Cheer Up Charlie's, 8/7
I don't know if I agree with the logic behind these shows that put three bands with similar influences and even similar-looking members together. I want some variety when I go out, and I don't want to wind up splitting hairs or getting hung up in the little differences between bands. Sometimes I get less excited than I could about a given band because they were preceded by less effective versions of the same thing.
So let's start with Shells, who played last of these three bands but were definitely the best/furthest along. I liked the brusque but effective fuzz on their bass and their drummer's pared-down but still varied kit and playing. Their guitarist has some real blues chops but he kept his solos more about emotion than lots of notes, showing just enough technique to make his point but keeping the lead guitar bits short and sweet. Their best tunes built around country, soul, and swing rhythms, given real volume and force and with a soulful vocal approach too. They had a few boring droning ones but they knew how to keep their full turned-to-11 roar in reserve except for where they needed it most, and they put on a good show too. The bassist was rocking out from head to toe the whole time, and they really blew it out for the extended big finish for the last song, smashing into one another and tearing the drums apart. I love that sort of stuff -- their rock and roll attitude pushed them over from OK to pretty good in my mind.
I loved Lafayette's online recordings but they weren't the well-oiled machine those tunes made them out to be. They didn't really adjust their volume downwards for the small room and it made the vocals, their best quality, rather hard to hear. I also didn't like as many of their other songs as I expected to based on the three solid demos. It might have been the writing or it might have been too much volume. Wine & Revolution led off with a few songs that really got the night started well, showing a good knack for the dual rhythm guitar style of The Feelies or The Clash. They had two guys chugging along pretty hardcore, but seldom in unison. Their bassist did a good job of picking up some of the slack melodically -- in fact, I quite liked the bassists for all three of the bands. The vocals were effective in that kind of hollering, Nuggets sort of style. They could have been a little clearer, too, although Wine & Revolution didn't sound as muffled as Lafayette. Their problem was more that all their stuff kind of follows the same template and even though their arrangements are pretty smart I felt like I had seen all of their moves well before the last song arrived.
Shells were definitely the find of the evening. I'd see them again in a minute. The other two bands have some work left to do, mostly finding ways of putting more variety into the setlist. Within their songs, and from one tune to the next.