Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Afghan Whigs at the Cat's Cradle - 10/21/2012

The Afghan Whigs
The Cat's Cradle

I guess it is possible to both love and hate a band's live show at the same time.  The Afghan Whigs came equipped with a crazy light show...unfortunately, it was one most likely optimized for a much larger venue than the Cat's Cradle.  They forgot that part of seeing live music is actually being able to see the band, as there were no lights directed at the front of the band - I couldn't see Greg Dulli's face for more than a couple of songs all night.  But what was even worse was that they had some crazy spotlights mounted to the top of the stage shining out in the crowd blinding many of us.  These lights might have worked on a much taller stage, but in this venue it was a goddamn mess. 

So I was irritated at the start of the show as conditions were less than optimal and, at least by my purchase history, this was a damn expensive ticket.  But even if I couldn't see Dulli & company, they sounded so so SO good...just really fantastic.  And the set list was beyond reproach - they opened with "Crime Scene" and just went nuts from there, hitting pretty much every highlight I'd ever want to hear in their two hour set..."What Jail Is Like," "I'm Her Slave," "Gentleman," "My Enemy," "Debonair," "Somethin' Hot"...basically, every song they performed was a hit.  As far as the night's cover songs go, they played a verse of the Emotions' "Best of My Love" before leading into one of their own tracks, and I was told they played a Weeknd cover but I don't know shit about that band so I had to take my friend's word...I just knew it wasn't a Whigs song (unless it was something new they had written). 

Despite the price and dumb lights I don't regret going to this show, as the Afghan Whigs will always be one of my very favorite bands.  Just hopefully if they ever come back they either play a larger venue or alter that goddamn light show. 

(old-ass photo of the band scavenged online)

Godspeed You! Black Emperor at the Cat's Cradle - 10/4/2012

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Cat's Cradle

Finally getting to see Godspeed You! Black Emperor is a show that had been a long time coming.  And while the 2002 version of me would have been ready to sacrifice his first born child at the chance to see this band, even the decade older version of me was pretty excited.  The band was eight members deep, and had configured themselves into a very tight horseshoe in the middle of the stage.  I only mention this since I was standing on the side, and it gave their performance a very closed-off look.  Perhaps this was intentional, fitting in with their sound, but it made taking photos a little tougher.  But you know what made it even tougher than that?  That the band was playing entirely in the dark outside of a couple of projection screens behind them.  And the projections themselves were often dark.  But it all worked well with their post-apocalyptic orchestral post-rock, the dark mood fitting well with their dark sounds.  They played about five songs over the span of their two-hour set, and as great as it sounded their music doesn't exactly invite folks to move around.  I hate to be that old man, but I would have killed for this show to be seated.  The Carolina Theatre would have been a perfect venue, though i guess if you had enough folding chairs the Cradle would have still been fine as well. 

My pointless jibber jabber aside, both my inner still-young self and my older crotchety shell was glad to finally see this band of Canucks perform their great, moving orchestral jams.  Another check of the bucket list.

OFF! / Negative Approach / Double Negative at Kings - 9/30/2012

with Negative Approach & Double Negative

It was to be a night of high class living - champagne, caviar, and old man hardcore.  Outside of listening to some Gorilla Biscuits twenty years ago I'm not usually a hardcore kind of guy, but OFF! is the sort of band to get you out of the house. 

Local lads Double Negative opened the show.  The place wasn't even close to full yet, but once the band started the moshing and general carry on was already ferocious.  It was pretty clear that getting half-decent photos of the band was not going to be easy with one eye on the crowd, my body braced for impact, and random people flying off the stage in my direction.  The band rocked it out for about twenty minutes, which is apparently a long show for them.  Like other times I've seen DN I dug it, but I'm not educated enough in this genre to make comparisons or really say why. 

The middle slot was for hardcore legends Negative Approach.  They are one of those bands I've known about forever, but never spent much time listening to.  Turns out they are from Detroit, a couple of the members look like homeless train hopping hobos, and they put on a great show - probably the best of the night.  It was one song right after the other, most of which were no more than a minute long.  The moshing was at it's most furious during this set, with the crowd barely able to take a breath before needing to slam into someone else.  According to a kid standing next to me, they played every song they had recorded and I doubt the set was even 30 minutes long...gotta love hardcore bands. 

I only give NA the nod for set of the night because Keith Morris of OFF! kept stopping every few songs to give some rambling diatribe about one topic or another.  I even agreed with much of what he said, but it was pointless and out of place at a hardcore show.  Not out of place message-wise, but it just killed the flow.  Other than that this "supergroup," to use a tired term, was gangbusters.  If I squinted really hard and pretended I was listening to completely different songs, I could pretend I was seeing the Circle Jerks in 1980 (half of this band was in that band, for those not aware).  I quite like the OFF! record, and live was just as good as the wax, diatribes aside. 

The whole night was very interesting.  The age mix was lots of young kids and lots of guys in their late thirties or older, and not a lot in between.  I'd guess the guy-girl ratio was at least 30:1, at least up front where I was standing while trying to take pictures.  And speaking of taking pictures, I might have been the only person dumb enough to try it with people flying at me both on the ground and from the sky...the photos certainly suffered for it.  Luckily, my enjoyment at a show is not dependent on whether or not I manage to get a successful photo. 

Spider Bags / The Golden Boys / The Limes at Kings - 9/20/2012

Spider Bags
with The Golden Boys & The Limes

Good goddamn what a night of garage rockery.  Muy Bueno. 

The Limes played first.  I didn't (and still don't) know dick about them, but they're from Memphis and Goner has put out some of their records so I figured it was worth checking out.  They started off real damn sloppy, playing a song that they had apparently just written a few hours earlier; they got stronger and stronger as the set wore on though.  Singer Shawn Cripps has an interesting vibe about him, reminding me a little bit of local legend Dex Romweber, though probably not as badass a guitarist as Dex.  At their best they sounded like garage combined with New Zealand/Kiwi pop, with maybe a little Cramps and very early "Westing"-era Pavement thrown in.  Towards the end of the set Dan McGee joined the band to sing one of their songs, a trend that would continue through the night.  Pretty decent - I didn't pick up their record that night but the show definitely intrigued me to hear more. 

The Golden Boys had the middle slot - it seems like they should have headlined, but then again the middle slot is often the best one so who knows.  I saw them at Hopscotch a couple of years back with Harlem and they put on a damn fine show, so I knew what I was getting in to.  They play straight-up good-time rock n' roll with a garage rock tint, like the Hold Steady minus the weird vocals or Lucero minus the twang.  Multiple members take turns singing lead (pretty much everyone other than the drummer) and all handle it pretty well, even the crazy haired and mustachioed keyboard player.  There was a running joke of them performing Social Distortion covers, and the bassist had a pretty mean Mike Ness impersonation.  They're just a fun band ya know?  Nothing groundbreaking, but enjoyable.  And again, McGee of Spider Bags was on stage at least once adding backing (or lead) vocals to their songs.  I have no idea if he was even signing the right things but everyone was having fun with it. 

Spider Bags closed the night.  They had Kings turn off all the stage lights and were lit only by the light coming off of the christmas strands strung up on the side of the club and the dim bar lights in the back.  This didn't bode well for me getting any good photos of this very photogenic band, but it did make for an interesting ambiance for their show.  To continue with the trend of guest singers (and since the Bags couldn't join themselves on stage mid-set) they had a guest female singer for their first couple of songs that gave off a strong Grace Slick vibe.  After that it was just a Spider Bags show as usual, raucous rock-n-rollin' (in the dark), the crowd eating it all up.  Myself included.  There's a reason these guys are constantly name dropped as the best live band around.

Last Year's Men / Wood Ear at the Pinhook - 8/25/2012

Last Year's Men
with Wood Ear
The Pinhook

This was a fifth anniversary party for local label Church Key...I'm down for any folks doing good work and getting the music to the masses, especially all the great local music we have around here. 

Wood Ear opened the gig.  My dude John had kind words to say about this band, so I made sure I got to the Pinhook early enough to see their set.  They had a rootsy Americana sorta vibe going on, not so much alt-country as heartland rock.  I think that means more Springsteen than Uncle Tupelo.  There were also a couple of songs that made me think of latter-era Replacements (think "Don't Tell a Soul" and "All Shook Down"), but I've been listening to those albums quite a bit lately so that might be a little projection on my part.  For not knowing any of the songs, I quite enjoyed their set - the music is strong and catchy and keeps you engaged on first listen.  Apparently Wood Ear has been around for years, but only have two EPs to show for it, one released quite recently.  I picked up their most recent one (put out by Church Key obviously) and I've really been enjoying it.  Hopefully I'll get to one of their show's again real soon. 

Last Year's Men headlined the night.  They might look like 14 year-olds, but they sound like seasoned vets on stage.  I've seen them a bunch of times now, and along with Spider Bags, they're the about the best live rock-n-roll the Triangle has to offer.  Catchy garage pop with a punk attitude and a little bit of twang, they're almost the perfect recipe of everything I love in out of a band, especially live.  they played their typical set, lots of songs from their great record "Sunny Down Snuff" and there might have been a couple of new tracks as well.  In concert with the Wood Ear write-up, you could compare them to early Replacements, though considerably less drunk.  Well, maybe as drunk but not as sloppy.  The show ended with the drummer wearing a pair of (I think) women's panties on his head that appeared out of nowhere.  goddamn I love this band.  

Neil Hamburger / Todd Barry / Brendon Walsh at Kings - 8/17/2012

Neil Hamburger
with Todd Barry & Brendon Walsh

I'm not sure how the hell to even review a comedy show, it was either funny or it wasn't.  This was really funny. 

This show was a total package, no local help needed.  Brendon Walsh opened the show.  I'd seen him on Comedy Central and he is a frequent guest on the hilarious podcast Doug Loves Movies.  He was just as hilarious on this night as he had been in those previous settings, maybe even the funniest of the night.  He's dirty and a little absurd and does a lot of material on masturbation aides.  You can watch a clip of him talking about fleshlights here

The middle set was by Todd Barry.  I'd seen him right here at Kings about a year ago, and he must have thought it a good club and turnout as he came back.  Hopefully he helps word get around to the other good comedians because this area is sorely lacking in the funny.  Barry was great as always, wry and confident and the king of crowd work.  He did plenty of set jokes, but the man is so gifted he could easily make his entire show just him riffing off of the crowd and whatever absurd thought pops into his head.  There is a reason that well established (and more popular) comedians always praise him as one of the best working today. 

Neil Hamburger closed the night.  I've seen him a few times and it never gets any less uncomfortable.  He's been doing a lot of these same jokes for many years now (it feels like I've seen his Brittney Spears material more times than I've seen him), but none of that matters with Hamburger - you're there to see him physically perform more than anything.  Namely, pick up drinks and sit them back down again, over and over.  And I laugh every goddamn time.  So so ridiculous. 

So there you go.  Laughing.  It's awesome. 

(Photo found online, not mine.)

Mike Scheidt / Nate Hall at Kings - 7/18/2012

Mike Scheidt
with Nate Hall

Metal front men making solo records - it's the new black.  Whether it's a desire to express their folkier side or just wanting to make music without dealing with pain-in-the-ass band mates, it seems to be happening a lot lately. 

Nate Hall was the first half of tonight's show.  Nate is probably best known as the singer and guitarist of US Christmas, a band I have written about many times.  Probably because I like them a lot.  Also probably because they are friends of mine.  I've really enjoyed Nate's first solo record "A Great River," and was glad to finally hear the songs live.  His set stuck pretty close to the album  - the accapella mountain ballad "When the Stars Begin to Fall," the Townes Van Zandt cover "Kathleen," and a selection of his own dark, haunting songs.  I know I've compared Nate and USX to Neil Young before, but with this solo material the comparison is more apt than ever.  This feels like a natural progression for Nate, and an enjoyable progression at that. 

Mike Scheidt is also the face of a metal band - the Pacific Northwest institution Yob - and like Nate, Mike has just released his first solo album "Stay Awake" via Thrill Jockey.  I've seen Yob before but knew nothing of solo record, so I was a blank slate regarding this performance.  Unlike Nate who came across as a man well versed in folk music, Mike's songs sounded more or less like metal songs rearranged for the acoustic guitar.  It was still plenty enjoyable, just different.  Mike has such a strong voice that it might be tough for him to sound anything other than metal.  Towards the end of his set Nate joined Mike on stage and they teamed up on a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers," a grand song done right.  As a side note, I need to make myself a mix of all of the Stones' best country songs.  I'd probably listen to that more than anything else they've put out. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hopscotch Music Fest 2012 - Day 3 Photos - 9/8/2012

Oneida - Mecca

Old Quarter - Slims

Mount Moriah - Mecca

The Roots - City Plaza

Nobunny - CAM

Danny Brown - CAM

Lambchop - Fletcher Opera Theatre

Sunn O))) - Memorial Auditorium

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hopscotch Music Fest 2012, Day 3 around downtown Raleigh - 9/8/2012

Hopscotch Music Fest 2012 - Day 3 
With Oneida, Old Quarter, Mount Moriah, The Roots, Nobunny, Danny Brown, Lambchop and Sunn O)))
Mecca, Slims, City Plaza, CAM, Fletcher Opera Theatre and Memorial Auditorium

To paraphrase "Clerks" I wasn't even supposed to go out today.  I was planning on lazing around on my couch and not going out until the evening shows, but when Oneida was a last-minute addition to the Megafaun day party so I screwed myself together, put on some sunscreen, and left the house.  Oneida was also playing later that night, but I was going to be seeing someone else during their time slot so it was exciting that I was still able to see them play.  This gig was held in the street in front of Mecca, and apparently I wasn't the only one who thought starting the day with these guys was a good idea.  The band had eight people total, but never more than seven playing at the same time - the sax man was never performing when the extra drummer was doing his thing.  It was a space kraut free jazz orgy onstage, kind of an odd sight for the middle of the day (this sort of band feels like late night music for reasons I could never possibly explain), but I was delighted to be seeing it.  Kid Millions was absolutely destroying the drums, they had a Farfisa and an organ droning away at the same time, and I may or may not have gone into a trance during their set. 

Between bands I wandered over to Slims to see a few songs by Old Quarter.  Some of the members of this group are good friends of mine so I'm not even going to pretend my opinion of them is unbiased, but for my money they are one of the better up-and-coming alt-country bands in the area.  They've just recorded an EP that hopefully folks will give a listen, and had a few of them for sale at the show (even though the official release isn't for a few weeks).  Strong songs and quality instrumentation - most of the band members are in other more established acts like Jack the Radio and Lonnie Walker, while singer John Massengil has really started coming out of his shell since their first gig a few months back.  I didn't spend too long at the show, maybe three songs total, but they are a group I will be seeing many more times in the near future. 

I walked back around the corner to the Megafaun party to see that Mount Moriah was already in the middle of their set.  I've seen these kids many, many times, but they're not playing out locally quite as often as they used to so you've got to jump on the chance when they take the stage.  Like always, Heather's voice was pure gold - one of my favorites, local or anywhere else.  Also like always, the line-up of the band was different from the last time I saw them...this time a four-piece, though I'm pretty sure everyone that was performing this time had played with them the last time I saw them live.  The band spent much of the set test-driving new material, which sounded great; but of course the highlights were towards the end when they performed "Social Wedding Rings" and "Lament."  "Lament" is one of the best songs of the last five years - FACT.  Anyone trying to argue otherwise will be completely ignored, or challenged to a round of fisticuffs. 

At that point all I wanted to do was go home and rest up for the final night of shenanigans, and that is just what I did.  Which turned out to be a smart move because some hellacious storms rolled through and pushed the start of the Roots back by an hour or more.  I timed things just right and got to City Plaza just a few minutes before the band took the stage.  They began the gig with a tribute to both the "Godfather of Go Go" Chuck Brown and the Beastie Boys' MCA aka Adam Yauch by playing a Go Go version of "Paul Revere" - this obviously won the crowd over from the jump.  If my memory serves they played "Proceed" and "Mellow My Man" from their great record "Do You Want More?!!!??!", a few other random covers, and lots of new songs.  It was a nice set, very enjoyable, and the crowd seemed to be quite digging it.  After watching a lot of Jimmy Fallon it was nice seeing Black Thought leading the band again, as he seems to be little utilized on the television show.  On a partially unrelated note, I keep thinking I saw these guys at the Ritz back in the late nineties, but I'm not entirely sure.  Such is the case with having been to so many concerts over the last twenty years.  I'm sure it was good if I did.

After the Roots I made the long hike to CAM in a misting rain to see Nobunny.  I've seen him a few times but it was very early in his career, when I still lived out in Oakland and he would perform what was basically glorified karaoke in my friend's basement.  I've listened to his music pretty obsessively in the following years, from that first CDr I bought at a house party to 2010's "First Blood" and was excited to see what sort of show the older, more mature Nobunny would put on.  Turns out it would be just as goofy and immature as ever, but much tighter musically.  He was touring with Texas band Bad Sports as his backing band, and they even played a cover of what is probably the Bad Sports' best song "Teenage Girls."  Other than that it was exactly the catchy dumb pop punk of Nobunny you would expect, riling up the crowd into a rowdy mosh pit and enticing many of them to sing along...possibly myself included.  They probably played twenty songs in under thirty minutes, including many of my favorites like "Mess Me Up," "Blow Dumb," and "Motorhead with Me."  Oh, and I've not even mentioned Nobunny's outfit - a ragged, dirty rabbit mask paired with tight black underwear, a leather harness and a black leather jacket.  His outfits have slightly changed from those early days, but he has always been outlandish.  It would have been an entertaining show even if the music sucked, but luckily that wasn't the case.  

My knowledge of Danny Brown was pretty limited going in to this gig, but he was on after Nobunny, I had a great spot at the front of the stage, so why the fuck not stick around and see what all the fuss is about?  I thought the crowd was excited for Killer Mike the night before, but they were absolutely bonkers over Danny Brown.  For most of the show I had this hot amazon blonde dry humping my leg, which is typically not a problem but it didn't help in my photo taking endeavors (well, that and my wife prefers random women not dry hump me, but it was so damn crowded I'm not sure it could really be helped).  They were doing some sort of dance/mosh hybrid as a group, and there were even kids stage diving (to varying degrees of success).  I couldn't tell you dick about what he played or how it compared to the record, but I do know he wasn't rapping over his own vocal tracks, had a ton of energy, and gets a big thumbs up from this old man as a performer. 

It was now time for another long slog in the light rain to Fletcher Opera Theatre where Lambchop was playing.  Like Yo La Tengo the night before, my desire to see bands I'd never seen before (or hadn't seen in a long time) goes out the window when someone like Lambchop is involved.  I had just seen them a few months ago in Durham, and this show was very similar to that one both in set-up and song selection.  Despite that I couldn't help but pop in and soak up a few songs from this beautiful group of sad bastards.  Like always the band was absolutely flawless, every player performing their part perfectly.  The tracks I was there for were mostly from their newest record "Mr. M," a great album everyone should pick up.  Great band, great sound, great great great...I don't know what else to say about it.  Interestingly, something I found odd the last time I saw them - the drummer playing with his wallet sitting on the snare - happened again this time.  My best guess is he is using it as some sort of sound damper on the drum, with the added bonus of keeping him from sitting crooked on his stool and being able to keep an eye on his valuables.  Smart move really.

And there it was...the final band I would see not only this evening but for the entire festival: Sunn O))).  It's probably fitting that it would be one of the most amazing and befuddling shows of the entire event.  I have no idea how to describe Sunn O))) or what the hell they even mean, but I enjoyed myself.  the back of the stage at Memorial Auditorium was nothing but a wall of amps, with three shrouded men(?) playing guitar and Moog in front of them.  When you could see the band that is - there was so much smoke from the fog machines that most of the time the stage looked like an illuminated cloud.  The music was the slowest, heaviest shit I've ever experienced in person, even if I really didn't (and still don't) understand what the hell was going on.  I left confused, but happy. 

And that was that - another Hopscotch in the books.  I can't wait to do it again, exactly a year from now.  No sooner. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hopscotch Music Fest 2012 - Day 2 Photos - 9/7/2012

Jenny Besetzt - Tir Na Nog

Matthew E. White - Long View Center

Love Language - CAM

Built to Spill - City Plaza

The Jesus & Mary Chain - City Plaza

Hiss Golden Messenger - Fletcher Opera Theatre

Yo La Tengo - Memorial Auditorium

Killer Mike - The Lincoln Theatre