Sunday, August 23, 2009
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
*****Thanks to Splattered Inc. correspondent Joel for the following review*****
For the unacquainted, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, particularly in its live incarnation, can be a bit overwhelming. To be sure, watching five adults
adorned in homemade costumes and corpse makeup performing dense avant-rock on junkyard instruments sounds like an exercise in masochism, particularly for those who prefer more subtle, electronic, or melodic fare. But almost everyone at Sudworks was cheering for an encore when this quintet left the stage Sunday night. How does one bring such an aesthetic--equal parts Dada theatre, twentieth century classical music, black metal, obscure naturalist ramblings, and carnival show--to a crowded bar and get anyone's attention, much less have that crowd begging for more?
Maybe the answer lies in the music itself. Every member of the group is a virtuoso and accomplished composer in his or her own regard, and the unit is so well rehearsed that the complex song structures and awkward time signatures seem effortless. The homemade instruments, such as a ten-foot log with bass piano strings and a warped bicycle-wheel, conjure obscure sounds which somehow fit perfectly within each song's context. Then there's more accessible fare, such as detuned, distorted guitars, the guttural roar of lead singer/guitarist Nils Frykdahl, violinist Carla Kihlstedt's beautiful textures and Eastern-influenced solos, and Matthias Bossi's steady and explosive drumming.
"And yet one gets the feeling while watching the performance unravel that, despite their complete commitment to the concepts, the band is ultimately just trying their best to put on a good show.”
But there's much more to this band's performance ethic. The live show is a visual spectacle as well, with carefully choreographed lighting and dress which recalls a sort of live-action, full-sized puppet show. And with music this dense and ambitious, it's easy to take yourself too seriously. Yet one of the most appealing aspects of SGM is their wit. Frykdahl has quite a stage presence, a unique ability to perform songs about salamanders and plants without being silly or jocular, or to skillfully handle audience members yelling "Git'R Dun!" (yes, they were there) without being equally lowbrow.
And yet one gets the feeling while watching the performance unravel that, despite their complete commitment to the concepts, the band is ultimately just trying their best to put on a good show. That is why SGM has garnered such a following; that is the incentive for audiences to endure the dissonance and obtuse subject matter; that is the reason nearly everyone wanted an encore. How appropriate, then, that the final songs of the night are "1997 (Tonight We’re Gonna Party Like It's)" and an upbeat, sing-along rendition of "Bring Back The Apocalypse”, a not-so-gentle reminder that, given the tenuous position of humanity anyway, we might as well enjoy the spectacle while we can.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Miles on the van: 350,000
Sets at South by Southwest: 3
Having Leslie play in your town: Priceless!
Come to a Leslie show and you will swear to God you are watching Lynyrd Skynyrd circa 1971. Ok, Leslie is a trio and Skynyrd had like 17 members, but the point is you are seeing a southern rock band in their prime. Forget about the fact that these guys weren’t even born when Skynyrd was shaking the south. They are serious about this music, and damn good at it – oh yeah, and they have the hair to prove it.
"Leslie pays homage to its southern roots without selling out to, or making fun of them.”
While Leslie does have some pretty good instrumental chops, the group is definitely not a jam band. The closest they came was an extended guitar solo on the set’s first tune, followed by an instrumental song that featured bass and drum solos. But the solos were kept short and even at their most virtuosic, you got the feeling that each note had been calculated to a point. (The band confirmed this in a post-show interview. The songs vary some from night to night depending on the vibe they get from the crowd, but for the most part there is a method behind the madness.)
Bottom line: Leslie plays legit southern rock even though they look like they’re 20 years old. They’ve got the instrumental chops, songwriting ability, and hell-raising attitude to be really good at it. And give them a chance even if you usually find southern rock corny – these guys are serious about what they do, they’re nice as hell, and they just may be the next band to blow up on the southern rock scene if local press, word of mouth and three dates at SXSW have anything to say about it.
For More Info, visit: http://www.myspace.com/leslierock
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
"In a scene too often dominated by oldsters ... Columbia has an up-and-coming group of talent that deserves your attention.”
Local music pimp Bakari Lebby has put together a stable of talent under the moniker of Srsly? Records, and believe me, his pimp hand is strong. Said strength was showcased last Thursday at New Brookland Tavern as Srsly? made its official debut.
On seeing The Artichokes, questions abound: Who is the better singer? Who has the cooler guitar? Who has the sweetest belt buckle? Here are my expert opinions:
"Jay makes things a lot more interesting with a tabletop full of electronic equipment.”
Now that the big questions have been answered, a little about the rest of the show. The Artichokes play catchy indie-pop with an electro-edge. The lyrics are witty, a la Weezer. The guitar tones are clean and jangly, and the songs are well-written. The main focus is on Emrys strumming and singing, but Jay makes things a lot more interesting with a tabletop full of electronic equipment. With two synths and a laptop, dude looked like he was writing the whole thing down in Java script.
Backed by nothing but a laptop, Sweet Vans delivered a mashup of familiar beats with hilarious rhymes. Their neckties and sunglasses recalled the Blues Brothers, but their deadpan delivery brought the wit of Flight of the Conchords. And their schtick is straight Steven Colbert. (Sweet Vans, and Republicans, don’t read this part.) You know how Steven Colbert acts so conservative that in reality he shows how absurd it is? MCs B-Money and Ginger Snap are so “gangsta” that they show how ridiculous modern radio-rap can be.
"Sweet Vans has changed this song around to give shoutouts to Columbia institutions like Five Points and USC, and the result is funnier and more creative than the original.”
Go see these guys; you will be entertained. Srsly.
Disclaimer: I didn’t get to see most of these guys’ set. From what I did see, these indie-rockers are reminiscent of Heist and the Accomplice’s first record (thanks to P. Wall for the comparison.) They are more upbeat than a lot of indie rockers -- drummer Nate Puza drives the sound with frenetic drumming, and bassist CJ Rhodes underpins the tunes with active, walking basslines. (Puza might be a little TOO frenetic -- check the ripped head on the front of that bass drum!)
Toro y Moi
I had heard a lot about Toro y Moi prior to this show, so I was really anxious to check them (him? it?) out. I must say that it was not what I was expecting. I had heard the terms “dance” and “electro-pop” thrown out a lot, but that is not how I would describe Toro y Moi.
"To me, Toro y Moi frontman Chaz Bundrick is like a modern-day John Lennon.”
To me, Toro y Moi frontman Chaz Bundrick is like a modern-day John Lennon. He takes the stage quietly and seats himself behind the keyboard. Thick glasses frame his serious face. His manner when addressing the audience between songs is subdued, and his lyrics are sincere and earnest. He tackles subjects like his hometown (“Some people say Columbia sucks, but that doesn’t mean you should want to leave -- you should want to make it better”) and religion (a song about your mom and dad telling you to go to church but you don’t want to).
For a one-man band, Toro y Moi has a lot going on. Bundrick began the set playing keyboard over basic, sampled drumbeats. He used his left hand to play electric bass notes and used organ or synth sounds to form chords with his right. His vocals were heavily processed with reverb and delay through an effects box he had on stage. For the second half of the set, he ditched the keyboard for a nylon-string acoustic guitar.
Srsly? Records is bringing some exciting music to Columbia, and the best part is they are all young! In a scene too often dominated by oldsters, Bakari Lebby and his USC undergrad cohorts are proving that Columbia has an up-and-coming group of talent that deserves your attention.
For more info, visit: myspace.com/srslyrecords
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
They brought their guitars, drums and Alesis synthesizer to Art Bar Saturday night for a headlining set. They kicked things off with drummer Ross Bolton and singer Jayna Doyle offstage. Guitarist Blake Arambula dialed up a sampled dance beat and laid synth lines over it as smoke from a fog machine glittered off the disco ball hanging over the stage. The audience clapped along in rhythm as Bolton and Doyle joined the band on stage and kicked things into high gear.
The music hung around pop with occasional forays into harder-edged rock. Arambula alternated between playing guitar and synth. Guitarist Scott Long played subtle, understated parts and bassist Jamie Beavers thumped out some big, fuzzed-out bass lines. Bolton played with reckless abandon, infecting the audience with an insistent need to nod heads and shake asses. He got a little too reckless at a few points, getting kinda sloppy and throwing the music off beat. He was solid overall however, as evidenced by his ability to play in perfect coordination with the sampled drum tracks.
"I caught it ['Models and Bottles'] on the radio one afternoon and was instantly hooked -- and pleasantly surprised when I heard the DJ say they were from Columbia.”
Besides awesome synth leads, the main story behind This Machine is Me is rock diva Jayna Doyle. Her alto voice sounds full and rich in lower registers and thins out into a rock and roll rasp on higher notes. She commanded the stage visually, dressed in a black dress and heels with curly red hair framing her impassioned face. Her facial expressions are compelling as she alternates between batting her eyes playfully and contorting her features in desperate longing. However, she needs a little work as the band’s “frontman” -- she doesn’t do a great job of chatting up the audience in between songs. A lot of her remarks were kinda rambling and she told a joke about drummer Ross Bolton that came off kinda awkward.
The band added a few covers to their mostly original set: “What’s Going On” by Four Non Blondes and “Everlong” by Foo Fighters. “What’s Going On” was done as a duet with guitar and vocals. It was a pretty simple version but did a good job engaging the crowd in a mass sing along. (Seth, vocalist from local band Cats and Cobras, was standing in the front row and Doyle held out the mic for him to belt out one of the choruses.) “Everlong” was reimagined with two guitars over a sampled dance beat. It came off pretty limp and anticlimactic. Their best use of cover material was when Arambula played the famous stadium-rock strains of Zombie Nation’s “Kernkraft 400” on his synth, which was then seamlessly morphed into one of the band’s original song.
The band closed with “Models and Bottles”, which I knew they would do. This well-crafted dance-rock anthem is a hit waiting to happen. I caught it on the radio one afternoon and was instantly hooked -- and pleasantly surprised when I heard the DJ say they were from Columbia. The live version wasn’t quite as slick as the recorded one, but it still made a great climax to the show. Doyle draped the microphone cord over her shoulders and sank to her knees as she belted out the final chorus.
Overall, I feel that This Machine is Me is poised to make a big splash in the local and regional music scene. The charisma of Jayna Doyle is infectious, and the songwriting is well-thought out and subtle. Hooks and melodies lurk at every turn, and just enough is left to the imagination to make you want to hear the song again instantly. The band needs to get a little tighter and work on their audience interactions between songs, but the concept they have going is delicious and a welcome addition to Columbia’s music scene.
For More Info, visit: myspace.com/thismachineisme
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
Said classic sound falls somewhere between The Rolling Stones and 90s alt-rock. There’s also a Lynryd Skynyrd element present in having three southern guys playing guitar on stage.
The first half of the set showcased new material for the American Gun fans in attendance, of which there were quite a few. The songs brought a wide variety of atmospheres and textures to the table, using tambourine, slide guitar, tremolo effects, and steel-string acoustics to form a jangly wall of Southern sound. To me, the most valuable player in this area is Mr. Long-Haired Guitarist, who used finger-picking and volume knob swells to craft his subtle guitar parts.
"After his guest appearance, Arleigh rejoined the crowd of revelers in front of the stage and sprayed the band with a mouthful of swilled beer.”
I made up a name for Mr. Long-Hair because American Gun uses joke names on their Myspace. They also use a lot of jokes on stage, which go over to varying degrees with the crowd. Singer Beard-No Glasses cracked quite a few which barely brought chuckles, but did manage to win the audience over with “Drunk Girls.” This little acoustic ditty combined the undeniable allure of inebriated females with “joke’s on you” crowd participation to crack up the anti-Valentine audience.
The second half of the set picked up speed with guest appearances from Arleigh of the Defilers and Jeff, a former member of American Gun. Jeff added some keyboard parts but really shined in guest appearances on guitar. Jeff, a really short dude, was amazing with a Fender Stratocaster in his hands, wrenching out howling notes and looking damn cool while doing it.
So what began as an evening of basic American rock devolved into debauchery as band and audience alike downed beer and bourbon. American Gun may have a sound that’s been done to death, but like Casablanca they are entertaining to their viewers. “Here’s lookin at you kid.”
For More Info, visit: myspace.com/americangun
Hailing from Charleston, SC, the Defilers were making a return trip to Columbia and bringing along a new drummer. I didn’t catch his name, but he sounded great on the fast, rave-up numbers.
The first few songs were pretty formulaic country numbers with tempos fast enough for some barroom dancing. Singer Arleigh blew a little blues harp on a few tunes, and the band threw in some well-known covers: Willie Nelson’s “Whiskey River”, Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” and Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light.”
The second half of the set moved away from country and towards rockabilly, which I thought was the band’s stronger suit. There were also some spaghetti-western instrumental stylings, which helped to spice up the otherwise blasé mix.
As far apart as the two fanbases are, the sounds of country and punk rock apparently aren’t all that incompatible. And apparently, a three-chord country progression is just as boring with distortion and barroom energy. The punk-country style, as exotic as it sounds, was just a little too bland for me.
For More Info, visit: myspace.com/thedefilers
Rob Lindsey – is it a guy’s name, or an exhortation to steal things from women? Alas, this mystery will probably never be solved. But Art Bar got a few clues Saturday night when the big, bearded songwriter brought his acoustic tunes to the stage.
Currently between projects (read: has no band), Rob Lindsey performed a short set in support of headliner American Gun. His manner and subject matter kept with the holiday evening’s “Valentine’s Heartbreak” theme as he reeled off images of melancholy love stories.
Between songs, Lindsey murmured a few words to the crowd. His speaking manner was witty and self-deprecating, which followed the tone of his songs. (Example: “Yeah, so here I am solo at Art Bar. Story of my life…”)
Each tune seemed intensely personal to him, almost like he was singing pages from a lover’s journal. A particularly strong example was the American love odyssey “I Miss Nashville”, which recalled the epic sweep of Jack Kerouac as Lindsey carried his listeners from the southeast all the way to San Francisco.
For More Info, visit: myspace.com/roblindsey
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Sunday, February 1, 2009
The Baldness is actually a four-piece band that claims Greenwood, SC as its hometown, but it doesn’t take much to infer that the name comes from the appearance of the band’s fearless leader, Bob. His bald white head and big bushy beard dominate the stage show, just as his singing and guitar playing monopolize the band’s sound. The Baldness is Bob exploring his twanged-out rock ‘n roll roots with three of his friends onstage for the ride.
The band played a 16-song set that was by turns alt-country, vintage rock, and downright country. Even at its “countriest”, however, the band avoided the country clichés that turn off many listeners. Bob never once sang through his nose, even while crooning out lyrics about corn liquor and old-time religion.
"The dancers at one point spilled over onto the stage, where they were welcomed by the fun-loving band.”
The set took a turn for the strange when Bob paused between songs to remark how hot it was, reciting a quote from the sage wisdom of David Lee Roth (“Yeah we’re running a little bit hot tonight…”) He then proceeded to remove his shirt and do his best Petey Pablo impression as he helicoptered it above his head, to the shock and delight of the audience.
While the spotlight shone clearly on Bob throughout the set, the other musicians (Jessie -- backup vocals; Byron -- bass; Logan -- drums) made their mark as well. Byron remained stoic throughout most of the set, but cracked a smile when the Friday night crowd busted out an impromptu revival of “The Twist.” Logan didn’t appear to be really into the music, and at times during the set he played with only one stick (which he was damn good at by the way -- eat your heart out Def Leppard.) I found out after the show that he was recovering from an arm injury, so that could explain his lack of enthusiasm. Jessie mostly sang backup and tapped a tambourine, but took over lead vocals on “Train from Kansas City.”
Jessie’s best moment came during a cover of the song “Then He Kissed Me” by The Crystals, which was done as a duet with Bob. The interplay as they crooned and looked longingly into each other’s eyes was part charming, part hilarious.
Speaking of interplay, the band’s interaction with the audience was particularly strong. The Hunter-Gatherer is usually a “sit at your table sip your beer” kind of place, but The Baldness had patrons upstairs and down dancing the night away. The dancers at one point spilled over onto the stage, where they were welcomed by the fun-loving band. One even stuck around to shake a tambourine on the next song.
During one of his guitar solos, the shirtless Bob approached a table of women and propped his foot up on an empty chair, wailing on his Piggly Wiggly Strat. I thought his leads were a little sloppy (great vibrato in his hands though), but the screaming young ladies did not seem to notice.
When it comes to music, The Baldness has a ways to go, in my opinion. Bob has written some good songs, but the problem is it’s all Bob. The band must become more cohesive before it is a serious musical force. But when it comes to entertainment, The Baldness is already there. Any band that can feature a shirtless hairy dude and obnoxiously boast about drinking corn liquor and cough syrup, and still electrify the Hunter-Gatherer, is obviously onto something.
For More Info, visit: myspace.com/thebaldnessband