Report: The Whines & More Live in Mass.

 

Sore
Eros, Fantasies, The Whines, Gimlet Slip and Gracefully Aging Hippie Soloists
take the stage at Easthampton’s
Flywheel venue on May 23 for an evening of DIY surprises.

 

Text/Photos by Jennifer Kelly

 

A Monday night bill at Easthampton’s
Flywheel offered girl-powered SST punk, beat-box frat punk, luminous
electrified freak folk, dreamy lo-fi and a surprise appearance by Eric Gaffney.
Eclectic?  Hell, yes. Uniformly
excellent?  God, no. But definitely worth
the price of admission, which was $6, by the way.

 

 

The evening opened with Gaffney’s band, Gracefully Aging Hippie Soloists. That’s a name he’s been using
since the late 1980s, then with Boss Hog’s Charles Ondras (who passed away in
1992). Tonight’s band seems more casually put together, a bassist and a drummer
who have done time in local outfits like Claudia Malibu and the Drunken
Stuntmen. The set list is all covers, apparently, though the bass player
suggests a couple that might be originals and Gaffney rejects them, saying
“That’s not on the setlist yet.” So maybe, in time, there were will be some
original material, but for now, there’s a Flipper cover, and a meandering story
about a Flipper show. The band is pretty good though, confident in a carefree
sort of way, tossing off tightly wound garage riffs and esoteric guitar effects
(Gaffney with a big pedal board) with an unmistakable joy.

 

 

 

Next is Gimlet Slip,
an all female hardcore punk band that impressed me a few weeks ago opening for
the Obits. Led by their bass player, Diane, the band rips into a couple of
fast, hard, one-two-driving punk songs. Diane and the guitar player, Christina,
shout-sing, their voices almost subliminal over the thrash and clatter. Then
Christina breaks a string and utters the words that no one wants to hear – or
say – at a five-band show. “Does anyone have an A string?  Or a guitar?” Gaffney, it turns out, has an A
string, but the momentum has been killed dead as a doornail by the time the
music resumes.

 

Gimlet Slip charges right back in, blond, pixie-haired
drummer Rene, pounding and clashing away at her kit, arms flung nearly vertical.
The two others stand stock still, one hip cocked out, as they pick and scrub
out rapid-fire eighth note riffs.  Near
the end, they try a new song, which starts in a strung-out swing rhythm on ride
cymbal, picking up sleepy, loopy bass and slow sustained guitar notes. A jazz
experiment?  Not to worry, the song blows
up in the middle with a rabid, speed-addled barrage of drumming, not 16th notes but 32nds, and an equally blur-speed guitar break.

 

 

 

I’m really here to see the
Whines
, a lo-fi garage band out of Portland,
OR, that seems, at least from
what I’ve heard, to meld the sludgy aggression of 1990s grunge to the dreamy
indefinability of girl-led bands like Black Tambourine. There’s a little bit of
country in there, too, and a shade or two of Neil Young, though filtered
through a rough, chaotic punk aesthetic. In a recent interview at Victim of Time, bassist/singer Karianne
mentioned the Meat Puppets, Lee Hazleton and Nancy Sinatra and Pink Reason as
influences, and somewhere in that triangle is exactly what they sound like. The
Whines have been kicking up a bit of dust lately with their debut full-length Hell to Play,  which was recorded with the help of lo-fi
mainstays from Eat Skull and Meth Teeth and which, apparently, made Ty Segall’s
2010 year-end list.

 

The Whines are a three-piece. Jesse, the guitar player, is
skinny, flannel-shirted and intense, wandering as far as his cord will allow,
back and forth, looking for a spot where he can hear the rest of the band. If
there’s a shred of country in this band (and there is) it comes from Jesse, who
veers from garage-rock power chords into splintery, glittery bouts of rustic
contemplation. Blonde-haired, waifish Karianne is bundled up in a big jacket,
looking very young behind a thatch of bangs, singing coolly above the murk. And
Bobby, behind the drums, is the punkish wild card, banging hard, punchy rhythms
under the band’s storm and swirl.

 

The band’s sound is evolving, moving from straight-on lo-fi
punk into something more complex and structured. I’ve done some minimal prep
beforehand, relistening to an old single “Insane OK” that a friend put on a mix
tape years earlier, plus a few songs from Hell
to Play
. “Insane OK”, which they play midset, is all primitive stomp and
drone, minimal and heavy, with only the shimmer of Karianne’s vocals to lighten
the load. “It’s Raining”, a more recent song, borrows a Kim Deal bass line
(four notes on one string, four notes on the other, rinse and repeat) and
builds tension through restraint. “Vacation”, also from the 2010, brings the
Nirvana connection to the fore — a bleary roar of guitar over tumbling,
clattering drums, it’s an off-cut from Bleach with a girl singing. The sound isn’t great – you can hardly make out the vocals
at all – but there’s something exciting about the way this band splices chaos
to lyricism, blistering aggression to lucid pop serenity.

 

 

 

The next band is Fantasies,
a local duo whose beat-box-backed, double-guitared punk rock is loud but
unremarkable. The singer does get the sound girl to turn up the vocals, though,
so that the evenings’ least interesting band is the one that you can hear the
best.

 

 

 

The final slot belongs to Sore Eros, an altered folk project headed by Robert Robinson, a
sometime member of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, who has also played with
Panda Bear, Kurt Vile and Gary War. You can hear shades of all these artists in
Robinson’s eerie songs, the spectral echo and shimmer of Ariel Pink, the
unaffected directness of Vile, the choral complexities of Panda Bear. There is
also a good deal of the freak folksiness that runs in the water locally. You
could make a connection to MV+EE, clearly, or the recent, acoustically tempered
J. Mascis.

 

All of which is to say that Robinson transmutes the purest,
simplest, most nature-driven kind of folk music into something luminously
strange. He uses effects to turn his high murmuring voice into ghostly layers
of sound. The guitars, too, are filtered so that ordinary strumming and picking
emerges as silvery filaments of sound.  Like Woods, he favors a trebly, falsetto
sound, but his is much more unearthly and less grounded.

 

For this show, Robinson has brought along a full band, a
bass player, an additional guitarist and drummer, and this allows him to layer
additional string-based complexities onto his sound. At one point, he, the
other guitarist and the bass player are all playing eighth notes together,
generally in unison but with occasional, subliminal touches of dissonance. There’s
something wild in the way their tones build, intersect and conflict with one
another. And, Robinson, unlike many electronically-engaged folk players, is not
afraid to let things get loud. In a song late in the set, lyrical intervals
culminate in big cymbal-crashing climaxes, the drummer bent nearly double
against the kit as he flings his arms up and down in tom fills and clatters.

 

Sore Eros ends the night on a spiritual note, filling the
small space with disembodied “ooh-oohs,” and surreal, crystalline textures of
guitar. It’s been an unpredictable evening – an unconventional covers band,
girl punk, lo-fi garage, drum-machine punk and the freakiest of freak folks –
but a good one. In a world where interests are so narrowly defined and marketed
to that no one ever has to hear anything challenging, isn’t that a good thing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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