Monday, April 6, 2009

Gentleman Jesse & His Men / The Black Lips at The Cat's Cradle - 3/4/09

Gentleman Jesse & His Men
with The Black Lips
The Cat's Cradle

Every once in a while a band comes along that plays pop music the way it is meant to be played...that band is Gentleman Jesse & His Men. This Atlanta group is fronted by a man named, get this, Jesse! Jesse Smith to be exact, a member of the Carbonas, a good punk band that may be broken up now but I'm too lazy to research it. I saw the Carbonas play a few years back in Oakland and they were quite good (even if I did like openers Beat Beat Beat better, the side-project band of another one of the members). I'm not qualified to report on Jesse's gentlemanlyness, but I certainly have no problem noting that he can write some amazing pop songs full of hooks.

They put on a fantastic live show - song after song that I had to restrain myself from singing along to like I do in the car. They played a lot of songs from their self-titled debut album, as well as some new tracks and a King Tuff cover. It was a very no nonsense affair, no goofy banter, no overlong tuning problems, just an onslaught of power pop that you'd think was straight out of a time machine from 1980. After a blistering set and a lot of bad dancing on my part, I promptly loaded up at the merch table and can now be seen tooling around suburbia in a Gentleman Jesse t-shirt that surely dumbfounds the soccer moms.

Despite my enthusiasm, Gentleman Jesse was not why most folks were at this show, but rather they were there to see the controversial Black Lips, they of the stage pissing and fighting and making out with each other on stage. It always felt a bit put on to me, but I'm no expert in relieving ones self while performing live so who knows?

I've tried and tried to listen to the Black Lips, and have many friends who swear by them, but something about them has always rubbed me the wrong way. I'd never seen them live though and decided to stick around for a few songs and see if my mind could be changed. The verdict? Eh, not really. While their music is definitely more enjoyable in a live setting, it's still nothing special in my book - typical garage rock with a slight psychedelic tinge (though their newest record is a step in a better, more original direction). I do give them bonus points for gratuitous and enthusiastic use of the smoke machine in combination with some 60's era psychedelic light show effects, but I still took off after about 30 minutes not won over by this band yet again.

(I actually took photos of Gentleman Jesse, these will obviously get posted on the main website whenever I get around to processing the film)

Polvo / Birds of Avalon at the Pour House - 2/7/2009

with Birds of Avalon
The Pour House

This Polvo reunion basically coincided with my moving back to the Triangle...coincidence? I doubt it. Clearly, they heard I was moving back and the area as a whole wanted to make a good impression to keep me around. An Archers of Loaf reunion would have been nice too, maybe even have Superchunk play out more often, but the real prize was Polvo reforming. So let me take this moment to thank the Triangle, it's peoples and the band Polvo for reforming solely for my behalf - it really means a lot.

This was my second time seeing them since their reformation (technically third time, but since the second time only consisted of a half a song, I'm not sure I'm going to count it). That first show, the official "reunion" I guess, was amazing just because I was getting to see them again, the nostalgia and adrenaline rushing through your body as if you had just reunited with your high school sweetheart. But I guess it wasn't just a lark - they're still playing together, and not only that - writing new songs. Really, really good new songs, as if they had never taken any time off at all.

Most of their set featured a lot of the same songs from the last time I saw them..."Feather of Forgiveness", "Fast Canoe", "Enemy Insects" and "Lazy Comet". On top of that, they played a "sorta" cover of Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused" that started out legit, morphed into a Polvo song (whose name escapes me), and then finished the track up back with the Zep song. And then they closed the night out with one of the greatest songs of all time, "Every Holy Shroud". You can't really end a set better than that, unless maybe you are Oprah giving away free cars and cuisinarts.

Openers Birds of Avalon also deserve a mention - made up of a murderer's row of local talent (including former members of Cherry Valence and The Weather), these lads (and one lady) basically set the stage on fire playing 70's-era hard rock with a nod towards prog rock, but not so much that it became a noodily wankfest that generally plagues most prog rockers. And most importantly they were tight - as tight as a cheapskate's tipping hand, as my grandfather always said. Rumor on the street is they are recording a new album, most likely a leading factor in their setting the stage on fire and something to keep your eyes open for in the future.

(Photo found randomly online; baby did not perform with band when I saw them)