Sunday, December 13, 2015

Bandway / Pipe at the Cat's Cradle - 10/24/2015

with Pipe
Cat's Cradle

It had been a little over four years since I last saw Bandway, at 2011's Hopscotch Music Festival, which was the last time they performed live as far as I know.  That seems to be pretty much the norm for them, get together every few years to rock the balls off the select few people with the goddamn good sense to show up.  There were probably a couple hundred of these smart people on this night, and I recognized a ton of them - I would bet 90% of the crowd was probably at any Bandway show I attended nearly twenty years ago.  We were all older and some of us fatter, but our love of a good time has never diminished. 

The big difference between this gig and the couple of others they've played over the last, well, decade, is they actually recently released a new album, "Buddies," their first since 2002's "Night Rock."  They were playing new songs!  Awesome new songs that is, to go along with classics like "King Kong" and "Balls Out" and "Champagne" and all those other gems that gets the crowd singing along vigorously.  It was, in a word, glorious. 

I think you can sum up the awesomeness that is this band with the following quote from Brooks Carter, frontman of the gods:
"This song is about love...the purest love of all...the song is called 'White Nipples.'"

Pipe opened the show.  To paraphrase Wooderson from "Dazed and Confused" - "That's what I love about Pipe, man. I get older, they stay the same band."  They started with "Gutterball," ended with "Ashtray," and there was plenty of high-quality, high-kick filled punk rock in between.  It's always sort of the same thing with them, but it's a same thing I'm always happy to see.  Singer Ron Liberti was full of antics as usual, laying down flat on the stage while still singing at one point.  It was a quality night of rock all around, one that doesn't happen nearly often enough. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Caspian / Circle Takes the Square at Kings - 10/20/2015

with Circle Takes the Square

Decided on a whim to go get my post-rock on with Caspian.  I hadn't paid much attention to them since their first record "The Four Trees," but I was pretty sure they would deliver live.  I might have even seen them in concert once back in my SF days, but it's been so many bands over so many years, shit is starting to get fuzzy.  They're on the the heavier side of the post-rock spectrum but not quite metal, and despite vocals on a couple of songs they very much feel like an instrumental band who just happens to forget to accidentally not sing every once in a while.  They showed up at Kings like a pro outfit with a full light show including glowing matching boxes(?) on top of each of their amps and lots of strobe.  More importantly they sounded amazing - even though I barely know their material, they held my attention throughout.  Yeah, they do that same quiet-loud-quiet thing that all these bands do, but they did it at about the highest level possible.  I'd gladly go see them again, and I bet I even remember this show this time!

Technically the opener was Circle Takes the Square, but the gig was advertised as a co-headlining tour...maybe they take turns each night headlining or something, I'm both too lazy to figure it out and don't really care.  They were what I guess you'd call prog metal...not my bag.  It can be fun to watch prog bands play because you never know what kind of crazy direction it is going to go, but that got old pretty quick.  Even worse, as near as I could tell none of the songs were about the game show Hollywood Squares...I wanted songs about Jim J Bullock and Shadoe Stevens goddammit!!!  For the record, all of my Hollywood Squares humor fell on deaf ears with my British show companion. 

Archers of Loaf / Flesh Wounds at the Cat's Cradle - 10/17/2015

Archers of Loaf
with Flesh Wounds
Cat's Cradle

How many times have I even seen Archers of Loaf at this point?  I think this is the fourth time since the "reunion," and who knows how often during their initial run.  What I do know for sure is they instantly make me feel like I'm a kid again - no different than that first time I saw them in high school, senior year I think, just after "Icky Mettle" came out.  No different mentally at least - my back, legs and feet might argue differently.

What can I say about a show that I've seen so many times before though?  It was highly entertaining, but that's no surprise.  Matt Gentling has let his hair grow out, which adds an extra layer of movement to the lurching he already does while playing bass.  Eric Johnson was wearing a bad ass Pipe shirt and I would gladly stab a drifter in the buttocks to get one exactly like it that fit me.  They played all of the "Vs. the Greatest of All Time" EP, though not in order.  They were playing a lot of "d ep cuts" according to Eric Bachmann, and after a false start on "South Carolina" Eric commented "...deep cuts so deep I can't remember how to play them."  There was a ton of tracks off of "Icky Mettle," 3/4ths of the album maybe.  Other highlights included "Fabricoh," "Harnessed in Slums," "Dead Red Eyes," "Nostalgia," "Form and File"...fuck it, every song was a highlight.  The encore was the biggies - "Wrong," "Web in Front," and finally "White Trash Heroes," with everyone (plus an extra dude) playing guitar except for Gentling.  The crowd was singing along so loudly to some of the songs it sounded like an adult version of Kidz Bop was being held in the Cradle.  It was a great night.

Local punk rock killers Flesh Wounds opened the show and burned through fifteen or twenty songs in barely over thirty minutes (probably the longest set I've ever seen by them).  The constant touring as both this band and as Mac McCaughan's backing band the Non-Believers has made them incredibly tight.  Guitarist and lead singer Montgomery Morris seems angrier with each passing show - it's like he's trying to dominate the music more than actually just play it.  Considering how many punk bands these days seem like lovable good guys on stage, it's kinda nice to have a little snarling attitude come at you.  Also, he spits a lot.  Speaking of Pipe, they ended their set with a cover of the local legends, and Flesh Wounds did a great job of owning it like they wrote it.

Jeff the Brotherhood at the Odditorium - 10/11/2015

Jeff the Brotherhood
The Odditorium

It's been so long since Jeff the Brotherhood came to the Triangle to play, I had to go to Asheville to see them.  Ok, technically I was already up there showing the new baby off to the family, but when I saw they were playing I extended my stay through Sunday night so I wouldn't miss them since they never make it any further into the state these days. 

As expected, it was a weird and mostly young crowd - kids with crazy tattoos and piercings talking about train hopping, rowdy crowd surfers, someone hanging from the rafters (the ceiling is really low in this club), and at one point a girl was on stage next to the band doing difficult yoga poses, which even seemed to amuse the band.  One guy in the front extended his hand out and held it in a thumbs up for a large chunk of the show.  Also, it was hot as goddamn balls in there, and packed, so the smell was just lovely.

Despite all of that, I had a damn good time, mostly because JtB were killing it.  It had been a little while since I had seen them last, and their set-up had changed a little - Jake is now playing a full six-string guitar instead of only three strings like he had every other time I've seen them.  He killed it on his clear acrylic guitar regardless, and probably would have done so even on one string.  Jamin no longer was running their own personal light show via some foot switches and cheap mechanic lights, which I always enjoyed for the record, but I guess it's a little less shit to set up at every show for them.  The set was a good cross section across their whole catalog, including a couple of covers - Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl" and Teenage Fanclub's "Mad Dog 20/20" (this cover also available on their EP "Dig the Classics").  They had a giant set list on the ground, but it seemed to be used more as a suggestion than a bible as they seemed to kinda play whatever they felt like.   

It was a damn good time, smelly street rat kids and all.  I was so sweaty when I left that I put on an unwashed thrift store t-shirt I had in my car just to get dry.  You can't catch herpes from a t-shirt can you?  Eh, it's too late now. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Protomartyr / Amanda X at Kings - 10/20/2015

with Amanda X

The last time Protomartyr played at Slims was one of the best shows in recent years - not only did they kill it, but Whatever Brains and Spray Paint were also on that bill.  I really, really miss Whatever Brains.  Anyways, this time through town they stepped up to a larger club and made Kings their home, a smart choice given how packed Slims was last time around.  As this was a tour for their newest record "The Agent Intellect," there were lots of songs off of that excellent album, an album that will definitely be one of my top three favorites of the year.  Plenty of older songs too, including the amazing "Scum, Rise!" - as long as I get to hear that track, everything else is gravy.  As per usual, singer Joe Casey stalked around the stage like a drunk professor, usually with a beer in his hand.  If this band played live once a month I would go every time, happily. 

The opening band was a trio of females from Philadelphia called Amanda X that I knew nothing about, but I'm pretty sure none of them are named Amanda.  You very rarely meet anyone named Amanda anymore ya know?  My very first thought when I see a band made up of three ladies is Ex Hex, who I've been obsessed with for the last couple of years.  Amanda X sound nothing like Ex Hex unfortunately, but you could definitely draw some comparisons to Mary Timony's old band Helium - heavy nineties indie-pop vibes with some Sonic Youth-style guitars going on.  It was a pretty enjoyable set, but short - I'll hold off on final judgement until I hear some recordings by them.  I'm definitely intrigued though. 

Destroyer at the Cat's Cradle - 10/8/2015

Cat's Cradle

You never know exactly what you're going to get at a Destroyer show.  Well, you know some of what you will get - you'll get a large, professional band, and Dan Bejar will barely move while he performs, other than stooping to attend to his selection of alcoholic beverages on the stage.  The biggest question mark is that the set-list can vary greatly - despite the new record, Bejar & company decided to widely sample the entire Destroyer catalog.  I mention this because on their tour a few years back for "Kaputt," they pretty much only played that record.  Not that they avoided the excellent new album "Poison Season" - I believe they actually kicked off the set with the Al Stewart-gone-disco jam "Forces from Above," and also played "Dream Lover" along with a few other new tracks.  Other highlights included "Savage Night at the Opera," "Chinatown," "Rubies," "It's Gonna Take an Airplane," and "European Oils."  Bejar still continues to ignore his best record "Streethawk: A Seduction" as well as my mental pleas for them to play "Notorious Lightning," but overall I have no complaints.  Possibly the most entertaining part of the whole night was the girl standing next to me, who was having her own personal Beatlemania moment for the duration of the show - complete with high pitched squeals, lots of tightly clenched hands waving in front of her face, and erratic jumping up and down.  She was acting so wacky that even the band took note of her a couple of times.  I hope to someday get that excited about...well, anything.  Maybe if Destroyer ever plays "Notorious Lightning" I'll have the same reaction. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Spider Bags / Dick Diver at the Nightlight - 7/9/2015

Spider Bags
With Dick Diver
The Nightlight

No disrespect to the always awesome Spider Bags, but the impetus for my driving out to Chapel Hill on this Thursday night was to see Australia's Dick Diver.  And to also eat at Carrburritos obviously, but that part is a given for any trip to Chapel Hill.  I'm not sure what is in the water down under, but it seems like nearly every Aussie band I have lent my ears to lately I come away loving, and that was definitely true with this four piece from Melbourne.  On record they sound a lot like kids who grew up on the New Zealand sound of the Clean and the Bats and the 3ds and that crowd - that may or may not true, and it seems entirely possible that Australians would never admit to being influenced by New Zealanders (I'm possibly creating a rift between the two countries completely out of thin air mind you), but pretty much everyone seems to hear the same thing as me.  Live you get that vibe as well, but there is something else there, something almost Stone Roses-ish...Stone Roses with amazing harmonies.  They were quite endearing and funny between songs as well, seemingly fascinated with American truck stops and weird flip flops (or as they called, them, thongs) and talked of going to F. Scott Fitzgerald's grave and farting.  It was everything I could ever want out of the live show of a new favorite band.  The Aussies don't often make it past the west coast, but I hope they travel back over here to the east again and often. 

I was feeling kinda beat but if Spider Bags are playing it's not like you can't watch at least a couple of songs...and once you've taken in a couple of songs, you might as well see a few more, until you get sucked into nearly the whole damn set.  There was a guy posted up front and center who clapped along vigorously throughout the whole song for most of their set, a level of enthusiasm that was impressive at first and quickly escalated to fucking annoying.  The band didn't give a shit though, powering through jam after jam and making me happy by performing "Que Viva Rock n' Roll" and "Keys to the City" back-to-back.   As with every other time I've seen them, they're still the best live act in the area - here's to seeing them at least a few more times before the end of 2015, as one should.

The Rolling Stones at Carter Finley Stadium - 7/1/2015

The Rolling Stones
Carter Finley Stadium

It's not often I go to giant, expensive stadium shows where you can enjoy a corndog or nachos (or both) with your rock-n-roll, but how many more chances is there going to be to see the Rolling Stones?  I know it's a well worn trope, but any or all of the band could keel over from old age any minute now.  The family felt the same as I did, and made the trip down from the hills to join Chelsea and I for this gigantic concert extravaganza. 

I've been to a number of NC State football games at Carter Finley, but for some reason the crush of fans looking for parking and walking to the venue seemed ten times greater.  My best guess is that at football games tons of people get there hours early and trickle in slowly through the day, whereas this concert was mid-week after work so everyone was coming at the same time.  Due to my mom's anal retentiveness, we got there plenty early and sat around the parking lot for a while, enjoying refreshments and watching all forms of humanity stream by.  A truck parked a couple over from us was breaking the cardinal rule of playing a band the day you are going to see them, but other than that it was mostly just a bunch of almost-drunk, middle-aged (and much older) white people ready to have a good time.  

The Avett Brothers opened.  We saw a couple of songs.  I question that they are all brothers.  I think at one point I commented that it was music for people who wear large neck amulets.  That's all I really have to say on that. 

As for the real show - our seats were pretty much dead center, which turned out to be a pretty good spot.  All of the floor seats were crazy expensive (as opposed to the regular expensive where we sat), and unless you were in the very front I'm not sure it was worth it.  They had a penis-like extension that reached out pretty far into the crowd, which Mick and Keith did a fair amount of strutting up and down.  It actually sounded pretty decent where we were sitting, or at least as decent as you might expect from an outdoor stadium show.  The set list was as expected - lots of their most popular songs like "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Satisfaction," and "It's Only rock-n-Roll" that I honestly never need to hear again.  But they also played a bunch of their other hits that never get old such as "Honky Tonk Women," "Miss You" (that disco bass line will always rule), "Sympathy for the Devil," and "Gimme Shelter." 

Rock n' Roll Partyfest at Slims - 6/20/2015 & 6/21/2015

Rock n' Roll Partyfest
6/20/2015 & 6/21/2015

I waited way, way, WAY too long to write this review, so it will be a very abridged version because I can barely remember shit.  Long story short, they held a two day mini-festival of (mostly) local punk and garage bands in the sweatbox known as Slims.  I didn't see all of the bands because I am ultimately a very lazy person, but this is who I did see...

Thick Modine - three piece who played a soulful, bluesy version of garage rock.  Singer had a nice set of pipes - a couple of their songs reminded me a little of early Bob Seger.  The band was a little sloppy, but still fun enough. 

Drag Sounds - they used to be from Greensboro but now live in Baltimore - damn that city for constantly stealing our best.  They were one of my highlights from last year's Hopscotch, and probably the best thing at this Fest.  Really should have seen them more when they were still local.  Top notch garage psych, with the occasional foray into AC/DC style riffage.

Paint Fumes - You can't have a fest like this and not include Charlotte's finest.  I don't think I had seen them since before the singer's injury, but they were just as great as ever.  The band now features members of (now defunct?  Still not clear.) Last Year's Men as the rhythm section.  They performed a great cover of the Stooge's "1970."

Acid Chaperone - newish local four piece that really impressed me - instrumental stoner surf punk, if there is even such a genre.  Reminded me of a heavier Family Dollar Pharoahs, a great local band that broke up possibly before most of the band was even born. 

Natural Causes - the new hot shit in the local punk scene, it's most of the kids from Last Year's Men, and as mentioned above I have no idea the status of that band that I loved so much.  I assume they're either broken up or on hiatus, and if that's the case Natural Causes are a pretty great consolation prize.  This group is a little less Reigning Sound-ish soulful garage, and more in the vein of spazzy synth punk ala Lost Sounds.  They also would occasionally get a little snotty and aggressive in a Circle Jerks kind of way.  These kids are playing constantly so I'm sure I'll see them a lot more.    

Black Zinfandel - The whole band was wearing matching shirts that read "Black Zin Gang" and they said it was their first show in a year.  I've always been impressed by them - they're not really punk or metal or any one genre in particular, just heavy in the best sort of way.  I'd really like one of those shirts. 

It was a fun time, outside of all the sweating I did.  Hopefully they do it again next year. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Hopscotch Music Festival in downtown Raleigh - 9/12/2015

Hopscotch Music Festival
Downtown Raleigh

The Final night was upon us, and for me it would begin with country legend Dwight Yoakam.  Sure, I know his lines from "Sling Blade" better than I know his music, but I'm always down to soak in an artist of his magnitude at least for a little while.  The band was all decked out in tight sequined outfits, with Dwight basically painted into his denim - his calling card for at least three decades now.  I couldn't tell you any of the songs he played, but everything sounded great - I see so many punk and indie rock bands that it's easy to forget what a well-oiled machine a professional band like this sounds like.  The crowd was pretty hilarious - I was right next to a pack of middle-aged woo girls who spent the entire time taking selfies of each other while yelling and drinking a ton of cheap beer.  Hopefully Hopscotch made a little scratch off of this particular event, because there were definitely a ton of people at this show that I'm certain didn't otherwise attend the festival.

Eventually I wandered down to the Lincoln Theatre to see some of Wovenhand, though I couldn't tell you off the top of my head why I decided on that as my next destination.  Maybe they just had a cool sounding name?  Yet again the band was terribly backlit - you're killing me Lincoln.  The music was heavy with an almost tribal, repetitive vibe, and I was into it; but I wasn't sold on the vocals - when he was singing all I could think of was the Cult, and I'm not sure I (or the world) needs another Cult.  After a couple of songs I moved on.

I had grand plans for the night, bouncing back and forth from club to club like one does during Hopscotch, but ended up just spending the rest of the night at the Pour House.  First up was Birds of Avalon, a band I've seen many times, and for good reason - they're fantastic.  Even though as a general rule I try to see mostly out-of-towners during this festival, I never miss these kids.  They've been great for a while now, but a few months back they added the drummer from Valient Thorr as a second drummer and now they are exponentially better, if that was even possible.  I commented to someone that they "won" Hopscotch, and that was probably true - best set of the entire festival.  Every member of this six-piece band seems to be working at the peak of their abilities, and we're all better people and music fans for it.  On their last song Greg Fox of Guardian Alien and Liturgy and god knows who else added even more drums, and the band collectively lost their minds in a heavy psyche rock freakout.  Apparently NYC taper recorded and have or will be posting this set...find it.  Download it.  Love it.

I've seen them before, and I still don't know what to make of Zack Mexico.  Six members total, with two drummers (that will be a theme tonight), and at times it felt like only the bassist was holding their shit together.  Somehow they sound like a garage rock version of a Pavement / Velvet Underground hybrid...I think.  Or maybe not.  Honestly, I spent most of my time just watching the antics and trying not to get killed by the moshing & crowd surfing bros who were ramming in to me non-stop.  Every song is somewhere between ten minutes and a year long, and that combined with their very charismatic lead singer makes it feel like you're at a house show of the world's strangest cult.  Before their set was over, the singer would hand out safety vests and goggles to his fellow band members, destroy one Telecaster, possibly break another, give both guitars to the crowd, throw (what was apparently fake) money in the air, and by the end there were at least five people banging on the drums.  It was both a mess and fun, and I'm not sure I need to see them again for quite a while.

The up side of being at the Pour House for so long is I had a great spot for Australia's King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, the band I was probably most looking forward to for the entire festival.  The down side is they were the last band of the entire festival, things were already running quite late - I probably could have laid down and slept on the floor right in front of the band if it was socially acceptable to do so.  Also, after constantly getting slammed into for the duration of the Zack Mexico set, my body was really fuckin' mad at me for putting myself through that again.  I watched a few songs of their epic garage psych and it sounded great, but honestly my heart just wasn't into it anymore, and my brain was shutting down.  Even seeing the lead singer play a little rock flute wasn't able to snap me back, and that was when I knew my Hopscotch was over.  Hopefully these kids come back around the planet and play for us again when I'm in a better frame of mind to enjoy it.

Thumbs up Hopscotch - you did it again.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Hopscotch Music Festival (Day Parties) in downtown Raleigh - 9/12/2015

Hopscotch Music Festival
Day Parties
Downtown Raleigh 

Due to work and a new baby now living at my house, Saturday was the only day I was able to make it out to day parties.  I had two main reasons for going out - Flock of Dimes and Pipe - but managed to see some other hot jams while I was out and about.

I was so eager to make sure I didn't miss Flock of Dimes that I got to the Pour House super early and ended up catching part of the set by Leverage Models.  I knew nothing about them, so here are my super basic & probably dumb observations...six piece from New York; two drummers, one with a full kit (including rototoms!) and the other with bongos and various other percussion; They sounded like big eighties rock crossed with the Postal Service crossed with Enon crossed with a late night talk show band; two singers, both decked out in white with fake white flowers attached to their mic stands; the dude singer looked like Greg Dulli's little brother, and the gal singer was probably in my top three most attractive people I've ever seen in real attractive that it made me wonder if I was hallucinating or if she was possibly a robot.  I'm not even sure how I felt about their music, but I would contemplate seeing this band again just to look at her.  

I cannot express how excited I was for this Flock of Dimes show - not just because I would get to see Jenn Wasner, one of my favorite musicians in the whole world, but because it fixed my toughest scheduling conflict of the entire I would not have to choose between her and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard later in the evening.  It took her a little while to get everything set up - I literally have no idea how she (and others of similar ilk) manage to keep straight what wires go where when you have over a dozen pedals, multiple keyboards, both a guitar and bass, and god knows how many other gadgets...guess it's a good thing I'm not musically inclined at all, because that would definitely make me quit if I was.  She stated two important things during her show - she would be playing all new songs, and she just moved to the Triangle from Baltimore.  The second statement is especially important, because it hopefully means lots more Flock of Dimes and maybe even Wye Oak shows in the future...and not just because it will make it much easier for me to stalk her - I'm way too lazy to stalk anyone.  Anyways, yadda yadda yadda all the new songs sounded great - in the past I would say Flock of Dimes sounds like a mellower, more electronic version of Wye Oak, but given the direction of the last Wye Oak record "Shriek" I'm not sure there are any real differences to note between Wasner's two acts.  As long as both involve her singing and playing the songs, that's totally fine with me.  

I was on my way to Kings next, but when I got to the door I could hear that Make was still playing downstairs at Neptunes.  A friend does some promo work for them and has been singing their praises for a while, so why not see what they are about?  I only saw a few minutes but I was really feeling it - doom metal but with an early Metallica sort of flair, the vocals more screamed than delivered with the guttural Cookie Monster voice you usually get with these bands.  They almost had a post-rock vibe, but heavy as shit at the same time.  I really want to hear their whole album now, and I think I know exactly the person to talk to about that...

Flesh Wounds were the next act playing upstairs at Kings, and they're always a fun time.  Apparently I'm not the only one who feels that way because the place was pretty close to packed.  Like always, they played their brand of OG style punk with aggressive and snarling abandon, as if it was a disease they were trying to exercise from their body.  It went over quite well with the ample crowd, and soon there was a mosh pit full of middle-aged white men in shorts swirling in front of the stage.  I've seen Flesh Wounds at least a half-dozen times at this point, I really need to buy their goddamn record.

As is always the case anytime they play, Pipe was the highlight of the day...or rather festival...or hell, all year.  My love of this band knows no bounds, and based on the median age of about 37 at this (still packed) show, I'm not alone.  You always know what you're going to get at a Pipe show, because they've been playing the same songs, in pretty much the same way, since the mid-nineties.  Singer Ron Liberti is one of the most entertaining front men in the country, hamming it up on a near constant basis - it's almost like watching a stand-up comic front a punk band.  The only two things I can think to say about this Pipe gig over any of their others is they didn't play "You're Soaking in It" which is a bummer, and it wasn't until the last couple of songs that the crowd started pelting the band with beer cans, a typical sight at any show of theirs.  Oh yeah, and Ron let everyone know he hates a dry biscuit.  Pipe is everything I've ever loved about live music, and god bless them for still doing it right. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hopscotch Music Festival in downtown Raleigh - 9/11/2015

Hopscotch Music Festival
Downtown Raleigh


I haven't really paid much attention to TV on the Radio since their first record "Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes."  For some reason my love of that album never carried over to their other releases...just too much music in the world I guess, and they got lost in the shuffle.  I did see them live around the time that record was released at the tiny Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco, and it was a great show.  Seeing them again over a decade later, in this giant city plaza with thousands of's quite a change.  For the thirty or so minutes I watched them perform, I didn't know a single song they played but it sounded great and reminded me I need to listen to some of their other albums.  I'm hoping they played the amazing "Staring at the Sun" at some point, but I was needed elsewhere - I would have gladly stuck around for more had I been able to.  It should also be noted that the white guitarist had a wind chime dangling from the headstock of his guitar.  I felt like everyone needed to know this.

The reason I didn't stick around longer at TVotR?  HeCTA were playing up the street at Neptunes, and they were one my must-sees for the entire festival.  HeCTA is a side project of Kurt Wagner, frontman of one of my all-time favorite bands Lambchop.  It was imperative I get to the club in plenty of time so that I did not miss this set, and I was successful in this endeavor.  The band is mostly electronic with live drum accompaniment and the occasional guitar...and Wagner's vocals of course.  Those vocals aren't delivered in a very straight forward manner though, Kurt seemed to be running them through a litany of knobs and twiddlers and whatnot piled on the table in front of him.  In the most simplistic terms possible, you could just call them Dancechop, because anytime you add his vocals to anything it's gonna sound like some form of Lambchop to this dumdum.  HeCTA have a new record that just dropped (or is about to) on Merge, and if I wasn't looking forward to it before I definitely am now after this performance.

Since I was in the building already, I walked upstairs to Kings to see what was happening.  It was a local rapper named Ace Henderson, a young kid with a big smile who was taking his sweet time taking the stage.  Luckily he ended up being worth the wait...I don't hold the strongest opinions on modern hip hop (understanding fully I'm not the target audience), not so much for the content (I've never much cared about the lyrics regardless of style of music) as I generally just don't like the way the kids rap these days.  Ace seemed to be a step above - had a nice, almost throwback nineties flow but doing it over more modern sounds.  I only caught a few songs, but I was pleasantly surprised and glad I popped up.
(Old man rant: I miss the music of rap in the nineties when it came from records and scratching and lots of jazz samples and goddammit I'm old...hrrrmph.)

My next act was all the way over at Deep South, a quartet from Brooklyn called Pill (good luck finding a website for them with that name, I was not successful).  I didn't know anything about them other than a label connection to Parquet Courts, but it turned out to be a smart decision.  Their music was all over the place, noisey and skronky and punk and weird and oh yeah they had a saxophone going nuts the entire time.  They have a very specific local comparison in Picasso Trigger, a band most people in the Triangle have forgotten, and I'd be extremely shocked if anyone in Pill had heard of them.  For their last song, the band Guardian Alien joined them on stage for an all out musical assault that ended with the bassist detaching all of the strings from the headstock and swinging the bass around by them.  Most importantly, this band had the best collection of awesomely bad, probably-homemade tattoos that I've ever seen - the highlights were "Free WiFi," "Pobody's Nerfect," and a really (probably intentionally) shaky Garfield that read "I Love Mondays."

I made it over to CAM in time to catch the last couple of songs by Moon Duo...who are now a trio?  I guess it's been a little while since I've seen them, not that it has really changed their sound - the drums are just live now.  The music is still incredibly repetitive in the best Krautrock sort of way, with sparse vocals and an ability to put anyone into a trance.  To no surprise they were playing in the dark with some projections playing over them, aka I got a bunch of shit photos.  I would have seen more of their set but I had to wait in quite a line to get into CAM, only to finally enter and see that the place was maybe 3/4ths full.  Thanks for making us all wait outside for no reason doorman!

The closer for the evening, Roky Erickson, is someone I've wanted to see for a long, long time.  He might be getting pretty old, and his young supporting band seemed to be carrying most of the weight musically, but his voice and songs are still on point so it was worth the wait.  The up side is by the time he came on I had weaseled myself into a great spot; the down side is I was six plus hours into rock music this evening, and fading fast.  I stuck it out for quite a while - not long enough to get to "Two Headed Dog" way at the bottom of his long set list, unfortunately, but I did hear him tacle 13th Floor Elevator's "I've Got Levitation" and that was a treat.  After that, it was a long walk back to the more long day to go. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hopscotch Music Festival in downtown Raleigh - 9/10/2015

Hopscotch Music Festival
Downtown Raleigh

These old legs might be a year older and there might be a fresh baby at home, but Hopscotch doesn't care...gotta get out there if you wanna rock n' roll.

This year would begin with Godspeed You! Black Emperor, who were headlining the first night at City Plaza.  A strange choice (in my opinion) to play as the main band on an outdoor stage, but there were enough people waiting to see them that clearly there was demand.  Their instrumental post-apocalyptic post-rock was the perfect accompaniment for the storm that was rolling in...and then about 15 or 20 minutes into their set, the sky unloaded.  Most of the crowd scattered except for a few hardcores; I found an eave to stand under that blocked some of the precipitation, but with the wind blowing there was really no hiding from it.  I stuck it out for a few more minutes, but I'm just not a big enough fan to sit through a thunderstorm for them.  They really need to play seated venues anyways - if the whole band gets to sit down, I want to sit down too!

The closest venue is the Lincoln Theatre, which worked out nicely since that was my next destination anyways.  I hadn't planned on seeing Some Army, but with the rain throwing a wrench they make a pretty great consolation prize.  I'm never exactly sure how to describe a band like this - they have a big, "adult" pop sound, the sort of band that would be getting radio airplay and having the majors fight over them if it was 20 or 30 years ago.  The sort of pop where the songs aren't instantly catchy, but they worm their way into your brain after a couple of listens.   They played with the lights off and a projection shining on them, which led to a few decent and lots of bad photos, as tends to happen.

Mac McCaughan is why the Lincoln was my destination to begin with - when he plays, whether solo or in one of his bands, I try my damnedest to be there.  I don't particularly have anything new to say about someone I've seen live dozens upon dozens of time, but as always he was great.  Flesh Wounds has been his backing band for a while now, and it's working out royally - very tight and with it.  One major difference from his other "solo" shows I've seen is there were no Superchunk or Portastatic songs in the set at all, just tracks from his new album.  The only exception was the final two tracks of the show - covers of "Teenage Eyes" by Spider Bags, and "NC Royalty" by Antiseen, with Mac acting like a hardcore singer for the latter.  All eight people in attendance who know who Antiseen is were eating it up.  

I made my way up to Kings to see Wildhoney, and by the time I got in the club they played about 20 seconds before ending their set.  I wasn't even that late, apparently they only played about 20-25 minutes.  People said they sounded exactly like My Bloody Valentine, and that was certainly what that 20 seconds I heard sounded like.  Maybe I can catch a whole minute or more of them live next time they come through town.   

Local band Dad & Dad played next.  They played nearly in the dark (what is with this trend?) which didn't make my camera happy, but musicians are gonna musician.  I don't really know shit about them other than they have some connection to T0W3RS, which was reason enough to see what they were all about.  I would best describe them as theatrical pop like Of Montreal - not that they sound like Of Montreal, just that their style reminded me of the same over-the-top, almost musical theater-like vibe.  I'm honestly not sure how I felt about it overall, but it did hold my attention for a little while. 

I popped into the Pour House to see Fórn pretty much only because I just happened to be walking by the club and had a bit of free time.  They are a doom metal five piece from Boston, with two dudes who looked totally metal, and the other three who looked like they would be more at home in a NYC hardcore band circa 1988.  Then again I know a bunch of metal dudes personally who have that same look, so maybe I just need ot update what my idea of a metal look is.  The music was rad - heavy and sludgy and thick, but as always I could do without the growling vocals.  That's not really a problem with this band per se, more just my personal hang up with this type of metal.  I dig the rest of the music so much though that I can deal with it. 

Outside of Mac, Lydia Loveless was probably my most anticipated set of the night.  She was right next door at Tir Na Nog, and after a bit of a delayed start she more or less burned the place down.  I knew very little of her going in, but left a huge fan.  A friend described her as "Lucinda Williams fronting the Replacements," and I'm just going to steal that because I can't think of anything better.  Her voice is...perfect.  As is her giant Elephant Man tattoo on her right arm.  As soon as I got home I instantly grabbed her last two records online, and I look forward to listening to them on repeat for the next few months. 

Lydia was never going to be topped, but I decided to pop back in to the Lincoln Theatre to see a bit of Battles.  The place was packed, more packed than I've ever seen that venue - it was uncomfortable and smelled like a sauna that hadn't been cleaned in five years.  I had totally forgotten that Ian Williams (formerly) of Don Caballero was in Battles, but I recognized his armpit-high guitar playing instantly.  They were fun to watch for two or three songs, but their brand of funky carnival/calliope music has never really been my bag.  They sound the way a Chapman stick looks.  I was clearly in the minority though based on the crowd reaction, or maybe they're all Chapman stick fans.   Whatever, I went outside and ate some Pie Pushers slices and went home a happy man. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Future Islands at Carrboro Commons - 7/26/2015

Future Islands
Carrboro Commons

Sorta-local rock stars Future Islands were playing their 1000th show, and decided to do it via an all-day part in Carrboro.  Between the pregnant wife and general laziness we only arrived in time for the headliner, but the line-up for the whole day was pretty great - Lonnie Walker, Valient Thorr, Ed Schrader's Music Beat, Dan Deacon and Danny Brown - the crowd definitely got their money's worth.  A crowd that, by and large - at least where I was standing - was awful.  I'm stoked for Future Islands that they are as big as they are, they certainly deserve it, but this level of popularity really has a way of stirring up the dregs of society.  I mean, yeah, I bitch about how awful the crowds are all the time, because I generally hate everyone - but this was probably a new level...we're talking water park level patrons. 

Anyways, back to the actual performance - the band sounded great and played a nice cross-section of their music, including a few rare early tracks.  Lead singer Sam Herring was a little more subdued than usual, possibly because the of the outside heat, or maybe the whole gravity of it being their 1000th show was weighing on him.  He also talked a ton between songs, lots of reminiscing about the band's early days which led to the wife stating "too much yapping"...she's not known for her patience.  I think it was expected though, and the crowd didn't seem to care - after a day of music and heat and sweating and drinking, they were all lubed up pretty well and not feeling any pain. 

Not the ideal scenario, but it was still fun...and maybe we can take the kid to their 2000th show, this time outside of the womb. 

Morrissey at Carolina Theatre - 6/15/2015

Carolina Theatre

Finally, after more cancellations than the current NBC sitcom schedule, Morrissey showed up in North Carolina for the first time since 2009.  On that tour I drove to Myrtle Beach and saw one of the oddest shows ever put on by him, from the setlist to his clearly shredded voice to the insane crowd.  This outing was better than that one to be sure, though much more subdued, due partially to the theatre being all assigned seats, and even more because of the setlist that focused so heavily on his new this point I've come to expect the second part from Morrissey, but that doesn't make it any less of a disappointment.  The highlights of the night for me were three-fold: He kicked off the gig with "The Queen is Dead," and how could you not get excited about that; "Speedway," a long-time favorite with an added twist when one of the band members sang the last verse in Spanish; and most importantly, his voice sounded fantastic.  Other top tracks included classics "Suedehead," "Everyday Is Like Sunday," and "Now My Hear Is Full," and newer hits like "First of the Gang to Die" and "The World Is Full of Crashing Bores."  From my spot in the balcony I couldn't really see the video board, which ended up being a plus when he aired a graphic animal abuse video during "Meat Is Murder" - though it was still cool to hear the song.  The only other noteworthy thing that come to mind was the use of a didgeridoo during "World Peace Is None of Your Business" - it was nice seeing it used as an actual instrument and not just a hippy accessory.  It was an expensive show, and he only played a few songs I was really excited to hear, but any chance to see Morrissey is one worth taking. 

Belle & Sebastian / Alvvays at Echostage - 6/11/2015

Belle & Sebastian
with Alvvays

Another year, another trip out of town to see Belle & Sebastian, since they will never play here in the Triangle apparently.  At least this time we didn't have to get on a plane, instead driving up through the never-ending abyss that is Virginia to our nations capital, Washington DC.  The band was playing in a giant box called Echostage that usually hosts the drug-addled EDM crowd, and based on the level of police presence outside no apparently informed them that the twee pop crowd B&S draws isn't likely to cause the same level of problems.  In fact, as the wife noted, the only work they seemed to perform on the night was to tell concert-goers that they would have to go to the bottom of the hill to catch their Uber rides after the show. 

Strange setting aside, the band put on a rousing performance - eighteen songs total including the encore, with many from their new record "Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance."  They did not spare any part of their catalog though - at least five of the tracks were from early records "Tigermilk" and "If You're Feeling Sinister," plus some of their early singles like "Jonathan David" and "I'm Waking Up to Us."  Stuart mentioned a few times had put together a set of animal songs, and he wasn't lying - included on this night was "Funny Little Frog," "Judy and the Dream of Horses," "The Fox in the Snow" and "Dog on Wheels," much to my delight.  They had created videos for the backdrop for a couple of the new songs last time around in Miami, but this time it appeared that more tracks had video accompaniment than didn't.  The band was running fourteen deep this time with a local quartet of strings and a trumpet rounding out their sound, as seems to be the norm.  The strings seemed much bolder in the mix than the last couple of times we've seen them - not sure if this was a decision of the band or something the club did, but either way I liked it.  The club was hot as balls, and much more crowded than last time, but in the end it was a glorious good time as always. 

We caught most of the set by the opener Alvvays, and they get a big thumbs up (not something I can often say about B&S opening acts).  I had listened to their self-titled debut a few months back and thought it was fine but nothing spectacular; live, though, it really worked - retro jangly guitar pop with a little surf twang.  As is my way, I immediately start trying to figure out who they sound like, and for some reason I kept coming back to Velocity Girl - not an exact match, but a similar vibe.  A couple of the songs had the pop hooks of a modern pop act like Best Coast, but with a heavy C86 vibe...and if any of the band members of Alvvays were even a thought in their parents eyes when that original C86 compilation came out, I would be shocked.  I'm now going to revisit that self-titled record of theirs, because I have a feeling I'll have a much greater appreciation for it the second time around after experiencing them live. 

Spider Bags at Person Street Bar - 6/6/2015

Spider Bags
Person Street Bar

A free Spider Bags show at a matinee's like they read my mind, everything I ever wanted in a live show.  They were playing as part of the Indy Week's "Best of the Triangle" party, held in the parking lot of Person Street Bar.  For an outside show the sound was pretty damn good, if a bit loud - then again, I was standing up front taking photos and forgot my earplugs so it's my own damn fault my ears were ringing for a couple of days afterward.  I suppose it was like any other Bags show, and I've seen them a lot of times, only this time it was in broad daylight, had random non-fans, dogs and children wandering around, and people were feasting on Mexican food from the food truck parked near the stage (for the record, I support more Mexican food being available at rock shows...and non-rock shows...well, pretty much all the time, everywhere).   They played all their hits like "Keys to the City" and "Que Viva Rock n' Roll" and a lot of their most recent record, "Frozen Letter," plus a couple of new songs, one of which was an epically long, mostly instrumental kraut/swamp/boogie affair.  As with all Spider Bags shows, I left the affair completely satisfied, already plotting when I'd next get a chance to see them again. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mac McCaughan / Flesh Wounds at the Cat's Cradle Back Room - 5/23/2015

Mac McCaughan
with Flesh Wounds
Cat's Cradle Back Room

I've not spent nearly enough time seeing Flesh Wounds live, for reasons that are entirely not clear to me.  They put on a great live show and I'm way into their brand of punk rock, and yet...this is only the second time I've seen them play.  To no surprise they were fantastic, burning through a dozen or so songs in probably not much longer than twenty minutes, barely stopping to catch their breath.  It's unclear how much the mostly middle-aged crowd was feeling their youthful exuberance, but I was certainly up front and way into it.  I've really gotta make an effort to see them more often. 

For the second time this year I would get to see Mac McCaughan play a solo set apart from my beloved Superchunk; for the first time this year, I would be able to see his set in it's entirety since I didn't show up late like a damn fool.  His performance was really three sub-sets, with Flesh Wounds (or as he referred to them "the Non-Believers") acting as his backing band at the beginning and the end, and Mac all by himself for a little while in the middle.  The full band portions were made up mostly of songs from his new solo album "Non Believers" and at least one Portastatic track - it was all quite enjoyable, but since I've not really digested this solo material yet I wasn't quite as invested as I usually am at a show by Mac or any of his bands.  But that middle portion where he was all by himself - yep, all Superchunk, and real goddamn exciting as always.  Some highlights included "Detroit Has a Skyline," "Driveway to Driveway," "Iron On," and "Watery Hands."   Of course he didn't play even close to everything I wanted to hear with such a small portion of his set dedicated to the Chunk, but it was a nice selection and a fun night. 

Lightning Bolt / Whatever Brains at Kings - 5/11/2015

Lightning Bolt
with Whatever Brains

Lightning Bolt might have been the headliners, but make no mistake Whatever Brains were the main draw on this night.  Sure, I've seen them dozens of times, but word on the street (aka my friend John who is friends with the band) is this was going to be their final show.  Upon hearing this news a different friend asked me "what are you going to do for fun now?" - the only answer is there will be no more fun ever again.    Now, this word of the end of WB comes from a reliable source, but the band hasn't explicitly said anything about it themselves, and they are planning on recording a new record, so who knows what happens at this point.  I certainly wasn't going to take a chance of missing the gig if it did end up being their last performance, and worst case scenario is they keep playing but I just saw another show by them, something I've never had a problem with.  Anyways, yadda yadda yadda, it was a great show with lots of whistles and rototoms and dual drumming and Rich making crazy faces while he plays guitar, just as we've come to expect from these guys.  I think I was sorta expecting one of their more "weird" shows since it was supposed to be the last one, but it was a pretty straight-forward effort.  No complaints outta this guy though. 

I saw Lightning Bolt a few times back in my San Francisco days - they played all the time for a non-local band, or maybe they just never stopped touring so it felt that way.  They were always a fun show, even if every gig pretty much felt (and sounded) the same.  After a number of years out of the loop, I stuck around after Whatever Brains to see what has changed for them - apparently, the big difference now is they play on stage in stead of the floor.  But they're still a two piece, still play brutal barely melodic noise rock, still with the singing drummer wearing a creepy mask with the mic attached to it, and still attracting a mosh heavy crowd of bearded dudes.  And still fun too, to be fair, though after five or six songs I felt like I'd had enough of it all and headed home. 

USX / Generation of Vipers / Sinister Haze at the Cave - 4/29/2015

with Generation of Vipers and Sinister Haze
The Cave

I've probably mentioned it before, but I've been friends with Nate Hall, the front man of USX (aka US Christmas) since high school when he wore ridiculous vertical striped polo shirts and had a bowl haircut.  I saw him perform not too long ago but it had been quite some time since I had seen him with this particular outfit (he also has another band called Nate Hall and the Poison Snake, as well as releasing solo records) - USX was the first, and continues to be my favorite of all his different efforts.  The band has had many forms and different members, but the current line-up of Nate singing and playing guitar, Meg on violin, Josh on bass, and Billy on drums appears to be the most stable they've ever been, and their most enjoyable for my money.  Their set was a nice mix of songs from across their spectrum of albums, a concise and powerful 45ish minute set; it was a stoned, sludgy, slow metal dirge with occasional bursts of power and aggression.  As always, I dug it; nevertheless I still made fun of Nate after the show, as I've always done, as it shall always be.   

This was my first time seeing Knoxville's Generation of Vipers, even though I've known 2/3rds of the band for quite a while.  Josh and Billy of USX make up the guitar/vocals and drums along with a cat named Travis on the bass.  Unlike USX, GoV is much more straight-forward metal - heavier, faster, etc - but that's not to say it's generic or rote.  And maybe it's just me, but there is a heavy punk vibe infused into their songs, though I'd be hard pressed to give an adequate answer as to why I feel that way - just a feeling I guess.  I get a similar vibe from a band like Coliseum, and I think you could make a very light comparison between them and GoV. 

The first band I saw this evening was Sinister Haze, an almost totally instrumental trio out of Richmond (there was a touch of vocals on their last song).  Knowing very little about metal (I'm pretty sure you already realized that), I'd say they reminded me a stoner rock version of Russian Circles or someone of that ilk.  The drummer was absolutely ruthless and killed it the entire set.  I'd definitely see them again, and hopefully being only a few hours away will mean that happens sooner rather than later. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Big Business / Birds of Avalon at Neptunes - 4/6/2015

Big Business
with Birds of Avalon

I was a little surprised they booked this show at Neptunes and not up at Kings, especially since there wasn't anything happening at Kings on this night, but the bookers here have been putting on gigs for a while so I'll defer to their expertise.  I do know Neptunes was fairly packed and hot and overwhelmingly populated by dudes with beards...there's probably a bear joke in there somewhere. 

I got there just a few minutes before Birds of Avalon started their set, once again proving my natural instinct for knowing when a show will actually start is amazing, and why can't I be this talented at any actual useful skills.  When I saw them play a few months ago with Ex Hex, their regular drummer wasn't available so they had the drummer from Valient Thorr filling in - who did a fine job.  With their regular drummer now back, but the Thorr cat still available, what do you do?  Two drummers of course!  They played together like they were mentally and physically linked, and it sounded awesome.  Other than that, it was the typical fantastic Birds of Avalon outing - heavy kraut rock jams with hints of prog and pop mixed into the fold, all while a light show enveloped the performance.  They're easily one of my favorite local live acts, and not to be missed if you have any goddamn sense. 

I saw Big Business a ton of times back in my California days, which seems like yesterday...only I moved back to North Carolina seven years ago so it has definitely been way too long since I last witnessed their pummeling brand of sludgy punk metal.  From Karp to the Whip to now Big Business, Jared Warren keeps his sound in the same lane regardless of band, but the results are always excellent, so no complaints here.  Drummer Coady Willis beats the drums so hard during every single song that it's amazing he doesn't spend a fortune in replacement drum heads; he's such a badass that you totally forgive him for wearing a headset mic.    I don't know shit about Big Business when it comes to song names or any of that nonsense, but they put on a helluva good performance - unrelenting really - and the low ceilings and tight confines of Neptunes made it feel even more intense.  hopefully I won't be so stupid as to wait this long before seeing them again. 

Sylvan Esso / Flock of Dimes / Ivan Howard at Carrboro Commons - 4/3/2015

Sylvan Esso
with Flock of Dimes & Ivan Howard
Carrboro Commons

Sometimes a good show just falls right into your lap.  Rosebuds singer Ivan Howard got added as an opener for this gig at the last minute, and our mutual friend (and touring Rosebuds member) Brian decided to drive up from Wilmington to check it out.  Brian and I got over to Carrboro early, met up with Rob (who also plays with the Rosebuds occasionally), and dicked around town at some record stores and the OCSC until it was show time.  Carrboro Commons, the location of the evening's entertainment, isn't actually a venue but rather a city park, and apparently all 4500 tickets had been sold.  It was going to be a wild (and crowded) night. 

By the time Ivan Howard took the stage around 6 PM, there were already a ton of people there - I suppose if even a quarter of the expected crowd was there when he began playing, that's over a thousand people...kinda nuts.  It was just Ivan and his electric guitar, and he played songs from across his career as a musician - Rosebuds songs, Gayngs songs, Howard Ivans songs (the solo moniker he used on a seven inch he recorded with Matthew White's Spacebomb crew a couple of years back), and even some new solo work that hasn't been assigned to any of his other monikers, and might just come out under his own name finally.  I couldn't tell you much about the new material as it was my first time hearing it, but one of the songs was about the hairdresser from the show "227," so I eagerly anticipate that one getting fully fleshed out and recorded.  Even though it was mostly a very young crowd there to see the headliners, they were supportive and seemed to be into what Ivan was cooking up. 

I was most excited for the middle act Flock of Dimes.  Why?  Because it is the solo act of Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak, a person I have a crush on in every possible way you could have a crush on a person: shreds the guitar, great voice, writes awesome songs, and as if that wasn't enough, she is very pleasant to look at.  I had never listened to this solo work of hers before, but given how much I've listened to Wye Oak it would be almost impossible for it to not sound very familiar to me.  Lots of prerecorded music to go with multiple keyboards and synths made up the bulk of the performance, along with a small amount of guitar and her terrific vocals.  The best comparison would be the most recent Wye Oak album "Shriek," minus the real drums.  I was mesmerized for the entire set - I don't have the vocabulary to state just how fantastic it was.  She is perfect.  My wife is likely filing divorce papers on me now after reading this review...who am I kidding, she doesn't read any of my nonsense! 

It's pretty nuts how big Sylvan Esso have gotten - just a couple of years ago I saw them opening for the Rosebuds at Hopscotch in front of a decent-but-not-large crowd and there was a little blog buzz about them.  Now, after one album and a shitload more buzz, they've gotta be the most popular band to ever come out of the area.  Even Superchunk or the Archers of Loaf in their heyday could not have sold out this park and filled it with so many young people in various states of undress and druggedness.  I'm not even sure their set has really changed in that couple of years - it's still mostly the same songs, and there aren't many of them (their set couldn't have been much more than 45 minutes long), but that didn't seem to bother the crowd that was aggressively singing along to hits like "Hey Mami" and "Coffee."  And same songs or not, they put on a damn entertaining show for a pair of people singing and dancing around on stage to a pre-recorded track...I'm still coming around to the idea that bands can perform even though no instruments are being played live, but the kids today definitely don't give a shit - live music is live music no matter how it is delivered it seems.  All that really matters is you have a good time right? 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Twerps / Ultimate Painting at the Pinhook 3/16/2015

with Ultimate Painting
The Pinhook

It's that time of the year, the time when touring acts on their way either to or from SXSW make a stop in the Triangle to entertain our country bumpkin ears.  First up on this evening was Ultimate Painting from the UK...I'd heard of these cats for a little while, and they released a record on the great Trouble in Mind, but this was my first time actually hearing them.  The verdict on this four-piece of fancy British lads: a damn fine pop band.  The biggest, most immediate influence you hear is the Velvet Underground, especially in the first and last songs of their sets, which were long, stretched out rockers in the vein of VU's "Sister Ray."  I also heard dabs of the Zombies, early Teenage Fanclub, and even the Clientele.  The sound was very clean, driven mostly by the hollowbody guitar one of the guitarists played, and I was way into it. 

All of that was a bonus - I was actually at the gig to see one of the newest Merge signees, Twerps, out of Australia.  They also play pretty straight-forward pop music, sounding more like the Kiwi pop of the eighties (the Clean, the Bats, the 3Ds, etc) and occasionally a little bit like Yo La Tengo.  With both male and female lead vocals, the set can take on different vibes from song to song, but I dig what both singers are offering.  I felt like the dude singer occasionally sounded like Ben Lee, but I'm not sure if he actually sounded like him or my brain was just making the link because both are Australian.  The room was decently full (though not packed) for their set, and it seemed pretty well received.  I know I was into it - hopefully their being on Merge means they come back and play often, or at least as often as a band from the other side of the world can. 

Outer Spaces / Lace Curtains at Nice Price Books and Records - 3/6/2015

Outer Spaces
with Lace Curtains
Nice Price Books and Records

I hadn't been all that excited for a show in a few weeks, so of course when two good gigs finally rolled around both were on the same night.  I bypassed two of my very favorite locals that I've seen a million times, Whatever Brains and Pipe, in lieu of checking out a couple of bands I'd never seen before.  It also didn't hurt that this show was in Raleigh and the other in Chapel code of laziness is the one I take the most seriously. 

I was there mainly to see opener Lace Curtains.  The singer is from the excellent Austin band Harlem, which is the whole reason I knew of them in the first place.  Harlem ruled, for the record.  The first Lace Curtain's record "The Garden of Joy and the Well of Loneliness" was really damn good and even though I hadn't heard their more recent output, I was sure the show was going to be a keeper.  They started their set off with a couple of songs from that older record before getting on to newer tracks, so that made me quite happy.  The six-piece band was pretty damn tight, which made for a nice juxtaposition with the singer who was a bit sloppy off of too much wine, but in an endearing & entertaining sort of way.  They're a tough band to describe musically, sort of an indie-soul-pop with occasional garage rock a mellower/less schticky Make-Up perhaps.  It was a grand time and I was already pleased with my decision to attend this gig. 

I knew nothing of the next act, Outer Spaces, but decided to stick around for a couple of songs to see what they were all about.  Good decision by me - I ended up watching the entire set and loving every second of it!  The trio hails from Baltimore, a couple of dudes manning the drums and keys and a gal with an amazingly beautiful voice in charge of guitar and vocals.  They reminded me a lot of our very own Mount Moriah, though a little less twangy; perhaps another comparison would be Young People, a criminally underrated band in my opinion.  I rushed right over to the merch after their set to buy their record, and will be making every effort to see them again if they come back to town. 

WKNC Benefit - Spider Bags / Lonnie Walker / Mac McCaughan at the Lincoln Theatre - 2/7/2015

WKNC Benefit
with Spider Bags, Lonnie Walker, and Mac McCaughan
Lincoln Theatre

Every year WKNC puts together a couple of shows full of great local talent that help raise funds for the NC State radio station.  This year they were holding one here in Raleigh (this one), and another over at the Cradle in Carrboro a week later, giving at least two-thirds of the Triangle access to a great event.  Sorry Durham, you gotta drive. 

My most anticipated act of the night's bill was Mac McCaughan (of Superchunk) playing solo.  Of course, as is my way I got there way too late and only caught hi;s last three songs...what's worse is I was late because I got sucked into watching an episode of "Cops"...seriously.  Sometimes I'm stupid on a level others can't touch.  Anyways, I walked in to Mac saying "I wrote this song when 'Powerslave' was still on the charts" and then he banged out the great "Tie a Rope to the Back of the Bus."  That one and the next track "Skip Steps One & Three" were both probably older than 3/4ths of the audience.  He closed the night with the Portastatic song "Noisy Night" - I suppose if you're going to be stupid enough to arrive late, at least the three songs I did get were good ones. 

I suspect most of the crowd was here for Lonnie Walker, though I didn't conduct a survey or anything - just the vibe I got.  It was my first time seeing them with the new line-up aka my friend Mike (formerly of the Annuals) now playing bass for them.  I'm not entirely sure how long this has been going on - I do vaguely recall Mike mentioning it in the past but that could have been six months or two years ago with the way my memory works.  They haven't lost a beat with his addition and are still a fantastic live act, even if they are still playing (mostly) the same songs they have been playing for the past half decade.  Don't get me wrong, those are some good songs, but I think we're all ready for a new record!  There were a couple of songs I didn't know that I assume are new tracks, and they sounded great, so hopefully something new is on the horizon. 

The final band was Spider Bags, which makes sense because you can't possibly expect anyone else to follow their live performances.  The club turned every red light in the house on, making the stage look like Kramer's apartment when they opened that Kenny Rogers Roasters.  The band then scorched through a huge swath of their set, and I was happy to see so many of the young kids stick around for what is the best (or at least second best after Whatever Brains) live band in the area.  I often have a lack of words for them, because how much can be said about a straight-forward rock and roll band like this?  It must be witnessed and felt, not just read about.  Que viva Spider Bags. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Parquet Courts / Priests / Whatever Brains at Kings - 1/26/2015

Parquet Courts
with Priests and Whatever Brains

To be perfectly honest, I was mainly at this show for openers Whatever Brains.  Sure, I've seen them probably two dozen times at least, but any chance I get to soak in their insanity I try my best to jump on it.  And luckily I jumped on this one early, because this show sold out a while ago.  What can I say about a WB show that I haven't said so many times before?  It was awesome, as always.  There was multiple uses of whistles from multiple band members.   LOTS of roto tom drum action.  Even though they just had a release party a couple of months ago for their new record, they've already released a cd-r of nearly 80 minutes of new material - from a sheer quantity standpoint, they're turning into the Guided by Voices of noisy punk or whatever the hell category you might try to put them in (they don't seem to fit anywhere, so you probably shouldn't bother). 

I had gotten the value of my ticket from that performance, so anything else good from tonight was gravy.  I knew absolutely nothing about Priests other than a couple of friends had spoken highly of them, so I was going in completely blind.  This is my very rudimentary take on the band - a four piece from DC; all women except for the guitar player; music is bass heavy, almost verging on funky, but still more-or-less punk; guitar was as likely to be adding texture and noise to the songs as playing chords or rhythm; the singer was very engaging, partially for her performance (lots of stalking around the stage and dramatic flair), and partially for her outfit (tight dress that you'd expect to see at a nightclub rather than on a stage, plus giant stiletto heels).  If I had to make a comparison, I'd go with Sonic Youth meets the Slits, but would to hear some of their recordings to further flesh out this vibe I got.  I quite enjoyed their set, and would definitely see them again.  Luckily, they seem to play down here fairly often. 

The headliners were Parquet Courts, but I was already waning to be honest.  I don't have the youthful exuberance that most of the crowd seemed to have, but I stuck out at least half of their set.  They're one of those bands that I enjoy when I randomly hear them, but I never actively seek their material out.  Their records are pretty straight forward garage pop, or at least what I've heard, but their live show had an injection of, I don't know, Pavement-style slack or something of that nature.  I think I actually enjoyed the live renditions more than their recordings to be honest, there was an extra bit of life to them.  I'd see these guys again, though probably not after standing around at the club for three hours.  The slow down in live music attendance on my part in the winter really takes the life out of my show legs!

Ex Hex / Birds of Avalon at Kings - 1/3/2015

Ex Hex
with Birds of Avalon

Almost two months after seeing them for the first time, here I was at Kings to watch Ex Hex again.  The first time I saw them was so great, it wasn't particularly hard to talk myself into making the effort to show up at Kings.  Since they only have one album, the set list this time was pretty damn similar to what I saw at the Pinhook, the band as tight as ever while performing their upbeat, snarling garage-ish pop.  The only real difference was the cover songs - last time we only got the Kids' "All Kindsa Girls," while this time not only did we get that gem, but also Johnny Thunders' "You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory" and Sweet's "Fox on the Run."  The last one especially got me (and clearly much of the crowd) excited.  It was a great time, and if they come back in another two months chances are I'll be there again.

As great as Ex Hex was, I was possibly more excited for openers Birds of Avalon.  Despite being local (so local a couple of the band members are actually part-owners of Kings), they don't play a ton - but every time I see them, I love them more than the previous gig.  They were playing with the drummer of Valient Thorr as a fill-in, but the band sounded as stellar as ever.  Where you might have once made classic rock references to their performances, these days they are fully ensconced in the Can/Neu! bubble of sound. Most of what they played this night was from their new EP out on Third Uncle records, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes their ears full of goodness.