Wednesday, May 6, 2015

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

Big Business
with Birds of Avalon
Neptunes
4/6/2015

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
4/3/2015

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?