Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Todd Barry at Kings - 10/28/2010

Todd Barry 

I've never done a comedy review before - I'm shitty enough at music reviews, and I'm not sure what to say other than he was funny. So that's the review: the comedian Todd Barry was funny. Really, really funny. The old lady and I used to go see a lot of stand-up when we lived in California, but very few good comedians perform around here. I'd never seen Todd Barry, but he always gets named dropped as a favorite from comics I love (Patton Oswalt I know has mentioned him numerous times), so it was worth checking out. Mark it down as money and time well spent. About two-thirds of his material was typical prepared stand-up fare, and the rest of the time he spent riffing on the leftover band set list from the night before and making jokes about the fact that RDU has a direct flight to London. That might not sound good on paper, but it worked.

And let it be known that seeing comedy in a rock club is superior to comedy clubs it can't even be quantified. I've seen a number of comedy acts in rock clubs, and it's always so much more fun and laid back. No drink minimums, no cocktail waitresses, no horse shit. I know Paul (one of the main King's dudes) told me he's going to try and get more comedy, and hopefully he pulls it off, because I like laughing. Except that my face always hurts afterwords, but I guess it's worth it.

(Photo found online, not from me creeping on Todd in a convenience store)

Gentleman Jesse & His Men / The Barreracudas / Last Year's Men at Kings - 10/27/2010

Gentleman Jesse & His Men
with The Barreracudas & Last Year's Men

Sometimes I just don't know what the fuck is wrong with people...someone awesome like Gentleman Jesse comes to town for the first time (not the first time in the Triangle, just the first time in Raleigh), and hardly anyone shows up to see it. Not that that deterred him or any of the other bands from putting on fantastic shows.

I got there just as Last Year's Men started their set. Folks (or at least Grayson from the Independent) have been opining how fantastic their new record is, so I was glad to finally check them out. Sadly, we don't really have any sort of power pop scene locally (which might partially explain the turnout), but these Chapel Hillians did their best to fit in. They play a more prototypical "jangle pop" style as has been popular in the area for as long as I can remember, and combine it with the pop-punk catchiness of Superchunk and smidge of the Replacements more "together" moments (think "Alex Chilton" and "Can't Hardly Wait" Replacements, not "Takin' a Ride" or "Hootenanny" era stuff). These guys would have been huge in 1995, but it remains to be seen if the kids these days will take to their sound. Certainly it pleases me, but I'm old and not exactly the target demographic.

The Barreracudas had the middle slot, a power-pop group made up of all the "Men" that otherwise make up Gentleman Jesse's band. It was definitely decent music, typical of the Atlanta pop scene, but nothing groundbreaking. I honestly don't have a lot to say about them other than I'd like to hear their record, and maybe knowing their songs would up the excitement level for me. Still, a run-of-the-mill power-pop band is better than most any other type of band.

I've reviewed Gentleman Jesse & His Men a couple of times on here, but words just never do this band justice. They've written and recorded some of the best pop hooks of the last decade, and while the attendance shows it's fallen mostly on deaf ears I'm listening and watching hard enough for ten men. All of the power pop touchstones are there that have been mentioned a thousand times - The Nerves, The Records, Shoes, The Real Kids, etc. I was chatting with Paul (one of the dude's who runs Kings) and he threw out a comparison that had never occurred to me but is definitely fitting - Nervous Eaters. No matter the comparisons, they rocked my ass off like they always do, and the sparse crowd really seemed to enjoy it. I even got a chance to chat with Jesse after the show, not something I typically do - he's a super nice guy. I asked if there was a second full-length in the works, but it sounds like instead they have a ton of seven inches and tracks on compilations coming out over the next year, which will hopefully all get complied into one release at the end of the deluge. No matter how it's released, more amazing pop songs make the world a better place.

Built to Spill at The Cat's Cradle - 10/10/2010

Built to SpillCat's Cradle

At this point in my life, a Built to Spill show is like your favorite well worn t-shirt - it might not be new or shiny, but it feels so good, so comfortable, so enjoyable. I've seen them perform live dozens of times, and while some outings are better than others, not a single one of those times have been anything less than really damn good.

The set list was pretty typical of BtS, spanning their catalog nicely but never hanging out to long on any one album...though if they wanted to play "Perfect from Now On" in it's entirety it would hurt my feelings - as it was, they only played "Untrustable" from that release. They really hit "There's Nothing Wrong with Love" pretty heavy though - "In the Morning", "Twin Falls", "Car", heck probably half of that record made the list. Of course it's not a Built to Spill show without some cover songs, and this time it was the Grateful Dead's "Ripple" that got the treatment.

One part of the show that stood out from the typical Built to Spill live experience was the first encore - it was just Doug and his guitar, and he played a couple of the bluesy acoustic songs from his solo album "Now You Know" - "Dream" and "Offer". I saw him play solo live once before, when he toured alone just after this record came out. It was a real treat to see him play these songs again, and made me hope another solo album was in the works because that record is fantastic. After these couple of songs the rest of the band came back onstage and they wrapped up the show, with the ender being a drawn out sixteen minute version of "Broken Chairs". Many a guitargasm was had.

Also of note: the crowd was annoying and stupid as they always are, continuing my consecutive streak of every Built to Spill show being populated with complete boobs. And not the good kind of boobs either. Well, maybe a couple of the good kind of boobs, but not enough of those and too many of the other.
(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Gayngs at the Cat's Cradle - 10/6/2010

GayngsThe Cat's Cradle

It seemed like a nice night for a little dance music, so it was off to see the hipster superstar band, Gayngs. They weren't originally scheduled to play Chapel Hill, but they moved their Virginia show down here to give the locals a little taste of their semi-homegrown talent. Sure, the band is technically from Wisconsin or Minnesota or one of those Midwestern cheese-making states, but a bunch of our local kids also participate in this orgy of musical mayhem - including Ivan from the Rosebuds, the bulk of Megafaun, and a chunk of Bon Iver (who once took up residence here). So really, it only made sense that they would make a show happen here. Who gives a holy hell about Virginia anyways...well, except lovers obviously. Virginia is for lovers, after all.

Pointless gibberish aside, it was a great show. There were a bazillion people on stage with a few folks coming and going, but never less than ten members and a high of twelve or so. They seemed to play pretty much the entire "Relayted" album - standout tracks included "The Walker", "The Last Prom on Earth" and "Faded High", where they incorporated Cameron Mesirow of the opening act Glasser to perform the female vocal portions of the song. They also played "Cry", the 10cc cover from the record, as well as a couple of other covers of two of my all-time favorite songs - "By Your Side", Originally by Sade and also performed by the band at Daytrotter (download the Daytrotter session here); and also "Eye in the Sky" by Alan Parsons Project, which can be heard done acoustically by the band in this video. As a side note, I'll spare you the long winded story of how much the cover of the Alan Parsons Project album "Pyramid" freaked me out as a kid, and this is noteworthy because my parents played it ALL THE TIME so it was always sitting out next to the record player creeping my out just as bad as those clown cartoons from the picture dictionary I also had around the same time. I couldn't even sleep in the same room as that picture dictionary.

Anyways, it was a good fun show, and I even got the wife to go with me so I wasn't that creepy guy standing by myself for a change. It probably also helped that I wasn't furiously masturbating and crying like I usually do at these sort of events.

(Photo found online...clearly that ain't the Cradle. Or if you aren't familiar with the Cradle, maybe not so clearly.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bandway at Kings - 8/28/2010


All hail the return of Kings, the greatest music venue that Raleigh has ever known! All hail the return of Bandway, the greatest party rock band to exist on this Earth! Obviously it was no coincidence that both the re-opening of one of the greatest rock clubs Raleigh has ever known and the return of musical saviors Bandway would happen at the same time, as it foretold from the heavens that one cannot happen without the other. And thus, a miracle was granted to us lowly local denizens.

I love Bandway so much I've considered getting a tattoo of the band's logo, only I'm afraid I'm not worthy of such an honor. Instead, almost every email address I've ever created was an homage to the band, which is kinda like an internet nerd tattoo when you think about it...it's always there for everyone to see. Paul (one of the dude's behind Kings) told me quite a while back that he was working on having Bandway play their opening weekend, and I spread the word far and wide to my old college friends and fellow Bandway aficionados that a new day was soon upon us. Oh how they talked a big game about coming to the show from all ends of the state, but of course when push came to shove the collective lot of them pussed out. Sure they'll claim to have been sick or had a sick child at home, but we all know if this was really important you'd wrap that kid in a nyquil soaked blanket, lock him in his room, and get your ass to the "rockening".

So it was just the wife and I, she needing to witness the band I'd been prattling on about for the entire decade she has known me. Kings was packed, sold out in fact - and the entire crowd was eating it up. While there were a lot of old folks there like myself, I was surprised at how many kids were there, kids who surely weren't going to Bandway shows their first time around. But whatever, a love of the rock knows no age limit. I think it had been seven or eight years since they had last performed, but you'd never know it - they were just as drunken, sloppy and awesome as ever. They played pretty much every song you'd want to hear - "Four Day Weekend", "Balls Out", "Millennium", "King Kong", "I'm a Winner", "Turn to the Bong"...goddamn, they have a lot of awesome songs. Would have been nice to hear "Fayettenam/Futuristic Fuckup" and, well, honestly every single one of their songs, but it was a nice set. On top of that, they played some new songs which bodes well for future performances/recordings; I didn't catch the song names but one was about recycling and it was fantastic.

I'm going to go ahead and pick this as rock show of the year, because it's just not fair to any of the other bands to try and live up to the brilliance of Bandway. Everyone else is trying for second best.

The Mountain Goats / Mount Moriah at the Pinhook - 7/31/2010

The Mountain Goatswith Mount Moriah
The Pinhook

So after the metal business I rolled over to the Pinhook in Durham to see some lighter fare. It was the release party for Mount Moriah's 12" EP, and they had the good fortune to get local folk superstar John Darnielle aka The Mountain Goats to headline the show for them.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, as when I got there Mount Moriah were just taking the stage. I've made no bones about my love of this band and especially Heather's voice, and as always they did not disappoint. And while they seem to be quite well received everywhere I've seen them in the Triangle, Durham is very much their home crowd and the combination of fans and friends were as loud and vigorous as college lovemaking. And I'm not talking about the sex where you're having to keep quiet cause your roommate is pretending to be asleep in the top bunk either. Anyways, they played pretty much the same songs they always do, songs I've grown to love from seeing them live a number of times, but now I finally had something to buy off the band and take home with me. And obviously, the record is fantastic.

There are two kinds of Mountain Goats shows - the ones where he has a backing band, and the (superior) ones where it's just John Darnielle, his guitar, and his witty between song banter. The latter is what we had this evening, and whoo-boy was it goddamn awesome. He played almost entirely old songs, in fact I think the newest track played was probably "No Children" from "Tallahassee", an obvious crowd favorite...and I was damn glad he played it, not just for my enjoyment but also so the annoying girls standing next to me would stop screaming for it between every song. I've loved the Goats for years now, but I'm definitely not a super fan...and there were a bunch of them there. There was one guy in particular that delighted me to no end, standing front and center, clapping with the power of ten men right after each song, screaming and arms raised in the air like it was Beatlemania, and then when he finished he would pull his pocket notebook out and scribble in it for a few seconds, god knows what he was writing. As per usual I'm terrible at remembering song titles, but I know he played my two very favorite songs, the first opening tracks from the perfect album "All Hail West Texas" - "The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton" and " The Fall of the Star High School Running Back". The crowd sang along vigorously to both titles, myself joining in despite my general reluctance for such participatory nonsense. It was a grand show, if only he would play his hometown more often...

U.S. Christmas / Black Tusk at the Pour House - 7/31/2010

U.S. Christmaswith Black TuskThe Pour House

It was a double trouble kind of night, with the first gig being the opening acts of the Corrosion of Conformity show at the Pour House. The first act was my man Nate's group U.S. Christmas, a band I'm in no way impartial about due to friendship, and I really don't give a shit. Look, if you like heavy music that isn't necessarily fast music, if you like bands the reference Sam Peckinpah films and Cormac McCarthy novels, if you like the craziest of Neil Young's Crazy Horse moments and especially his soundtrack to the movie "Dead Man"...well, this is the band for you. They played a good set featuring a lot of tracks from their newest album "Run Thick in the Night", a release that will most likely make my top ten of 2010. The sound was fantastic, as it usually is at the Pour House...sadly not enough bands that I want to see take advantage of that. I think this might have been USX's first gig in Raleigh, and the folks that were there seemed to quite enjoy them, as they should.

I needed to hoof it over to Durham, but I had enough to time to stick around and catch about half of the set by Black Tusk. I read that they refer to their type of metal as "swamp metal", which I guess is a fitting moniker for their style of upbeat southern stoner metal. They're kind of a Georgia version of North Carolina's Weedeater, only there is no one in their band as insane as Dixie. It's aggressive, hard pounding, straight forward metal, like a punch in the face from a drunk friend. I quite enjoyed what I saw of their set and had Nate pick up their record "Taste the Sin" for me - a good record with some great art, definitely worth checking out.

Pipe / Tonk at The Cave - 8/27/2010

Pipewith TonkThe Cave

This was the beginning of my "relive the nineties" weekend, with this Pipe gig and then Bandway the following day. And speaking of Bandway, this was my first time seeing Tonk, a classic country band featuring Bo Taylor of Bandway on drums. They played a mix of covers and originals, or maybe those originals were just obscure covers cause I'm not a super nerd when it comes to classic country. Of note they performed "Let the Sad Times Roll On" by Buck, "Mendocino" by the Sir Douglas Quintet, and the one and only "Satin Sheets" by Jeanne Pruett. The last song was particularly noteworthy because the band was cracking up the entire time they played it while the crowd sang along. Seeing Tonk play live is like traveling back in time 50 years and watching the house band from Buck Owen's Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, California. Of particular note was their pedal steel player, who was absolutely killing it all night long. Granted, if you can play that convoluted instrument at all that counts as "killing it" in my book, but he was doing a nice job for the whole gig.

To paraphrase Silky Johnson, what can I say about Pipe that hasn't been said before? They are quite simply the greatest party rock band of my generation. Sure, they're seldom known outside of the Triangle, but as the kids say: "fuck that shit". Off and on for the last 15 years they take the stage and rock the balls off of everyone within earshot...certainly my balls were no longer attached when they finished their set. I'm not entirely sure what that means for the two girls standing front and center going batshit crazy for the entire show, as I'm pretty sure they don't have balls...but perhaps a similar ailment hits their ovaries? I'm not scientist, so who knows. I'm sure some medical professionals can do a study. But anyways, they were awesome like always, with Ron snarling and absorbing abuse while the rest of the group chugs through their catalog raucous material.It's likely been more than a decade since they wrote a new song, but not a single one of us fans care. I can listen to them play "You're Soaking In It" a thousand times in a row and never get tired of it. In fact, I hope they play a show like that at some point...I wouldn't put it past them.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hopscotch Music Fest 2010, Day 3 (night) around downtown Raleigh - 9/11/2010

Hopscotch Music Festival - Day Three
with Motor Skills, U.S. Christmas and Weedeater
Downtown Raleigh (Multiple Venues)

The final night of Hopscotch was here, and for me it was a night of mixed feelings...I was kinda happy it was over because my old ass was worn out, but sad that such a great three days of music and merriment was ending.

My first stop of the night was Tir Na Nog for Motor Skills. This was my second time seeing them as a four piece, and they cemented my opinion that this is one of the best new (or at least newish) local bands playing these days. I had previously noted a comparison to the Notwist, a comparison that still holds for me; but there is some thing else there, something a little more lighthearted and poppy...and that something is a little bit of Erasure in their sound. Some may find a comparison to Erasure to be an insult, but it's certainly not meant to be - those dudes knew their way around a catchy hook from time to time, a trait I wish more bands had. As Motor Skills were the first band, I wasn't expecting much of a crowd, but the Nog really filled up! Not sure if it was friends or randoms checking out the first band of the night, but I'm guessing they ended the set with a some new fans.

My next planned show wasn't for a little while, so I slowly meandered my way there and stopped at a couple of places. Caught a couple of songs by the Dynamite Brothers at the Pour House and it confirmed that they are just not the band for me. I've seen them before, and while the musicianship of all the members is amongst the best I've ever seen, the songs just don't grab me. But they are one of the tightest damn bands I've ever seen. Made another stop at the newly opened Capital Club 16 to talk to my friend Layne who manages the place. Chatted with him for a while - looks like a nice place, will have to check it out some day.

Eventually I made it to the Berkeley Cafe, where I would spend the bulk of my evening. I was immediately greeted by Nate of U.S. Christmas as he ran up to me, delighted as a child in a candy store, because one of the drummers of the band playing at the time - In the Year of the Pig - looked Just like Newman from "Seinfeld". And he did look a whole shitload like him, but more importantly, he played drums like a deranged octopus (aka Damon Che from Don Caballero). It was a sight to behold, not just him but the whole band, flailing away like muppets on some jams that registered right in the middle between metal and free-form jazz. I only got to see them for ten minutes or so, but it was definitely interesting music and something I'm going to seek out in the future.

U.S. Christmas was up next. I know I've reviewed or talked about these guys a lot lately, but it's because they're a damn god band. Also, they finally started playing down here in the Triangle, something that always helps in seeing a band live. They seem to get tighter and tighter each time I watch them perform, their "William Faulkner" metal really ringing true in my ears. There was a pretty hefty crowd there to see them, and they were seemingly into it. I didn't poll the folks there or anything, but there was cheering and all that sort of business. You know, crowd shit. Worth mentioning is the sound man did a really nice job with the mix - Meg's violin can often get lost in the sea of noise this band makes, but tonight she stood out nicely and really added to the overall feel.

I had other designs on what to do with the rest of the night, but a knowledge of how hard it would be to get into Dungen plus Nate's badgering led me to sticking around for my first viewing of the entity known as Weedeater. He has told me for ages what a trip they are live and you never know what the front man Dixie might do, and he was not lying. From what I gathered it was a fairly subdued show for them, but he was still a very animated singer - constantly gesticulating toward the crowd, staggering around the stage, drinking enough liquor for ten people, and generally entertaining the shit out of me. It was drunken stoner metal at it's finest, and I was glad I stuck around.

I was going to end the night popping into the Lincoln Theatre to see a little bit of Tortoise, but the place was already full and I had no designs on waiting in line. So it was off to my car and back home for me, though en route I came across a group of young kids holed up in a parking garage stairwell playing sloppy punk rock for a few of their friends. It wasn't good, but it was fun, and a reminder of why live music is such an awesome experience and a great thing to have in your life.

Hopscotch Music Fest 2010, Day 3 (day) at Raleigh Times - 9/11/2010

Hopscotch Music Festival - Day Three (Day Parties)
with Flute Flies and NAPS
(Outside of) Raleigh Times

I barely made it to this...having the Flute Flies play at 11 AM the day after late night shenanigans is no recipe for guaranteed attendance. I felt like crap and I don't even drink, so I can only imagine how everyone else there felt. Things might have looked grim, but the Flies were putting on a hell of a show on the stage set up in the middle of the blocked off Hargett Street in front of Raleigh Times. For those not aware, this local "all star" band is made up of Ivan from the Rosebuds, Reid from Schooner, Zeno of the Sames, and what appears to be a revolving cast of support players. The driving force behind this band was to create some original music for CyTunes to help raise money for brain cancer. I saw them their first time playing live and while quite sloppy, it was fun and there were enough catchy hooks there to draw in fans of the member's main bands. But this time out they sound like a real band, not just a group of friends playing music on a lark. There were a number of really good songs, each lead member taking turns singing lead. Yeah, when Ivan sings it still sounds mostly like a Rosebuds song or when Reid sings it sounds mostly like a Schooner song, but I don't see any problem with that. The barely there, half comatose hangover victims, random parade of dogs and dancing children seemed to dig it, and to me that counts as a success.

I decided I'd stick around for one more band before I went home and napped on my couch, mostly because that one more band was NAPS. What I find funny, and it's probably only funny to me, is I've played basketball with Dan (aka D-Mike) for a while now but the first time I saw NAPS play I didn't even recognize him because I'd only ever seen him in basketball clothes. My nonsensical rambling aside, I liked them the first time I saw them and this time was no different, though it was weird seeing them in the middle of the day in daylight. But I was drinking a fresh squeezed lemonade while doing it, not something you can always say during a show. They still remind me a little of early Silver Jews and something else I can't place my finger on, and maybe I can figure out that something else if I can ever get my hands on their cassette (yes, cassette, it's what all the cool kids are apparently doing these days). I tried to pick one up after the show but they were out, and Dan keeps saying he'll bring one to our weekly basketball games but it hasn't happened yet. On a side note, we really need a boombox for our basketball games.

I contemplated sticking around for some more good music, and did see a couple of songs by the Loners who are always entertaining, but the knowledge that I would be out all night rocking sent these old man bones back home and to the couch for a little rest and relaxation before the final night of Hopscotch.

Hopscotch Music Fest 2010, Day 2 around downtown Raleigh - 9/10/2010

Hopscotch Music Festival - Day Two
with Harlem, The Golden Boys, Kingsbury Manx and Americans in France
Downtown Raleigh (Multiple Venues)

Not feeling the day parties, what with having to work my job and all, I rolled into downtown for this second night of Hopscotch festivities in time to buy some cheap shirts at the Kung Fu pop-up store and then made my way to the Busy Bee to check out Americans in France. I'd heard good things about these guys (and gal) and had been meaning to see them play live, so why not now? At their best they reminded me of a combo of The Fall and Pavement circa "Westing (By Musket and Sextant)", two great things of which to remind me, or anyone for that matter. As I've never seen Americans in France before I can't speak to the frequency of the act, but they had an older black dude (who I'm pretty sure I've seen a bunch of times hanging around Slims) play some extra drums on a couple of their songs. He could play a little bit so it wasn't a complete goof, but it was a bit odd. Sometimes a little odd makes the night better, and this was a great start.

It was just down the hill from there and into Tir Na Nog for some Kingsbury Manx, who'd just started their set. I hadn't seen the Manx play in years, probably not since Kenneth left the band, though I had continued to listen to their recorded output. They were just as great as I remembered, still very mid-era Pink Floyd crossed with Yo La Tengo and just a dash of Kiwi popness. The crowd was light when I first got there but by the end of their set the Nog was mostly full...not the kind of sardine can full it was the night before for Best Coast, but pretty well filled in. Their set was mostly a cross section of their last couple of records, but the band delighted me to no end when they pulled out my very favorite song of theirs, "Pageant Square" towards the end of the set. If I had to zero in on what my single favorite moment of the entire festival was, this might have been it...certainly top three, I love that song that much.

I went back up the hill to Slims to get in and find a decent spot for Harlem...I was quite a bit early, but Slims is tiny and I didn't want to miss out on seeing them. It was already insanely packed and swelteringly hot when I got there, and though I didn't have to wait to get in I'm pretty sure there was a wait soon after I entered. Harlem's record "Hippies" is one of my top five favorite records of the year, perfect from start to finish.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, as the band before them, The Golden Boys, hadn't even started their set when I got there. Luckily, they kicked nearly as much ass as Harlem. They had a real nice classic party garage sound, like a modern version of the Sonics, with just a hint of soulful R&B mixed in to their sound. Let it be said that the keyboard player had a ridiculous mustache, something I felt like folks should know. These Austin kids really brought a lot of life and energy to the gig, and I feel certain that there would have been a tons of dancing from the crowd if they weren't packed together like sardines. As it was, vigorous head nodding is about all that was possible. That, and flash backs to dry humping in high school cause it was nuts to butts in there.

I didn't think it could get any more packed for Harlem, but apparently it did. I literally could not move - I was pinned against the wall and contorted into a half turn because of some weird box or footstool on the floor. I talked to one of the bartenders and he said that even though it was easily the most people they had ever had in there, they didn't sell much alcohol because no one could get to the bar. None of that really mattered though once Harlem started playing incredibly catchy tunes. They might get lumped in with the garage rock genre, but this pure pop music through and through, only the guitars are a little fuzzier than usual. The crowd went as nuts as they could, bouncing up and down and making the floor shake with every note, whooping and hollering and if they were like me, singing along and trying to keep the blood running to their feet because they were standing so awkwardly. The last time Harlem came through town I was actually visiting their hometown of Austin; many thanks to the Hopscotch overlords for bringing this amazing band back to the area at a time when I wasn't wandering the country.

Hopscotch Music Fest 2010, Day 1 around downtown Raleigh - 9/9/2010

Hopscotch Music Festival - Day One
with Lucero, Best Coast, Cults, Old Bricks and No Tomorrow
Downtown Raleigh (Multiple Venues)

The First night of the new, highly anticipated music festival known as Hopscotch. I got out in the streets nice and early to get my wristband (which I put on too tight and drove me nearly insane) and promptly went on the hunt for some music. My first destination was the Busy Bee to see Old Bricks, but en route I heard some music coming out of Slims so I went in to see what was happening. Turns out it was a band called No Tomorrow, an outfit hailing from Wilmington that sounded like The Cro-Mags or NYC hardcore crossed with metal. It was fun enough for a few songs, a decent unplanned diversion en route to other endeavors.

And that other endeavor was literally right next door at the Busy Bee. One of the best parts of this festival is how walkable the whole thing is. Old Bricks were still setting up when I walked in, so I entertained myself watching Mr. Retirement, Brett Farve, play some football on the bar TV. I'm pretty sure he retired and unretired three times in the five minutes I was watching. Then the band played, and they were very entertaining as always. It was the newish four man version of the band which I've seen once before but forgot or got too lazy to write about. Interestingly enough (or at least interesting to me), doubling the number of members in the band included adding the singer from Motor Skills, another band that somewhat recently doubled in size. They've still got a sort of Animal Collective/Dodos vibe, lots of reverb and up to three members drumming at once, though if you added up all the drums on stage it would probably equal one kit. I dig their sound and their songs and performance is getting stronger and stronger each time I see them. Outside of the vapid blondes standing next to me talking about "fucking some bitch up", it was very enjoyable.

I staggered down the hill and lined up to get into Tir Na Nog...it wasn't much of a line mind you, and I was in the club after about five minutes. It was packed. Even the far side of the bar away from the stage was full of people. Cults had just started their set...I found a spot in the back of the crowd and watched the band churn out their pop ditties while throngs of kids waved their glow stick-clad arms in the air. The singer for Cults was delightfully cute, and had a voice that matched her looks. I'm usually not one for cutesy pop music, but I've certainly heard worse than these guys. There is something very Euro about their sound, which can obviously be good or bad...and honestly I'm not sure which end of the spectrum Cults falls in. It's going to take further listening to get to the bottom of this one.

Between bands I managed to weasel my way up into the middle of the crowd. Best Coast got their gear set up pretty quickly, but due to festival rules had to wait a while before they could play. So I just stood there, eavesdropped on inane conversations, and sweated. A lot. Did I mention it was packed? These guys were one of the top buzz bands of the festival, and once they started playing it was obvious why...so catchy, so infectious. I've been loving this band and their songs for a few months now, and was worried seeing the band live they wouldn't live up to the high standard I had set in my convoluted brain - but they were just as adorable and enjoyable on this evening as any recorded output. I'd guess they played nearly all of their songs, including "When I'm With You" and all the other ones I wanted to hear whose names escape me. One of the best shows of the festival.

I'd planned on ending my evening at the Berkeley Cafe with a Future Islands dance party, but the line to get in stretched around the block prompting me to utter "fuck that" and take my ass over to the Lincoln Theatre to see a little Lucero. Of course, Lucero tops my "love the band, hate the fans" list - generally a loud, rude group of inebriated boobs who take the band's drunken lovability and go way over the top, usually irritating the shit out of me. But for whatever reason, the crowd was mostly subdued this evening, which meant you could actually watch and hear the band perform their heartland country rock stylings. It was my first time seeing them with a horn section, which seemed really out of place but after getting used to it I decided I liked what it added to the live sound. They mixed up their set list with a lot of songs from their most recent record "1372 Overton Park" (which I honestly haven't listened to very much) and older material (which I knew well and clearly delighted the crowd). I watched a large portion of their set before my old man tiredness set in and I called it a night. A great start to Hopscotch to be sure, and I was looking forward to the next couple of days of rockin' out.

Motor Skills / Lonnie Walker at Tir Na Nog - 7/3/2010

Motor Skills
with Lonnie Walker
Tir Na Nog

Made it out to the rare show at Tir Na Nog where I actually had to pay to get in, but that was OK since the bands were good. And despite my cheapness, sometimes that's just fine.

Of particular note was the show opener Motor Skills - I'd seen these guys before as a two piece with electronic pop act with a portion of their set dedicated to comedy rap songs. But now they're basically a whole new band, expanded to four members, with an impressively strong set of songs. The best (and most boring) comparison I would make would be to the Notwist, only less German. There were no funny hip hop songs this time either, though it's unclear if they are completely removed from their set or just weren't there on this night. I liked the previous version of this group - I love the current edition.

Lonnie Walker also played and I'm feeling too lazy to review them for 684th time, but worth mentioning is this was the first show back for their organ player after being out sick for an extended period of time. He really rounds their sound out and it was a pleasure to hear him playing with the band again.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Of Montreal at the Cat's Cradle - 6/2/2010

Of Montreal
The Cat's Cradle

So after some Camera Obscura and burrito eating, we waddled over to the Cradle to take in the dance pop band known as Of Montreal. I saw these guys a ton of times back in the late nineties and early aughts, pre-Outback jingle explosion, but haven't followed them a ton over their last couple of records. But Brian wanted to go, he got us some tickets, and there we were.

I often joke about being the old man at shows, but never has that been more obvious than at this gig. So many young kids, all dressed up in ridiculous clothes like it was some catalog shoot for Urban Outfitters and American Apparel at the same time. Some folks were even in costumes - of note I saw a lot of people dressed as "indians" (a look the band employs on occasion), marching band members, and even one dude dressed as The Riddler (there was no Batman to be found).

The show was good, but like night and day from their older gigs. They used to be a quirky pop band, lots of short songs, and the closest they came to a stage show was a psychedelic-style light projector. But now it's all dance pop with multiple projectors and a team of community theater actors and actresses doing god-knows-what all over the stage. I don't think they played a single song from before their "Sunlandic Twins" record, which was pretty much where I stopped listening to them. But no matter - the band performed their "new" disco songs quite well, the strange actors carried on onstage in a confusing but entertaining manner, and the kids all danced around like it was a 1995 rave minus the glow sticks (actually there might have been a couple of glow sticks). It was all very entertaining, though I felt a bit like an observer than one caught up in the moment.

(Photo ganked from somewhere online. There were no horses in the Cradle.)

Camera Obscura at the Duke Gardens - 6/2/2010

Camera Obscura
Duke Gardens

My good man Brian got permission from the wife to come up to the Triangle and see a little live music. And when a man escaping two kids comes to town, you damn well make the most of it and pack as much fun as you can into that evening...aka go to two shows and eat burritos between them.

We met up with our broham Ivan inside of Duke Gardens just before the show started. It had looked a little stormy early, and seeing as how this gig is outside that is a concern, but it was merely an idle threat and the dark puffys floated away to torment someone else's outdoor plans.

It occurred to me that the last time I saw Camera Obscura play was with this same duo of dudes, which is odd as I tend to go to shows solo. That bit of trivia has little standing with the review of the band, but is merely a piece of information for those scoring at home.

The band was great, but no big surprise there. They breezed through a nice set of their mellow cute pop much to the delight of all the young hipsters and not-quite-as-young families with their dancing children...and let's not forget my group, the grizzled old creepy dudes that everyone makes fun of at shows. They managed to squeeze in nearly every song I wanted to hear - "French Navy", "My Maudlin Career", "If Looks Could Kill", "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken" and "Razzle Dazzle Rose". I've never seen a bad Camera Obscura show, but the outdoor setting, the sun low in the sky...it was simply magnificent.

And then Brian and I headed to Chubby's to stuff ourselves silly with burritos in preparation of the dance party that would be happening at Of Montreal soon thereafter...

Friday, July 30, 2010

9th Annual Lebowski Fest at the Executive Spare & Strike - 7/16/10 to 7/17/10

9th Annual Lebowski Fest
Featuring The Felice Brothers and The Seedy Seeds
Executive Spare & Strike Lawn
7/16/10 to 7/17/10

So me and a couple of my goofball friends loaded into the car and drove to Louisville for the 9th annual Lebowski Fest, celebrating all things "The Big Lebowski". It was bands, games, movie viewings, bowling, and what-have-you.For a slightly more detailed, photo-heavy review of this trip, just look at this here entry from the "Photo Journal" section of this magnificent website.

On the first night, after my partners-in-crime had preloaded for the event with so many White Russians that they each ingested a half-gallon of half and half (would that mean they each had a "quarter and quarter"?), we strolled over to the event and watched a little live music. I forget who the first band was because I was too busy looking at the merch table and marveling over the fact that there were actually good looking girls at the event, but they were some rootsy/folky affair that neither impressed or irritated me. There was probably a banjo involved, or at least there should have been.

But then the headliners of the Fest, The Felice Brothers, came out and entertained the masses with their American rock that is pretty damn reminiscent of when the Band and Bob Dylan joined forces. Their records are decidedly mellow affairs for the most part, but live they're a raucous group that sacrifice a little bit of musicality for the sake of an upbeat, engaging gig. If you held me to gun point I'd probably claim to like the records better, but it was still a damn fine performance. And without a doubt it easily topped any other show I've seen in the "number of times a washboard is used as an instrument" category. No jug blowing though, which is obviously disappointing. When the Felice Brothers finished playing they climbed on top of their RV parked near the stage and joined the crowd in watching "The Big Lebowski" in the open air. I don't have any proof but I'm betting that's one of the best possible endings to any live performance.

The following day's festivities were held in the afternoon under a glaring sun, and combined with the hangovers from too much liquored-up dairy the previous night...well, we didn't last long. There was some local fat rapper called the Kentucky Prophet doing his thing when we got there, and as much as I love a fat rapper ("Disorderlies" is one of my favorite films after all) he wasn't doing it for me. But the band after him, The Seedy Seeds, were pretty damn enjoyable. I didn't know dick about them, but apparently they were from nearby Cincinnati and had sort of a folk-electronica vibe. The three piece had pre-recorded beats accompanied by a really talented drummer playing along with them, and the other two playing some combination of guitar and banjo. I liked it - they had the boy/girl combo vocals kinda like Rainer Maria or Mates of State...but not shitty music like those bands. The group also got bonus points for dressing in costumes for the fest as "Strangers in the Alps", a reference to the sanitized version of the film where the phrase "This is what it's like to fuck a stranger in the ass" is changed to "This is what it's like to find a stranger in the Alps". Brilliant really, and a great weekend.

Superchunk / Ryan Gustaffson at the Cat's Cradle - 5/21/2010

with Ryan Gustaffson
Cat's Cradle

SUPERCHUNK! Let the record show that this band was, is and continues to be one the awesomest awesomers of all time. These are indisputable facts, folks.

But first, there was an opener - Ryan Gustafson. I remember back in the day every Superchunk opener was another Merge artist, but now they're tapping the resources of the local hot-shit loose-knit gathering of musicians and bands known as the Drughorse Collective. Not to be confused the pretty awesome metal band from the Bay Area Drunk Horse. All I know is I wouldn't want to be around a drugged horse or a drunk horse, as those fuckers are scary enough sober. And I'm rambling, so this review is going as expected.

As for what Mr. Gustafson sounds like - well, not unlike many of the other Drughorse acts, they walk a fine line between power pop and folky alt-country croonings. The best of his upbeat songs reminded me a lot of Sloan, and the mellower tracks I couldn't place a comparison, but was quite good. I liked the pop songs the most, but with his fantastic voice he could "sing the phonebook" as they say and it would make for a good performance.

It was an interesting show for local kings of the scene, Superchunk...apparently the set list was made up almost entirely of requests (from the Merge staff I think, and maybe some other randoms), which resulted in a show that was heaven for super fans like me but much less exciting for the people I knew there who had never seen the Chunk before.

Requests from a band by long time fans usually means one thing - lots of old songs. They basically played the entire "On the Mouth" album - "I Guess I Remembered It Wrong", "Precision Auto", "For Tension", "From the Curve"...hell, they even played "On the Mouth" which was the b-side of the "Mower" single (and could also be found on "Incidental Music", the second of their singles comps). Some other noteworthy tracks that night were "Sidewalk", which the band claimed had only been played live once, and a couple of new songs, one ("Digging for Something") which features John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats on backing vocals, and luckily he was at the show to provide them in person. And also dance around the stage like a spazz, which delighted everyone in attendance to no end.

At the end of the set and during the encores they hit some of their highlights, "slack Motherfucker" and "Hyper Enough" and "Water Wings"...the sort of songs that get all us old folks pogoing around like we did back in the early nineties. And let it be known the crowd was quite ancient - these days I'm that creepy old dude that I used to make fun of in my early twenties, but I was feeling pretty young and spry with this group. But young, old, ugly or bold, I'll suffer any indignation or categorization to see the glory of Superchunk live.

Mount Moriah at Tir Na Nog - 5/20/2010

Mount Moriah
Tir Na Nog

I was told I really needed to see Mount Moriah, so I got off my duff and made it happen. I'd heard Heather McEntyre sing with her other band Bellefea - good voice, interesting music, but I didn't get too overly excited about the act. But Mount Moriah is an altogether different beast - beautiful, country-tinged folk with amazing vocals, impressive musicianship and hooks for days. An instant contender for one of my new favorite local bands. Her voice reminds me quite a bit of Shannon Wright, but the songs are of a much higher quality. Quarterstick records should sign this band post haste, assuming they are still around, which I doubt is accurate and I'm too lazy to do the research myself. Hell, while I'm signing them to defunct labels let's but them on Jesus Christ and Teenbeat too. The bottom line is this band needs to be seen or heard or ideally, seen and heard.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Rosebuds at the Beaufort Music Festival - 5/8/2010

The Rosebuds
Beaufort Music Festival

So yeah, it wasn't long until I got to see The Rosebuds again...two days in fact. The old lady and I decided it might be fun to take a little road trip, see part of the coast we'd never been to before - Beaufort. I used to live in Wilmington and I've been to the Outer Banks a couple of times, but this middle portion of the state's seaside has always escaped me. We spent some time driving the back roads, hitting the depressing towns of Goldsboro and Kinston en route and grabbing lunch in the town known as the birthplace of Pepsi, New Bern. New Bern was mostly not depressing, for the record.

We got into Beaufort early and the festival was already going on, some reggae cover band playing...yup, Bob Marley! Least they could do is throw some Desmond Dekker or Skatalites in their mix. We wandered around town looking at all the old houses, and there are a shit ton of old houses. We're talking we-weren't-even-a-country-yet old. After a tasty dinner, we strolled back to the festival site just a few minutes before the Rosebuds were to take the stage.

Their set list was pretty typical of most of their shows, but the setting was obviously quite different from any other gig. Million dollar yachts and smaller sail boats surrounded the outdoor stage, and wide selection of humanity from small kids to the elder set, working class stiffs to the idle rich (hence the million dollar yachts). And let's not leave out the salty sea men, leathery and wobbly legged, most likely from a combination of cheap liquor and not being accustom to dry land.

The band did their best to connect with a crowd mostly not familiar with their sound, and for the most part they succeeded. There was a crowd of surly pre-teens standing near us that started out cracking wise and by the end of the show they were on stage dancing during "Bow to the Middle" and asking Kelly Rosebud for her autograph after the show ended. It was a great night that could only have been better if the band had dressed in "yacht rock" costumes.

(see more photos of the Rosebuds and this trip to Beaufort here)

The Rosebuds / Schooner at Tir Na Nog - 5/6/2010

The Rosebuds
with Schooner
Tir Na Nog

It was a bit of a last minute show at Tir Na Nog as the local leaders of sing-a-long pop, The Rosebuds, decided to play a free gig. I suppose it was to serve as a warm-up for their impending appearance at the Beaufort Music Festival (which I attended, for the record...and I know you're keeping detailed notes so I want your record to be as accurate as possible).

But first: Schooner! Otherwise known as the opening band. They were their typical catchy and enjoyable selves, belting out their pleasant blend of timeless pop crossed with shoegaze. They have a new EP out on Cytunes, and a number of the songs they played this night was from that release. OK, I'm kinda making an assumption there cause I didn't recognize the new songs, and I haven't heard the new EP, so I put two and two together cause I got them kind of top notch deductive skills. I would imagine the bulk of local Rosebuds fans (most of the crowd) already are familiar with the song stylings of Schooner, but hopefully they won over some new fans cause they surely deserve to be more beloved.

The Rosebuds had been meaning to play one of these free local showcases for a while, and on this pleasant spring evening it finally went down. The band has an ever-changing line-up, but this was one that I've seen a number of times these last few years - Brad from Megafaun on bass, and Rob Lackey on drums. I love it when they have a bassist with the band, maybe it's because I (crappily) play bass myself, but music just doesn't sound complete without the low end...as I've always said, you might never notice the bassist is there, but you'll definitely notice when he isn't. I've said a lot of really stupid things about music too, so let's call it a wash.

Anyways, the band played a great set, performing all the crowd favorites both old and new. The nice thing about a local crowd is not only do they know all the songs, but they give the group a lot of love and feedback in the form of dancing, cheering and for the Rosebuds especially, singing along. I'm often irritated by crowd sing-a-longs, but it really works for these guys because they have very specific parts of their songs that beg for group participation.

A great night out, and here's to hoping I don't have to wait long until I get to see the Rosebuds perform again...

Future Islands / Lonnie Walker / Lower Dens / Whatever Brains at the Berkeley Cafe - 5/4/2010

Future Islands
with Lonnie Walker, Lower Dens and Whatever Brains
Berkeley Cafe

I couldn't tell you the last time I lasted through a four band night...probably Mergefest. And like those nights, you withstood the discomfort of being fat, old and uncomfortable because the bands were so goddamn awesome.

Right when I walked in Whatever Brains started playing. I wasn't sure if they were going to be there, as they were listed on the bill, and then they were removed, but luckily that information was incorrect. As I've stated before, they remind me a lot of the Fall, if the Fall had a fairly normal singer and not crazy-ass Mark E. Smith. I was watching them with my man Ivan and he seems to think they have a Gang Green thing going on, but I don't really see it. But he's actually a musician so maybe you should take his word for it over mine. It was a short set, but good. They manage to sound tight and unhinged at the same time, a great trait in a band.

I was kinda freaked out the entire time Baltimore's Lower Dens played - the singer was the spitting image of the cute nerdy girl from "Real Genius" and I couldn't concentrate on the music as much as I should have. Val Kilmer was nowhere to be seen though, so at least we had that going for us. My best approximation of their sound is "what if Siouxsie & the Banshees became a krautrock band?" And then there was that one song that sounded exactly like Love & Rockets. They were definitely one of those bands that I was really neither here nor there about for the first few songs, but they really grew on me and I was loving it by the end of their set.

The non-organ version of Lonnie Walker was next on the slate. It was great as always, but I'm really missing how that organ softened out their sound in all the right places. The set was very Lonnie Walker-y, catchy and excitable and the crowd ate it up. I see them so often it would be really easy to take them for granted, but they are still one of the best bands going in the Triangle.

Finally, the headliners Future Islands came on. Have I mentioned that their newest record "In Evening Air" is easily the best record of 2010? Well, it is, and I love it so much I don't see that changing before the end of the year. It is brilliant from start to finish, and my only gripe is the run time is way too short. then again, you always want to leave them wanting more I guess.

Despite the fact that Future Islands play here all the time, I'd somehow never managed to see them perform...as great as their record is the live show is even better. Shut off the house lights, place a few spots on the ground shining up at the band, and let the party commence. It was easily the most dancing I've ever seen at a show, and the best time I've had the Berkeley Cafe since watching SCW wrestling there in the mid-nineties. People were throwing glow sticks all around the crowd, the band released some balloons, and it turned into a rave for the indie rock set. If Joy Division were reincarnated as a dance band, this would be it, only they sound like they got Al Johnson from U.S. Maple to do the singing and maybe have some inclinations to sound like Erasure from time to time. In other words, completely awesome through and through.

I left covered in sweat from dancing too much, ears ringing from a lack of earplugs, and a huge smile on my face that didn't leave for days. Upon exit saw a dude sprawled out on the sidewalk - not sure if he was attacked by another person or a gravity/booze combo. I'm going to pretend he was floored by the amazing show that just happened to his face, and his legs couldn't take any more.

(photo ganked online from somewhere other than my camera)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Light Pines / Kid Future at Tir Na Nog - 4/22/2010

Light Pines
with Kid Future
Tir Na Nog

The first band this night was Kid Future. Now if I didn't know better and just saw the name listed, I'd assume Kid Future was a DJ playing some sort of electronica music. Do they even still call it electronica music, or is everything specified by it's specific subgenre? House, Downbeat, Jungly, Shitbizzle, Big Poppy, Horse Penis, whatever, I'm not good with those fancy genres. All I know is they didn't sound nothing like that - rather, it was catchy indie pop. The singer had a great, deep voice, which was a little surprising given he was such a small guy. I thought he looked familiar, and it turns out his brother is the singer for another great local band Mount Weather (also apparently I've played basketball with him, which means he probably scored over my shitty defense). And where I compared Mount Weather to the Psychedelic Furs, I'd compare the brother's band to another great group from the 80's, XTC. They're not a carbon copy or anything, but the keyboards and song structures reminded me of them somehow. And those keyboards are a huge part of the band's sound - at only three band members and no bass, the keys really have to do a lot of heavy lifting to keep the songs together. In this jackasses mind a bassist would really round their sound out, but what the hell do I know. I do know they are a very intriguing young band I hope to see more from in the future.

Is it possible that the best local band I've seen in months I only half-ass watched because I was busy trying to catch the fourth quarter of an NBA playoff game? Well that was the case with the Light Pines. I kept saying I was going focus my attention at the stage when the stupid game ended or was out of reach, but the damn thing was close until the end and actually lasted longer than Light Pine's set. So while I can't speak with much authority about their live show, they sounded absolutely fantastic. They didn't really sound like anyone in particular but sounded like a lot of things all at the same time. There were a few songs that reminded me of Doves, but not enough so that I'd compare the band to them as a whole. One thing that really stuck with me was what a heavy drum sound they had - not heavy as in heavy metal fast double-bass drumming, but just really forceful, domineering drums that really led the direction of the band. That probably doesn't make any sense and now it sounds like I'm describing some dirty hippie drum circle. Anyways, despite being distracted by Kevin Durant hanging a loss on the Los Angeles Kobes (sadly the Zombie Sonics eventually lost the series), this band really left an impression on me and I can't wait to see them again. Or see them for the first time, if you will.

Midlake / John Grant at The Cat's Cradle - 4/3/2010

with John Grant
The Cat's Cradle

I missed Midlake the last time they rolled through town, and nearly drove to Asheville to see them last time they were in the state but caught a case of the lazies. But this time, there would be no missing them - they were bringing John Grant on tour.

John Grant was the singer for the criminally underrated band the Czars. And when I say "criminally", I mean to say if you haven't listened to them you should be arrested for being an idiot. Their album "The Ugly People Vs. the Beautiful People" is easily one of my top ten favorite records of the previous decade, maybe even top five. Sadly, the Czars split up before I ever got a chance to see them play, but I did get to see Grant perform solo soon after the split and at least got to hear him sing a few of those songs live. And now I was going to get to see Grant again, making me as excited as a teenage boy in a adult film superstore.

My previous live experience just had Grant sitting in front of a piano crooning, but after the first song this time it was a full live band experience, including members of Midlake. He had just released his first solo record "Queen of Denmark", and the set list mirrored most of this record (along with a an unreleased song or two from the same era). Grant has the best (or at least my favorite) voice going today, and I'm here to tell you it's just as strong if not stronger live than it is on record. The weird thing about these solo songs are how strange/cynical/funny they are, not nearly as serious as you'd expect to hear from a voice like his. It's really my only complaint about Grant, that the lyrical content almost lessens the power of his voice, but who am I to second guess a man's song choices. It was still a damn fine show, and while I'm sure most of the crowd had no idea who he was hopefully he won over a few new fans. He surely deserves it.

Midlake was a clusterfuck of awesomeness. The band had seven members, and four of them were guitarists. Like any good band there was a full time flutist, but there were occasions when a couple of dudes were blowing the metal pipe (this description also works for gay robot porn). In fact, the greatest moment of the night was when two of the guitarists were playing leads in conjunction with two flute solos, it was almost as awesome as watching Jethro Tull play in front of a mirror.

Jokes aside, they played a great set. All those guitars might have been overkill, but it sounded magical to my ears. It was a pretty long set, at least an hour and a half, and I'd guess they played pretty much every song from their last two records "The Trial of Van Occupanther" and "The Courage of Others". Yes, everyone went nuts when they played "Roscoe", but for good reason as it's a fantastic song. Even the (what looked like) Marines on shore leave standing in front of me were loving the show, in between one of their two or three dozen trips to the bar and/or bathroom. Seriously, they probably drank fifteen beers each - they wanted to party with some slightly proggy art rock, and by god they did it to the fullest.

Lonnie Walker / Nuclear Power Pants at Tir Na Nog - 4/1/2010

Lonnie Walker
with Nuclear Power Pants
Tir Na Nog

Even at my advanced age, I still occasionally get surprised by an opening band. Nuclear Power Pants showed up on free night at Tir Na Nog, the rare out-of-town entry (they're from Baltimore according to the stage banter) to an otherwise locals-only event. They were an eight-piece band, with five musicians (drums, bass, two keyboardists and a sax player, but no guitarists), two female back-up singers, and a lead singer wearing a poncho and looking like he could be the brother to Les Savy Fav's Tim Harrington. Everyone but the singers were dressed up in these weird pacman/trianglehead costumes covered in day-glo paint, and there were blacklights everywhere, so shit was glowing like crazy. It may take further listening to decide if the excitement was from their live performance, the crazy outfits, the music, or some sort of combination of those elements, but the crowd was absolutely loving it. The music was kind of a punk/new wave combo, maybe Devo meets Brainiac with a little Residents thrown in there (though that may just be the costumes forcing the final part of that comparison). Anyways, they did a really weird and great cover of Bruce Springsteen's best song "Highway Patrolman", the crowd danced a lot, I took some shitty photos and bobbed my head, and all was well in the world.

And guess who else played that night - Lonnie Walker! I think I've seen these guys play more often in the past year than I've seen my family (not that there's anything wrong with that). It was stripped down version of the band, just three members (the non-singing guitarist dude and the keyboard lad were off gallivanting in Europe or something). Somehow they lost two members but got more rockin'. It was a good show, but I did miss those soft organ lines trickling in and out of the songs. The set list was what you'd expect (this is code for me saying they played a lot of songs they always play that I've never bothered to learn the names to, mostly because my brain is at capacity due to memorizing crap like all of the G.I. Joe character names and the complete dialogue to "Blazing Saddles"), and Brian Corum was the typical zany frontman he always is. You're in a good place in life when one of your problems is seeing Lonnie Walker play too often.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Wilco at the DPAC - 3/27/2010

Durham Performing Arts Center

Every once in a while you gotta get your giant concert on, and for me most of the time this ends up being a Wilco show. Despite my constant whining about their output since "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot", I still continue to go to their shows and enjoy myself while complaining to anyone who will listen about how they play too many new songs and Nels Cline needs to knock off all the ridiculous solos.

So the show report is this: they played too many new songs and Nels Cline played too many ridiculous pointless solos. And I still enjoyed myself. They actually played for damn close to three hours, and with that much time to fill they were bound to play some older material as well. A number of songs from their perfect record "Summerteeth" made the list, including "She's a Jar", "A Shot in the Arm", "Via Chicago", "When You Wake Up Feeling Old" and the title track "Summerteeth"; at least half of "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" including "War on War" and "Handshake Drugs" and "I'm the Man Who Loves You"; and the real classic gems "Forget the Flowers" and "Passenger Side". For the record, I consider any show where "Passenger Side" is played to automatically be a good show regardless of what else happens. These good songs happened just often enough that I didn't lose my mind when they played pretty much the entire "A Ghost Is Born" and "Sky Blue Sky" albums. One of the final songs they played was a tribute to the recently passed Alex Chilton, the Big Star classic "Thank You Friends".

Given what is to be expected these days at a Wilco show, I'd have to give a pretty big thumbs up. As a side note, this was my first time seeing the inside of the DPAC (Durham Performing Arts Center for those not comfortable with acronyms) - pretty swank place. Our seats were in the front of the top section but the seats were still great...the steepness of the joint seemed to discombobulate my friend Brian who attended with me, though that could have also been the giant burrito he ate at Chubby's Tacos before the show. I'd gladly go see more "big" bands here, assuming they ever book something to my liking again.

Whatever Brains / Naps / The Cellar Seas at Tir Na Nog - 2/4/2010

Whatever Brains
with Naps and The Cellar Seas
Tir Na Nog

OK, so my idiot ass waited WAY too long to write this review, cause my memories are hazy at best. That's what you get for being lazy and forgetful I guess. I do remember it was an awesome night of music from start to finish, something I would have paid for but luckily it was one of those free local nights at Tir Na Nog. Why these things aren't always packed is beyond me...maybe folks just aren't as cheap as I am and don't value the power of "free".

The first band of the night was called The Cellar Seas, and it was their first gig ever! Seeing history with my own eyes! I play basketball multiple times a week with the singer/guitarist of the band, Roy Bourne, and I didn't even know he had a band...no time for chitchat when I'm raining my wet jump shots all over the court. Nonetheless, they sounded great, obviously well practiced, and churned out a set of very catchy, Americana-tinged rock songs. They reminded me a little bit of the band Richmond Fontaine, a comparison I dreamt up totally out of the blue and not because I had just been listening to them in my car. The Cellar-ites played the sort of songs you would sing along to riding in your car with the windows down on a warm summer day while writing run-on sentences. Of course I didn't sing along at the show, because I would have looked goofy doing it and also it was my first time ever hearing them. Anyways, great debut by these cats and I look forward to many more shows by them.

The middle bands was Naps and featured Brian Corum of Lonnie Walker as well as some other local rock star types. I have a vague recollection that Brian played the show in some manner of one piece long johns/pajama thing, but maybe I totally imagined that. As for the music, I quite enjoyed it - it sounded like vintage Chapel Hill indie rock from the early to mid-nineties with just a tinge of Silver Jews. If I would have seen these guys opening for Archers of Loaf in 1995, they would have fit in royally. And they probably would have had a seven inch out on Jesus Christ like all the cool bands did.

I've been meaning to see Whatever Brains ever since I moved back to the Triangle, but through a combination of epic laziness and other obligations, this was my first time actually making that happen. Damn shame it took so long, because just as I expected they were really fuckin' great. they sounded like the bastard child of Drive Like Jehu and The Fall, all jittery and anxious in the best post-punk way possible. Lots of spastic, off-beat dancing both on stage and in the crowd, just the way good shows are meant to be. It was pretty obvious why they are getting a reputation as one of the best local bands going right now, and I'll not be making the mistake of waiting so long before I see them play again.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

U.S. Christmas / Caltrop at The Nightlight - 1/22/2010

U.S. Christmas

with Caltrop
The Nightlight

Sometimes a band has to wander down out of the mist of the hills and perform for the fanciful folks of the city. Such was the case with U.S. Christmas, a band based out of Marion, a small town up near Asheville at the foot of the Blue Ridge mountains. I know this town well, as my mom lives there...the idea that any music of quality could come out of that hamlet of insular goofs should be a surprise to anyone who has ever been there. And I know the band well, or at least the singer/guitarist Nathan Hall - we grew up together and have remained fairly close since high school. I could now make some caveat about about being fair and balanced in my reporting on the band despite my personal connections, but fuck it...it's my stupid website and I can be as unbalanced as I'd like.

This was my first time seeing USX with their "new" line-up - the only holdovers from the old band is Nate and guitarist Matt. The group has now swollen to seven members, including two drummers and a violinist, and in my opinion they sound much, much better now. They were a good band before, but they seem so much tighter now, these new members much more accomplished musicians. And what the hell, I just love bands with two drummers.

There was a nice crowd on hand - not packed, but certainly full. Earlier in the week they received a big write-up in the Independent, which I'm sure helped the cause. It also didn't hurt that they were playing with local rock icons Caltrop. But the crowd gathered, Nate took off his shirt as per usual, and the rock began. There were songs from their full length on Neurot "Eat The Low Dogs", there were songs I didn't recognize...fast songs, slow songs, grind you up and spit on you songs. I've long struggled to describe this band, and the closest I've ever come Neil Young circa the "Dead Man Soundtrack" fronting Hawkwind and playing covers of early "Umma Gumma" era Pink Floyd songs. Yes, I know how preposterous that sounds, and I don't care. It was awesome, they were awesome, and if they ever decide to make it down to the Triangle again, go see them rock your cock out and subsequently off.

Between helping the lads load out their 18 metric tons of equipment, I caught the bulk of Caltrop's set. They had two drummers as well (for those keeping count at home, that is four drummers for two bands, drastically throwing off the drummer ratio), lending a very strong backline to some pretty stellar stoner/sludge metal. These local kids were much more "straight-forward" in their rocking than U.S. Christmas, but just as enjoyable in a slightly different way. This is music you can literally bang your head to, and then wake up the next morning wondering why your neck is so sore and then remembering that you're in your mid-thirties and too old to hesh out for an entire evening.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Veelee / Old Bricks at Slims - 1/21/2010


with Old Bricks

Decided to get out of the house on a rainy night and see some good newish local music at Slims. I'd never been to Slims before, at least not the Raleigh one...I've stared at those stupid poles at the Slims in SF about a thousand times though, so as long as there were no support beams directly in my line of sight of the band it would be an upgrade.

Old Bricks opened the night. They are two brosephs, a drum/guitar duo with the guitarist occasionally getting drummy himself. My first impression was that they reminded me of The Dodos, only a little less pop and a little more older Animal Collective weird. It was a short set, but pretty damn good...the drums playing off one another, weird loopy effects on the vocals and guitar, and a crowd full of cute girls having inane conversations and only occasionally paying attention to the music. I'm definitely going to make a point to see them play again in the near future.

This was my second time seeing Veelee, but the previous viewing was for only the last couple of songs of their set so I was glad to see a full offering. I believe my impression then was "Stereolab meets Sonic Youth", but upon seeing more of their show I'd add in a healthy dose of Blonde Redhead too. More than any one band though they reminded me of something that would have come out on K Records or Kill Rock Stars in the mid-nineties, and most likely been very popular. Not saying they won't be popular in these modern rogh-n-tumble days...I've recently come to realize I got no idea what the kids like anymore. I think this realization came when I found out a lot of young hipster bands are releasing limited edition cassettes. Yes, cassettes. But anyways, my second viewing confirmed that I definitely liked Veelee, and the crowd (whose average age was at least 10 years younger than me) seemed to be digging them too.

The Rosebuds / Megafaun / Lonnie Walker at the Pour House - 1/8/2010

The Rosebuds

with Megafaun and Lonnie Walker
The Pour House

This was a good way to start off the new year, with some of my very favorite local bands and people. I even got the old lady to join me, something that doesn't happen all that often.

It seems like I've seen Lonnie Walker at least a half dozen times in the last year and they continue to blow me away. I still haven't bought their record but I feel like I know all their songs by heart (including the Future Islands song they always cover). I'm at a loss of what to say about them after multiple reviews - how about THIS BAND IS FUCKING AWESOME AND EVERYONE SHOULD GO SEE THEM PLAY. They get better every time I watch them perform, and they were outstanding the very first time I saw them. Reminder to self: buy their damn record next time I see them play, because then I can listen to them at home and not have to wait until the next time I see them live. Luckily, they play often and I usually don't have to wait too long.

Megafaun had the middle slot on the bill. Despite the stylistic differences, they often play with the Rosebuds since the bands are good friends, and we all know the old saying "bros before shows". Like a fine wine or a good stinky cheese, Megafaun has grown on me with age. Where I was once fairly lukewarm on their music and performances, I find myself enjoying them more and more with each successive listen. Yeah, there's a certain crunchy-jamband-hippy vibe to their music, but in the best possible way, like classic Grateful Dead crossed with the best Iron & Wine songs. What really stands out with the band is their vocal harmonizing...those boys really know how to sing together, it's as pretty as a butterfly and a faerie humping on a geranium. And I'm not going to top that comparison so let's just move on.

Local lad and lassie The Rosebuds closed out the evening, as they so often do around here. It's good to be the king, and they are clearly tops in the local market when it comes to catchy pop music. I've seen and reviewed this band countless times, and for good reason - they always deliver. They had one of the thoroughbreds from their stable of drummers, Matt McCaughan, on drums this evening, and it was good to see him as he seems to spend so much time on the road these days with Bon Iver.

The show was great, no surprise there...these kids always put on an energetic evening of damned catchy songs. Lots of crowd participation and sing-a-longs, even the chatty scenesters stopped talking long enough to have a good time. They seemed to draw a little more heavily from their third record "Night of the Furies" or "the dance record" as my brain remembers it, but they spread the love around all the records. Ivan even dedicated one of my favorite songs, "Border Guards", to me! I felt like the prettiest girl at the Winter Formal. The only bad thing - no "Blue Bird", despite my hounding Ivan constantly that they must play this song every show. Hell, if they played it five times per show I would be happy, that track never gets old. But minus that one minor transgression, a fine evening of amazing local music...to say we are spoiled in the Triangle would be an understatement.