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
5/23/2015

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
Kings
5/11/2015

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

USX
with Generation of Vipers and Sinister Haze
The Cave
4/29/2015

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.