Synthpop Mothership Descends On Old Hollywood
Thu 7 Dec — The Faint, Ladytron, Ratatat, DJ Steve Aoki
LOS ANGELES—Well before the sun goes down on Southern California, synthpop lovers are gathering on the sidewalk outside Hollywood’s famed Palladium, a venue that opened in 1940 with Frank Sinatra on the bill.
photo by Julie Sullivan
In fact, Larry, Charlie and Mike, all from Riverside, have been lined up since noon today. The friends are here for The Faint, “a band you can dance to,” says Larry. He adds, “When you’re listening to The Faint, you have to move.”
The Faint are co-headlining tonight with Ladytron, a band from Liverpool, England that by its own admission “makes dreamy pop music.” DJ Steve Aoki Kid Millionaire and Ratatat are also on the bill.
Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu, two founding members of the British four-piece are kind enough to sit for an interview in the band room, backstage after their soundcheck.
Asked if Ladytron is making a political statement with their music, Hunt says, “Being creative is a political act. It doesn’t matter how momentary or miniscule it is.” At the same time, Hunt is careful to say Ladyton’s lyrics are “deliberately ambiguous.” Like all great artists, the band wants to leave room for interpretation, knowing that’s where the power lies.
“In the end we’re just musicians. That’s what we’re liked for.” Says Wu. Yet, when looking at a song like “Soft Power” from their latest release The Witching Hour, it’s not difficult to see political minds at work.
We’re not sleeping at the wheel
The wheel is turning the machine
That kills for us
Of course, growing up in Liverpool helped shape their sensibilities. Hunt describes the world-famous port city as a place that got wealthy two hundred years ago from the slave trade. He says there were race riots just ten years ago and that conscientious citizens are constantly trying to change the names of Liverpool streets named for slavers.
Speaking about the music scene in Liverpool today, Hunt says it’s “as healthy as it’s been since the 1960s. Livepool shook off its history a bit. Now we’ve got bands like The Coral, The Zutons and Clinic.”
At 9:00 pm when Ladytron takes the stage, they’re met with a deafening roar of approval from the 3000 plus Angelinos gathered. The band, once known for appearing in asexual military garb, tonight opts for simple but classy black. The ladies in Ladytron—Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo—occupy the front of the stage, while Wu and Hunt are behind them. All four have synthezisers before them. The band, which insists on playing all its parts live, is also supported by session players on drums and bass.
As Ladytron works its way through “I Took Her To A Movie,” “International Dateline” and “Destroy Everything You Touch,” Marnie and Aroyo do endearing little dance moves that bring Bjork, or even B-52s, to mind.
Hunt says, “When we first started, playing live was not that important to us. We recorded an album before we ever played live. By the time we released the second album, it was like okay, touring, it’s important. Let’s put something together that’s more powerful than the record.” It worked. Ladyton live in L.A. tonight takes people on a “dreamy pop music” journey more powerful than the record.
Between sets DJ Steve Aoki keeps the party thumpin’. He has his own posse of groove lovers in front of his side stage setup. At one point he goes on a four-run tear of Beatles songs, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” into “Hard Day’s Night” into “Help” into “Elanor Rigby.” All scratched up, of course. That’s the kind of party it is—Hollywood hipster to the hilt.
Given the setting and the crowd, it’s all the more surreal to see The Faint take the stage and take control, which is precisly what they do. Larry from Riverside is right, The Faint is not a band one sees sitting down. One reason is the example set on stage. Few bands possess the confident, playful moves that come natural to these five guys from Omaha.
It’s clear The Faint mean business tonight. They open with “Dropkick the Punks” (a song that’s inspired a video game called “Dropkick The Faint”) before moving straight into “Paranoiattack.” During the crucial moment in the second song, the enthusiastic crowd responds in perfect time, “Paranoia! (pause) Paranoia! (pause) Paranoia!”
The Faint and their followers are in the house—the same house Lawrence Welk played every Saturday night from 1961 to 1976. Thankfully for all in attendance, tonight when the violins come in, it’s the precursor to “Desperate Guys,” the first cut off Wet From Birth, the band’s latest release on Saddle Creek Records.
Todd Fink sings, “I figured desperate guys never had a chance” over Jacob Thiele’s funky synth and Joel Petersen’s powerful bass lines. After releasing Dance Macabre in 2001, joining No Doubt on tour in 2002 and having their music appear in the indie film Secretary, The Faint are pretty far from desperate. They’re also far from the norm, which helps make their particular brand of dance music one of the more intriguing developments on the scene today.
Faint Fans Are Dancin’ In The Streets
Wed 6 Dec — The Faint, Ratatat
SAN DIEGO—Once upon a time the good citizens of Omaha, Nebraska invested in a civic project. A skatepark. Of course, the people of the corn never imagined what would later emerge from that thrill zone. Namely, a highly regarded band with legions of loyal fans called The Faint.
photo by Kat Woronowicz
Tonight at 4th & B in downtown San Diego everyone from surf punks to sun drenched beautiful people to black-clad, goth-tinged hipsters gather to devour every note and twisted turn of The Faint’s high-energy dance music.
Tom from San Diego, reminiscing about good times in the early 1990s says, “These guys have an early Chili Peppers feel.” But it’s not the 90s on display here tonight. It’s the 80s.
The Faint’s music is heavy on synth and bass, giving the music an industrial edge more commonly found in bands from Manchester, Birmingham and London, England. Perhaps it’s a testament to the reach and lasting power of 1980s music that a five-piece on Omaha’s fabled Saddle Creek Records—a label known for cultivating local talent—can sound so original while clearly pointing to its influences: Joy Division, English Beat, Style Council, and Big Audio Dynamite to name a few.
But none of those bands had bass like The Faint has bass. Joel Petersen appears to be the low-key Parka wearing type during sound check, but when he takes the stage later in the evening, someone else emerges.
Listening to the band go into “I Disappear” is a treat for the bass lovers’ ear. It’s funk and it’s punk. Petersen also has a side project on Saddle Creek, Broken Spindles. When asked what he’s listening to these days, Petersen the producer picks up a disc from the table and says, “Actually, this is what I listened to this morning. Art Bella, it’s an album I just recorded and mixed. I just got the master this morning.”
The band also has a strong drummer in Clark Baechle. He and Petersen give the other three players a rock solid foundation to work with. And work with it they do. Dapose plays Slash-like lines over Jacob Thiele’s insanely catchy synthetic grooves. Lead singer Todd Fink, who resembles Adam Ant, dances about like a mad scientist while singing pithy lines. Like:
I lost control,
My body’s moving,
On it’s own.
I watch myself,
A poor spirit,
took my place.
“I Disappear,” a number in tonight’s set is something of a theme song for The Faint, for the band’s body is actually moving on its own. Few bands act out their feelings in dance like this band (P Funk is one). There’s something innocent and refreshing about it. At the same time, The Faint’s music is industrial and hard. They’re obviously at home working with contrasts, which is another sign of this collective’s intelligence.
Thiele says he “gets really excited by paintings,” particularly the work of Robert Rauschenberg and Jean Michel Basquiat. Petersen admires the work of photographer, Harry Callahan. Petersen says he is impressed by Callhan’s ability to change and evolve over time. Interestingly, that’s precisely what The Faint has been willing to do—evolve. The band keeps its audience on its toes, in more ways than one.
The entire evening is one of seamless beats. DJ Steve Aoki spins until the first notes of Ratatat’s set. He returns to his turntables while the stage is reset for The Faint. When the Faint come on, they lift the crowd to a higher place, which is why people become fanatical about great bands. Great bands take you places, in your mind and also literally to places, like this club full of happy people soaking up sounds.
Some bands take listeners on a hike through snowy woods. Others prefer the steady gallop of a horse. The Faint travels by rocket. From the very first note from Petersen’s bass, the crowd is fully engaged. There are no indie poses to be found. 4th & B is alive with energy.
The Faint also do a nice job with video. During the second song, “Paranoiattack” newscasters mouth their daily platitudes on screens positioned behind the band. These perfect-for-a- rave scenes then morph into mind candy visuals. The Faint takes your ears, your feet and your eyes. From the looks of things, that’s precisely the way Faint fans want it. More than a few of the adoring fans in the house tonight may also have lent their hearts to these good looking, smart, down-to-earth rock stars from America’s heartland.
Southern Rock Is Alive and Well
Fri 17 Nov — Lucero
CHARLESTON—King Street in downtown Charleston, South Carolina is a swanky district. High priced boutiques line both sides of the road. In this neighborhood, a beautiful person could drop a grand faster than a bad stock. Which makes Cumberland’s presence on this commercially oriented strip all the more interesting because Cumberland’s has a homey, old school vibe few clubs outside New Orleans can authentically deliver. The room is shotgun shack-narrow. The bartenders double as short order cooks and the guest list is purely a word-of-mouth affair.
photo by Brianna Stello
Tonight, three bands are on the bill. Two Southern rocker outfits (The Sundogs and Lucero) and a group of crooners from Fort Collins, Colorado (Drag The River). The Sundogs—from Atlanta via Oxford, Mississippi—take the stage at 10:00 to a packed room busily getting their Friday night on. The four-piece has a clean sound, if country-tinged, Southern rock may be so described. Put another way, their music doesn’t appear to be as whiskey soaked as some, including tonight’s headliners, Lucero.
The Sundogs’ sound is the result of a lifetime of effort. Brothers Will and Lee Haraway have been harmonizing together since an early age when they sang along to their parents’ Beatles, Rolling Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival records. Clearly the products of a musical family, Lee Haraway even plays his uncle’s pedal steel guitar on stage, making for one of the finer moments of the band’s opening set. Will Haraway describes cowboy hat-wearing, Matt Ulmer, the band’s lead guitarist as “the best player in the band.” His leads do ring true on songs from The Sundogs’ first record, BB Gun Days. Their sophomore effort, Modern Day Miracle is due out in February 2007. While the band regularly plays Atlanta gigs and tours around the Southeast, Haraway is eager to spread the word. He says, “We’ll go as far as the (new) record takes us.” If their debut LP is any indication, there’s a trip to states west and north in this band’s future.
At 11:07, two members of Drag The River take the stage. Jon Snodgrass and Chad Price launch into their set of acoustic singer-songwriter numbers. The two are former punk rockers and one can’t help but wish for some of that raw energy tonight, for the mood in the room is not exactly receptive to reflective ditties. Through no fault of their own, the highlight of Drag The River’s set is the one song where they’re joined by John Stubblefield and Roy Barry, Lucero’s bass palyer and drummer, respectively. The crowd perks up considerably during this number. It’s a Lucero crowd and this audio appetizer leaves the room hungry for more.
Lucero is a band live music fans have a ton of passion for. Brian from Charleston has seen them live 15 to 20 times. “I feel at home wherever I am, whenever I see them. They’re wholesome people,” he says. Knowing he’s in on something good early on in the process, Brian says, “In a year or two from now, everyone will know them. They’re as real as you can get in a rock band in America.”
For Lucero’s part, lead singer Ben Nichols reflects on Cumberland’s place in the band’s progression. “This is one of the first places we travelled from Memphis to play,” he says. Lucero formed in Memphis in 1998. The band’s first recording, The Attic Tapes was made on an 8-track in lead guitarist Brian Venable’s dad’s house. On their two most recent records Rebels, Rogues & Sworn Brothers and Nobody’s Darling, Lucero worked with producers David Lowery of Cracker fame and legendary Memphis sound sage Jim Dickinson. Nichols says both producers were great to work with. Neither tried to contain or shape the band’s music, which would be like trying to bottle lightning. Even their record deal with East/West (a subsidiary of Warner Brothers) is an ideal scenario, giving Lucero total ownership of their recordings and publishing rights. Maybe that’s what a band that’s been compared to Uncle Tupelo, Bruce Springsteen and the Replacements (although a comparison to Drive-By Truckers is nearer to the truth) has earned. For sure, Lucero works hard for what they have, touring 200 plus nights a year in their Dodge Sprinter.
The grit of the road comes across in Lucero’s music, as Nichols works his way through songs about women, drinking and life on tour.
“Left a darling down in Georgia
Lost a girl to Tennessee
Now I’m going’ out to California
Where somebody cares for me”
The material works. Those in the crowd who were earlier sending and receiving text messages are now patched directly into one of Southern rock’s freshest voices and best hopes for the continued relevance of the genre. Nichols is a raconteur with a mic, a guitar and three friends complimenting his every move. Lucero’s live show takes the diehards up front on a ride—free from their cubicles for the weekend, these music lovers experiece, albeit vicariously, the twists and turns of a man who feels, who cares and who likes to share. Music at its best is transformative and inspiring. For those here to be moved, Lucero is the vehicle. Band and fans together appear to be pleased with the process and the destination.
Architects Are Building Something Grand
Sun 29 Oct – Architects
KANSAS CITY–For eighty plus years, famous musicians from near (Charlie Parker) and far (Count Basie) have entertained partygoers in the bars and clubs of Kansas City. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
photo by Jason Dailey
It’s before noon on this late October Sunday and, already, a crowd lines the sidewalk outside Camel’s local office and cultural hub, the Beast House, at 2110 Washington Street in the Crossroads Arts District. Revelers–some a bit haggard from Halloween parties the night before–mingle outside, enjoying the sunshine and unseasonably warm weather. Inside the one-story former warehouse building, preparations are being made by Camel’s local crew. A catered brunch is laid out by Sherri Parr of The Brick, 12-oz. PBRs are put on ice and punch is poured, courtesy of The Beaumont Club.
Lingering outside, Brandon Phillips, Architects lead singer, songwriter, guitar player and older brother to the two-member rhythm section chills before his band’s performance. Despite the early hour for rock and roll, he’s ready to talk about the band’s twisted journey and promising present. 2006 has been a banner year for Architects by anyone’s measure. They were voted best local band by Kansas City’s alt weekly newspaper, The Pitch, graced the cover of said newspaper twice and released a new album on local indie label Anodyne Records. Revenge, the band’s second full-length release, also garnered some impressive national press last spring at the time of release–The Associated Press named Architects among the “100 bands to know.”
Architects have had their brushes with fame before. The band was signed to RCA in 2002, pre-Clive Davis. During the major label run four years ago, Architects chewed up expensive studio time in Los Angeles with a member of Guns & Roses producing. They attended celeb-studded Manhattan parties and generally got a taste of what it’s like to be rock stars.
It must have been a weird trip for this group of down-to-earth, DIY punk rockers from Kansas City. And while bitterness at being dropped by RCA might be a natural place to go, Brandon is instead confident in his DIY ethos and his ability to make his own way in the music business minus all the high dollar agents, managers, publicists, excess studio musicians and guitar techs. Perhaps this explains the fact that Revenge was made in a four-day stretch. It’s raw and real and that’s exactly they way Architects want it.
By 12:45, the show is on and it’s LOUD, so loud in fact, one can hear things more clearly in the other room or outside the building. Emasculated gutless sissies these guys are not. Brandon says into the mic after the opening number, “I like it loud!” which is good because it’s rattle your pants loud and music fans are scrambling to stuff cotton or pieces of napkin in their ears.
The band runs through several songs off Revenge, including the title track, “Don’t Call It A Ghetto,” “Reciprocity,” “Stand,” “Badge,” “Live Forever,” “Tempt Me Fate,” “Widow’s Walk” and “Bury My Heart In Lebanon, MO.” These are well-writen songs delivered in a meaningful style. Architects’ drummer, Adam Phillips, attacks his kit with a vengeance. On top of his foundation, Zack Phillips lays down grooves on his bass while Mike Alexander wails on guitar. Between songs, hard-working Brandon catches his breath and wipes sweat from his brow. His adrenaline is flowing. As he warms up, so does the crowd, appreciative of the efforts being made on their behalf.
As Architects’ set winds to a close, the band slips in an AC-DC cover, pointing to one of their many influences. This set is but their first of the day. Later in the afternoon, they’re first up at the annual Halloweenie Fest put on by 96.5 “The Buzz” outside the Beaumont Club in Kansas City’s Westport neighborhood. Westport is famous for being the intersection of the Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails. The directions taken by today’s lineup are also ambitious. After sets by local bands Architects and Blackpool Lights, England’s Placebo takes the stage, followed by She Wants Revenge and Social Distortion. Modern rock has many express lanes and today’s groups ride several to their audio destinations–punk, indie, goth, alt and electronic to touch on a few.
Justin Warfield from She Wants Revenge appears later at Camel’s afterparty at Karma, where he spins a DJ set for Kansas City’s late night carousers. It seems the party just never ends in Kansas City. Jazz and blues greats from past generations would be proud.
Indie Gods Descend On West Second South
Thursday 28 Sept – Kings of Leon, The Stills, The Contingency Plan
SALT LAKE CITY–In downtown Salt Lake City, just blocks from In The Venue–the scene of tonight’s indie rock extravaganza–sits Temple Square, one of the world’s religious capitols, a new Rome some might say. In The Venue is, however, a long ways from the towering white monoliths of The Church of Latter Day Saints. In The Venue is down by the tracks on the west side of town, a shadowy area long known for its homeless inhabitants, prostitutes and more recently for its expensive urban lofts. These kinds of polarities can also be found in the music and public personas of Kings of Leon, tonight’s headliner. For this band of three brothers and a cousin grew up in the Pentecostal tradition, yet today exude an air of carefully crafted hipness not normally found in the devout. Bono, of course, is the exception.
photo by Paul Duane
Downtown is full of saints from the world over here to attend the annual LDS (Latter Day Saints) Conference. Have some of the younger saints changed into their party outfits and made their way to this packed room? Hard to say, but it’s entirely possible. Will they be able to relate to Kings of Leon’s raunchy-at-times lyrics? Hard to say, but it’s entirely possible. “Mormons are expert chameleons,” a tall gentleman says when queried on the subject.
The crowd gathered here tonight appears to be true believers of another sort, eager to live the indie dream. In The Venue is adjoined by another club under the same ownership, Club Sound. Simon Dawes and Band of Horses are playing the smaller stage, while Camel presents a triple bill on the main stage with local melodic rockers, The Contingency Plan, Montreal’s The Stills and Nashville’s Kings of Leon. Without a doubt, the corner of 2nd South and 6th West is for the night, home to several of indie rocks most promising acts and the place to be for live music fans.
The Contingency Plan’s lead singer, Mike Anderson, strikes a unique chord when he says, “Very few of our songs are about girls.” The band has two self-produced EPs and they pay their own way when they tour. So, whether the indie label fits their music or not, The Contingency Plan is the real indie deal. Jay Glauser, the band’s bass player says, “People compare us to Jimmy Eat World and Incubus.” During the band’s 30-minute set, they oscillate from hard to soft, staking out their own musical ground. When it’s hard, Glauser jumps around like a young Flea, while Matt Enright on guitar adopts the posture of James Hetfield. Glauser also notes that his band is the last one to pull away from a gig and is committed to answering every single e-mail from fans, a task that can take as many as five hours a day. With smart lyrics, a pounding beat supplied by drummer Steve Beck, good attitudes and a workman-like ethic, The Contingency Plan is a band that deserves whatever success it earns.
The Stills are part of the vibrant Montreal music scene along with Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, The Dears and The Constantines. Their particular brand of music contains distinct strains of classic folk rock reminiscent of legendary group, The Band. Bass player, Oliver Crowe says they were listening to lots of John Lennon and Fleetwood Mac during the making of Without Feathers, The Stills’ latest release. Crowe says they took The Pixies out of the disc player after “we got fed up with all the indie stuff.”
After The Stills rip through their 45-minute set featuring notable tracks from their new disc, “It Takes Time,” “Helicopters” and “In The Beginning,” the crew hurries to break down equipment and prepare the headliner. At 11:15, the lights dim and recorded ecclesiastical music comes over the P.A., signaling the start of Kings of Leon’s set.
The Kings are snazzily dressed, wearing tight-fitting denim pants and rocker boots. Bass player Jared Followill and his cousin Matthew Followill on lead guitar both sport Flock of Seagulls haircuts. All four men wear silver crosses that glimmer noticeably in the light. Between songs, a woman near the stage expresses her feelings about lead singer Caleb Followill, “You’re hot!” Among the good looking Salt Lake crowd that’s busy dancing the night away, it seems her feeling is widely shared. Caleb, feeling the love from the crowd says, “You guys are a lot better than expected! God bless you all.”
For many in attendance tonight, especially for those seeing the band for the first time, Kings of Leon are better than expected. On the way out the door, one reveler says, “That was insane.”
Rock And Roll Revial Comes To Sin City
Wed 27 Sept – Kings of Leon, The Stills
LAS VEGAS–No other city in the world announces its attractions like Las Vegas. Yet, there are some clubs in Vegas that don’t play the bright lights game. The Empire Ballroom is one such venue. This rock box is neatly tucked behind Walgreen’s on South Las Vegas Blvd., a.k.a. The Strip. Cabbies don’t even know where it is, but tonight, 600 plus indie rock fans do. Before the doors open at 9:00, the crowd gathers in the alleyway in anticipation of what’s to come–a show featuring Montreal’s The Stills and Nashville’s Kings of Leon.
photo by Bryan Haraway
Empire Ballroom may not look like other Vegas joints on the outside, but inside is another story. The spacious room has two levels, lined by leather VIP booths, a massive chandelier–as only Vegas can do–hangs from the ceiling and cocktail waitresses in leather bustiers move quickly to service the increasingly boisterous crowd. By the time The Stills take the stage, it’s clear a party has broken out. Bass player Oliver Crowe acknowledges the fact with a raised Budweiser salute to the
crowd before picking up his axe. Guitar player and vocalist, Dave Hamelin greets the crowd with, “Hello Vegas…We’re from Canada, which is not Sin City.”
The Stills come on strong out of the shoot. They open the show with “It Takes Time,” a powerful number off the band’s latest release, Without Feathers. The song’s hook, “You can talk your way out,” delivered with vigor at every turn by Hamelin instantly grabs listeners. Clearly, it’s time to rock.
In your shoes
In your toes
You know what nobody knows
It takes time
You can talk your way out
The Stills bring diverse influences to their music. For instance, keyboard player Liam O’Neil has a cowbell in his setup, an instrument usually associated with country acts. Crowe admits to playing in a country band prior to joining the band, so it’s an area the Canadians are not afraid to mine. In an odd twist, The Stills have a song named “Allison Krausse,” but Crowe says it’s not about the popular bluegrass crooner who spells her name a bit differently, rather it’s about a German prostitute. “But we love bluegrass,” Crowe says.
Kings of Leon hail from Tennessee, but there’s no evidence of it in their music, nor in their personal style. There are however signs that give these rockers away. One sign is the glimmering silver cross around lead singer Caleb Followill’s chest. Another is the way in which he tosses picks to the crowd after each song, then trembles his wrist as if he were handling a snake in a backwoods tent. What’s evident is this
group of three brothers and a cousin learned well the theatre of the church from Leon Followill, their father, uncle and traveling Pentecostal minister.
It seems with each song the spell is more intricately woven. One of the highlights of the set is “California Waiting,” a particularly accessible track on the band’s first EP, Holy Roller Novocaine. It also appears on their first LP, Youth and Young Manhood.
Say While you’re trying to save me
Can I get back my lonely life?
From the looks of things, Kings of Leon aren’t going to have much time for loneliness. The crowd in Vegas tonight is eating up their every move and it makes sense. In this sea of fakery, people are naturally hungry for something real, something tangible and memorable. Kings of Leon fit the bill. When they leave the stage, Caleb slams his mic stand to the floor prompting the crowd to erupt. Soon the crowd begins to chant, “Kings, Kings, Kings…”
After a three-song encore, one fan says, “There’s one for the memory books.”
Rock Stars Fatten Up At The Music Farm
Fri 18 Aug – The Walkmen, Bobby Bare Jr., The Specs
CHARLESTON–In downtown Charleston, right around the corner from King Street and its array of antique shops, Thai restaurants and stylish bars, people form a line outside the Music Farm, the city’s premier venue for live music.
photo by Derek Slaton
Richard, from Charleston, says he’s here to see The Specs, a local band he’s seen once before. Others in line say they don’t know the bands they’re waiting to see, but the lure of tickets offered by Camel is more than they can pass up.
The Specs formed in Charleston nearly three years ago, after some of the members moved to town from Columbia, after graduating from the state university. Proof of the cerebral nature of this band’s journey can be easily spotted in their song, “Annabelle Lee.” Eric Galloway, the lead singer, says he and guitarist Steve Tirozzi took a poetry class together at USC and say the Poe reference came naturally out of that experience.
Kevin Hanley, the band’s bass player and a local promoter, describes the band’s sound as “psychedelic pop.” During their short set, a sea of influences come in like the tide–Radiohead, Theivery Corporation, Flaming Lips, Pink Floyd, Jeff Buckley, The Shins, The Clash and Tears for Fears. It’s all the mix. Add to that the two-handed grip Galloway has on the mic, his jerky dancing during jams and images of Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder come to mind.
Columbia-based producer Les Hall–a former member of Howie Day’s band and Trey Anastasio’s band–heard promising things from The Specs when they delivered him a six-track demo. He’s producing the band’s initial full-length studio effort.
According to Hanley, the Charleston music is currently enjoying some decent momentum. He cites Slow Runner and The Working Title as two Charleston bands with recent recording deals. He also cites Genre and Volta as two promising Charleston bands.
The second act of the evening, Bobby Bare, Jr., hails from Nashville, Tennessee, where his father, Bobby Bare, achieved stardom as a Country artist. Bare Junior’s take on the old man’s profession is decidedly updated and eclectic. His sound ranges from surf metal to acoustic singer-songwriter, a span less talented and less ambitious artists find difficult to safely cross.
Every member of Bare Junior’s ensemble makes a distinct impression, visually and musically. The bass player struts around like he’s in Metallica. The guitar player resembles Freddy Mercury. The drummer has Sam Beam’s beard. As for Bare Junior, he’s a happy clown who plays tambourine with his foot while singing and playing guitar. Don’t try that at home folks.
Song five of Bare Junior’s set, “The Heart Bionic,” off his forthcoming disc on Bloodshot Records, does a splendid job of revealing the comic side of Bare Junior’s act.
Give me a heart that is bionic.
Now all my love is supersonic.
Like a true Tennessee gentleman, Bare Junior swigs from a Jack Daniel’s bottle. His band is tight and he floats along on a rock raft of his own making. When the time comes, he makes a Hendrix-like exit from the stage, laying his feedback machine/guitar on the ground to screech unattended.
At 11:17 p.m., The Walkmen take the stage to loud applause from the Friday night crowd. Guitarist, Paul Maroon, is all business, a fact supported by his attire. These boys are awfully buttoned-down for rock stars. Lead singer Hamilton Leithauser sports a nice pair of khakis and a t-shirt, so it’s not as if they can’t do casual. They can, albeit impeccably.
The Walkmen play fast songs, in what might be a reflection of their Manhattan environment or their love of pop. Yet, in their finer moments the band takes a stroll in Roy Orbison country. They close the show with “Louisiana,” the first track on A Hundred Miles Off, the band’s latest disc. It’s one of the evening’s finest moments, as Maroon plays a trumpet and Bobby Bare Junior’s horn player,
Deanna Varagona, joins in on her baritone sax.
After the show, local scenester, Chazz, says, “The Walkmen are awesome. They sound like The Strokes. And I heard some Velvet Underground in there somewhere.” Chazz also has love for local act, The Specs. “They’re just as good as The Walkmen, in my opinion,” he states.
Nashville Meets New York In Atlanta
Tues 15 Aug – The Walkmen, Bobby Bare Jr.
ATLANTA–It’s a rainy Tuesday night in Atlanta, but this meteorological fact does not stop the scenesters. By 7:00 p.m., they’re already gathering steam on the Midtown sidewalk outside Center Stage Atlanta, a three-club entertainment complex on West Peachtree. While some filter in to the straight edge show on the first level, most take the stairs and enter The Loft, where Bobby Bare, Jr. and The Walkmen are preparing to play.
photo by Derek Slaton
The local Camel Events staff has the open room dialed, with signs from tonight’s show, light displays and a prominent booth where cigarette reps engage music fans. Bobby Bare, Jr., has kindly provided 100 free CDs to the Camel booth, a particularly nice gesture given that his latest disc, which features members of My Morning Jacket, is not yet released.
If one were to inspect Bare’s DNA under a microscope, it would show a pronounced tendency towards pedal steel guitar. Bare’s father was a country star in the 1970s and he grew up in Hendersonville, Tennessee, with people like George Strait for neighbors. Bare’s influences are not limited to country artists by any stretch. The late Shel Silverstein, author of The Giving Tree, was a family friend, one who gladly critiqued every song Bare wrote.
Describing his musical style, Bare says the indie label fits him better than alt country. “It’s Southern and it rocks, but it’s not exactly Southern rock,” he says. Speaking of Nashville’s creative community, Bare mentions Lambchop, Pavement, Silver Jews, Ben Folds, Ryan Adams and others who have nothing to do with Music Row, a place Bare says is responsible for “the worst music in the world.”
Fortunately, no Nashville syrup spills from Bare’s six-piece band tonight. Instead, the hundreds of music fans gathered are treated to straight-on rock songs, some with strong punk influences. The fourth song of Bare’s set, “Valentine,” has some pop strains, which may be why XRT in Chicago, among other stations, gave it much-deserved airplay. The fact that Bare is now on Chicago’s Bloodshot Records, a famous indie label, probably helped his chances with XRT’s program director.
Before The Walkmen take the stage, Shihab Rattansi of CNN approaches. He says The Walkmen are “nice chaps” en route to the restroom.
Garrett, a bartender, says of the large Tuesday night crowd, “I’ll take this any Tuesday!”
Chad, a music fan from Atlanta, says he appreciates the chance to see The Walkmen now before they explode like The Strokes or Death Cab For Cutie. Chad calls the band’s style “old school, but refreshing.”
Old school as in prep school, perhaps. Four of the five members of The Walkmen attended the same high school in the Washington, D.C., area. Lead singer, Hamilton Leithauser, even sports a Lacoste alligator on his breast, hinting at the place from whence the band came. Guitarist Paul Maroon’s white button down shirt also speaks volumes. As does Maroon’s interest in Rattansi. He has another band member snap a photo with a cell phone backstage and claims his wife will flip, as they’ve been diligently watching Rattansi’s coverage from Beirut.
The Walkmen are smart and ambitious. They’re writing a novel called John’s Journey; they run a recording studio called Marcata; and, from all indications, they successfully court the “indie darlings” title from the sea of twenty-somethings in attendance tonight.
The Walkmen vary their tempo throughout their 50-minute set, moving from songs where Liethauser yells barely intelligle lyrics over thrashing guitars to soulful, melodic renderings.
When Leithauser pulls out his acoustic guitar mid-set ears unassaulted perk up. He wails solemnly on “Another One Goes By” off the group’s latest release, A Hundred Miles Off. The song–one of the few the band covers–is a testament to The Walkmen’s song craft and composition skills.