Sunday, June 3, 2012

Spiritualized at the Cat's Cradle - 5/12/2012

Cat's Cradle

The only possible word to describe finally getting to see Spiritualized live would be "epic."  It felt like someone accidentally booked an arena rock show in the Cradle, the music and performance felt so...big.  This version of Spiritualized was a seven-piece band including a couple of hot back-up singers and a guitarist that looked exactly like Noel Gallagher.  While there were plenty old bald and balding men there (aka my demographic), I was surprised at the number of young people at the show.  I'd be surprised if the pair of girls standing in from of me were even 18, but goddamn if they weren't amped for the gig from start to finish. 

The set list - I'm not great with song titles, but I do know they played for over two hours and covered the entire career of the band.  There were a number of songs from the great new album "Sweet Heart, Sweet Light" including the album owner "Hey Jane" that was also the show opener.  There was also a number of songs from "Ladies and Gentlemen...We Are Floating in Space", including the title track and them closing the show with htat album's epic closer "Cop Shoot Cop."  I said going in if they played "Ladies and Gentlemen..." it would be worth the price of the ticket alone, and that statement proved to be true.  As an added bonus they also played the Spacemen 3 classic "Walking with Jesus" which got a good roar from the crowd, a crowd where at least half in attendance were younger than that song. 

Some friends drove to NYC a couple of years ago to see Spiritualized perform "Ladies and Gentlemen..." in it's entirety, a move I found a little indulgent at the time.  After finally seeing them live, though, I'm left with regret that I didn't go myself.  It would have certainly been worth it. 

Last Year's Men / Roomrunner at Slims - 4/29/2012

Last Year's Men
with Roomrunner

It doesn't happen often but I managed to get my lazy ass out of the house on a Sunday night.  And I got out solely because Last Year's Men were playing at the comfy dive known as Slims.  LYM play out fairly often, but not so much in Raleigh - they seem to stick in Durham or Chapel Hill.  It was good to see them again - based on their Facebook updates, they've been touring a fair amount and it really showed in how tight and tuned in the band was.  Most of the songs were from their great "Sunny Down Snuff" LP that I still listen to a lot a couple years after it's release.  The band, as always, were on top of their "garage punk meets the Replacements" game, pulling off the always great combination of performing their songs very close to the original versions, but still feeling loose and non-robotic.  A lot of bands struggle with getting the right mixture in their live sound - LYM seem to have it locked down.

Roomrunner opened the show.  I didn't know one goddamn thing about them other than they were from Baltimore.  They set up on the floor in front of the stage and played really REALLY fuckin' loud.  A friend who has seen many more shows than me at Slims said it was the loudest he's ever heard a band in there.  My first impression, other than the volume, was that of mid-nineties melodic punk, the sort of stuff Revelation Records released a lot of.  Bands like Fireside, Quicksand, even the last Jawbreaker record maybe.  They didn't sound exactly like any of these acts, but would have fit in well with them.  I'd see them again, but I am very glad I had my earplugs with me. 

Allo Darlin' / The Wave Pictures / The Big Picture at Local 506 - 4/27/2012

Allo Darlin'
with The Wave Pictures & The Big Picture
Local 506

My excitement for this show appeared to be inversely proportional to the attendance of it.  Having no idea if anyone listens to Allo Darlin' or not, I eagerly bought a ticket right after they were released.  Turns out that wasn't necessary.  And while I wish more folks had been there to see this incredible band, part of me loves that it felt like I had them all to myself (or more like all to our fifty-or-so selves).  The band live, in a word, was fantastic.  Very, very tight and professional musically, as any good pop band should be.  Not sure if I'm dense or it's just not easy to tell, but I had no idea how many of their songs had ukelele in them - singer Elizabeth Morris manned the tiny guitar on at least three-quarters of their performance.  And speaking of her - oh that voice....angelic, golden, insert your own descriptor.  I've never been huge on female singers, but the ones I do like I really, really, REALLY like.  And Ms. Morris' voice is as good as any I've seen live in years.  They played much of their new album "Europe" as well as a fair bit of their self-titled debut.  The crowd, while small, were more than enthusiastic - these people were just as happy seeing Allo Darlin' as I was, and we all made up for poor attendance by cheering extra hard between songs.  Hopefully the band had a good time and come back again...I'd probably still buy an advanced ticket, as I'd never want to chance missing them. 

There were a couple of openers, first of which was The Big Picture.  A local band apparently, they had a hippie-pop sound and felt like the house band of some sort of free love cult.  I guess you'd compare them to Edward Sharpe, which means you're basically comparing them to Rusted Root, and that seems like an insult when I'm not really looking to insult the group.  There was a bunch of them on stage including a standing drummer and a couple of cute gals and I think at least a pair of brothers.  You ever been sorta impressed by a band, but at the same time not that into them?  That was these guys for me.  I'd give them another listen though if they were playing with someone I wanted to see. 

The middle group was The Wave Pictures, who were over from England doing the whole tour with Allo Darlin'.  At their best they reminded me of a ramshackle Clientele, but for some reason they deemed it a good idea to insert guitar solos, sometimes more than one, into every single song.  No doubt the guitarist was incredibly talented, but hearing it song after song it was a bit too much for me.  They seemed like nice lads though and were great at awkward banter between songs, just wish I could have gotten into their music more. 

Chain and the Gang / Paint Fumes at Kings - 4/11/2012

Chain and the Gang
with Paint Fumes

I had a ticket to Magnetic Fields for this same night, but when I saw Kings announce that Chain and the Gang were going to be playing on the same night, I was looking for a buyer for that ticket two seconds later.  Why does Chain & the Gang get my dander up so much?  Easy - Ian Svenonius, former front man for one of the greatest bands of all time, Nation of Ulysses, is also the man behind Chain & the Gang.  I never got to see the Nation live (one of my great regrets in life); but I did get to see his next band The Make-Up a couple of times, and Chain was very much a continuation of that spectacle.  I guess their music would be best described as garage punk, with a heaping helping of...sassiness.  Ian struts around the stage like Mick Jagger after a three day bender, cocksure and televangelist-like in delivering his sermon, er, songs.  The band plays along nicely, either very well rehearsed or quick at recognizing when Ian is going to deliver one of his monologues that leads into a song.  I was a little surprised there weren't more people there, but it was clear that everyone who did show up were as big of fans as I was.  After the gig I said to someone they sounded like the house band in a John Waters film, which is a huge compliment in my book. 

Paint Fumes opened the show.  It feels like this statement could be uttered many, many times over the past six months in Raleigh...these guys never stop playing.  I realized this time they have a song that reminds me a ton of "Sonic Reducer", even though it had never occurred to me to think of them as sounding like the Dead Boys.  They have a much poppier vibe than those classic Cleveland proto-punkers.  And for a couple of songs, a Wooden Shjips/psyche rock vibe, complete with prolonged instrumental jam sessions that never quite crossed into hippie territory.  I'm glad these kids are playing so much, because they are one of my new favorite locals on the scene. 

Colossus / US Christmas at The Kraken - 4/7/2012

with US Christmas
The Kraken

Going to see US Christmas aka USX sometimes takes you to off-the-beaten-path locations.  Turns out this particular visit to the Triangle had them playing at a mini metal festival on the outskirts of Carrboro at a bar called the Kraken.  Five miles outside of town is like a different world though...this was not the Cat's Cradle or Local 506.  This seemed like the sort of joint that would have been in the running as a filming location for "Road House" - I was both surprised and disappointed that there wasn't barb wire around the stage to protect the band from the patrons throwing bottles.  They had four wheelers parked out front, video poker, signs for a "lost goat" on the bulletin board, and airbrushed pictures of conquistadors on the wall.  There were actual Hell's Angels in attendance apparently.  Despite having grown up in a world not that different, I felt very much like an outsider, as if I stumbled into the setting of a real-life Harry Crews book. 

Despite or maybe because of all that, it was a damn fun time.  In their never-ending quest to perform in different configurations every time I see them live, USX were playing as a four piece.  Despite the barely existing PA the sound was actually half decent, in the loud-as-fuck sort of way.  The band played songs from a pretty wide swath of their releases, and I quite enjoyed it.  As did the crowd, a weird cross-section of humanity including hipsters, rednecks, rockers, bikers, random old drunk men, and even a handful of women!  For my money they could have just played their last record "The Valley Path" in it's entirety, but I do recall them playing "Lazarus" and that was almost as good. 

Colossus were...interesting.  Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but pretty entertaining throughout.  Real showmen for sure, lots of playing to the audience.  They play a party rock version of "new wave of British heavy metal" bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, and at least for part of their set played it well.  And then about four or five songs into their set, maybe sometime around when all the shots and hard lemonades they chugged kicked in, things got sloppy.  They were still pretty fun to watch, but the songs went off the rails.  Most of the crowd was so drunk and rowdy that it didn't really matter though. 

And then I went outside and ate a plate of BBQ, how any weird southern gothic night of metal should always end.