Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Thermals / The Ex-Boyfriends at Café du Nord - 1/14/2005

The Thermals
with The Ex-Boyfriends
Café du Nord

It was a goodly night of rock music at Café du Nord.  First on the bill was local rippers the Ex-Boyfriends, whose gruff brand of punk/pop always brings to mind the Archers of Loaf, Jawbreaker, etc.  They are like a throw-back to the glory days of that sort of music, aka the nineties, but without sounding dated at all.  Given that a couple of the members are gay, there was a lot of humorous banter between songs that leaned toward the homosexual side, and had the crowd laughing quite a bit.  A funny, gay rock band that plays music that I like?  Sounds like a recipe for success.  (Full disclosure - I'm friends with one of these guys.  That doesn't make them any less rad.)

The Thermals were the headliners, and had come down from Portland to play for the kids.  And by “the kids,” I seriously mean the kids – this was all ages and apparently they are popular among the younger lot, because the place was sold out and littered with (what I would guess were) highschoolers.  Every time I saw a cute girl I felt like a perv for looking at her, since she was probably under age and I don’t wanna go door-to-door telling my neighbors I’m a pederast like Jesus in “The Big Lebowski.”  Despite all that the Thermals were great as usual.  I’m still the only person I know who really thinks they sound like a punk rock version of the Mountain Goats, but seriously, that’s all I can think of when I hear them.  Lots of songs from both of their albums were played, which I guess is a given considering how short their songs are.  Everyone seemed real into it which was a nice change from the last time I saw them opening for Mates of State.  For a band from so near to our fair city, I sure wish they’d make it down here more often, because it’s always a great time.

The Thermals / Rogue Wave at Bottom of the Hill - 10/9/2003

The Thermals
with Rogue Wave
Bottom of the Hill

What more can I possibly say about Rogue Wave?  Their album "Out of the Shadow" has gone from being one of the best "local albums" to one of the best albums of the year, period.  Every time I see them they sound better and better, really coming together as a cohesive unit.  All of their new songs are amazing and I’m insanely eager for them to record again so I can get my hands on it and listen all the time, not just at shows.  Top that off with the fact that they are all as nice as can be, and you’ve got a winning combination.  Every time I see them, the crowds are larger and larger - tonight they were the opening band and the place was already packed.  Go see these guys (and gal) now while they’re still playing a lot locally, because as soon as they get huge and the local hipster magazines tell you to buy their album, you’ll be pissed you didn’t get on this train earlier.

I was really excited to see the Thermals, as I’d missed the opportunity to see these Pacific Northwesterners their previous couple of trips through town.  I knew if they lived up to their debut album "More Parts Per Million," I was in for a treat.  Well, they did.  Playing a large chunk of that album as well as some new tracks, they were full of vim and vigor and got the crowd bouncing (and by crowd, I mean my friends and I who were actually there for the Thermals and not headliners Mates of State who I've never gotten excited about). Hopefully some of them enjoyed it but I saw a lot of sour-pussed sweater wearers in the crowd.  Regardless, The Thermals brand of non-pretentious punk laced with Guided by Voices-style melodies made me as happy as pig in shit, and inspired a spending spree back at their merchandise table.  I’ll be looking forward to their next jaunt through town, most definitely.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Girls at Thee Parkside - 8/26/2004

The Girls
Thee Parkside

I had planned my evening around finally seeing the Girls – for once, I wasn’t either previously engaged or out of town when they would be playing in our fair city.  I went to the show thinking they would be playing second, the middle position if you will.  This was further communicated to me by the fact that the line-up listed at the front door listed the Girls in the middle slot (technically “The Swinging Gaylords - formerly The Girls” is what was listed).  Imagine my surprise, if you will, when they ended up being the last band.  Now I don’t ask for a lot of things, I’m pretty easy to please, but this sort of thing drives me insane.  This was only compounded by the fact that the band now playing in the middle slot, formerly the headliners, was incredibly terrible.  Even wasting some time playing ping-pong couldn’t save this catastrophe.

But enough dwelling on the negative, let’s look towards the light – and that is the Girls.  I’d fallen in love with their Cars-tinged punk when I got their self-titled CD a while back, and the live show lived up to my expectations.  By the time they came on the stage, well into the next day, most of the crowd had thinned out, but it was obvious that everyone who stuck around was definitely there to see these guys play.  There were a few songs I didn’t recognize, but most of it held pretty close to their record.  The set was short but lively, and all things considered (some genius decided to explode a stink bomb just outside the club), the band seemed to be enjoying themselves.  I wanted to help them out by buying something after they played, but I already had their only musical release and I couldn’t see myself sporting one of their t-shirts that featured a pair of pixilated breasts on the front, so I had to pass.  But any fan of synth-driven and extremely-poppy punk should do themselves a favor and check this Seattle quintet out. 

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

The Clorox Girls / The Bananas at Thee Parkside - 3/13/2004

The Clorox Girls
with The Bananas
Thee Parkside

I actually had a ticket to go check out the mellow country sounds of the Court & Spark down the street at Bottom of the Hill, but somehow it just didn’t feel right this night – something in me wanted a rock show, and by god I was going to have it.  I sold my ticket and then made my way a few blocks down the street to Thee Parkside, where it’s widely known that if you want a rock show there’s a good chance they’ll usually oblige.  This night's bill featured a million bands like most nights at Thee Parkside, but the ones I actually caught were the Bananas and the Clorox Girls.

Right after I stepped in the door the Bananas started playing… this band came recommended from someone whose opinion in music I value, and they were right – they were a lot of fun.  The singer was full of funny quips, the music was sloppy and poppy and a little bit punk, and the drummer was sitting on a crate that he broke by the end of their set.  I had no idea if they had anything for sale
because I would have surely bought it - they certainly didn’t say anything about it if they did.  Then again, bands like this work best in a live setting anyways.  The ample crowd seemed to know all of the words to their songs, there was lots of "happy" moshing (essentially drunken bouncing off of one another with a lot of laughing), and I doubt a soul in the place was having a bad time.

Somewhere between the first and second bands some random kid pinched my ass and then tried to blame it on his girl; I have no idea why (well, alcohol obviously), but that coupled with his incessant quoting of “The Chapelle Show” just made the night all that more silly and fun.

After waiting forever, the Clorox Girls finally took the stage.  For the record, none of them are girls, in case you were wondering.  The band was pretty straight-forward three-chord punk like you've heard a thousand times.  Like the Bananas, the band was very sloppy but not nearly as poppy.  Word on the street is their album is decent, I’ll have to keep my eyes open for it in the future.  Things did end on a high note - apparently the club blew a fuse, which led to all of the band's instruments crapping out on them all at the same time.  The Clorox Girls' reaction to this was to have a big pile-on with each other on stage, resulting in plenty of bewilderment and smiles from band and crowd alike.  The only instrument still audible at the end were the drums, and that was only until they were tackled.

I really wanted to stick around for The Fleshies, but I could hear my bed calling from the club; and at the rate the bands were breaking down/setting up, I would be there for quite a while before I ever saw them actually take the stage.  So home I went, happy with my choice of seeing a rock show this night – it really scratched that itch.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Noun / Modern Hut / Lonnie Walker at Nice Price Books and Records - 7/9/2014

with Modern Hut and Lonnie Walker
Nice Price Books and Records

I finally made it to Nice Price for one of their rock shows.  Yeah, I popped and caught a band at a matinee gig while I was out and about a month or two ago, but after telling myself I would show up for multiple gigs, I finally followed through.   

Lonnie Walker was the first act of the night...or at least part of Lonnie Walker - singer Brian, Nathan of DiggUp Tapes on bass, and a drum machine.  I guess the rest of the band wasn't available and Brian wanted to do something other than a solo show, but who knows.  The set list was a lot of the usual subjects, "Compass Comforts" and "Summertime" and their cover of Art Lord & the Self Portraits "Bouncing Away" which I honestly always thought was a Lonnie Walker song.  There was also a new song (or at least new to me) at the end of the set that sounded a shitload like Modest Mouse's "Dramamine," only further cementing in my head the comparison between the two acts.  The band members might change but a Lonnie Walker show hasn't much changed in five years, and I'm not complaining because I always enjoy seeing them. 

Modern Hut had the middle slot.  The band was a two piece, a dude who handled most of the vocals and Marissa from Screaming Females on backing vocals - both were also playing electric guitars.  I knew Marissa was going to be in the final band Noun (this was a major part of the motivation to get off the couch and to this show), but had no idea she was involved with this act.  The music was earnest and the vocals spoken almost as much as they were sung - the closest quick comparison I could come up with is the Silver Jews or more broadly, music you would have expected to be released on Shrimper in the mid-nineties.  I wasn't nuts for the music to be perfectly honest, but it was decent and it seemed like a lot of the kids in the crowd were digging it.  Oh yeah, the crowd was super young...that's almost not worth my mentioning anymore, because I'm clearly the outlier in these scenes. 

As mentioned earlier, Noun aka Marissa from Screaming Females finished the evening.  It was just her, her guitar and her wicked vibrato voice.  The crowd piled in close around her and made it tough for me to take photos (which was already tough due to the extreme lack of light), but somehow I survived the whole ordeal.  I'd never heard any of this solo material, and honestly to me it just sounded like Screaming Females songs minus the rest of the band.  The songs were maybe a little less rocking and her guitar playing a little less shredding, but Marissa's voice is so unique it would be difficult not to compare this solo act to her main gig.  She was great though - if you've seen Screaming Females you know she puts on a great live act, and even a slightly mellower version of her is still a win. 

Museum Mouth / Ghostt Bllonde at Kings - 6/6/2014

Museum Mouth
with Ghostt Bllonde

As frequently seems to be the case, the older I get the less likely I am to go out and see the new young bands that are always popping up.  No matter what my age is, there is always a pack of dudes in their early twenties ready to take on the world with their rock and/or roll. 

The first band I saw tonight was Ghostt Bllonde - yes, the misspellings in their name are apparently intentional.  I often comment how young the crowd is, but this time I suspect many got into Kings via fake IDs.  I had 15 years on almost every person there who wasn't actually working in the club...including the band.  They were a lively bunch though, crowd and band alike, very upbeat and dancey and having themselves a fine Friday night party.  The music was sort of a combination of jangly pop ala Lonnie Walker mixed with a little dance pop upbeat catchiness.  It was sometimes a little sloppy, but everyone seemed to be having fun so who cares right?  I would see them again, and look forward to seeing what these young lads grow into. 

Despite being from Wilmington, this was apparently the album release party for the new Museum Mouth record "Alex I Am Nothing."  Maybe they also had a release party in their hometown and just wanted to have more parties, who knows.  Either way I'd been hearing about these kids for a little while and then heard one of their tracks on the local NCSU college radio station WKNC and felt it imperative I see what they were all about live.  They are a three-piece with the unusual characteristic of a singing drummer - like our very own local Phil Collins or something!  I'd put their sound firmly in the pop-punk camp, but we're talking more Jawbreaker and Husker Du and Archers of Loaf than Blink 182.  On some of the mellower numbers there was also a bit of Connor Oberst maybe.  It was a fairly quick set, and I dug it enough to buy the record at the end of the night. 

Foals / J. Roddy Walston & the Business at the Red Hat Amphitheater - 5/2/2014

with J. Roddy Walston & the Business
Red Hat Amphitheater

Some local radio station was putting on a free show, I didn't have shit else going on, so why not hit the town?  I'd never been to Red Hat or seen any of the bands, so it seemed like an entertaining enough way to spend the evening. 

As always, free shows bring out weird crowds - lots of very young kids, random old people, stoners, wookies, folks that are likely homeless, and rejects from the filming of "Spring Breakers."  The line was all the way around the block so my idea of catching most of J. Roddy Walston & the Business was out the window - I did get to hear most of the set though, and we finally got inside in time to take in the last three or so songs.  I've had friends for ages saying they are must-see live, and even though this was probably the wrong venue I could see what they were getting at.  The band, especially J. Roddy, were very exciteable and enthusiastic on stage, playing their piano-led southern bar rock with a great deal of zest and - dare I say it - pizazz.  They were somewhere in the spectrum between the Hold Steady and Kings of Leon, with a little Ben Folds mixed in.  The crowd seemed into it, much more so than I expected.

The middle band - Foals - was the main draw for the evening (we didn't even stick around for headliners Cage the Elephant).  Where the band is from in England they apparently sell out eleven thousand seat venues in a matter of minutes, but in Raleigh they're the middle act of a free gig.  Amazing the difference an ocean can make sometimes.  The band has put out four full lengths, the first two were even on Sub Pop, but somehow I missed all of this.  Anyways, yadda yadda yadda, the band basically plays a modern, updated version of that Brit pop sound we've all known and loved for ages now.  It's a tough sound to precisely describe, but we all know it when we hear it.  They put on a good stage show, had a lot of fancy lights happening, and the crowd ate it up.  I'm not sure they were a band I'd seek out for a regular paying gig, but for a free show?  They were well worth it.