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.