Beer and Pavement

Yards and Gods Ball

Posted in Live, Review by SM on October 20, 2014

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Cpt. (my) Captain

Posted in Records by SM on March 23, 2011

I remember back in my college days going to see this particular band who happened to have a 7″ for sale, which I bought. In the Xeroxed liner notes, there was an address where one could send a blank cassette tape and a self-addressed, stamped envelope for more music. So, the music was basically free aside from the shipping and cost of the tapes[1].

I misread the offer and sent two tapes. The guy filled them both anyway with some of the most masterfully produced bedroom recordings I’ve ever heard[2]. I wore those tapes out, literally. To this day, I’ve not found an experience that quite meets those days when I played the hell out of two dubbed  cassettes in my beat-up Toyota Corolla.

The new Cpt. Captain release on Yards & Gods comes pretty close, though. When We Were Captains actually cost me less than those mailed cassette tapes. See, Yards & Gods gives their material for merely exchanging your email[3]. So, there’s no excuse for not going directly to their site and downloading everything they have to offer ASAP.

The nostalgia doesn’t end with the free music. The beloved aesthetic of music recorded over shitty tapes in cramped space is here too. And that’s appealing to me in so many ways. I mean, I’m from Ohio. We grow up on football, corn, and lo-fi[4]. That said, don’t confuse a somewhat amateurish aesthetic for amateurish production. Lo-fi is an art, especially when it’s as rewarding as When We Were Captains. Although the format for this release is actually digital, it features a sharpness not found in my tape deck, but the recording process certainly maintains that warm, lo-fi character.

What is also present is an ambition to sound bigger than a bedroom recording can/will allow[5]. Sonically, these songs hover among the lo-fi trees planted so long ago by Lou Barlow, Eric Gaffney, and Jason Lowenstein[6]. The guitars show gumption and the vocals thrive in friendly confines. Had these boys recorded these songs 20 years ago, they would be on a reunion tour right now and not releasing posthumous mp3’s.

This collection spans the group’s short run from 2007-09, also playing under the moniker Nascar Diarrhea. Lazy, hazy ditties about life in a college town are reminiscent of Columbus, Ohio’s Moviola, sans the twang. There’s a lot of mid-tempo material, but the pop nods are all over the place…in a good way. Pleasing grooves are as much a part of a Cpt. Captain song as boozy guitar theatrics. Really, this collection’s ability to attract and maintain your attention through variety is a definite strength.

Sadly, I missed the band’s live shows as I was too busy with my own problems to pay attention to what was happening under my own nose[7], but this collection has allowed me to learn a thing or two about the local scene, helping to fulfill a promise I once made myself. This look into a band’s life allows for my appreciation to be personal. I can get to know these ten tracks closely and either keep them to myself or share with friends. Such is the purpose of the bedroom recording. It’s this personal thing, created in the most intimate of spaces, but its ultimate purpose is to be shared with the world. Whether that sharing be through vinyl, cassette tape, or mp3 doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the music found its way into my collection and I get a chance to hear it.

Notes:
1Both of which were easy for me to obtain. In those days, I kept a healthy supply of blank tapes around and I worked in my college’s mail room.
2In particular was a cover of Pavement’s “Greenlander” and some random Beatles covers as well. He had two 90 minute tapes to fill.
3Who knows what they actually do with those emails? Do they sell them to spammers or Nigerian kings? I honestly don’t know.
4Ever hear of Guided By Voices?
5I’m not talking arena rock like The Who here. By an ambition to sound bigger, I mean that Cpt. Captain have some depth and heft to their sound not typically heard in a lo-fi recording.
6John Davis could be thrown in there as well.
7It’s a lot harder to get into local bands when you move someplace already in your thirties. When I was in Columbus, I had been following the local scene since college. Starting over at 30 was a difficult task, but I’m getting there.

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