Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Weeks in Shows

Shows were a blur last week. But I still found time to find at least one good idea from each band I saw that your band could steal.

Rich Restaino & The Obits (Tuesday, Jovita's) have eight members on stage, and over the course of an hour I saw six of them sing lead. That's very cool, and might also explain why everyone in the group seemed so overjoyed to be there. The happiness and chemistry onstage made it impossible to feel self-conscious in the crowd; Anna C. and I jitterbugged ourselves silly. The Obits' vocal trio are quite lovely in their slinky black dresses, and the way they shared simple percussion parts among themselves, banging cowbells and shaking tambourines, added another layer of movement. For all the amazing technical drum and guitar playing we see, a shaker or sleigh bell part can often be more memorable. Especially in a visual sense. I really dug the way guitarist Hunt Wellborn sang his original "Too Slow" in the first set and then came back for a second star turn with the Stones' "Happy," which suits his soulfully inaccurate vocal style to a T. And as I'm sure I've written before I adore Alex Sefchick's stay-at-home, Motown-flavored bass grooving.

Bottle Service (Thursday, Trailer Space) weren't as much into the arranged three-part jazz harmonies, in an understatement. Musical subtlety is not the selling point of this energetic quartet, which manages through instinct and democratic distribution of vocals to find variety within the bounds of a single song template. Giddy and not-simple tom-toms provide a slight suggestion of structure for roaring guitar power chords, shouting, and demented, stuttering surf organ melodies. In the midst of all this is a tambourine player who strikes his weapon against his arm with such focused violence that he has to wear wrist protection to avoid injury. They're propulsive, maybe even catchy, and also they're pretty adorable. They have a shared energy, one that makes them seem more coherent as a band than a lot of groupings of more experienced musicians. They all knew the lyrics to the songs. They were excited to be playing them.

By this comparison We the Granada (Friday, U.S. Art Authority) were a disappointment. They have more in the way of songs, or at least arrangements, than some of their heavy-experimental brethren in these parts. They can all stop together, but when everyone starts again no one is remotely on the same page. Their lead singer's affected style is obnoxious, but at least it gets the band to exercise restraint for half-minute intervals here and there. Otherwise it's a whole lot of the "please finish your drum solo so I may begin my extended finger-tapping interlude" style, and about as interesting as watching water run. With blinding lights flashing and an extraneous saxophone player blurting sporadically there was no center to the music. One passage where the singer began beating on an extra floor tom stood out; for a brief segment the mess of jumbled-up rhythms and overplaying cohered to a point where the lights actually had a single pulse to match up to. It was tribal, minimalist, the work of all the musicians creating together. In contrast to the rest of their set, which was like a confused community playfield trying to hold a sack race and a three-legged race at the same time.

Friday we also checked in with Squidbucket and Megafauna, both sounding sharp, and were bored by the Bridge Farmers. Two chords, no changes, a loud drummer, and a good singer will get you exactly this far and no further.

Now, in an experimental new feature, some free shows that may be of interest this week: I'm probably going to see Isle of White on Wednesday at the Parlor. They're a Weezer-esque band with some very enticing hooks; I hope they've gotten better live since the last time I saw them. Wozzeck are playing Friday evening at Trailer Space. A hard-rocking jam band of music majors, those guys are some technical players who really know how to listen to one another. Later Friday The Economy are playing at Headhunter's. Those fellows have taken their sweet time getting from the demo stage to live band but now that they've finally made it you should support them; they take those fabled "Slint dynamics" and mix in some really rousing, passionate vocals. Saturday night, post-rockers Focus Group play Cheer Up Charlie's.

Not free but of interest, the inimitable Daniel Johnston is playing the Mohawk on Saturday with The Sour Notes in support. There's a ticket/autographed CD giveaway through this link. Brackett & Co, an Okkervil River subdivision, is on this show as well.

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