Saturday night, local label/collective Yards and Gods threw their annual ball at a sci-fi-themed watering hole downtown known as Eastside Tavern. The musical styles represented were diverse, but all of it was original and from the region. For whatever reason, I usually miss the ball, but this year I was able to sneak out to catch some bands.
I walked in on Sea Machine mid-set. Brandon Michael plays lead guitar in this band and that’s the primary reason for me wanting to catch their act. He’s a cool guy who once played a benefit I put on for my kid’s Montessori school without knowing me at all. He typically plays a style of rock that contains loads of power-pop, post-punk, and 90’s indie influences. A friend commented that Sea Machine sounded like Dayton and I couldn’t completely disagree. Well, I thought maybe they sounded like what everyone thinks Dayton sounded like in the 90’s when everyone thought bands from the Gem City sounded like a cross between Guided by Voices and The Breeders. (However, the Dayton scene was much more diverse than this.) Sea Machine – sounding like Dayton or not – played straight power-pop with vocals provided by the drummer and some synth backing up the band’s sound. To me, the band sounded pretty young, but there was a confidence and craftsmanship that suggests they will mature and become more cohesive.
Next up was C. Vadi, a friend of the Coalition and librarian currently residing in Iowa. C. Vadi uses no instruments other than her voice and a collection of loop and feedback gizmos. Her real name is Carrie Wade and she has a sharp wit and the best glasses of anyone I know. Carrie sent me a copy of her new album, In the Realm of her Dark Guardian. Off-kilter keyboards, a slight tape hiss, layer-upon-layer of vocals… In the Realm… is a haunting opus of what I assume winters in Iowa sound like. (Hell, summer’s probably sound that way as well.) Look for it on Carrie’s Bandcamp site. It’s music to read or work by, but if you want to get immersed in it, put on some headphones. That’s the only way you’ll catch all the subtle textures she puts to tape.
That said, a live C. Vadi show is pretty intense, almost surreal. Sure, Carrie’s not doing much on stage as she sings part-after-part and loops one on top of the other, but the sound that comes out is hypnotizing. It’s not all angular and literal like Your Friend or as pop-influenced as STL’s Syna So Pro. Rather, one gets a pretty clear picture that Carrie listens to a lot of Grouper, but even then, C. Vadi isn’t nearly as obvious as that. Still, it was a cool set, leaving a lot of the crowd speechless, wanting more.
Farmington’s Mire Giants might have been the pleasant surprise of the night. Fronted by what I’d lazily call Frank Black’s bastard son in both stature and vocals, Mire Giants were a monumental blast that actually built on the intensity set by C. Vadi. This three piece was extremely tight and loaded with musicality. I’m not a stickler for musicianship always, but I can appreciate it when I hear and see it and Mire Giants was dripping with musicianship. The Frank Black offspring and bassist switched spots a couple of songs in and didn’t miss a beat. The drummer was on time throughout and tore through some skins like he hated them. They killed for 30 minutes but no more than how they finished as they tore the roof off Eastside, leaving smiles throughout the room.
Jowlz was up next. If I were a lazy hack – which I am – I would compare Jowlz to a cross between Uncle Tupelo and Songs: Ohia/Magnolia Electric Co. I would also say that for a short set, Jowlz was just as good as those bands Saturday. I have no idea if their entire catalog stands up to that high praise, but those dudes were good. That probably says enough. But your should know that they finished their set with a ridiculously rousing rendition of “Bastards of the Young.” Yeah, that song kills every time and Jowlz nailed that shit to the wall.
I was most interested in seeing friends in Enemy Airship – sort of the flagship band of Yards and Gods. Well, their set got off to a decent start. I have always appreciated EA (and their former incarnations) as they willfully attempt to ape Television, Interpol (Turn on the Bright Lights Era, of course), and Broken Social Scene. Those comparisons are not meant to cheapen what they do. That’s just what I think of when EA plays and I enjoy what they do in the same way that I enjoy those other, better-known bands. Sadly, the set could not keep up with the first song as there were mic problems – pretty severe problems. Still, I sort of wish the band would have either continued to just jam out, turning their songs into drawn-out jams or whatever until someone figured out the mic issue. I would have been cool with them screaming the lyrics. The music EA plays is so good, I can deal with imperfection. However, that’s not how it went. To jam on would have been tough to do on the spot and the vocals in an EA song don’t usually lend themselves to screaming. Add in the fact that such a packed lineup means very little time to fuck around, the band cut their losses and packed up.
I won’t bash Eastside too much as it is a place for a lot of bands to play. Plus, it is a unique spot in the middle of a shitty downtown being taken over by frat bros and corporations. Still, the mic issue was a house problem. To their credit, owner Sal Nuccio apologized and took full blame for the mishap. Of course, that doesn’t do much for Enemy Airship missing out a chance to play for their friends and fans. Maybe next time, guys.
The night ended with a local favorite, Fliight. Imagine Pavement jamz (Crooked Rain era – California vibes, yo) with a Kathlene Hanna howl. Yeah, it was that cool. Double drummers. A steady groove, Full sound. A tamborine(!) It was a perfect ending for a pretty stellar night of local talent.
It’s good to get out again and see some local bands. For as much hubbub as I make for legendary acts or bands that are all over Pitchfork, the best part of any music scene is what exists inside of said scene. There’s nothing like the energy you get from local bands either playing their hearts out or even just fucking around. It’s often a lot more fun and surprising than seeing internationally touring acts. I’m glad I made it out Saturday. I may have to do it again soon.
I drove the long two hours to STL Friday night to see what has been the most pleasant surprise of 2014 for me: Ought. The Montreal quartet ventured to the Show-Me state to play the art space known as The Luminary. Locals Volcanoes opened on an evening when they were officially releasing their new full-length effort, Future Sorority Girls of America.
Volcanoes opened to celebrate their new opus about sorority girls or something. I’m about to get critical, but keep in-mind this is just one old guy’s opinion. A guy with probably 13 readers for what is suddenly an outdated format. So, take it with a grain of salt. That said, I’ll tell you the good parts first…
Volcanoes are, if nothing else, fantastically skilled musicians. They play a frantic style of rock music that’s a cross between Japandroids and Lightning Bolt. It’s a two piece which finds the players rotating between bass, drums, and keyboards. Nothing is lost as the two Volcanoes move from instrument to instrument. There was a moment when the bass player switched to the drums and he struggled to find the beat, but he quickly recovered and there was never another moment when the two did not click. The vocals are a powerful yelp that somehow stands out over the cacophony of drums, bass, and squealing keyboards. The music is loud, fast, and danceable.
The Future Sorority Girls of America is the album (and play script, apparently) Volcanoes were releasing and featuring in their set. They made sure to remind the crowd the album was for sale throughout the set. Telling us once would have done the trick. From what I could tell, the songs revolve around sorority sisters and their prerequisite superficiality. The songs quoted phone conversations and diary entries of the lives of vapid, bleach-blonde coeds on drunken nights out and whatever sorority girls do. The subject matter is low-hanging fruit, really. It didn’t help that the band continually promoted the album for sale and its accompanying script. It’s a sprawling effort to write a concept album, but who really gives two shits about sororities. Plus, many of the songs come off as misogynist in their critique and mockery of the culture. It’s too easy except when you try to make it seem deep, which Volcanoes are not.
So, there was a lot going on for an opener and this clouded the mood at The Luminary a bit. Since it was Volcanoes’ record release night and their home town, many of their buddies and several older friends and family members were on hand to celebrate. So, this was their show. As the crowd grew and all of them seeming to be very excited, I expected a raucous night, but that didn’t happen. Despite the energy and familiarity in the room, no one danced. I got the distinct feeling that the people were there to be seen and it was an added bonus that they all knew the band. They didn’t give a shit about sorority girls either. The gentrification going on up and down Cherokee was palpable, but nowhere more apparent than inside the Luminary as Volcanoes’ people ventured in from the suburbs to have a mild Friday night. Meh.
As Volcanoes cleared their massive collection of amps and high-end instruments from the stage, I grew worried. Would Ought be turned off by the mood or even the bro culture filling the venue? Would the lack of energy affect their set? Would the crowd even know what to do with music that was much more subtle and personal in its politics than Volcanoes obvious schtick?
Thankfully, Ought seemed unfazed as they set up their modest pile of equipment, making small talk with the people running sound and a somewhat exuberant fan. They were chill and didn’t appear to have an elaborate configuration. This is a small band in the infancy of what could potentially be an amazing run. They were confident in their place and my anticipation for their set grew exponentially.
Despite a non-egaged audience and some vocal sound issues, Ought put on an intense, urgent set. Frontman Tim Beeler made a statement about the strange feeling that they were coming to St. Louis to play a show instead of joining the fight for justice in nearby Ferguson. This seemed to fall on deaf ears which added to the tension of suburbanites hanging out in an art gallery in a gentrified neighborhood. A video projector played images from the Ferguson protests in the front window of The Luminary. The air was thick and finally Ought played.
These four Montreal transplants are as ferocious on stage as they are on record. More Than Any Other Day is a cross between Talking Heads and The Feelies but with an angry edge just under the surface. On this record, the political is personal like it was for early REM and Minor Threat/Fugazi. It captures the tension of our times like few other albums do these days. All of that comes alive on stage and despite the strange environment, Ought delivered.
In contrast to the recorded material, the keyboards are a more pronounced feature. This fills the sound out for live sets in a way that a produced and remixed album probably doesn’t need. Conversely, the vocals were not nearly as clear as on record. As proven several times throughout the set, this was mainly due to a failing of the venue’s equipment. Also, it felt as if Beeler was holding back as a way to save his voice over the course of a tour during flu and strep season. Still, he delivered his lines with the drama and urgency they dictate.
Ought is a dynamic and tight group. They commented a few times on the odd calm in the room – considering that it was a Friday and this was rock and roll. Still, that didn’t matter. Ought could have looked for the audience to supply them energy, but they sensed that these were the same capitalist suburbanites they sing about in their songs and played their hearts out to them anyway. The coldness of the art gallery setting didn’t help either, but I suspect Ought plays the same in a living room, hole in the wall, or shopping center.
The score of the night was Ought’s new EP Once More with Feeling…, sold at the merch table. One or two of the songs played in Ought’s set were off this EP. It comes in the all-too-rare 10″ format and is set to be officially released later this month.
It rough driving 4 hours roundtrip for two bands, but Ought made it worth it. They met expectations and I hope they find their way to Missouri again, only closer to the middle of the state where I dwell.
BeerNote: For $5(!), I drank Urban Chestnut’s excellent Zwickel Bavarian lager out of a red plastic cup. Although not a lager fan, I really like the Zwickel. It’s smooth without that harsh, cheap lager bite. The sweetness makes the beer particularly palpable without being cloying. Urban Chestnut does a lot of traditional European-style beers and they do them all really well. It’s hard to make it as a craft brewery these days without a lineup of IPA’s and imperial stouts, but Urban Chestnut does it. I was thankful to have a decent beer upon which to sip as I took in Volcanoes and Ought.
One reason I have blogged for so long (although not very often as of late) is that I enjoy the discussions that occur. I’ve made a lot of friends through blogging, some of whom I’ve never met in-person. Hell, I have over 830 friends on Facebook, a high percentage I’ve never talked to face-to-face. I love that I have so many virtual friends. It’s kept me sane in times I felt alone.
Still, it’s nice to see a friendly face now and again, to shake an actual hand. And I was able to do a lot of that at the Bill Callahan show.
As soon as I entered Mojo’s patio preceding the actual venue, I was greeted with friendly faces chilling, enjoying the nice weather. There were friendlies at the merch table and every step between me and the bar. People I usually hang with at another bar were at the end of Mojo’s bar. On my way there, I passed friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. And more pals, acquaintances, friends-of-friends, etc. poured in from the back as Callahan’s set neared.
You don’t know how meaningful this is for a guy who once penned a blog called “living in misery.” Don’t get me wrong, I long for city-living, but if I have to live in Middle Missouri, I at least want to hang with some good people. It was a nice night to say “hello” and catch up with folks. I suspect the same will happen in the fall when Neutral Milk Hotel(!) stops here.
Speaking of friendly faces, Bill Callahan started early – which works for working parents like myself. He opened with “Sycamore” and danced around his catalog without moving much for the rest of the night. He brought with him a couple of players – one on guitar and the other on bass – both seated. The crowd was a bit ornery as the drinks flowed, but as soon as anyone realized Callahan was singing again, they politely stopped talking. I’ve never seen anything like it, but maybe all those people really are as nice as I think they are. You know the type: friendly midwesterners. And Bill Callahan was liking it, sneaking in a pleasant smile here and there.
I like friendly faces filling my favorite hangouts and occupying their stages. There’s nothing quite like a familiar smile, warmed with alcohol, and willing to chat. I had a little of this in previous lives, but not quite like this. In adulthood, there’s less transition as folks settle in for the long haul. Sure, people move, but adults know each other for decades. I haven’t lived in Middle Missouri for even one of those, but I already have found a community of friends, pals, acquaintances, and friends-of-friends to make an enjoyable evening with a wordsmith like Bill Callahan so much more enjoyable.
Last night I took my four-year-old to see punk and riot grrrl icon Kathleen Hanna speak for a Women’s History Month series held at Columbia College. While between projects at work, I decided to see what was written about the talk. The regular news sources summarized Hanna’s visit succinctly, but there was nothing coming from a local blog. There aren’t many good blogs in this town these days, but a void needs filling and I’m about to get back on that horse.
As I mentioned above, I took my daughter to see a woman whom I think is a great role model as she grows and develops. Kathleen Hanna is a strong, smart, and creative adult woman I want my kid to look to for inspiration. She has people like that in her life now, but it doesn’t hurt to find more.
My kid was in awe. First of all, she insisted on sitting in the front row. We skipped over a couple of seats that looked to be saved and settled in. It just so happened that one of those seats was Kathleen Hanna’s! When a woman began to welcome the audience, my daughter asked whether or not that was Kathleen Hanna. I promptly informed her that no, Kathleen Hanna was sitting next to her. It was all that four-year-old could do to contain her excitement.
She really loved any time Hanna referred to rocking and bands. See, my daughter loves riot grrrl bands. She’s particularly fond of Sleater-Kinney and Wild Flag. (She just wrote a letter and drew a picture for Wild Flag to be mailed ASAP.) She loves the power and upbeat energy from that era of music. The fact that it’s all made by women doesn’t hurt either.
Hanna gave the kind of talk one would expect. She told her story, full of valley girl vernacular. She had slides of rarely seen zines and flyers. There were grainy videos of her various bands. She had great anecdotes of major indie and punk rock players. She told stories of inspiring young women fighting the patriarchy at every turn.
A running theme was her attempt to take back space normally occupied by males. There were rooms in a community center, rock venues, even the space in front of bands to be occupied. Underlying all of this was the space men and boys take up that can’t be seen, the space occupied by ideas and words. Hanna challenged these spaces and found room for herself and the girls who joined her in the fight.
At some point, a guy sitting in the back yelled out some fairly off-topic statements and questions. I won’t dignify either the content nor the deliverer of such idiocy as it completely disrupted the night by identifying or detailing what was said. Hanna was knocked off course a couple of times. Finally, she regained her bearings and told the guy to “shut-the-fuck-up.” Then she demanded he leave.
Instead of leaving quietly, the “heckler” continued to be obnoxious until college staff and a few audience members helped him leave. The debate over his comments continued today on Facebook, but I don’t want to spend anymore time on this as the dude was totally out of line.
Two beautiful things resulted from this conflict. First, the outburst demonstrated Hanna’s point about men always taking up space that wasn’t theirs, infringing on a woman’s chance to express herself. Second, it provided an opportunity for my daughter and really any young woman in the crowd to see a need for feminism as well as said feminism in action.
Fuck that dude and all the jerks and bullies like him.
Hanna recovered and continued to present her story. I geeked out over a video of Bikini Kill. My daughter geeked out over a Le Tigre video. We both laughed over the cabaret video Hanna shared.
It was a fun and empowering night. I wish my daughter could have met Hanna, but that will have to wait for the letter my girl intends to write to one of her newest heroes.
If you see this, Kathleen Hanna, know that you made an impression on our little college town and one four-year-old in particular.
For more on the talk, check out The Missourian’s take.
This was posted elsewhere. I’m thinking I might get rolling again…
Like any college town, Columbia is home to many music venues offering a wide array of cheap entertainment. Aside from the regulars (Blue Note, Mojo’s, Roxy’s Eastside, The Bridge, etc.), there are a few DIY venues featuring another side of the scene not often seen or heard by the masses. Most of these venues are living rooms just north or east of campus. Another is the hairhole, which we’ve told you about in the past. A newer-ish DIY venue is The Dome.
Joe Dame’s dome is also his home. (Sorry.) And by “dome”, I mean to say that it’s geodesic dome near Ashland at the end of a long, winding, gravel driveway. And by “home”, I mean to say that Joe is renovating the dome in the woods to not only house some cutting edge music but also to serve as his house.
Late last week, I ventured out to The Dome in order to take in one of the more interesting lineups I’ve seen in CoMo in a while. There was Ben Chlapek and Neatly Knotted project plus collaborator Steve Ruffin – or the pleasant projectionist at Ragtag who wears those glasses. The duo opened with a lot of ambient noise. Quite enjoyable for a warmup without a proper name (Iced Wine, anyone?). The echoes they produced filled the rickety dome in the woods and warmed me up proper.
Out of the cornfields arose Curtain Co. with some chill waves (or is it chillwaves?) for the Domers to groove on. Another duo, this time the two musicians worked closely, pretty much shoulder-to-shoulder in delivering movement-inducing beats, causing heads to bob and even a few kids to hit the splintered dance floor.
Local regulars Enemy Airship played third with heaps of Broken Social guitars and keyboards to fill the Dames Dome’s rafters with layers of guitar and synths. A long time ago, I wrote that this group (at the time known as Nonreturner) had found their sloppy, rock ‘n roll selves. Well, along with that old band name went the sloppiness. The band is tight and professional and they just sound like they know what their doing. The guy who accompanied me to The Dome proclaimed them his new favorite local band and I can’t really argue with that.
Finally, what made the night really stand out came in the form of three drummers from Lawrence, KS. Cloud Dog played with a fury I haven’t seen since Lightning Bolt, but maintained an aesthetic closer to Animal Collective. The threesome was quite engaging with drum sticks flying everywhere as some hypnotic Tron-like imagery projected behind them. Look for Cloud Dog in a club near you.
All that happened in one evening at The Dome. Joe has done a great thing in some woods just south of town. You owe it to yourself to find an invite and/or ride to one of the more unique and homey venues in and around CoMo. Joe Dames’ Dome cannot be missed.
Tonight, I am playing records at the Uprise Bar here in Columbia, MO for Monday Night Vinyl. If’ you’re nearby, stop in. The set starts at 9PM and will last until either they kick me out or I run out of records. The latter is more likely than the former as I have a pretty substantial list from which to work below as well as a plan to play through The Walkmen’s Heaven to finish off the night.
You may also follow me on Twitter where I will do my best to update records played and beers had. (I updated the list with what I can remember. I wrapped about two minutes past closing. It worked well and didn’t have to pay for one beer. Said beers: 4 Hands Pryus Saison, Avery 19th Anniversary Tripel, Bacchus.)
Track(s) | Band/Musician | Album
- Cut Your Hair | Pavement | 12 ” single
- Here | Pavement | John Peel Session 7″
Baptiss Blacktick | Pavement | Summer Babe 7″
- With a Girl Like You | Condo Fucks | Fuckbook
- Stockholm Syndrome | Yo La Tengo | I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One
- Autumn Sweater | Yo La Tengo | I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One
- Little Honda | Yo La Tengo | I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One
- The Wall | Yuck | Yuck
- Head to Toe | The Breeders | Head to Toe 7″
- Shocker in Gloomtown | The Breeders | Head to Toe 7″ (GBV cover)
- Auditorium | Guided By Voices | Alien Lanes
- Motor Away | Guided By Voices | Alien Lanes
- Try Harder | Times New Viking | Dancer Equired
- Mr. Superlove | Ass Ponys | Mr. Superlove
- My World Is Empty Without You | Afghan Whigs | My World Is Empty Without You
- If I Were Going | Afghan Whigs | Gentlemen
- Gentlemen | Afghan Whigs | Gentlemen
- Divine Hammer | The Breeders | Last Splash
- Boyfriend | Best Coast | Crazy For You
- Walk in the Park | Beach House | Zebra
- Go Outside | Cults | Cults
- Forward Forward Back | Believers | Believers
- Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away | Clap Your Hands Say Yeah | Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
- After Hours | Caribou | Andorra
- Desire Be Desire Go | Tame Impala | Inner Speaker
- Rock and Roll Will Never Die | Neil Hamburger | Hot February Night
- Sink to the Beat | Cursive | Burst and Bloom
- Going Back to Cali | LL Cool J | Less Than Zero
- Michael Jackson | Das Racist | Relax
- Scenario | A Tribe Called Quest | The Low End Theory
- Hey Ladies | Beastie Boys | Paul’s Boutique
- Gangsta | Tune-Yards | Whokill
- Eleven | Thao & Mirah | Thao & Mirah
- Bellbottoms | The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion | Orange
- Ditch | The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion | Orange
- Busted | The Black Keys | The Big Come Up
- Gloria | Patti Smith | Horses
- Born to Run | Bruce Springsteen | Born to Run
- A More Perfect Union | Titus Andronicus | The Monitor
- Xmas Trip | Run On | Start Packing
- You’re Pretty Good Looking | The White Stripes | DeStijl
- Indian Summer | Beat Happening | Jamboree
Here She Comes Now | Nirvana | 7″ split w/Melvins (VU cover)She’s Real | Built to Spill Caustic Resin | Built to Spill Caustic Resin 10″ (Kicking Giant cover) She’s Real | Built to Spill Caustic Resin | Built to Spill Caustic Resin 10″ (Kicking Giant cover)Here She Comes Now | Nirvana | 7″ split w/Melvins (VU cover)
- [whenever you see fit] | 7MO6DES4T-HMOEURSEO | [whenever you see fit]
- Slap Me | The Folk Implosion | Take a Look Inside…
- You and Me | Archers of Loaf | Icky Mettle
- Might | Archers of Loaf | Icky Mettle
- Untitled | Interpol | Turn on the Bright Lights
- Obstacle 1 | Interpol | Turn on the Bright Lights
- Look out the Window | The Walkmen | Split EP
- Laminated Cat | Loose Fur | Loose Fur
- Farewell Transmission | Magnolia Electric Company | Magnolia Electric Company
- The President’s Dead | Okkervil River | The President’s Dead
- King of Carrot Flowers part two | Jeff Mangum | Live at Jittery Joe’s
- King of Carrot Flowers part three | Jeff Mangum | Live at Jittery Joe’s
- Oh Comely | Jeff Mangum | Live at Jittery Joe’s
- Heart of Gold | Neil Young | Harvest
Waiting for Superman | Iron and Wine | Around the Well (Lips cover) Waiting for Superman | The Flaming Lips | The Soft Bulletin
- Inside the Golden Days of Missing You | Silver Jews | The Natural Bridge (and maybe something else from this album)
- Honk If You’re Lonely | Silver Jews | American Water (and maybe something else from this album)
- The Wild Kindness | Silver Jews | American Water
- Discretion Grove | Stephen Malkmus | Discretion Grove 7″
- Two Beck tracks that I’ve forgotten…
- Fall Away | Stephen Malkmus | Mirror Traffic
- Gorgeous Georgie | Stephen Malkmus | Mirror Traffic
Billie | Pavement | Terror Twilight Fight This Generation | Pavement | Wowee Zowee Two States | Pavement | Slanted and Enchanted Stereo | Pavement | Brighten the Corners
- Fillmore Jive | Pavement | Crooked Rain Crooked Rain
Here is the post I published yesterday at the CoMo Collective. It covers the bands I saw and a couple I didn’t see much of. As you will see, True/False is more of a cultural experience than just a documentary film festival. That may be why we all love it so much…
As promised, here’s a complete rundown of the bands I was able to take in throughout True/False weekend. This year’s lineup was maybe the strongest I’ve seen. Between buskers warming up crowds, filling our streets with music, and rocking showcases around town, this fest became almost as much about the music as it did the films.
As a recap, I’m reposting my take on Wednesday’s Eastside Showcase. Scroll down if you’ve read it before…
This is the unofficial official start of the fest and it’s hard to believe that any showcase will outdo the one at Eastside Tavern last night. Three bands – two local, one from Milwaukee – whipped the crowd into a pretty good frenzy for Wednesday.
Enemy Airship opened the night and one could say the entire festival.If I wanted to hear Broken Social Scene, I’d probably watch them on Pitchfork TV, but this was a close enough facsimile. I certainly don’t mean that in negative way. The band is fun, even danceable, especially as compared to their previous incarnation, Nonreturner. The set was topped off with a particularly earnest cover of New Order’s “Age of Consent”. It’s too bad no one could hear the keyboards.
Another local, Hott Lunch, played second. I had heard a lot of good things and the band did not disappoint. From punk to classic rock, this band was all over the place aggression, hitting all the right influences. I’d like to hear them focus in on one thing, but they do so many so well. Maybe that’s not so bad. Either way, it was an enjoyable set.
The closers were Catacombz. With a light show few have witnessed in Eastside, the band beat the audience into submission and told them to dance without directly telling the so, yet they obeyed. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a band come in and just move the entire crowd into convulsions.
Mojo’s Showcase (Bassdrum of Death, Jerusalem and the Starbaskets, and Ming Donkey One-Man Band)
Regretfully, I missed Ming Donkey One-Man Band due to a film. This became apparent to me as I entered Mojo’s to find it buzzing. It seemed that buzz was about the dirty heaps of new age blues that was being thrust upon the crowd and would continue through the night.
Jerusalem and the Starbaskets, once of CoMo, played next. Besides frontman Jeremy Freeze’s occasional turn as a busker and drummer Kim Sherman’s turns at V/H/S Q&A’s, the band made a triumphant return to CoMo (as is their usual) with a roaring set of dirges and blues psychedelia. Interestingly, the band’s sound was filled out with the addition of John Garland on guitar. The set primarily featured material from their well-received Dost, a record you should own.
Bass Drum of Death is another Fat Possum band that sounds as if they’re from another era. They looked and sounded a ton like 1991-era Seattle, but sounded closer to No Age than Nirvana. This topped off what was an impressive roster for the evening. I’m not sure I’ve seen a T/F showcase demonstrate as much firepower as this crew showed… Well, until the next night.
Mojo’s A-Go-Go (Believers, Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship?, Dark Dark Dark and Cassie Morgan)
Once again, I regretfully missed a Mojo’s opener. St. Louis duo Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine played what must have been a distant and haunting set of hushed melodies. Although described as folk, I’d place her stylings closer to something sleepier, with a bit of twang for good measure. I only know this because I luckily caught her set as a busker in the Blue Note. Still, I imagine her set fit nicely with the bands to follow.
Dark Dark Dark came on next. Gypsies with powerful female lead vocals rarely go wrong. Don’t misunderstand me, this is not Beirut with Sharon Van Etten. No, this is a rock band that understands a good pop song, something that would linger through the evening.
At this point, it was clear that the evening was building toward something. However, it felt as if we needed a way to traverse the gap between Cassie Morgan’s brand of folk and Dark Dark Dark’s gypsie spiel. A bridge would work, but a boat or ship would be better. Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship? made their way on stage and increased the number of accordions and French horns by at least one apiece.
The bridge or ship or whatever worked as the crowd was pretty amped for the Believers set. Believers just puts on a consistently great show and it doesn’t hurt that the songs are so good and danceable. For once, all the percussion was in the back of the stage as compared to the center, but it didn’t take away the percussive nature of the band by any means. The buzz that started the previous night lasted all the way through Believers’ set. If for no other reason, Believers should stay together just to play T/F every year. Either way, they will forever be linked to the fest for me as it just isn’t complete without a Believers show.
I remember Nature Walk busking before, but I don’t remember them being as engaging as they were this year. I got vibes from Violent Femmes and One Foot in the Grave-era Beck. Good, fun rock music to get us ready for the nonfiction about to be thrown our way.
The Toughcats come all the way from Maine every year. It seems there’s a contingent that makes the trek every year and the Touchcats are part of that crew. To fully enjoy the Toughcats’s set, one has to pay particular attention to the drummer who works as hard and as enthusiastically as any drummer I’ve ever seen.
Run On Sentence featured the filmmaker of Gasland, a popular T/F entry and near-Oscar winner. Beyond that, Run On Sentence stands on their own, recalling a bit of Clem Snide. They certainly kept a large audience in the spacious Missouri Theater engaged with the energy they brought from Portland.
Bramble actually played my daughter’s preschool before they ever played the T/F box office, various street corners, or several film venues. They are fast becoming a favorite at the fest. Everybody tends to enjoy their special brand of roots rock, especially three-year-olds.
Another roots rock band to busk some films was Wine Teeth. However, where Bramble reminded me more of Fleet Foxes (musically), Wine Teeth are certainly big Elliott Smith fans, providing a bit of edge to their set.
The hit of the fest may have been Les Trois Coups. The four Frenchmen enchanted audiences, inspiring many to dance and others to fall under their gypsie charms. From what I heard and saw, I don’t think the boys ever stopped playing their songs and performing skits with a combination of French and bits of broken English. The boys played for a school in St. Louis and hit the streets as soon as they made it to CoMo, and were seen at showcases and in the basement of at least one house party at 3:30 in the morning. I’m not sure they ever slept as they had to catch a flight early Sunday morning.
It’s nice see some great bands return year after year. Pearl and the Beard can both fill any venue with their powerful voices while maintaining an uncanny ability to rely on subtlety to not overwhelm with every song. This has really been one of the better busker acts to make it to T/F over the years and I hope they keep coming back.
Prahlad is actually a folklore professor at the university. He plays his brand of folk on mbira and slit drum, traditional African instruments. The resulting music is calming yet stimulating and was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the fest.
Cindy Woolf told a story that went with a song that was about distilling moonshine. That may be all you need to know. This is country as it’s meant to be sung and performed. Sad, slow, and soothing.
There were others to play music last weekend, but this was what I was able to see/hear among the 15 or so films I was able to see. Still, it was possibly the strongest lineup the fest has featured since I’ve been attending. Music coordinators Billy Schuh and Amanda Rainey really deserve a ton of credit for putting together this year’s group of buskers and showcasers. For the complete list of musicians, including many of the better ones I failed to mention here, check T/F’s website while it’s still up.
I’m too tired and too busy to post too often. So, this is what you’ll get for now. Things will get back to normal soon. I hope.
Stephen Malkmus and his Jicks entertained the CoMusic faithful starving for some nineties indie rock this past Saturday evening at the Blue Note. We didn’t get the opportunity to see Pavement when they made their reunion trek almost two years ago (aside from those of us who made the drive to KC on September 11th). So, Pavement’s primary songwriter and former front man’s trip to Middle Missouri would have to suffice. Playing mostly new songs from the excellent Mirror Traffic, the crowd was treated to what can only be described as “slacker prog”. Malkmus fiddled away at his guitar in numerous awkward positions as bassist Joanna Bolme and mulch-instrumentalist Mike Clark admirably filled holes. However, the most impressive Jick award may have gone to drummer Jake Morris who not only nailed all of Janet Weiss’s parts, but created a little niche of his own, particularly when he and Malkmus played off of each others’ need for some Zeppelin. All the while, the band jammed and screwed with pop structures the only way progressive rock and roll bands know how to do. Besides the prerequisite tracks and single from the latest release, several songs from throughout Malkmus’s solo career and beyond were featured in the set. There were at least two tracks from his first album (if my memory doesn’t fail me) and a decent number of songs from Real Emotional Trash, including the title track. Honestly, “Real Emotional Trash” is just an excuse to jam, but no one complained. This is something SM has cut from his current album, but the back catalog provides plenty of opportunity to explore his Dead Head leanings. Speaking of heads, Malk has an impressive mop of hair for a dude in his mid-forties. Just saying. Pavement, Malkmus’s former band – you may have heard of them, could have never put on a show like Saturday’s. For one, the Jicks seem to like each other, even sharing the stage in a way that would have never happened with Pavement. Sure, Malkmus is in his customary position on the left side of the stage, almost looking somewhat aloof. However, all the band members were relatively equally distanced from the audience, none really standing out. Most impressive once again was the stand that found Morris head and shoulders above the rest. That would have never happened with Pavement. I once watched Malkmus kick off drummer Steve West from his kit so that he could demonstrate how a part was to be played. One really gets the sense that all Jicks are equal even though one Jick’s name is out in front. There’s a reason the Jicks are respected as equals. They honestly are better players than those who played in Pavement and this is coming from a man obsessed with Pavement. Yes, the music is still lazy. Malkmus will never escape this. The difference is that the playing more effortless than just sloppy. Calling it “slacker prog” nails it. Portlanders Nurses opened. The aesthetic was awfully full of Walkmen and Born Ruffians, but they didn’t come with the oomph those bands typically bring. I will reserve judgement, however, until after I hear their recorded work.
There have been a slew of late night TV appearances by indie bands in recent years. The time slots after your eleven/ten o’clock news programs have been receptive to indie bands for a while now, but they seem particularly hellbent on giving indie rockers proper exposure recently. Do we blame the blogs? Are those in charge of such decisions the same kids at indie shows in the nineties? Who knows.
Now, I get that by the time a band lands on network television – no matter the time slot – that it’s long past being underground or cutting edge. However, as a kid who grew up in a rural community with no real outlets for musical discovery, late night appearances were all we had. Sure, with the internet, we can discover all kinds of music, but sometimes it gets too overwhelming and we need something easy and delivered to our television sets. Many of these bands don’t need a bump from a late night appearance, but the exposure to a few more households is not a bad thing.
Either way, there have been a few notable late night performances to share and digest…
Wild Flag on Fallon (skip to minute 37)
What’s funny is that when I watch this, all I can think of is how much Carrie Brownstein reminds me of Mic Jagger circa late 60’s. Jagger didn’t play guitar, but I imagine he’d look just as cool. The entire band seemed to have the mod coolness about them in this performance. Wild Flag is just so cool, strong, and they rock with ovaries to the wall which means they rock harder than most boys and their bored demeanor proves they don’t have to work as hard at it. I hope their spring touring finds them in the Show-Me state and maybe another record soon.
Guided By Voices on Letterman (Sorry. Embedding’s not cooperating. Just click the link.)
Is there anything better than Greg Demos falling on his ass? No.
This song is so 1994 it kills me. Driving, fist-pounding progressions and typical Bob Pollard delivery would place this song and the performance on Letterman right alongside Bee Thousand/Alien Lanes GBV. The only thing that’s different is the geriatric-looking rockers performing. If you can imagine it, there was a time when Guided By Voices was considered old because the members were like 36. Wait. I’m 36 right now.
WU LYF on Letterman (Again, wonky embedding.)
I may have totally overlooked or over-thought including WU LYF in my 2011 best-of. Consider them #11 at the very least with this performance. There’s something about bands who are so unaware of their surroundings as they perform on TV or completely ignore the host once their gig is done. Unintelligible vocals combined with backing instrumentation usually reserved for instrumental outfits hailing form Texas or Canada make WU LYF an incredibly intriguing watch. I just hope they continue to be as lost in their music as they seem to be on Letterman.
Tune-Yards on Kimmel
I had only read about a Tune-Yards performance and I have to say that it’s even more glorious than expected. It’s so exact and layered that I almost don’t believe how transparent the live performance actually is. And Merril Garbus is as engaging a stage presence as I’ve seen in a long time. It’s incredibly simple yet precise how she samples her own voice and drumming and builds a song from scratch, similar to Andrew Bird. However, the use of the drums and her incredibly unique voice just make her so much more fun to watch.
What have you seen on late night television (or replayed the next day on P4k/Stereogum/AV Club/etc. the next day) that’s caught your attention? Thoughts on the performances above? As per the usual, leave comments below and Like this blog with your Facebooking self.