Friday, October 30, 2009

Quiet Dancing

Calliope Musicals, School of Liars
Headhunter's, 10/28

There's been a lot of public discussion about ethics in blogging lately. There's this threatening-sounding disclosure law that almost makes me feel guilty getting comped for $5 shows. So let's err on the side of caution and mention that Matt, guitar player for Calliope Musicals, is a partner of mine in another musical venture.

That shouldn't stop me, I don't believe, from giving deserved attention to his other band. Calliope Musicals make a brand of folk music so comfortable that sounds like it should come on a record in an already-worn sleeve; their songs are simple but their own. What makes them particularly interesting is a slightly unconventional rhythm section (upright bass, cajon, and vibraphone) that fulfills its role quite beautifully. This talented trio of Paul Benton, Caleb Jones, and Craig Finkelstein comes over like a tight jazz bassist, drummer, and pianist, giving the songs a mighty skeleton and driving pulse. If anything, the guitarists could play less to let the effectiveness of the back line shine through. Matt Roth and Carrie Fussell strum the same chords in unison a little too often. I didn't have much use for their "I Will Survive" cover, which seemed to assume the unusual instruments by themselves made up for a not-particularly-imaginative arrangement of a wizened chestnut of a song. Their originals, however, show promise. Lots more harmonies and way less guitar strumming and they'll really be playing my tune.

Over in the other room, I was happy to catch a handful of songs by A School of Liars, about whom I wrote recently. I wish I could have heard even more. Live they have a punk rock urgency to them their recordings lack and their lead guitarist has lovely tone and an approach that adds to the songs rather than duplicating the vocal melodies. They're quite tight as a quartet with good two-part harmonies. Still wish their songs were a little less conventionally structured, and the repetition in the lyrics could be cut down. But they're another local act with a spark, worthy of your time and attention.

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