punk in your life, ya know?  I got to Kings just as Thee Oh Sees were setting up, creating these matching towers of amps combined with PA speakers and pedals and god knows what else - they were at least eight feet tall and looked super sketchy.  Dwyer was apparently touring with an all new band, though I couldn't tell you why - I know he somewhat recently moved to LA, so maybe these were just a couple of local SoCal dudes who learned a few of the band's songs and were game to drive around the country.  They certainly performed at an adequate enough level for my tastes, though I did hear a couple of people commenting on how the group was "different," with no indication if that was a good or bad thing and what exactly the differences were.  Certainly the pack of kids moshing and sloshing beer all around me didn't seem to mind who was on stage with Dwyer, so why should I? 

Sloan at the Cat's Cradle Back Room - 11/15/2014

Sloan
Cat's Cradle Back Room
11/15/2014

The last time I saw Sloan was probably in the neighborhood of 1997 - I took a girl I had a crush on to see Superdrag in Winston-Salem, and Sloan was the opener.  I never got anywhere with the girl, but the show was rad and I still think of it often.  I'm not sure why it took so long to make it to another Sloan show again, god knows I've listened to plenty of their recordings in that span of time - but the nice intimate setting of the Cat's Cradle Back Room seemed like a gig not to pass up.  Of course this was also helped by Guided by Voices cancelling their show that was scheduled this same night in the main room of the Cradle - I already had a ticket to that, but this made for a pretty great back-up plan. 

There was no opener and Sloan played two sets.  In the first, they mimicked their most recent album "Commonwealth" and each of the four main band members (there was an extra fifth member for the live show playing keys and adding backing vocals, and fuck him cause he don't get his own set of songs goddammit) performed a mini-set of three or four songs where each was the front man.  Yes, there was instrument swapping involved, but don't hold that against them.  The songs in this set were largely from that new record, though not exclusively.  What followed was a fifteen or twenty minute intermission aka "scheduled time to look at your phone," and then there was a second longer set where the band played whatever the hell they wanted to in whatever order they wanted to.  I knew some of the songs, didn't know others, but it was always fun regardless.  I would put the average age of the crowd at somewhere around 37 - lots of babysitters were getting paid tonight - and I wasn't alone in enjoying some quality Canadian pop music this Saturday night.  Probably a little too much overly earnest singing along and at least one girl acting out the lyrics with her hands, but the night was clearly a success regardless. 

Ex Hex / Speedy Ortiz at the Pinhook - 11/7/2014

Ex Hex
with Speedy Ortiz
The Pinhook
11/7/2014

This was the sixth anniversary party for the Pinhook, and the room was packed.  I got in the door just before Speedy Ortiz started their set, and weaseled my way to the front as I usually do.  The first time I saw these guys and gal was at this same venue, it was a damn enjoyable show and this time was no different.  Singer Sadie Dupuis wasn't just killing it on guitar this time, she was wearing this crazy brightly-colored dress with a dog print all over it that had me mesmerized for the entire set.  That combined with the new guitarist's epic afro made the group visually interesting even if you didn't like their music.  Luckily, their off-kilter indie pop that is clearly inspired by classic icons like Polvo and Sonic Youth sounds good to these ears, so sign me up for the total package - they're a keeper. 

While I had actually only heard a song or two by Ex Hex, I had absolutely no doubt coming into this show that I would love it.  The legendary Mary Timony and friends playing punky power pop - what's not to like?  What I didn't know was how fun they would be to watch live - for a band with only one record under their belt ("Rips," released this year on Merge), they seem incredibly comfortable together on stage.  The entire band is all smiles and rock poses and I just can't imagine anyone seeing Ex Hex perform and not being totally delighted.  They powered through probably every song they had over the span of 45 minutes max, and then closed out their night with an encore of the Real Kids song "All Kindsa Girls."  They recently released a recording of this cover as part of Merge's subscription seven inch series, dig it up if you can - a nice take on a perfect song.  It was a grand ending to a quality night of tunes. 

The Clean / Boogarins at the Cat's Cradle Back Room - 8/25/2014

The Clean
with Boogarins
Cat's Cradle Back Room
8/25/2014

I really should have written this before my phone died (or rather, went for a swim) and I lost all my notes.  Yes, even for these half-assed reviews I write, I take notes.  My memory is shit. 

Opener Boogarins are a band from Brazil according to the internets, but I didn't verify that directly with the band, and they spoke English to the crowd.  To quote myself from the photo I posted on Instagram: "Very impressive.  Swirly guitar pop crossed with heavy jams, like if Ty Segall joined the Cocteau Twins."  Can't really argue with my astute assessment since I'm the one that made it.  I really need to listen to their record though, because I did quite enjoy their live performance. 

I've seen the Clean a few times and David Kilgour solo a few more times on top of that (including just this past July at Merge 25), so I can't really say there was anything new or exciting about this performance by the band.  It was still really, really, really damn enjoyable though, as their gigs always are.  You know what I never get tired of?  Hearing "Tally Ho" live.  No offense to the rest of their songs, which are quite good, but their live set could just be them playing "Tally Ho" ten times in a row and I would be a happy man.  Anyways, they were awesome as usual, and the crowd full of old people (that I felt right at home in) seemed to enjoy themselves. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

This Will Destroy You / Future Death at the Cat's Cradle Back Room - 11/3/2014

This Will Destroy You
with Future Death
Cat's Cradle Back Room
11/3/2014

A cold Monday night seems like a great time to enjoy a little post-rock.  I've only ever heard a few songs from This Will Destroy You, but a friend had a couple of guest list spots so why the hell not see some live music?  A four piece from Texas, it would be pretty easy to confuse them with Explosions in the Sky as they sound more or less exactly the same, at least to these untrained ears.  Not that I mind - good music is good music, and it's not like I'm ever going to get to see Explosions in a club the size of the Cat's Cradle Back Room ever again.  They were great live in the sense that the sound was incredible, but their "performance" wasn't anything to write home about.  I'd love to see one of these bands in a seated venue and paired with some sort of elaborate light show or visual display - I think it would go over like a honey pot on a bear's head. 

The band that opened for This Will Destroy You was called Future Death, also from Texas.  They were really two bands musically-speaking - some songs were noisy hardcore, others really off-kilter art pop.  Since the extent of my hardcore knowledge is Minor Threat and Circle Jerks I'm not sure what I would compare that version of the band to, but I'm guessing if you like the female-fronted heavy sounds of Perfect Pussy you'd probably dig it.  As for their other jams, it falls somewhere on the spectrum between Deerhoof and Guardian Alien; let it be said I'm not being racist with the Deerhoof comparison just because both bands have Asian women fronting them, some of Future Death's songs genuinely reminded me of them.  Please file all grievances with management.  

Before leaving I popped my head into the sold out Run the Jewels show happening in the main room and caught a couple of songs - hey, no one was watching the door, and what would it hurt?   The place was packed, it was hot and sweaty, and the music sounded great.  Seemed like El-P had lost his voice but he was still soldiering on, and Killer Mike was proving yet again he is the best that hip hop has to offer these days.  Gotta catch that full show next time.