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 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 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)