Thursday, September 13, 2018

Hopscotch Music Festival, Day Three around downtown Raleigh - 9/6/2018

Hopscotch Music Festival
Day Three
Downtown Raleigh
9/8/2018

We've hit the home stretch - the final night of Hopscotch.  I kicked my evening off with MC50, which was a supergroup comprised of the only suriving member of MC5, Wayne Kramer, and a rotating cast of well-known musicians assisting him.  On this night he had Brendan Canty (Fugazi) on drums, Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) on guitar, Billy Gould (Faith No More) on bass, and Rob Tyner doppelganger Marcus Durant (Zen Guerrilla) doing most of the vocals.  They performed the classic MC5 album "Kick Out The Jams" in it's entirety (plus maybe more in the encore that I missed).  Like the Revolution the night before, did it feel like I was watching a cover band?  It did, as I honestly expected it to.  Was it still goddamn enjoyable?  It sure was.  Clearly, the musicianship was off the charts with this group, and how can you not be happy hearing "Kick Out The Jams" played live?

After a while I moved up to Slims to see some of Karaoke, out of Atlanta.  Have fun trying to google that band name.  A five piece with a female singer that reminded me of Sloane from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," I'm pretty sure I fell in love with her and I'm quite certain I wasn't alone.  They too were on that swirly 90s indie pop vibe that so many of the young kids seem into these days, which I'm totally fine with for the record.  To bring up a reference I seem to make at least once a year (if not more these days), if this band existed in 1995 they would have definitely been signed to Teenbeat.  I was definitely intrigued and would like to hear their recordings, and are worth checking out if you get a chance.

From there I moved down to the Pour House and ended up catching the last couple of songs by Nicolay And The Hot At Nights.  I know the Hot At Nights (though the one dude who is also in the Mountain Goats is on tour with them and not able to be in two places at once), and apparently Nicolay works with local rapper Phonte, but I wasn't sure what to expect from the collaboration.  The overall vibe was a little too...jazz fusion for my tastes, but at the same time everyone on the stage was so goddamn talented it was still interesting to watch them practice their craft.

I was on the fence about going to the Yonatan Gat show at all.  Praise be to whatever god or flying spaghetti monster it was convinced me to stay at the Pour House to see the former Monotonix frontman, because it was probably my favorite performance of the entire festival.  It's days later and I still can't stop thinking about it.  Yonatan was backed by a bassist and drummer, and the music was (mostly) an instrumental swirl of jazz, surf, garage and a little Middle Eastern flair that words will never, ever do justice.  It was heavy but not metal, and repetitively hypnotizing without going fully into krautrock territory.  Monotonix were always known for their insane performances, not the musicianship, so I was doubly impressed to see how goddamn amazing Gat was on guitar - a double-necked 12+6 string white Epiphone SG for the record, that was completely bad ass.  I was nonplussed by his latest full-length, because it sure as shit didn't sound like this, but this show has me wanting to revisit anyways just to experience even a small amount of this amazing show again.

I trucked down to the Lincoln Theatre, my final venue of this year's festival, to see the last few from Sarah Shook And The Disarmers.  This gal has been getting a lot of buzz this past year, and that showed from how packed the venue was.  I assumed at least some of that crowd was people there early for the Jayhawks, but the amount that left after she finished proved she was clearly the draw (also, those people who left early are idiots).  Sarah plays straight-forward, ass kickin', old fashioned honky tonk country - no preening, no hipster bullshit, just songs like "The Bottle Never Lets Me Down" and "Nothin' Feels Right But Doin' Wrong."  Hell, she wears a knife on her hip during the concert, this is a woman who is not here for any bullshit.  Side note: the locally famous John Howie is in her band - he's probably best known for being in Two Dollar Pistols, but to me he'll always be from the still underrated Finger. 

Finally, the Jayhawks, the last band of Hopscotch.  They were also one of my most anticipated bands of the festival, being the only act that I was already a big fan of that I had never seen live.  How I've never seen them I have no idea, it's just one of those weird things like the fact I've never seen a James Bond movie - it doesn't have to make sense to be true.  I was shocked to learn that band frontman Gary Louris had recently moved to Gibsonville, which is in the middle of nowhere in the vicinity of Greensboro - who even knew moving there was something anyone would ever want to do!  Key member Mark Olson might be gone, but they sounded as good as ever - the long set list was packed with basically every "hit" song you might ever want from them..."Blue," "Tailspin," "Save It For a Rainy Day," etc.  Unlike the other "nostalgia" acts they might get lumped with at Hopscotch, the Jayhawks are still an active, working band, and also played plenty of their most recent excellent release "Back Roads And Abandoned Motels." After (shockingly) lasting the entire duration of their very late set, it was time to put this event and myself to bed. 

Until next year!  Man, I'm already tired thinking about it.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Hopscotch Music Festival, Day Three (Day Parties) at Kings - 9/6/2018

Hopscotch Music Festival
Day Three (Day Parties)
Downtown Raleigh
9/8/2018

Every year, I have no real plans to go to any Hopscotch day parties - I have a hard enough time keeping up my stamina just for the evening festivities.  And then pretty much every year, there's some reason why I actually need to go to at least one of them.  This year, that reason was Eric Bachmann, who wasn't playing the main festival but was playing the Merge party at Kings.  Considering my level of fandom for everything the man has ever released, my attendance was guaranteed.  He was touring to support his new record "No Recover," bringing along a small backing band (electric guitar, stand up bass, three piece drums), and as expected he played a few songs off of that excellent new album (an album that will surely be one of my favorites on the year).  He also threw in the classic "Crowned In Chrome" and a couple of tracks from his previous self-titled release, "Mercy" and "Dreaming."  I was kinda hoping Skylar Gudasz would show up to handle the female portions of those last two songs like has happened in the past, but that did not come to fruition.  My only complaint is the set was way, way, WAY too short...such is the nature of these day parties.   

Eric wasn't the only thing I saw this afternoon, might as well catch a couple of other bands while I was out of the house.  I also saw Joyero, who played just before Bachmann; it's the name that Wye Oak drummer Andy Stack performs under.  Despite being one of the best drummers I've ever seen, there is zero drumming in Joyero, or at least zero live drumming.  The music was a mix of computer tracks, keys/synths, random other electronics, and sometimes he played guitar - all paired with his very Doug Martsch-like vocals.  I got a Casiotone for the Painfully Alone vibe from many of the songs (or Advance Base if you want me to be more current with my comparisons) - well-crafted, downer electro-pop that's still enjoyable.  I found it interesting & humorous that he played a HeCTA cover; I realized it was a Merge artist's side project covering another Merge artist's side project (HeCTA is Kurt Wagner of Lambchop and a couple of friends).  The crowd was way too fucking loud and could have taken all that talking outside, but that's just the nature of a day party.  Plus, to be fair, it was fucking hot outside and the beer was cold inside.

I caught one last act after Bachmann before heading back home for a dinner break - Speed Stick.  All I knew coming in was Speed Stick involved Laura King from Bat Fangs / Flesh Wounds, and that was enough for me to stick around and see what it was all about.  Turns out it was her and Love Language drummer Tom Simpson both playing a mega-drum kit, face-to-face, sharing a mutual bass drum with pedals on either side.  Add to that a couple of guitarists coloring the proceedings, and you got a performance that was one long improv jam that was very drum heavy, obviously.  Should I mention that one of the guitarists was ASH FUCKING BOWIE?!?!?  I didn't fan out on the Polvo godhead, but part of me really wanted to.  I have no idea if Speed Stick is a real band or just a thing friends do on a lark every once in a while, but I liked it either way.  And anything that gets more Ash Bowie on stage is a good thing, even if he's standing in the background noodling on his guitar with his back to the crowd.      

Monday, September 10, 2018

Hopscotch Music Festival, Day Two around downtown Raleigh - 9/7/2018

Hopscotch Music Festival
Day Two
Downtown Raleigh
9/7/2018

I was so disinterested in the big stage acts this second night of Hopscotch I didn't even bother showing up until the club shows were up and running.  First stop: Kings for Patois Counselors.  It's been a little while since the last time I saw them, but they're now up to seven members apparently.  At least Kings has a large stage, I have no idea how they pull off a show at venues the size of Slims.  The crowd was surprisingly large from the start, and they were treated to a terrific performance of jittery, paranoid punk - like if the Fall had come from the New York No Wave scene instead of the UK.  The drummer never seems to be playing a 4/4 beat; despite having two guitarists, their addition is often sparse and almost never used as rhythm; the Joe Lally-cloned bassist seems to be the load-bearing beam of the group, holding the whole thing together and allowing the singer to glare and growl and occasionally ring tiny bells and blow whistles.  A great start to the night - I really need to get off my lazy ass and go see them more often. 

I stayed at Kings to check out the next band, Empath.  A four piece from Philly, they had two keyboardists, no bass, and at least one member wearing a neon orange mesh tank top.  It was a noisy synth pop sort of thing, like the Cocteau Twins gone punk maybe.  I think the Cocteau Twins might be my go-to for any band that has a female singer and somewhere in the neighborhood of the noisy/shoegaze/C86 sound, I've just listened to them too damn much in my life and it colors everything.  They had their moments, but I wasn't totally feeling it so I peaced out after a few tracks.  I think the ingredients are there for this to become something I would like, but only time will tell.  At a minimum I wouldn't be surprised to hear more from the singer, I think she might have "it" though I'm not entirely sure what "it" is at this moment.  

It was down to the Basement to check out Breathers next.  A trio from Atlanta with a singer that was dressed like a WWII soldier on leave and performed like he might be the little brother of Har Mar Superstar, the band was all synth and keys, all the time (with occasional stripped-down drums during some of their songs).  Since I didn't recognize any of the songs we can safely assume they aren't an Erasure cover band, but it would be an easy mistake to make based on the earnest, VERY eighties synth pop they played.  Occasionally it actually felt too earnest, veering into musical theater territory, but the music was pretty rad throughout.  I just love some damn keyboard pop, is that so wrong?

I had such a good spot from Breathers, front and center, that I decided to stay put in the Basement for the Revolution because...well, why the hell not.  Like most living, breathing humans, I loved Prince, but I had no idea what to make of his former band touring and performing his songs.  The group went five deep, and were all original Revolution members from their first run: the well known Wendy & Lisa, the keyboardist that plays in scrubs and is probably named "Doctor Funkhaus" or something, and, uh, the other two dudes - one of which (the bassist) did most of the singing.  Truthfully - it felt like watching a cover band...but a really, really good cover band that full of incredible musicians that knew this music inside-out.  Everyone knows what a good guitarist Prince was, but the secret weapon of that band was always Wendy Melvoin - it was truly a treat to watch her play live.  I just recently learned she is the daughter of one of the musicians in the legendary session band the Wrecking Crew; all of the sudden it makes sense why she was so good at such a young age, I'm sure she was practically born with an instrument in her hand.  They played almost nothing but the hits, and I stuck around for a few of them - "Erotic City," "Computer Blue," and "Raspberry Beret," off the top of my head.  I missed some other bands I'd planned on seeing to enjoy this nostalgia act, but they were damn fun.

The final piece of the night's puzzle would be Red Fang at the Lincoln Theatre.  I had to miss them entirely at Carolina Rebellion earlier this year because they played at exactly the same time as Baroness, so I was making a point to make sure I saw at least a few songs by them this time.  What do you even call the kind of metal these guys play?  It's loud and heavy but not growly and scowly (those are scientific terms)...is "happy metal" a genre?  The band members actually smile and look like they're having fun.  Just because it's heavy doesn't mean it has to be serious, people.  They did a cover of Tubeway Army's "Listen To The Sirens," which might have been my single favorite moment of the entire festival.  It seems like they might exist in a weird space where they don't take metal seriously enough for the purists, but are too heavy for the non-metalheads, but what the hell do I know.  What I do know is they are very good, they are fun, and you should give them a listen if you haven't already.  You never know, you might like them so much you try to dry hump half the audience like that one gal who was roaming the crowd (I suspect she may have done somewhere between some and all of the drugs this evening).  

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Hopscotch Music Festival, Day One around downtown Raleigh - 9/6/2018

Hopscotch Music Festival
Day One
Downtown Raleigh
9/6/2018

It's that time of year again - Hopscotch!  Also: the meticulous planning of your schedule that you will never stick to, the bemoaning of multiple bands you want to see all playing at the same time, and the bellyaching about how tired Hopscotch is going to make you.  It's one of the best parts of the entire year...I just wish it wasn't so damn hot.  I wouldn't get mad if they moved it back a month to the first of October.

I kicked off my festival with the Flaming Lips at City Plaza.  They played this festival at this same location in 2011, and in a lot of ways not much had changed.  They actually played more old songs this time - I don't think they played more than two or three tracks that were released after "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots."  Give the crowd what they want and all that - I ain't complaining.  If you are all familiar with the band and their live shenanigans, it goes without saying that the spectacle of it all almost outpaced the actual musical performance - balloons, confetti, giant props, lasers, huge video screens, an actual inflatable giant pink robot, people dancing inside of inflated eyeballs...you get the drill.  Front man Wayne Coyne took not one but two trips into the audience: he rode his see-through hamster ball on top of the crowd, which he's been doing for years - this time while performing a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."  There was also a new (or at least new-to-me) addition of a giant plastic light-up horse on wheels Wayne rides on top of that the roadies roll through the crowd (during this bit of art he performed one of the newer songs whose name I've already forgotten).  The man really had a bee in his bonnet about the crowd not singing along enough, and lectured them multiple times...I'm not saying shut up and sing, but once was enough to get the point across, and at some point the "lessons" on how to be an audience become detrimental.  Despite that, I enjoyed myself because I think you'd have to be in some kind of funk not to have a smile on your face for most of a Flaming Lips set.

With the large outdoor portion of the evening over, I strolled up to it's polar opposite, Slims, to catch Das Drip.  I had honestly just intended to see part of their set en route to somewhere else, but they only played 15 minutes  - they were done before I was!  Most would probably just call them hardcore, but there's a strange/off-kilter angle to Das Drip that sets them just slightly apart.  Given that three-fourths of the band were once in my beloved Whatever Brains, their new band being a weird version of a known genre shouldn't be surprising.  The one non-WB member is the singer, a young gal with a lot of energy who paced around like a caged animal the entire time.  It was a packed house and a good performance, even if half the crowd was confused why it ended so quickly. 

I thought I was getting to the Basement of the Convention Center early enough to catch part of Skeletonwitch's set, but a last-minute thirty minute shift in the schedule meant I missed them entirely, but luckily I got there just moments before Sleep took the stage.  I like this space as a Hopscotch venue but I kinda hate the way it is set up - the huge gulf between the stage and the crowd due to a shit ton of giant speakers on the ground surrounded by stupid barriers wreaked havoc on my desire to get some good photos of the band.  But shit, at least they sounded great, which is why we're here anyways!  Matt Pike had a literal wall of Orange amps behind him, which you could not only see and hear but also feel.  Should I also point out he was shirtless?  Who am I kidding, of course he was.  I'm not sure what to say about Sleep from a review angle at this point - the stoner metal godfathers sounded as good as ever, heavy and deliberate and the dude-heavy crowd was FEELING IT.  Watching Al Cisneros play bass in person is one of life's true joys.  The man is a wizard.  

Since Sleep was over earlier than expected, I took an audible from my prepared schedule and went up to Kings to see Lee Ranaldo for my final performer of the night.  Why Lee Ranaldo?  In the event you don't know, he was one of the founding members of a little group called Sonic Youth, you should check them out sometime if you enjoy music!  Snark aside, I've now seen half of Sonic Youth at Kings (Thurston Moore also played there as part of Chelsea Light Moving a few years ago), which is kinda mind blowing given the size of the club.  Ranaldo had a drummer backing him, and he kicked his set off with some improv where Lee used drumsticks and violin bows and whatever else he had handy to make a racket, but after 10-15 minutes the noise slowly morphed into more straight-forward indie rock jams that would have felt right in place on most any Sonic Youth album (note to self: check out his solo records, I hear they sound very Sonic Youth).  It was quite good, but all good things must come to an end and I drug my tired carcass to my car, knowing I had two more nights to go. 

Friday, September 7, 2018

Oneida / Nest Egg / Demon Eye at Kings - 8/3/2018

Oneida
With Nest Egg and Demon Eye
Kings
8/3/2018


Despite a general aversion to three bands in one night these days, I made a point to get to Kings in time to catch some of Demon Eye.  I’m at a total loss as to why they were on a bill with a couple of kraut-esque indie bands, but if bookers want to start throwing metal and indie rock together in one show that’s fine by me.  Demon Eye are particularly special in my book, because almost no one is playing this type of metal anymore – the early eighties/New Wave of British Heavy Metal kind.  Heavy but not sludgy or stony or speedy, plenty of flair and shredding but not so much it distracts, and most importantly (to me), no Cookie Monster vocals - think Iron Maiden, Accept, early Wasp, etc.  You could probably throw an AC/DC comparison in there too.  Also, they seem like they’re having a damn good time – metal is way too serious, and these guys seem to know it.

Nest Egg might be pseudo-local (in this case, Asheville), but this was my first time actually seeing them live.  They play down here a few times a year, and folks I trust raved about them after the last Hopscotch, but it took my listening to their most recent record “Nothingness Is Not A Curse” to finally get motivated enough to see them live.  Well, that and getting paired with Oneida, who I almost never miss – but I was genuinely looking forward to Nest Egg.  They do the whole krautrock-psyche-repetitive thing, and even if they weren’t playing with Oneida I might compare the two of them…Moon Duo/Wooden Shjips fans would also probably dig what they’re laying down.  Live, there was an extra layer of something there you don’t hear on the album…darkness, menacing, I dunno.  I’m sure them turning out the lights and running their own strobes helped that vibe.  For some reason I couldn’t stop thinking about Suicide (the band, not the action), and I suppose that might be a reasonable act to throw into the comparison blender.  Worth noting: they’re only a four-piece, but they have two drummers!  I’ve seen two drummers a fair number of times, but the bands are always larger.  And the guitarist plays a tiny 12-string guitar the entire time, which might have be even stranger!  These facts are neither here nor there, I just found them odd/interesting.  Much like Nest Egg themselves.   

Like an amoeba, Oneida seems to take a different shape every time I see them.  Tonight they were a four piece, with drums, guitar, and a double dose of synths/keys.  Well, if we’re being honest a quadruple dose since both dudes were playing two key-based instruments each, plus scads of other electronics.  They took the stage, made some jokes, and then launched into a brain-burning “Sheets Of Easter” that went on for damn near 20 minutes.  It was pummeling, mesmerizing, and glorious.  That was definitely the highlight, but the set continued in the same fashion – jokes then rock until they closed out their night with a cover of the Flipper song “Way Of The World.”  As always they combined the repetitive/hypnotic vibe of krautrock with heavy psyche and noise rock – it was, as always, completely engrossing.  I’m already excited for the next time they come back to town. 

Spider Bags / Drag Sounds at the Cat’s Cradle Back Room - 8/2/2018

Spider Bags
With Drag Sounds
Cat’s Cradle Back Room
8/2/2018


It’s only been four years since the last Spider Bags record “Frozen Letter,” but it feels like an eternity.  That has been coupled with them also not been playing live as often the past couple of years, which certainly amplified my feelings of abandonment – there for a while it felt like I saw them at least once every month or two…a good problem to have!  Thankfully, they’ve birthed into the world a great new album called “Someday Everything Will Be Fine,” and this evening was the release party to celebrate it’s existence.  For most bands that would mean focusing their set heavily on the new release, but Spider Bags have never been one for convention and instead made the bulk of their set old material with a few new ones sprinkled in – and I don’t mean old as in the last record, I’m talking very early material, some of which they hadn’t played live in ages or never at all.  They played for nearly an hour and a half, and the crowd was rambunctious the entire time (rambunctious these days means three or four people were dancing instead of the typical none).  They are easily one of my favorite local bands to see live, so a long set was a-ok in my book.  I also picked up the new album before leaving – it probably goes without saying that it’s great.

Drag Sounds opened the show, a local band that is the runaway leader in the category of “number of times I meant to see them live” versus “number of times I actually went to see them live.”  They’re damn good, they play a lot, and I’ve caught them a couple of times, but not nearly as often as I’ve planned to if I wasn’t a massive lazyass.  At some point they lost their bass player, and subsequently I had a tough time not thinking of Spray Paint...Drag Sounds are a little less sardonic than those weirdo Texas punks, but certainly in the same general ballpark musically.  Also: the short-haired guitarist/singer looks like he could be the son of Eric Clapton – once I saw it I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I’ve probably even said this before in other reviews, but it really is uncanny.

Father John Misty / Jenny Lewis at the North Carolina Museum of Art - 8/1/2018

Father John Misty
With Jenny Lewis
North Carolina Museum of Art
8/1/2018

For the second month in a row, I got free tickets to a show I was interested in but for which I was never going to actually shell out the money.  Let’s hear it for freeloading!


Not one to pass up freebies, my man Brian drove up from Wilmington to join me in the festivities.  We were both on the same page – opener Jenny Lewis was what really mattered here.  After rushing through dinner we got to the museum just as she started her set, crisis averted.  It had been ages since I last saw her perform, but I was certain it would be a great show.  Even with these fairly high expectations, she far surpassed them – that was easily one of the best performances I’ve seen this year (if not longer).  Every song she played felt like a hit…if the year was 1981 and country-tinged soft rock was still dominating the airwaves.  Lewis is basically a modern version of Linda Ronstadt and Juice Newton, and if you think that is anything but a compliment you need to reexamine your life choices.  Additionally: her band was “holy shit” good, especially the lead guitarist that was a Jonah Hill doppelganger (skinny version) – who went full Prince guitar solo at the end of their set.  Hopefully she’s been in the studio, because it’s been four years since “The Voyager” and this shit ass world needs new Jenny Lewis songs now more than ever.

Father John Misty was totally and completely…fine.  A milquetoast descriptor, sure, but that’s basically how I’ve always felt about him outside of a couple of songs.  I was expecting his performance to be a letdown after Jenny Lewis, but I wasn’t prepared for how much I would really struggled to keep my attention on the stage.  Jenny would blow most artists off the stage so it’s not entirely his fault, but a downer nonetheless.  He started his set with “Nancy From Now On,” aka his best song by a wide margin, aka the only song of his I can name without looking it up.  I was definitely stoked that he played it - but it also meant I didn’t have a ton to look forward to for the rest of his performance.  Misty & band also played “Mr. Tillman” from his most recent album “God’s Favorite Customer,” another strong track I quite enjoy, but the rest of it was just totally and completely…fine.  I will note the rest of the crowd seemed to really be enjoying themselves, and I’m guessing they would rate this performance much higher than my middle-of-the-road take. 

Feather at the Tiki Bar - 7/15/2018

Feather
Tiki Bar
7/15/2018


Due to some bad weather and good fortune, I managed to catch the band Feather while vacationing on the North Carolina coast.  It was quite possibly the most perfect setting for seeing a group like this - at the end of a pier, about an hour before sunset, the weather was great, and there were leathery beach people as far as the eye could see (and let it be known that Carolina Beach probably has the best collection of “human handbags” in the state).  The only place better would be inside of Leland Sklar’s cocaine-drenched mustache, but that’s less an actual location and more a state of mind.  One might ask: why is this prestigious, award-winning website writing up a cover band?  I suppose the biggest reason is one of my best friends (Brian Weeks of Summer Set, De La Noche, and touring guitarist for the Rosebuds and Howard Ivans) is the lead guitarist.  Another would be because I love soft rock, and these guys are a damn good time with a nice set list of classic jams (I could personally use less America, but I’m probably in the minority on that one).  It was also my almost three-year-old daughter’s first show ever, and she was mesmerized…and likely confused on what the hell “Uncle Brian” was doing.  Finally, it’s not every day you get to hear Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” while seagulls squawk incessantly along with the guest saxophonist.  It was damn near a perfect night. 

Arcade Fire / Hamilton Leithauser at the Red Hat Amphitheater - 7/12/2018

Arcade Fire
With Hamilton Leithauser
Red Hat Amphitheater
7/12/2018


It’s honestly been a long time since I paid much attention to Arcade Fire, and hadn’t even considered going to this show until a free ticket fell in my lap.  The tickets came via the age-old scenario we’ve all been through multiple times – the lead singer of a popular band, through a never-ending list of intermediaries, contacts your basketball group and wants to play pick-up.  Afterward, he gives the group a bunch of tickets to their show the next day.  You then attend the show with a bunch of those basketball friends, and some of them get drunk off of expensive beers.  Pretty boiler plate stuff.

On its own, I was on the fence at even attending the gig until I saw Hamilton Leithauser was opening – that immediately put me fully in.  You may or may not know Hamilton was the singer of the Walkmen, who were goddamn great and everyone should listen to their album “Bows + Arrows” if it’s not already a part of your regular music rotation.  Despite my love of his previous band I had been totally unaware of Hamilton’s solo career, but I wasn’t particularly worried about how I might feel about it – no matter the music, as long as his voice is front and center, it’s going to be no worse than pretty good.  And that is precisely what was witnessed – the guitars weren’t as driving as the Walkmen, the songs a little more subdued…but basically it felt like I was hearing Walkmen songs I’d never heard before.  It was mostly acoustic and a little (intentionally) ramshackle, and might have been a small step back from the Walkmen, but this material certainly was worth a listen and had me wanting to hear more of it.  I immediately went home and set to downloading this solo material, because even Walkmen-lite is worth a listening.

I saw Arcade Fire in the relatively small Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco back in 2004 just after “Funeral” came out – things have certainly changed since then.  I was surprised when I saw two giant HD video screens above the stage, wondering when Red Hat installed them - until it dawned on me the band was actually travelling with them!  If you need a tractor trailer to haul all of your stage props to each performance, you’re on the next level from the sort of shit I typically enjoy.  Then again, when the live performance is also a huge spectacle, it can be pretty entertaining even if you’re indifferent to many of the songs they’re actually playing.  They actually did a good job with their set list – not leaning too heavily on their most recent album “Everything Now,” playing songs from across their entire career.  I was pleased to get to hear material from their first couple of records, since I’ve actually listened to “Funeral” and “Neon Bible” a fair amount.  As for newer tracks, they’ve apparently leaned heavily into dance pop/disco lately – not really my bag, but I guess the rest of the crowd was feeling it.  They closed out the affair with a huge crowd sing-a-long version of “Wake Up” – that might be as much crowd participation as I’ve ever seen and/or heard.  It was quite impressive actually.

Bat Fangs at Kings - 6/29/2018

Bat Fangs
Kings
6/29/2018


At this point all Bat Fangs shows are sorta the same – they play pretty much all of their excellent self-titled record, maybe a new song or two they’re trying to work out, and close with the glam pop masterpiece that is Poison’s “Talk Dirty To Me.”  Despite this, I make every attempt to see them anytime they come through town, because good power pop (or at least occasional power pop) is in short supplies these days, and these gals are goddamn excellent at it.  Betsy was killing it as always in a carnival-style airbrushed Bat Fangs shirt that I wish I had a replica of in my size.  It might be worth the price of admission alone just stare at her gleaming white Gibson SG, never mind how well she shreds it - goddamn that’s a good looking guitar, and I’m not someone that usually even cares about such nonsense.  Laura was a monster behind the kit as always.  If you ever hear one of those misogynistic jack legs talking about girls being subpar drummers, first tell them to go fuck themselves, and then point them to literally anything Laura has ever drummed on…and then maybe tell them to go fuck themselves one more time just in case the original message . Hopefully Bat Fangs come back again soon.  Even if it’s the exact same performance yet again, I’ll still buy a ticket and be there, front and center.  Never look a gift horse in the mouth, especially if that horse writes super catchy songs.