ShowsAroundTown: Every Other Night…

Some people seem to think I go out every night, which I don’t–some weeks I don’t go out at all. Others think that it would be my dream to go see bands every night, which it’s not–it often takes every fiber of my soul to get out and go see the shows I do catch and if I went out every night I would get seriously overloaded, hell I’m overloaded as it is. Lately, I’ve been either going out to specifically catch new talent, get new records (or cassettes), or see a show that I know is going to be unapologetically phenomenal.  Starting last Friday, I went out every other night, I took Saturday off from everything to simply recharge and Monday off to write. This worked out well because I caught three amazing shows on Friday, Sunday and Tuesday at three different venues and all definitely seemed noteworthy.

Friday, February 21st – Long Wong’s Tempe – Fairy Bones Residency W/Stereoblind, The Haymarket Squares, The Cherry Bluestorms, and Sister Lip

I try to make it to at least one FBOM a month, if not two, because usually these residencies are a lot of fun and the lineups are killer.  I had been eying this one all month, because though admission is free it would give me the most bang for my buck. Clearly I was excited that The Cherry Bluestorms from Los Angeles would be back in town, as I reviewed their latest album last week to promote the show a bit ( you can read it HERE).  I wanted to see Stereoblind, but it’s difficult to get me anywhere before nine and I walked in just as they were leaving the stage. It had been ages or weeks since I saw The Haymarket Squares and I tend to see Fairy Bones and Sister Lip roughly once a week and I was due for a dose of each. So, this show was perfect.

Miraculously, I did make it there before nine and I was rewarded by catching the entire set from The Haymarket Squares. I love these guys and everything about them. Anachronistic music, mixed with leftist politics and outfits appropriate for the early 20th century all guided by a punk ethos to deliver psychotic bluegrass to your door. That’s pretty amazing in and of itself. I was working on memorization techniques this weekend, because I kept forgetting pen and paper every damn time I went out. I can’t tell you what songs they played, but I know I watched an I danced and I watched others watching and dancing. We all had a good time. I also happen to love when they end the set by leaving the stage, getting down on the dance floor and play a song or two amidst the audience. Seriously if you haven’t seen them yet, do yourself a favor and check them out. The Cherry Bluestorms were up next and they did not disappoint. They played a brilliant psychedelic mix of new songs as well as songs from their two previous albums. They have a third album in the works that Glen Laughlin told me is all singles, which excites the hell out of me.  It’s brave for a band to open a set with The Beatles “She Said, She Said” but this is the same band that opened their debut album with “Baby You’re A Rich Man” and for the record they pulled it off exquisitely. The songs from their concept album Bad Penny Opera were as brilliant live as they are on record, plus live songs like “As Above So Below,” “Bad” and “Start Again” had Deborah Gee dancing in her stylish 60s best. Three of the best songs, which makes me ache for their new album, were on neither released album. “Roy Wood” is a dedication song to a once powerful wizard of pop and rock, “Heel To Toe” was awesome and my favorite of the bunch was “Purple Heart Magic” which oozed supremely of psychedelic grandiosity. The crowd begged for more, but the band was humble and didn’t want to rob the bands to follow of their time on stage.

Fairy Bones followed and freaked me out because they’ve been starting their shows lately with “Duka” and switched it up with kicking off with “Alcohol & Adderol” which is my favorite unrecorded song they have in their growing catalog, though it is currently being rivalled by another song they’ve been recently playing, “Slide 2.0″ which they did not play that night. Still the set was amazing, high energy from beginning to end and it sure as hell hit the spot since I hadn’t caught a Fairy Bones show in a week or so. Alright, I’ll admit it, it had only been six days. I would catch them once more before this spree ended. Sister Lip closed out the night perfectly, I finally got my very own copy if their acoustic album and Ariel Monet let me know that they were working hard on recording a new EP that I can’t wait to get my hands on–definitely something to look forward to this May. I didn’t even ask about the track list, I want to be completely surprised, they way I am every time they get on stage and blow my mind.

Photo by Mandi Kimes

Sunday, February 23rd – Crescent Ballroom – Cover The Crescent: Johnny Cash, The Replacements, Billy Idol, The National, Bright Eyes

I didn’t realize until just now that this is how I celebrated my half-birthday. I love the “Cover The Crescent” events and I’ve been to a hell of a lot of them. I love watching local musicians who I’ve seen do great original work, step outside of themselves and lay down a tribute show to a favored artist.  I also love it when bands through a cover or two into their original set and yet I don’t like tribute bands for the most part…weird. Still, these “Cover The Crescent” nights are always special and the proceeds always go to a great charity–so you can have fun and know that your money is doing some good. Several times the lineup of artists being covered have had a consistency to it, but this past Sunday it was literally all over the place. I was on board early on when it was announced that The Breakup Society would be covering The Replacements, but then as the other artists were revealed it clinched my decision to go, especially members of Sundressed doing Bright Eyes and Matt Klassen doing Billy Idol.

I swear I got there on time, it was early, before nine anyway, but I knew it was going to start early, but I got lost on the patio for a bit before I realized the show had started. I walked in about half way through “Snaketown” performing Johnny Cash’s “Jackson” and hoped I hadn’t missed more, which I hadn’t. Snaketown it turns out featured Jack Young on lead vocal, Mark Innocenti on lead guitar with Anamieke Quinn on stand up bass and Ehren Stonner on drums (the latter two of Treasurefruit). It was an amazing set and Young nailed the vocals and acoustic rhythm guitar. Perfectly constructed with hits like “Ring of Fire”, “Walk The Line” and “Get Rhythm” it also has some more obscure tunes like “Cocaine Blues” and the fabulous “25 Minutes to Go.” Young got to take a break so Quinn could sling a guitar and take lead for “Ghost Riders”, but the whole crew returned for the finale of the essential “Folsom Prison Blues.” The Breakup Society were up next with a smoldering seven song set of songs by The Replacements. This had been the set that originally hooked me because I love The Replacements and they fucking nailed it. The only thing that could have been more true to form is if Ed Masley had worn a Westerberg wig and been visibly wrecked, but they got the music right. I had heard they were covering Hootenanny through Pleased To Meet Me, which is the best era for the Mats, but I was surprised that Let It Be, one of the finest albums in rock history was skipped, but perhaps that was too sacred. Just under half the set was from Hootenanny and it short order they started with those, cruising through “Treatment Bound”, “Color Me Impressed”, and the title track, playing them better than the Mats themselves played them live on the tour for that album. “Kiss Me On The Bus” snapped out of the realm and into the album Tim, and you check out the video snippet of it below shot by Dfactor Pop. This began what I refer to as the “bliss” section of the set as they followed this with “Can’t Hardly Wait”, “Left of the Dial” and one of my all time faves “Alex Chilton.” I could have easily listened to them cover seven more Mats classics with pleasure.

Having been a huge fan of The Cold Desert I couldn’t wait to see their former (?) frontman Matt Klassen take on Billy Idol. For the evening he assembled an impromptu band which featured Charles Barth (Saddles) on guitar, Julianne Forte on keys and vocals. Casey Jensen on guitar, Jason Stevens on bass and Jed Primero on drums. Covers aside, this was simply a great freaking band and the combination of Klassen and Forte was sublime. They opened, they HAD to open, with “White Wedding” during which the collective jaws of the room visibly dropped (mine included) and they stayed dropped through the entire set because Klassen became Billy Idol without looking anything like him. Every musician I talked to that even just shook their head in disbelief over that set at how amazing they were and how great Klassen’s vocals were. The rarity if the set followed with “Shooting Stars” and other than the band, I think I may have been the only one that knew it. “Dancing With Myself” had a fantastic twist to it and they played it slow, in almost aching fashion, which made it mesmerizing and slightly sad, which is nothing I considered before in reference to the preeminent anthem of masturbation. All other songs in the set “Flesh For Fantasy”, “Eyes Without A Face” and “Rebel Yell” were delivered traditionally, furiously with the latter as a finale blowing the roof off the place and everyone’s mind at once.

It was Vinyl Stations’s turn to cover The National and I wasn’t sure if I had seen Vinyl Station before until I saw two guys with guitars and a kick drum and realized I had. I love The National and I deeply enjoy Vinyl Station’s act so I knew this was going to be good and it was great. They pulled material largely from the more recent albums and reduced them to their format without losing its passion and truth. The heart wrenching “I Should Live In Salt” opened the set and set the pace for it and even though Matthew Thornton was checking the lyrics in his iPad, he never seemed to lose a beat. At times the set would explode as with “Demons” and at other times one would be hypnotized by lyrics like “I want to eat your brains” in “Conversation 16″. There was the necessary sweetness of “I Need My Girl” delivered perfectly as well as the edgy pathos of “Think You Can Wait” about a man losing his mind and hoping to recover before the object of his loves patience expires. They finished on an upbeat number with the amazingly titled “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” and having gone into the set not knowing what to expect, my attention was rapt the entire time and left me wanting to listen The National some time soon and checking out Vinyl Station again when they are not doing covers.

The last set of the night was Bright Eyes and Trevor Hedges of Sundressed had assembled something of a local supergroup to perform the songs of his favorite artist of all time. Not unlike Klassen’s group, I’d like to see this outfit do more beyond this evening. Trevor Hedges sang lead and played guitar, Ryan Osterman (Sundressed, Owl & Penny) on guitar, Trevor Denton (Sun Ghost) played keys, Enrique Naranjo (Future Loves Past) on drums, Chris Hudson (Playboy Manbaby) on bass and Jason Milham (Saddles, Luke Oliver) on guitar…Seriously? Now, I love Bright Eyes and I have most of Conor Oberst’s catalog memorize because I spent a year falling asleep to nothing but their records in a five disc player and subsisting on a diet entirely of whiskey. I can honestly say that I never enjoyed that music more than I did this past Sunday at Crescent. I really wished it had been filmed, though the rumor was that it was recorded…and I seriously hope that gets released because it was amazing–the perfect icing on the cake for that evening, though without video, you won’t get to see the absolute bliss on Hedge’s face as he appears to have the most fun he’s had in years playing the songs of one of his greatest influences. What was great is that a lot of musicians would have taken this to a sad, lonely place, but Hedge’s superstar band made this a goddamned rocking event transforming tracks like “You Will? You Will?”, “Bowl Oranges”, “Calendar Hung Itself” and “Feb 15 (Happy Birthday To Me)” into ferocious little numbers of their own. My favorite was the rarity (technically not Bright Eyes) of “Man and Wife, the latter (Damaged Goods) and as an audience member pointed it out it was best he had ever heard it sung before. Meanwhile, “Road To Joy” was so explosive and searing, that it became everything that song should have been originally, which they followed with “Poison Oak” and the finale “Lua.” I hope the recording of this comes out, because in my mind, it’s better than Bright Eyes ever was and I think that’s the vision of Hedges assisted by an all star cast.

Photo by Kevin Gassman


Tuesday, February 25th – Rogue Bar – Sons of Hippies, Fairy Bones, The Thin Bloods, Villains

Sometimes you can’t prepare yourself for the show you are about to see. I met Yvette Adams at the Genre release party a few weeks ago and she told me about the duo she involved in called Villians. I was intrigued as I had never heard of them and the concept sounded like something I’d dig and I told her I’d make sure to check out one of her forthcoming gigs. Their Rogue date was perfect and I love the place, plus Fairy Bones was playing and a band from Florida called Sons Of Hippies. It wasn’t until the day before the show that I saw The Thin Bloods were on the bill too and that sealed the deal. First of all, I have this weird habit that most of the time I won’t check out a bands recordings until after I have seen them live, so I didn’t listen to Villains or Sons Of Hippies online, I was unprepared for both, but happily so.

Villains is the duo of Yvette Adams and Ivan Hernandez, accompanied by programmed keys and beats. They were formerly a trio, but have since parted ways with their drummer. All of their posted recordings do not reflect the new electronica direction of their music and I have not listened to them yet to keep Tuesday nights performance fresh in my mind. They have this mixture that comes off a bit like death disco, a subtle blend of danceable goth allure, hard driving punk meets metal guitar and an ungodly vocal range courtesy of Adams. I was mesmerized the entire time they were on stage. Songs like “Intro” that bled effortlessly into “Catalina” with Adams moving from sweet whispers to growling screams, “Inside Your Head” a brilliant rocking number that’s a definite favorite or the equally raucous and exciting “Excercise In Bad Taste” are perfection in genre bending experimentation. Villains do indeed have a softer side which was demonstrated by the wistful “Strings” or the solo keyboard song by Adams that she simply called “A Sad Song”. They finished the set though with a one two punch featuring a new song called “Pale Horse” (perhaps my favorite of the evening) and the audacious “Don’t Fight.” I await with eager anticipation Villians forthcoming new EP which they anticipate will be ready before summer. This is definitely a band to keep your eye on.

Fairy Bones. My god Fairy Bones. It occurs to me in writing about the shows I see that I see this band a hell of a lot. I was glad I was there Tuesday, because Kevin Gassman of KWSS showed up and I’ve been trying to get him to a Fairy Bones show for the better part of a year. Sometimes I need a sanity check and the look on his face of stunned amazement was enough to make sure my thinking was correct. This time they did open with “Duka” like I’m used to, but they didn’t play “Alcohol & Adderol” oddly enough. The truth was it was an amazing set and I’d be hard pressed to pick which set was better between Tuesday and Friday. Their performance of “Slide 2.0″ did however seal the deal that it is at least my second favorite unrecorded number, but I’m and easy sell on their hard, fast numbers. It tends to take more time for me to be romanced by their slower, deeper tunes, in the end they somehow all win me over. It was a slim crowd, but I loved looking around at the reactions from the unknowing attendees as they all seemed enthralled, especially with tried and true numbers like “Anything” and “Like, Like.” Other numbers of the evening though sparkled with brilliance no matter how many times I’ve seen them performed, “Whipping Boy”, “Demons & Dogs,” “Waiting” and of course the finale, the stunning single with a video in waiting, “Filler Baby.”

Sons of Hippies from Sarasota, Florida were up next and I can’t even wrap my head around their performance over 24 hours later. Mostly, I’m sorry for nearly everyone I know for having missed their performance, honestly.  They call themselves space/pop rock and while that’s true in a sense they are so much more. Seriously, I hope to hell these guys come through town again so that more than the 23 people at Rogue during their performance can catch their act, because its some seriously great shit. This is the point where psychedelia meets punk at the corner of power pop and math rock, right down the street from post-modern prog rock avenue. That’s the best I can do. It was one of the most stunning and original sounds I have heard in a long time, not only due to the the music which may well have altered my genetic code, but also due to the unusually eclectic lead vocals by Katherine Kelly. Her voice is unlike anything I’ve ever heard, not that it was terribly unusual per se, but her phrasing, the texture and signature artifacts within her delivery mad it unique. Add all of this madness to the fact that they had videos of fractals projected onto their drum set and the entire thing tied together perfectly in a package of sound and vision. They are also capable of bending space and time, when their set ended I was sure they had been on for an hour–I checked my phone and that set was just over 35 minutes. Amazing. Let’s hope they return.

The evening was coming to a close and The Thin Bloods were up next to finish out the evening. Clearly The Thin Bloods are one of my favorite bands going right now. Truth be told if I didn’t know they had been added to the bill, I may have left the show after Fairy Bones and missed Sons of Hippies. I had honestly plotted some grocery shopping after the show, but abandoned that plan when I found out they were showing up. I was there, I was up, it was fucking Tuesday, why not dig in and enjoy? And enjoy I did and so did everyone else and oddly, they may have had the largest crowd out of pure happenstance. They opened with “Colleen” and raged with it right into a new song which is unnamed, but that I called “You’re The Same” after the refrain. At this point a few people pointed out that they were great and I nodded and said “I know” and then felt like an asshole for such a smug response. They “slowed” things down for “Float” which would not be any other bands idea of slowing things down, before kicking in to four amazing songs in a row from Twin Tumors Vol. 1, their most recent release. It seemed non-stop as they rolled through “All Pinned Up”, “Sharp Teeth”, “Eric Stoltz”, and, of course, “Marty.” They finished with “Rain” which is incidentally drenched in The Pixies, followed by the now seemingly classic “Lucifer Reigns.” At the end of the set a girl turned to me and said, “They were the best band of the night.” For me it was a pretty fierce four way tie.