Category Archives: live review

Hellyeah + Kyng 8/6/17, Memphis

Dates: August 6, 2017

Location: New Daisy Theatre, Memphiis TN

New Daisy Theatre saw a bloody good time on this steamy summer evening.

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY MARK JACKSON

Chad and the boys of Hellyeah brought heavy metal to Memphis, TN. on August the 6th. From the moment that drummer Vinnie Paul appeared behind his drum kit the crowd knew they were in for a head banging loud concert. Lead singer Chad Gray is know for his signature look of bloody face, wild hair, and great heavy metal voice that can also bring it down. The new hit song “Love falls” show the full range of Chad’s voice, not to mention the talent of the entire band. Hellyeah is out on tour in support of their 2016 album Undeniable. With Songs such as “Human” “Love falls” and “I don’t care anymore” (Phil Collins cover) this is an album that any metal head should have in their library.

Chad loves to get up close with fans and photographers too. Many performers choose to stay far away from the edge of the stage but not Chad, he spent much of the night right up front and came out into the crowd more than once! This was a great show and a great night. Now if I can only get my ears to stop ringing! I can’t wait to catch Hellyeah out on the road again, hopefully sooner than later!

Below: opening act Kyng

 

 

Mark Jackson: @markjacksonphotography1

Priests + Lithics 8/12/17, Denver

Dates: August 12, 2017

Location: Larimer Lounge, Denver CO

Live at the Larimer Lounge for an evening of edgy art pop ‘n’ punk.

BY TIM HINELY

I hadn’t heard Lithics before but they hail from my old stomping grounds of Portland, Oregon. Three guys on guitar/bass/drums and one deadpan female on guitar/vocals. They really delivered a convincing set of quirkly art pop/ no wave kinda stuff with good short songs. I was at times reminded of Pylon, UT (remember them?), and a little Bush Tetras, too. I couldn’t tell you the names of any of the songs but if you’re planning on catching  Priests gig they’re definitely worth showing up early for (and it looks like their Bandcamp page has plenty for sale).

My first time seeing Priests and I believe that vocalist Katie Alice Greer stated that this was their first time in Denver and she was excited by that. The Washington, DC quartet are touring on the heels of their debut lp, Nothing Feels Natural that came out earlier this year on the band’s own Sister Polygon Records. The record is a fresh blast of angular, politicized punk that at times reminded me of Bikini Kill and Bratmobile.

On stage Greer is all over the place, staring audience members down then giving them a sly smile while guitarist GL Jaguar  rips out dirty chords and is moving, too. The rhythm section of drummer Daniele Daniele and new bassist Fabi Reyna are the glue that holds it sall together. Songs from the LP, like “JJ,” “No Big Bang,” “Suck,” “Pink White House” and the title track take on the feel of classics every time I hear them.

I expected more political banter between songs, but aside from one mention of the Charlottesville incident that happened earlier in the day, she was more friendly and playful in chatting with the crowd. Having said that, this band is the real deal, don’t take her kindness for weakness. She can change that tune in a second and begin spitting out lyrics that will set you on your ear (as on “Pink White House”).

It’s not all one big emotional spit though. The band can be understated and subtle when they want to be. That’s one of the things that makes them so special.

In a city like Washington, DC where the Dischord label looms large and bands like these have come (and gone) it takes a special kind of band to really stand out from the pack and Priests have done just that. I’m glad to see that not only did they do it on record, that live they can deliver as well.

Bonnaroo Music Festival 2017

Dates: June 8-11, 2017

Location: Manchester, Tennessee

This year’s event took place June 8th-11th in Manchester, TN, and featured, among many changes, an expanded Other stage.

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY: MARK JACKSON

The great music festival known as Bonnaroo took place Thursday June 8th thru Sunday night the 12th on “The Farm” in Manchester, TN. Bonnaroo turned Sixteen this year and it defiantly was a sweet sixteen! Bonnaroo has always been known and praised for its ability to put together a diverse lineup. This year might have been its most diverse year yet, and the attendance numbers – over sixty five thousand – seems to show the people approve.

This year they took the Other tent and turned it into a full-on open air stage just like the Which stage and the What stage. This new stage may have been part of the reason the festival attendance was up over last year as this stage catered to the electronic crowd. With such acts as Nghtmre, Herobust (below), and Marshmello Man (below), this stage keep the EDM crowd engaged and dancing with the most intense light shows and l.e.d. light boards that I have ever witnessed.

This year’s headliners included U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chance the Rapper, and The Weeknd. This in itself is a very diverse lineup, but now add in the EDM acts, a ton of new and up and coming acts, and a little country just for good measure and you have yourself one hell of a good weekend.

Bonnaroo also has a ton of vendors of all types of food including vegan food, lots of drink options with Miller Lite (Cherokee Distributing) and Bacardi being huge sponsors this year. There were also lots of vendors of all types of goods such as earrings, festival wear and casual clothing, paintings, hammocks, and air capture loungers that seemed to be all the rage this year.

The weather was the best it has been in the last three years that I have been attending the festival, with the first three days being sunny and in the mid-80s during the day and around 60 at night. Sunday rose to the lower 90s but was bearable as I ducked in and out of the shade and was able to stay hydrated with lots of water filling station across the farm. Many people took advantage of the water fountain mushroom, as it was a great place to cool off each day.

The people are the main reason this is one if not the best festival of the year. You will see all kinds of unique characters as you venture across the grounds.

Once Centeroo opens on Thursday afternoon it doesn’t shut down, going twenty four hours a day until late Sunday night. The Silent Disco is an all out dance party where everyone wears headphones while the DJ plays the tunes goes on until 4 a.m., and The Jake and Snake Christmas Club Barn featured DJs all day until 6 a.m. The motto is “radiate positivity” and the people live it through out the festival. It is common for random people walking by to be high fiving everyone they pass by. What other festival could you step on someone’s foot and them apologize to you.

There were so many great bands this year, but a couple of standouts for me this year were Wilderado, Boyfriend, July Talk, and Tove Lo, plus Marshmello Man. (All are pictured below.)

This is just my guess, but I suspect that you will see Bonnaroo become two festivals in one next year and going forward. I say this because of the layout of the land, being so large and the spacing of the stages, as it is you could have an upscale of this years EDM lineup. The Other stage is now large enough to handle the large EMD crowds that it drew this year and could easily draw even more big names.

If they either built or converted one of the other tents in place and expanded the Christmas barn, this end would be a huge draw and be little to no reason for these festivalgoers to venture to the other end. I also heard rumors that there might be a Country Music Festival in the works. Why not? You have everything in place, so why not take advantage of the facilities for more than the one week a year. Being so close to Nashville, this could easily become a huge deal, but again this is just a rumor.

We will have to wait and see what happens with Bonnaroo, but either way I can’t wait until next year the dates have been set for June 7th-10th in 2018.

Follow my concert photography on Instagram @markjacksonphotography1

Belly

Big Gigantic

Big Jesus

Charlotte Cardin

Cold War Kids

Deap Vally

Dram

Gallant

Leon

Lukas Nelson

Luke Combs

Milky Chance

Preservation Hall Jazz Band w/Flint Eastwood

Head and the Heart

Tory Lanez

Travis Scott

Tucker Beathard

… plus the crowd!

 

 

 

 

THE MAGIC OF MONTREAL: The Festival De Jazz De Montreal

Dates: June 28 - July 8, 2017

Location: Montreal, Canada

After 38 years, the annual music event has yet to disappoint. This year it took place June 28 through July 8. Following the review, scroll down to see a gallery from the festival.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY ALISA BETH CHERRY

There are any number of reasons why the Montreal Jazz Festival stands out above all others. The first has to do with the music, which is world class, eclectic and marked by the kind and calibre of performance that’s rarely heard elsewhere. The other cause for why it’s so special is …well, that it’s held in Montreal. The host city alone ought to provide enough allure to draw those who are willing to succumb to the mystique, aura and allure that makes Montreal the closest thing to a European metropolis in the whole of North America, Quebec being the only exception. The singular line-ups featured each year provide added incentive, but even those like myself who have a limited knowledge of many of the musicians involved can find reason enough to trust that the setting alone will make it an exceptional event nonetheless.

To be sure, there is something of a risk that comes with peering at a roster that I find for me consists of mostly unfamiliar names. Even my husband’s reassurances that there’s much to enjoy still leaves me wondering if, in this adventurous array of cutting-edge artists, I’ll still find sounds that will easily find their way into my brain and later leave me humming a few catchy refrains. While I love jazz of the classic variety — big band, swing, contemporary conceits and the like — much of the music demands a willing ear and a willingness in general to venture deeply into experimental realms.

Mind you, that’s a concept that I’m generally comfortable with. The first time I agreed to go with my hubby to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, I had to wonder how I’d relate to a plethora of fiddles and banjos. I was a cosmopolitan girl from up north after all, and the lure of back porch jams and arcane Americana had me convinced that I’d be settling in for a series of hillbilly hoedowns, albeit in the lovely setting of Colorado’s magnificent mountains. Yet by the end of the festival I was totally hooked, having become enamoured by the likes of the Avett Brothers, Sam Bush and the Steep Canyon Rangers. Would I get the same feeling of satisfaction from The Souljazz Orchestra, Bill Frisell and Christian McBride? Clearly, it remained to be seen.

Granted, there were also artists who lured me in. The opportunity to see Bob Dylan on the day we arrived provided a sense of satisfaction, even though I knew that Dylan himself was hardly what one would call a predictable performer. Yet at the same time, he provided a perfect segue way for some jazzier designs, his current fascination with the music of his early idol, Frank Sinatra, and the Great American Songbook providing a cultural tie to the musical mantra that the Montreal Jazz Festival has always drawn upon for the past 38 years. Dylan’s designs were so concrete and coherent, in fact, that even when his own classic songs seemed inexplicably altered to the point where they were practically beyond recognition, his reverent renditions of “Stormy Weather,” “That Old Black Magic” and “Autumn Leaves” consoled me and made me believe that I could find connections even in the most unlikely circumstances.

That sense of calm was further amplified the following day when we took in a performance by the Bad Plus, a melodic jazz trio that chose to supplement their sets with an array of special guests. On this particular eventing, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel was sitting in, adding an extra texture to the group’s sooting sounds and seemingly extemporaneous improvisation. At times it seemed a bit too sedate, but after a whirlwind day taking in the sights and sounds of the festival — among them, the plethora of free outdoor performances, street shows and the general buzz that gave Rue Sainte- Catherine its festival-like atmosphere — a mellow mood seemed to play well into the evening’s fare.

That said, the next concert we took in changed my perception dramatically. The grand Festival a la Maison Symphonique is a spectacular setting for any concert, given its remarkable acoustics and a multi-tiered auditorium that brings to mind the regal opera houses found in many a great European city, London’s Albert Hall in particular. However, witnessing the performance of Colin Stetson on his saxophones, accompanied only by some strange sampling and unusual aural effects made me think that instead of being in a magnificent concert hall, I was actually in the belly of a beast. Suffice it to say, Stetson creates sounds like no other, strange, dissident and outlandishly obtrusive. It was left to Armenian pianist Tigran Hamasyan to restore my sense of calm and allow some reassurance that even the most avant garde experimentation was simply a matter of individual taste.

At this juncture I have to say that indeed, there were plenty of established artists at the festival who had earned their place in the pantheon by breaking boundaries and take their artistry to places that were unexpected and often divine. The Charles Lloyd Quartet, blues greats Buddy Guy and Charles Musselwhite, and Hudson — a new quartet featuring Jack DeJohnette (the recipient of a prestigious award of accomplishment the next day), John Scofield, John Medeski and Larry Grenadier — all proved that experimentation could be both adventurous and enticing all at the same time.

Nevertheless, our third day at the festival was all about reassurance as far as I was concerned. A soothing set of perfectly tuneful and melodic songs from Canada’s own Ron Sexsmith set the pace that evening, allowing the chance to admire and observe a singer/songwriter who, nearly 30 years on in his career, still makes music that comes complete with cascading choruses, willowy melodies and a soothing sense of wistful reflection. Ater Sexsmith’s set, we made a shift in our settings, from the intimate environs of Club Soda where Sexsmith had performed to Evenements Speciaux, another magnificent auditorium where we would view the film “La La Land” with the accompaniment of a full symphony orchestra. Having seen the film, I couldn’t imagine how the live symphonic sounds could effectively integrate into the musical segments on screen. And yet, it worked out seamlessly, giving a cinematic experience that was as uniquely charming as it was wonderfully romantic.

As if we hadn’t experienced enough diversity that evening, we braved through our hunger pains and made our way back to Club Soda for what may have been the most unlikely concert of the whole festival, a performance by the ‘80s pop/new wave/electronica band Men Without Hats. While the bulk of the band are new to the fold — and without hats, I might add — original singer Ivan Doroschuk still retains his distinctive baritone and, for a man of senior status (he turns 60 this year) some remarkably agile dance steps. Naturally, the group’s worldwide hit “Safety Dance” proved the highlight of the set, performed no less than three times throughout the evening, the first marred by technical difficulties involving one of the keyboards, the second by way of a make-up and the third to close out the show prior to the band taking an encore. Clearly, the nudge of nostalgia is a hard habit to break.

After the nonstop bombardment of both the proven and the provocative, our final evening of the festival couldn’t have provided us with a better way to say our farewells. It offered ample amounts of both. King Crimson was one of those weird yet wondrous outfits I remember seeing at the Fillmore at the end of the psychedelic ‘60s, when progressive rock brought strange new sounds to an audience that clamoured for the unconventional. Their signature song “In the Court of the Crimson King” offered a wonderful ride into an unexplored dimension, but ever since then, the ever-evolving nature of the band left me behind and unfamiliar with all but that earlier era. So much to my surprise, I found myself fascinated by the band’s current incarnation, particularly the three drummers that lined the front of the stage and seemed so in synch when it came to exacting the band’s rhythms. No jam band, this; each of the percussionists took solo turns, picking up with the others left off and pounding different drums while colleagues took their solos with sole original stalwart Robert Fripp playing out his unique guitar style and also tending to keyboards, the entire ensemble dazzled the audience with varying tones, textures and an ethereal ambiance that was as mesmerizing as it was magical. The end of the performance paid off with songs I could recall — the aforementioned “Court of the Crimson King, a soaring version of David Bowie’s “Heroes” and the electrifying verve of “21st Century Schizoid Man,” the latter of which seems more appropriate than ever.

It was an extraordinary end to an extraordinary festival, one that stands alone in its unique musical draw. Even the fact that we had to awaken at 4:30 AM the next day to catch a flight back to the States on the 4th of July proved well worth the effort. Montreal is amazing, and its soundtrack couldn’t be more enchanting.

***

Colin Stetson

Tigran Hamasyan

Ron Sexsmith with Lee Zimmerman interview

Montreal Jazz Fest 2017 – Street scene

Street Performers @ Montreal Jazz Fest

Ron Sexsmith

La La Land in Concert

Men Without Hats

Jakko Jakszyk & Mel Collins of King Crimson -interviewed by Lee Zimmerman

Jakko Jakszyk, Lee Zimmerman, Mel Collins

Street Performers

Negative Approach + Bloodclot 8/1/17, Denver

Dates: August 1, 2017

Location: Marquis Theatre, Denver CO

The Marquis Theatre was the scene of the crime, as singer John Brannon might put it… and our resident yuppie scum was there to document it.

BY BEN CURNETT / PHOTOS BY TIM HINELY

I’m not a raw power kind of guy, at least not most the time, though there was a long-past era in my life when I lived and breathed hardcore music. That younger hardcore me would have absolutely lost his shit when all kinds of punk/oi!/thrash godfathers showed up via the bands Negative Approach and Bloodclot last Tuesday at Denver’s Marquis Theater. It was a lot like taking a time machine to 1985, but a fucked up one that let 2017 seep through the cracks during the trip. The skinheads were there, just like every Oi! show, but I saw a guy in a Fred Perry and Nikes, for instance. But because I am now yuppie scum and definitively not hardcore, I had to do my people watching furtively. Suffice it to say there was a lot of stuff like that; a lot of very retro-but-fuck-it-everything-changes moments scattered throughout the scene.

Bloodclot, touring in support of their new album Up In Arms, were loud and brutal, just as you’d expect from a group of veterans of their particular pedigree. That veteran lineup happens to include Nick Oliveri of QOTSA and more. Frontman and way-back-when Cro Mags singer John Joseph regularly spouted some pat antichrist philosophy between songs, as well as some rastafari shit but I couldn’t make out if he was for it or against it (the smart money is on “for,” considering how far he goes back with HR/Bad Brains and since the dude is the most jacked, wilded-out vegan you’ll ever come across). They played a song about Monsanto, which got me to thinking how unique this whole thing was; even if you don’t like the music, which for me is more just fascination than actually being into it, you have to appreciate how much of a community there is in this trying-to-get-to-the-post-apocolypse group of misfits, where a hare krishna vegan is singing thrash metal odes to destroying the masters of war. The set was like an AA meeting with no rules and lots of beer (or not, in John’s case) and everybody calling bullshit on everything.

“There should be some threat in rock ‘n’ roll … that’s what rock ‘n’ roll’s all about.” That’s a quote from Negative Approach and storied pisser John Brannon that gets about as close to the heart of this hardcore thing as you’re likely to find. Threatening as ever and completely true to form, John commanded the show from start to finish with his trademark visage, which begs a little something in the way of explanation: Anyone that says John Brannon has a scowl on his face when he performs has completely missed the fucking point. The man is exorcising all kinds of shit-sucking, flesh-destroying demons up there, and not just his own; every single person in the room gets to share in the glare. Before the show, I read that he will occasionally pick someone out in the audience and stare them down … like, for a while. I have to admit that for a few seconds mid-set I though that poor bastard was going to be me, until I realized that a few seconds feels like an hour when John Brannon is staring into your cerebrospinal fluid. The songs are simply John’s countenance expressed in furious two minute musical bursts. The songs mostly sound the same to my old guy ears, though I recognized the absolutely spot-fucking-on cover of Sham 69’s “Borstal Breakout.” (BTW “borstal” is like “juvie” but for United Kingdomonians. The more you know, right?)

NA was as hardcore on a random Tuesday in 2017 as any hardcore band could ever have hoped to be in 1985, and for that reason, if you’re lucky enough for them to come through your town, they should never be missed.

 

SHOWDOWN AT THE SLOWDOWN: Steve Earle & the Dukes Live

 

Onstage at The Slowdown, the rock ‘n’ roll gunslinger had an Omaha showdown to prove he is, indeed, one of our finest living elder statesmen.

TEXT/PHOTOS BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS

Steve Earle is a hardcore son of a bitch.

For the better part of four decades, he has blazed a trail of truths that few, if any, in music today will even broach, let alone have the lyrical prowess to hang with Mr. Earle.  Finally, after years of fandom, I was getting to see Steve Earle live, the man himself in action and it was everything I thought it would be.  The intimate setting of The Slowdown, a venue situated  in downtown Omaha next to an Urban Outfitters, holding 800 strong in attendance, was the perfect place to see Earle and his band The Dukes, weave tales of lost love, immigrant strife, a drunken week, or the Holy City of Jerusalem.

On the road supporting the exceptional new record, Steve Earle and the Dukes’ So You Wanna Be An Outlaw, Steve and the Dukes showed why they should be considered in the “best of” conversation; stacking the 25-song-strong setlist with the most standout tracks from the new record, notably “Goodbye Michelangelo” (written in memory of the recently departed mentor/songwriting great Guy Clark), the shout out to all the “hot shots” out there battling the ever present wildfires (“Firebreak Line”) or the sound of a man at peace with his choices in life, at peace with his place, his future. (“Fixin’ to Die”).

Where Earle stands above the rest as a songwriter is his ability to convey heartbreak, a sincerity that is strong to a fault, and the joy he seems to find with the creation of art that will stand long after he has shaken loose this mortal coil.  He has mined the self-doubt and resignation that hangs above those that staff the death houses in America’s prisons (“Ellis Unit One”) and Earle’s stance on the deeply flawed culture built around retribution, the misguided belief that two wrongs make a right.  He’s told stories of moonshiners (“Copperhead Road”), confusing religion with God (“Jerusalem”), gunslingers (“Hardin Wouldn’t Run”), immigration (“City of Immigrants”), segregation (“Taneytown”), or what happens when you turn your back on responsibility and head for the border (“A Week of Living Dangerously”).

Steve has spent his life telling those who would listen what he believes in, even as he fell deeper and deeper into his own demons, channeling the frustration that comes with the hells of addiction, the soul shattering bottoms and otherworldly highs, all the while becoming one of America’s greatest songsmiths.  Earle helped create a genre, blending country aspects and rock n roll spirit, and on this August Midwestern night, as he has done on countless nights in endless towns before, he proved that he is not planning to go quietly into that good night.

Building a legend through his words, marathon length shows, surviving seven marriages (twice to the same woman), sixteen records, and a drug intake that rivalled Keith Richards, the granddaddy of rock star excess, he survived it all and still has very moving stories to tell.  For those that focus on the legendary wild times and the even wilder truths, they are missing the point.

Earle’s body of work stands higher than the stories, his approach to writing, drawing from his personal heroes Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, helped lay the bricks for a road that he shares with Dylan, Springsteen, Willie Nelson, and Neil Young in terms of songwriting ability and lyrical superiority.  This, my friends, is a road that faux country stars like Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, Brantley Gilbert, and every other joker out there claiming to be country, insisting to all that will listen to be outlaw, will never see, much less tread.  When all those are washed away by time and changing fads, Earle’s work will stand above the wreckage as an example of how to write and song and rise above chaos to leave an indelible mark on the world.

The Steve Earle that took the stage this night is not the Steve Earle of old.  This man on the stage was older, wiser, happier, and somehow better than he was in his so-called glory days of “Guitar Town”; he’s accepted that he is doing what he was put here to do and that he does it better than most anyone out there running today.  He has aged into an elder statesman of country injected rock n roll, a champion for all those left behind or oppressed.  Much like Cash before him, he speaks to the common man, speaking for those that have no voice.

Steve Earle is a hardcore son of a bitch, he speaks the truth and I am glad I finally had the chance to hear it.

The Descendents 7/21/17, Denver

Dates: July 21, 2017

Location: The Fillmore, Denver CO

Live at Denver’s Fillmore venue, the gang plowed through 40 years of hits, touching on all eras of the band.

BY TIM HINELY

The last time the Descendents played this venue was in late January 2012. I remember because we had moved to Denver a week later, Feb, 4th, 2012 and I was beyond bummed that I missed it by a week. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get a chance to see ‘em again, but alas, they have played Two of the four Denver Riot Fests here and having two of the guys in nearby Ft. Collins, well, they’re almost like a local band here (almost).

It’s funny how after all these years, I still think of guitarist Stephen Egerton and bassist Karl Alvarez as “the new guys” (these days both of ‘em sporting the Mr. Clean look).  None of the other early lineups lasted more than a few years so this is easily the longest lineup of the band (and in their alter ego, All, too having Chad Price on vocals). So no, they’re not the  new guys , but the first time I saw them, Summer of ’86, Ray Cooper and Doug Carrion were still in the band so that strange thought is still in my head.

The band (with original members Milo Aukerman on vocals and drummer Bill Stevenson in addition to the two above-mentioned “new” guys) rarely disappoint though. At this point they’re a well-oiled machine, running through nearly 40 years of hits (hits in my mind, anyway).

They opened with “Everything Sux” (from their 1996 album of the same name) which seems to be their requisite opener these days and plowed through an hour and a half of melodic, gritty punk. For some of the old classics we heard “Hope,” “My Dad Sucks,” (written by original guitarist Frank Navetta who apparently had a very difficult relationship with his dad), “Coolidge,” “Suburban Home” (first Descendents tune I ever heard and the one that made me a fan), “Silly Girl,” “Pervert,” “Get the Time” and too many more.

They came out for not one but two encores as the first one included “I’m the One” (also off ‘96’s Everything Sux) and “Bikeage” off the classic Milo Goes to College). For the second encore we heard “Sour Grapes” (off Enjoy) and they ended it with an elongated version of Catalina” and called it a night.

After decades of obscurity its great to finally see these guys getting the respect they deserve (something that has eluded their alter-ego, All, thus far).

I’ll go ahead and say it. These guys are welcome back to Denver anytime.

Photo credit: 2014 by IllaZilla – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38020669

 

House and Land + Footings 7/20/17, Peterborough NH

Dates: July 20, 2017

Location: Bass Hall, Peterborough NH

Bass Hall turns into a Baptist church with the North Carolina duo, for one memorable evening in New Hampshire.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY JENNIFER KELLY

If you’re considering how to spend your evening, unaccompanied vocal music from the North Carolina Baptist tradition probably doesn’t sound like much fun. But for the North Carolina duo of House and Land, that raw, forthright tradition inspires an eerily evocative acoustic music where spine-chilling vocal descants collide with mysterious psychotropic drones. I went to Baptist Sunday school for years, and I never heard anything like this.

The show opens with a local trio known as Footings, that’s Thing in the Spring organizer Eric Gagne on electric guitar and vocals, violinist Elisabeth Fuschia and singer Candace Clement in the middle, singing harmonies. Unfortunately, the sound is a little off, with the electric guitar turned up high enough to drown out violins and both singers, which somewhat obscures the prettiness of songs like “Pajo” with its plucked and swooning throbs of strings, its tight dizzying harmonies and its gathering strength in chorus of “Keep breathing.”  (You wonder if it’s about the Pajo from Slint.)  On the BandCamp, Footings ventures further into 1990s indie rock blare, a la Superchunk and Sebadoh, and with the violin boosted high enough to register, and that would work too, but in the live show, the guitar blots out the details and even the songs themselves.

Bass Hall is a small room with extremely high ceilings, and hot enough tonight to make tuning a constant battle. The two bands solve the acoustic problem differently, Footings with the instruments plugged directly into amplification, House and Land with a complex network of microphones picking up sound from the variety of instruments they play. (It looks like they’re playing from inside an erector set.)  These instruments are diverse and interesting, a couple of guitars, a fiddle, a banjo, a mandolin, a recorder (“here’s something you don’t know about recorders – they’re awesome” says Sarah Louise) and a shruti box.

Still, for the first song of the set, “Guide Me Oh Thou Great Jehovah,” from House and Land’s self-titled debut (out since last month on Thrill Jockey), it’s all about the voices – Sarah Louise with her piercing, otherworldly clarity, Sally Ann Morgan with a more blues-inflected, gutsy style. They find their notes effortlessly, without a reference point, in this warm July evening, tracing out main melodic lines and elaborate counterpoints in a song that sounds like the most ancient hymn, but also like an incantation.

Sarah Louise, in a dress made for church and a thick black braid tossed over her shoulder, takes the vocal lead in “Home Over Yonder,” with Sallie Anne Morgan accompanying on a fiddle that cavorts and frolics and drones, layering the hum of eternity under transitory pleasures. Morgan switches to banjo for “Wandering Boy,” and joins in tight, slightly dissonant harmonies with Sarah Louise, in a song that is, like a Shaker box, so primitively simple that it seems modern. The two of them are in what seem like telepathic sync, executing intricate fills and interplays without even looking at one another.

Morgan also sings on “False True Lover,” another traditional song she says she learned from a Shirley Collins recording. When she gets to the U.K., later this year, she says she’d like to meet Collins, and you can imagine they’d have lots to talk about.

Both Morgan and Louise take a turn playing the sruti box, a miniature harmonium played either on the lap with one’s hands (Morgan) or on the floor with a pedal while also playing a recorder (Louise). At one point, the box topples over and Louise has her hands full, so she gestures wildly to the first row, a member of which gets up and hastily props the instrument up.

The two women of House and Land differentiate the music they reference from shape note singing, which, they explain, is full of harmonies, whereas these songs rely on counterpoint and ornamentation. Still, whether secular or religious, the songs have a haunting aura of unornamented beauty and untamed longing. Even in a close room where the fans don’t work very well and the night-time temperature hovers in the 80s, these songs will put a chill down your back, so lovely and so wild.

Lucy Dacus 7/18/17, Denver

Dates: July 18, 2017

Location: Lost Lake Lounge, Denver CO

Live at the Lost Lake Lounge, Lucy charmed a Denver crowd and then some.

BY TIM HINELY

She walked by us an my pal swore it was her. “That was Lucy.” I looked at him and asked, “Are you sure?” “Umm…pretty sure.” She was a little incognito in the pair of horn-rimmed glasses and  t-shirt that said in big block letter “Fuck Fear.” Sure enough when she took the stage a little while later that was indeed her. Dacus (pronounced Day-cus) stated that her friend had made the shirt and it was the first time she’d worn it. She mentioned that she was in the Sprouts market (across the street from the Lost Lake) and got some thumbs up from folks approving of her t-shirt and other who gave her a very disapproving look. Dacus then stated that “Believe it or not I’ve learned a lot about people from wearing this shirt.”

The Richmond, VA native seems to have come out of nowhere, releasing her debut No Burden, last year on Matador Records, to critical acclaim.  She’s real young, early twenties, and seems to have plenty of confidence and has this dreamy voice that stands out above the pack. She also writes excellent, intimate songs and on this night the tunes were fleshed out with a full band who were all terrific players, guitarist Jacob Blizard, bassist Robbie King and drummer Ricardo Lagomasino (Ricardo was especialy talented).  On the more rockin’ numbers the band really came alive and they all seemed really in-sync.

Dacus opened the set with an acoustic song that she said she wrote when she was in 11th grade (or maybe she said it was when she was 11…. the friend who was there when she wrote it was in the crowd which is why she played it) and then the band came out and they proceeded to played everything off of her debut and a new one or two. In between songs Dacus joked with the crowd  about taking a sip from her water bottle and spilling it down the front of her and also about the last time she played Denver, in 2016 at the Lost Lake, and how there was hardly anyone there.

A few of the highlights were cuts from No Burden like “I Don’t Wanna be Funny Anymore, “ Strange Torpedo” and “Dream State,…..”

Dacus definitely has youth on her side, and with this much talent and the strength of the Matador label behind her who knows where this career in music might take her. Wherever that may be, I plan on following her on her musical journey.

Eric Bachmann 7/14/17, Denver

Dates: July 14, 2017

Location: Living Room Show, Denver, CO

Essentially a Living Room Show held in an equally intimate venue—here, an art space—that found the Archers of Loaf/Crooked Fingers mainman perusing his back catalog for more than 90 minutes.

TEXT BY TIM HINELY / PHOTOS BY JEFFREY WEBB DAVIS

Through the Undertow Music Collective there are certain artists who specialize in traveling around he country and performing intimate “living room shows.” Some of these bookings are in the actual living rooms or basements of residential houses; while some, like the Denver Eric Bachmann show, take place in a more formal setting such as an art space (or, in some cases, even a furniture shop) that might even have a corner set aside for a small stage. Each venue typically might host 30-50 people depending on its layout.

The shows have become increasingly popular and have evolved from what was once an ad hoc, kind of down-low social phenomenon (zoning issues being what they are), to what’s now considered by many musicians to be a solid, revenue-generating addition to their touring itineraries that are openly advertised. The discretion factor can remain in play to a degree; for Undertow’s presentations, fans who buy tickets only know ahead of time the city and zip code of the venue, with the full address not provided until the purchase is completed. My cohort for this evening, photographer, Jeffrey Webb Davis, has attended several to date, including Centro-matic’s Will Johnson and emotional folkster Rocky Votolato.

Former Archers of Loaf/Crooked Fingers guy Eric Bachmann, now performing solo, ambled out at 8PM with an acoustic guitar and banjo. He was certainly friendly and amiable, telling the crowd about becoming a new dad and how he was recently playing with Neko Case but had to leave that gig due to the fatherhood.

In his 90-minute set Bachmann played a healthy mix from his catalog (both solo and with bands). and was taking requests from the crowd all night. He dug into old gems like “Web in Front” (from the Archers of Loag debut Icky Mettle) as well as “Revenge” from The  Greatest of All Time EP. From 2006’s To The Races he played “Man O War,” “Genie Genie” and “Little Bird” as well as playing “Mercy” from his S/T record that was released last year on the Merge label.

As for Crooked Fingers tunes, he played “Devils Train” and “The Rotting Strip” among others. He ended the set with “White Trash Heroes” from the Archers ’98 album of the same name and came back for an encore (he wasn’t off stage too long) and played “Crowned in Chrome” and that was it. Bachmann thanked the crowd , walked over to his merch table  and began shaking hands and selling merch.

I hadn’t seen Bachmann perform in quite a few years but glad I went. I like the more intimate venues and you almost can’t get more intimate than this. The living room show idea is a great one: no sleazy club managers or assholes in the crowd (and I’m sure if there were they’d be removed and given their money back). I’ll bet the artists enjoy it too. I’m gonna check the schedule for more of these but in the meantime, if Eric Bachmann comes to your town try and carve out some time to see him. He’ll make it worth your while.