Saturday, August 15, 2009

Blag'ard / Mount Vicious at DIVEbar - 7/12/2009

with Mount Vicious


My friend Conan used to have a band in Oakland called Replicator. I saw them many, many times over my eight years in the Bay Area, and they always brought (a) the rock and (b) the fun. Like most bands, eventually Replicator broke up, but Mount Vicious soon rose from the ashes.

Soon thereafter Mount Vicious went on a tour across the country, and this tour included a stop at the DIVEbar in Raleigh. Since no one knows them out here, it was a Sunday night, and to be perfectly honest I had no idea there were even shows at this venue, expectations were low across the board.

But low expectations and even lower turnout didn't diminish the rock that Mount Vicious brought this evening. Where Replicator were almost as much about restraint as anything else, the Mounting ones were all about balls-to-the-wall seventies-style rock...loud, anthemic, the sort of songs you want to pump your fist in the air to. And to go with their originals, they included two tasty covers in their set - “Just What I Needed” by the Cars and “Action” by Sweet, the latter of which is going to be on a split seven inch with Big Business (who are also going to be covering a Sweet song, can't wait to hear that) that will be released in the future.

Closing the night was local band Blag'ard, a guitar/drums two-piece that are classic angular Chapel Hill rock through and through. Hey remind me of a stripped down version of an older local band I used to absolutely love, Capsize 7, and for good reason – they share a key band member. Capsize 7 was a criminally underrated band in my opinion, never getting the press and the crowds they deserved, and based on this one Blag'ard show...sadly, things haven't changed. But that didn't keep them for putting a short, blistering performance that I enjoyed quite a bit. There will definitely be more Blag'ard shows in my future.

On somewhat of a side note, I found out that there is a completely unreleased Capsize 7 record that may see the light of the day soon. This makes me so happy I could piss my pants where I sit. Wait...too late.

Lonnie Walker / Hammer No More The Fingers at Tir Na Nog - 7/17/2009

Lonnie Walker
with Hammer No More The Fingers
Tir Na Nog

Sometimes you just want to get out of the house. My man Ivan told me about a benefit show at Tir Na Nog - it was only five bucks, I was sitting around the house bored out of my mind, so why not see some local bands? Of course, I got a quick reminder on why it is better to keep your ass at home when I got caught in a speed trap and received my first ticket in over a decade. So my five dollar night out turned into a hundred seventy-five dollar night out. This is obviously more dollars than one should spend on a night out of local music, but what was done was done and might as well have a fun night out, moping don't make a ticket go away.

I think there might have been 463 bands playing that night, but I didn't really start paying attention until Hammer No More The Fingers took the stage. When I look at the music listings it seems like this band plays out eight nights a week, but somehow I'd never seen them before. And all that playing out has apparently worked for them, as they had a group of fans there who knew all the songs and were singly along in the most animated fashion. They had a decent sound - my favorite songs had a bit of a Modest Mouse-meets-Weezer vibe, which sounds odd but worked for the most part. There was one song in particular that sounded a whole lot like Weezer's "Say It Ain't So", but that was a good thing in my book, that is possibly Weezer's best song. My only criticism was a lack of guitar punch - I'm not sure if the live mix was off or the band needs a second axe man, but I got it stuck in my head that a little more guitar riffage would really beef up the sound. Then again, the band seems headed in the right direction so it's probably better just to ignore any advice I have on the matter.

As enjoyable as Hammer No More The Fingers was, the real treat of the night was Lonnie Walker. The name makes me think it would be an old grizzled honky-tonker playing some Hank Williams Sr. covers, but Lonnie Walker is a band and apparently contains no one actually named "Lonnie Walker". This band was a scorcher, fronted by a singer with a big personality and a voice that sounded similar to so many yet stood on it's own. The list of comparisons I could make to their music is long - Bob Dylan, Violent Femmes, Talking Heads, Pixies, and my friends kept mentioning The Proclaimers (though my personal knowledge of that band is limited at best). They don't sound like any of these bands and sound like all of them at the same time, all mashed together. And it works - they had a number of songs that had me instantly excited, no small task for a band I'd never heard a single note from before this night. They were almost good enough to make forget about that damn ticket, if only for a couple of minutes.

T-Model Ford/Shake It Like A Caveman at The Grey Eagle 7/3/09

T-Model Ford
with Shake It Like A Caveman
The Grey Eagle

I was making a fourth of July holiday weekend visit home, and decided to round up my good man Nate for a last minute show in Asheville. Blues legend T-Model Ford was playing, and how many times do you get a chance to see a true legend?

There was only one opener - a one man band going by the name of Shake It Like A Caveman. Despite that unfortunate choice in name, the guy played some pretty interesting music - he had a simple drum kit he played with his feet while he wailed on his guitar and sang. It had a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion feel to it - sloppy, bluesy, distorted vocals, good time party music what for booty shaking and such. Very enjoyable, all told, and a nice set-up for what was to follow.

T-Model Ford - the man is a national treasure, and that is putting it lightly. 89 years old, and the cat rocks harder than most folks a quarter of his age. This is raw, dirty, pull-no-punches juke-joint delta blues, played by one of the masters of the genre. A number of times throughout the night he would address the crowd with the following quote:

"T-Model Ford...from Greenville, Mississippi...and that's for goddamn sure!"

For a man who lived a rough life, spending a stint of time in jail for murder, and not even picking up the guitar until his late fifties, there is a measure of attitude when he delivers a phrase like that...the man MEANS it. And he meant it on this night, to the tune of more than two hours of gritty blues music, tracks like "Back Door Man" and "Chicken Head Man" and other gems,hilarious between song banter, and some scorchin' guitar work. After a couple of hours, his band left the stage giving the sense that the show is over, but that didn't stop Ford - he just kept playing music, some which seemed made up on the spot...but that didn't make it any less entertaining. Eventually, his bassist starting selling CDs at the side of the stage and not only did I buy one, but I had T-Model Ford sign his mark on it. I probably haven't asked for an autograph since I was a little kid, but my inner child wanted this great man's signature.

Summer Set at the Whiskey - 6/27/2009

Summer Set
The Whiskey

Full disclosure - the brains behind this band, Brian Weeks, has been one of my best friends for close to 15 years now. We even moved to California together after college. But none of that changes the fact that he makes some good music.

I spent most of my college years seing Brian play in a couple of now-defunct bands. And I'd heard some of his "new"
songs as he wrote them in his teal-carpeted bedroom, moping about how things were not going his way on the west coast. And it was this moping (plus a girl) that led him to move back to his college stomping grounds of Wilmington only a year after our move out to SF, formally signaling the beginning of Summer Set.

So anyways, this was my first time getting to see his "new" band Summer Set, and on their home turf of Wilmington. The nice part about going down to the port city for a show in the summer is you can combine a trip to the beach (and Britt's Doughnuts) with a little rockin' out. You also get to soak in the local culture, like the sketchy white trash strumpet who referred to the night club down the street from the Whiskey as "shitty as fuck" at the top of her lungs, after having just given a hot dog vendor crap for no apparent reason.

Anyways, the Summer Set show - I quite enjoyed it. The band has been coming off a bit of a hiatus while nearly every member had a baby, so they sounded pretty good considering they are still trying to round into shape. Most of the set were older songs like "Crackhead in My Car" and "Center of Attention", with a few new songs mixed in and a cover of "Magnet and Steel" by Walter Egan. Given that Polvo was playing the same night just up the street, there was a nice crowd at the gig, certainly full of enthusiastic home town fans glad to be seeing their local favorites back in the limelight.