Gospel Claws Put Their Sunshine Away At Crescent

Photo by Kataklizmic Design

Sometimes you attend a show that you know will be mindblowingly fantastic, for either talent or sound or diversity and sometimes you walk away from that show shaking your head in disbelief, because although you knew it was going to be good, you didn’t think it would be THAT good. So was the case with the six band  spectacular held by Jen Deveroux to celebrate the release of Gospel Claws second full length album Put Your Sunshine Away at Crescent Ballroom this past Friday night. Sadly, I can’t say I was there for the whole thing, I was paying attention to Crescent’s website which up until the night before told me the show would start at 8pm. When I got there at 7:50pm I had already missed Sleep Money, sadly, but more about that later. The five bands I got to witness were phenomenal and each one was a unique experience unto themselves.

I arrived just in time for J. Miller from Bad Lucy to inform me that we had both apparently missed the opener who played at 7:15. The next band, however, was already setting up and within moments of grabbing a cocktail (ahh…Ginger Beer & Jamesons), Me Vale Madre took the stage and provided the first in a succession of mind-blowing acts that night. I won’t review the history of Tony Squid’s various incarnations, but I will simply say that Me Vale Madre is the greatest so far–and this was a night where they were continually apologetic for laptop and equipment failure. The latter detail is amazing because, they sounded absolutely amazing and the idea that there was equipment failure hadn’t even occured to me, the sound was that stellar. This should actually be of no surprise as Me Vale Madre is something of an obscure supergroup that includes former members of Dear and the Headlights, Yellow Minute, Lymbyc System and Attack of the Giant Squid. Lead singer P.J. Waxman bantered between songs and made references to Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes. In the end, honestly, I’d rather see Me Vale Madre at the Crescent than either of those bands. The set was amazing and if that is the band crippled by equipment malfunctions, you know that when everything is working, the effect will be simply transportational. Be sure to keep your eye on this band in 2013.

Photo by Devon Christopher Adams

One of the bands I was most interested  to see that night was Vial Of Sound. I have been listening to their debut EP in stunned wonder, nearly since it’s release and I wanted to know how Dave and Josh were going to pull it off live. Live it reminded me of Krautwork albums from the the ’70s that we listened to while stoned in the ’90s, with a fantastic light show and vocoder vocals (that should have been a bit higher or  louder in the mix) surrounded by a metric ton of ancient synthesizer equipment. It was the weirdest gig all night, but they might be the weirdest band around–somehow though, there’s a danceability there that is undescribable, oddly no one was dancing, but I think that most everyone unfamiliar with their sound was simply stunned by what they were seeing and hearing. I was stunned,  entranced and impressed. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but damnit, that’s my cup and it’s my tea. I can’t wait to see what Vial Of Sound do next, because there is a whole ton of strange territory they could cover with the equipment and talent they have between them–also I think they should go by the monikers Dave Vial and Josh Vial, but that’s just me. In  my mind they killed it, I only wish more people had witnessed it.

Photo by Devon Christopher Adams

Zero Zero was up next. Can I say anything more that I haven’t said already about Zero Zero? I guess I could and here it is. There live show is simply getting better and  better with each passing week. I was trying to keep count on how many of their shows I’ve been to in the short time they’ve been performing live and I’ve already lost track, but I’m pretty sure I’ve only missed three of their gigs ever. Their live set is becoming an otherworldy assault on  the senses that is simply undeniable (I noticed this at the Sail Inn the previous week), there songs are  taking on a life well beyond what MAYDAY presents and this is a great thing, taking an  amazing debut album and turning it into a monstrous live presentation. Nicole Laurenne must be one of the sexiest lead singers to ever take the local stage belting out her vocals that ride between 60s girl group sweetness (“Drug”) and a hungry predatory growl (“Tear It Up”/”Red Light”) all the while commanding dual keyboards, while Johnny Michael Walker is simply one  of the coolest cats to ever hold a guitar and make it wail so wildly, with Nick Ramirez appearing to have the time of his life pounding the drums and fuelling this unique power trio. They have even included a new song in their set, hot on the heels of  their album release, the addition of a new song so quickly is a credit to this new found chemistry. Also, the new song is great and  as with each set I witness, this show was even better than  the  last one.

Photo by Krystle Miller

 If there is one band who I feel does not play around town nearly enough, it has to be KNESSET. I have been a fan of this band longer than anyone on the bill last Friday–there soul blazing, mind expanding, shoe gazing sound simply appeals to me on every level and every time I’m at a gig of theirs and bring friends or like minded music lovers–they inevitably turn to me and either say, “Who the fuck are these guys?’ or “Can you fucking believe this?” And I smile and nod, because I can believe it and they are amazing–it’s no wonder they have a huge following in Japan. KNESSET is, simply put, music to wrap your mind and soul in, to absorb through osmosis for all they are worth until you can feel your very pores breathing the songs they sing. This past Friday was a very special night, because at the end of it all they revealed a new song and it may well be the best thing they’ve ever done. This says a lot considering they have a hell of a lot of good songs under their belt, but this was new, different and in a slightly altered direction. The song was decidedly KNESSET, but it had a melody to it that caught you immediately and didn’t want that grip to slip in the least as it squeezed smiles and looks of astonishment from some of their most fervent fans. This gig however, brought both good news and bad news at once. The good news, as Evan Fox revealed to me was that they were releasing a new EP in  early 2013, the bad news, Fox would be temporarily relocating to LA for a bit. I made him promise that this was only temporary.

Photos by Krystle Miller

Finally, it was time to get down to brass tacks and Gospel Claws. I’m not going to lie, I’ve come in a little late to the Gospel Claws experience–though I think I’ve more than caught up this year throughout their shows, their benefit blowout earlier this year to assist in medical expenses for Joel Marquard, their successful Kickstarter campaign and enjoying their past releases. It was, in fact, the late Mark Erickson who demanded that I listen to them and once again I was thankful for his advice. Gospel Claws were simply divine on Friday night and in fact it was the best performance I have seen them ever deliver–Jef Wright (colorstore, Project) was surprisingly and enlighteningly playing drums which only serves them better as he is one of my favorite drummers in town, while producer Bob Hoag joined them on stage as well, even Mitch Freedom (every other band in town at some point or another) joined them to clack rocks together to a great rendering of “Hambone.” Their performance was flawless, amazing, stunning–all that you could hope for  and more. The songs from Put Your Sunshine Away were fully fleshed out and on display, from the title track to “Teenage Kicks,” “Anything I Can Do,” and “I Want It All” –the songs rang golden on the Crescent stage. Evoking at once the height of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound era beach toned jangle pop, while clearly demarcating a unique indie rock perspective, the Claws were at the height of their game, especially when revisiting songs past. I think what I love the most about Gospel Claws is that they can appropriate sounds from the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s and onward to somehow coalessce this essence into something uniquely their own, uniquely joyful and live, something that will give you goosebumps here and there.  The festivities, though, for my taste, ended all too early–I could have easily enjoyed another half hour of Gospel claws on their release night, and i was not alone in  this sentiment.

Photo by Kataklizmic Design

This leads to my final point on the show. It was amazing. Every band brought their A-Game. The Crescent is a great venue. I understand and love all of this. What I don’t understand is that at the last moment the show was moved to start at 7:15pm from 8pm. Honestly, I’m used to showing up at a gig on time and waiting a half hour until the show actually starts, rather than showing up on time and finding out I missed a band. Another thing I  don’t understand is the urgency to get the bands done andover with by midnight. I get that there are DJs spinning in the bar out front, but I also get that there is almost a completely separate crowd for these different events. The entire evening it seemed the bands on the stage felt rushed to get on, squeeze as many songs in as they could and get out. It seemed more imperative that the bands had to be done by midnight or shortly thereafter, than how much it meant to the people that had paid the cover that  they got to see fantastic sets that might go over the time limit, but to smiling, appreciated appeal. I’ve always felt that Crescent starts shows too early for its own good, but it also seems they cut them off in the opposite direction just the same. Everyone I know, the folks that go to show, the artists, the writers, the fans, do  not want  to be at a show at 7:15pm. These people usually show up for a show no earlier than 9pm if you are lucky, but they will stay until 2am if there is music playing. Friday night, musicians were looking at their watches or phones and sweating the timeslots they had to play, honestly it doesn’t seem fair to them or the fans that paid money to see them–especially when you move the start time up by nearly an hour. It was a fantastic show, but like so many other events at Crescent, it would have been so much better if maybe it had been allowed to creep way past midnight and the bands weren’t so stressed about their set times.