Wednesday, April 8, 2015

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

Twerps
with Ultimate Painting
The Pinhook
3/16/2015

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
3/6/2015

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 Hill...my 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 tendencies...like 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
2/7/2015

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.