Monthly Archives: July 2019

The Beths 7/17/19, Denver

Dates: July 17, 2019

Location: Globe Hall, Denver CO

Live at Globe Hall.

TEXT BY TIM HINELY/ PHOTOS BY DINA HORNREICH

New Zealand’s The Beths have certainly been on a tear as of late. On the heels of their terrific debut record Future Me Hates Me (Carpark Records) released nearly a year ago they have been touring their asses off  the past year (I know a pal in Cleveland has seen them three times already).

Well, they finally made it to Denver on what must’ve been the hottest day of the year and I’m not sure the AC was working in the sold out Globe Hall. A sold out crowd in a small club on the hottest day of the year with no AC adds up to …a rough night.

…but the Beths were great. The New Zealand quartet, apparently jazz music majors at their local university, sure know how to do the clever, hooky pop thing very well based on the strength of leader/vocalist/guitarist Elizabeth Stokes’ excellent songwriting.  Apparently the instruments they’re playing now (guitar/bass/drums) are not their first instrument but you’d never know it as the band is as tighter than a military bed sheet (and twice as fun).

They basically played all of the debut album, opening with “Great No One” then ripping right into “Not Running” and then into “You Wouldn’t Like Me.”  All sounded great. Stokes and the rest of her band, guitarist Jonathan Pearce, bassist Benjamin Sinclair an drummer Ivan Luketin-Johnson were really on. All this touring has made them like a well-oiled machine and it really shows.

Toward the end we heard a few new ones that sounded real strong and then ace cuts like the title track to the album and “Uptown Girl” (beats Billy Joel by a mile) and they called it night.

They may or may not have played their Death Cab for Cutie cover (“Soul Meets Body”) as an encore because I left when the set ended as I was roasting (I was actually getting dizzy and nauseous).

Back to the  set, Stokes can be hilarious in the most deadpan way possibly, chatting up the crowd a bit.  And they seemed happy, if a bit bewildered, at all of the screaming fans and adulation. I can’t wait to hear record #2.

 

Kid Congo & the Pink Monkeybirds 6/20/19, Denver

Dates: June 20, 2019

Location: Hi Dive, Denver CO

Live at the Hi Dive!

TEXT BY BEN CURNETT/ PHOTOS BY TIM HINELY

Fuck whatever you think you know about rock and roll; if you haven’t seen Kid Congo Powers And The Pink Monkey Birds live, you don’t know shit. Powers is a revelation, and his music is a cracked thrift store window into the very soul of punk rock, an amalgamation of everything that’s ever been cool without caring, dismantling sound into subculture. Ascending the stage in a sequined cape donned over a leisure suit of a color not found in nature, Powers seemingly calls together the spirits of Harpo Marx, Snagglepuss, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Charles Nelson Riley, Timothy Leary, The Amazing Kreskin, Boris Karloff, Harry Caray, Roger from American Dad and a multitude of other weirdos from around the cosmos (and probably nodding along the way to Lux Interior and Jeffrey Lee Pierce, as Powers did stints with both, as well as with Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds). Then, with this larger-than-life being he’s created, and along with his effortlessly astounding band the Pink Monkey Birds, who are possibly the only other three musicians that could channel this particular degree of uncut strangeness, Powers throws pop influence and punk heritage and maybe a Wagner opera into the meatgrinder that is a live audience and out the other end comes pulsing, electric hamburger laced with half of schedule 1.

Whatever the formula, they create the pure essence of fun, weird, raw music that keeps you thinking, as one fellow show goer put it, “I don’t really know what I’m seeing but I love it.” Powers sings. Powers dances. Powers talks to ghosts. Powers is a muppet possessed by a demon. Powers makes the greatest guitar face in the universe. Powers may have “Stop In The Name Of Love” on repeat in his head forever. Powers is a showman who could hypnotize a stadium and make everyone do the Mashed Potato to Pussy Galore. Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds are everything that’s wonderful about loud music, and you should pray to whatever demented gods may or may not exist that you have the chance to experience them just once while you thankfully exist on this earth at the same moment in time as they do, so you can say, at the end, that your life was complete.

 

 

 

CHUCK MEAD – Close To Home

Album: Close To Home

Artist: Chuck Mead

Label: Plowboy

Release Date: June 21, 2019

www.plowboyrecords.com

BY JOHN B. MOORE

It seems pretty appt that one-time BR5-49 member Chuck Mead would head to the iconic Sam Phillips Recording Studios in Memphis to make his latest, as few in the Americana world have come across as easily an instant classic as Mead. Even though the band first came out in the ‘90s, they had an instant timelessness to their music that you’d have been forgiven for assuming they’d cropped up in the original Sun Studios era. And, much like his former band’s output, Mead’s latest, Close To Home, is just as ageless. Crammed with twangy chords, steel guitar, mandolins, and Mead’s distinctive, melodic drawl (a Midwestern/Southern hybrid), this record is classic honky tonk for a modern age.

From the opening, charging chords on “Big Bear in the Sky,” Mead and crew reel through nearly a dozen country swing and barroom dance floor jams, slowing the tempo down ever so slightly now and then, but never for long.

The music is superb, but it’s Mead’s subtle, witty lyrics that really take center stage on this record (like all his previous solo offerings). Though there’s hardly a weak track on the album, the closing song, “There’s Love Where I Come From,” manages to be both remarkably simple, and simply sublime.

DOWNLOAD: “I’m Not the Man for the Job,” “Close to Home” and “There’s Love Where I Come From”

Love Tractor / Swimming Pool Q’s 6/28 (Athens) & 6/29/2019 (Atlanta)

Dates: June 28 -29, 2019

Location: Athens, GA & Atlanta, GA

 

Live in Athens for the first night in The Vista Room (above), then in Atlanta the following evening at the 40 Watt Club – and both shows were packed to the proverbial gills, with fans coming down to Georgia from as far away as New Jersey and all points in between.

TEXT BY JOHN BOYDSTON / PHOTOS BY KAREN ALLISON (ATHENS) AND JOHN BOYDSTON (ATLANTA)

For these two shows, Love Tractor comprised three original members Armistead Wellford, Mike Richmond, and Mark Cline, plus two musicians playing with them who were both members of the band The Glands:  Joe Rowe (drums, who is still kicking ass with the Pylon Reenactment Society… man, does he precision hammer the good stuff),  and Doug Stanley (keyboards and guitar).

Also for the Athens gig, original Love Tractor member (and subsequent REM drummer) Bill Berry joined the band onstage, as did Berry’s 16-year old son on acoustic guitar, for Love Tractor’s ‘Neon Lights.’  Berry has famously described the band decision he had to make one day – stay with Love Tractor or continue with this other new band he’d been playing with…

Love Tractor played all the great stuff from their early records (maybe all of the first one), and reached into ‘This Ain’t No Outer Spaceship’ with a fabulous performance of ‘Chilli Part 2.’ It was eally a crowd-pleasing set, sounding way better than any old fan like me had a right to expect them to sound. In fact, this was maybe as good as they’ve ever been – which is cool when a band can pull that off after all the years.  It was a solid hour plus set.

Swimming Pool Q’s closed out.

Below: The Second Night in Atlanta

SUMO PRINCESS: When an Electric Storm

Album: When An Electric Storm

Artist: Sumo Princess

Label: Ruined Vibes

Release Date: May 10, 2019

https://www.ruinedvibes.com/product/sumo-princess-when-an-electric-storm

BY JONATHAN LEVITT

There’s a whole lotta heavy in them hills! All hail this hefty slab’o’wax from Sumo Princess a band made up of Abby Travis and Gene Trautmann both of whom have played with The Go Go’s and Masters of Reality. Abby Travis is a wicked LA bass player and an amazing vocalist who on tracks like “Crooked Plow” delivers some powerful emotions using her wonderfully expressive voice and swagger filled bass playing. “New Goth” had me rocking in me seat. Here Travis’ throb heavy bass recalls elements of Peter Hook and then there’s the drum beat which has “She’s Lost Control Again” written all over it. The song then sludges out into hallucinatory territory, a shot to the dome, that hands beat downs all the way to its glorious fade out. Trautmann’s skin smashing talent, lends a biting heft to all the songs on this record. “Kali Ma” me not really like, it’s part Helios Creed processed vocals and King Diamond operatic nonsense. That misstep aside the next track “You Will Rise” is as if Kate Bush began fronting a stoner rock band. The track bristles with an unsettling moodiness augmented by some clever percussive elements. The subtle nuances Travis is able to coax from her bass is visible on the ultra-heavy and hypnotic “Angel Dust”. The album closes with “Click Bait” an oddly structured number that conjures both elements of Therapy? and Elastica, stretched over some jarring time changes. Travis’ amazingly broad vocal range and bass playing is so compelling, it makes the case for getting this record on its own. That said I think that her best vocal moments are when she sings using a more standard delivery. The musical interplay between Trautmann and Travis when it connects makes for an absorbing experience that pulverizes everything in sight. I’d be interested to see how that translates to a live setting. The band is playing a string of east coast dates with the Meat Puppets beginning in early May.

DOWNLOAD: “Crooked Plow” “New Goth” “You Will Rise” “Angel Dust” “Kill the King”

 

The Lemonheads + Tommy Stinson 5/14/19, Denver

Dates: May 14, 2019

Location: Bluebird Theatre, Denver CO

TEXT & PHOTOS BY TIM HINELY

Terrific double bill at the Bluebird Theatre that offered up some serious nostalgia for folks who were going to shows in the 80’s and early 90’s (*raises hand*). Also I would imagine that Evan Dando was listening to plenty of Replacements (Mr. Stinson’s band, as you all well know)  back when he formed The Lemonheads as a frothy, buzzsaw punk band in the mid-80’s so I’m imagining it was somewhat of an honor for him to have Tommy open up.

Stinson hit the stage promptly at 8 PM with a nice acoustic guitar and dressed to the nines in a sharp fedora and a new pair of glasses (as he stated to the crowd, “not just bifocals but trifocals! I’m still getting used to these things…I can’t see shit right now!”). He didn’t play any Replacements songs (much to the dismay of a few annoying folks in the crowd) but did play a handful of cuts off his Bash & Pop records including a superb set-ending version of “Friday Night is Killing Me” (title track of the debut).

Also, it wouldn’t have be a Tommy Stinson set it he wasn’t a little tipsy (he was) but the crowd loved it and loved it even more when he jumped down to play a song down on the floor in the crowd. Come on back to town anytime, Tommy.

I didn’t know what this version of the Lemonheads was going to offer, but I sure was curious. In addition to Evan Dando on vocals/guitar he had longtime indie rock vet Chris Brokaw on 2nd guitar and the rhythm section of Farley Glavin on bass and powerhouse drummer Lee Falco hittin’ the skins. These guys were like a well-oiled machine on this night.

There was a long set list but it didn’t matter as they really didn’t follow it, but most of the set was heavy on early 90’s albums It’s a Shame About Ray and Come On Feel the Lemonheads which is fine as there’s plenty of meat on those records.

There wasn’t a lot of in-between song chatter, more of them putting their heads down and going to work, playing songs in rapid succession with not a lot of time in between. We heard fan favorites like “It’s About Time,” “Rudderless,” “Confetti,” “Turnpike Down,” “Great Big No,” “Drug Buddy” and plenty more.

They also played a handful of covers off of the new album (Varshons 2, which is an all covers album and was recently released on Fire Records) like Lucinda William’s “Abandoned” and John Prince’s “The Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” to name but two.

I know in the past Lemonheads’ live shows could be dodgy affairs depending on what state Dando was in but on this night there was none of that. As mentioned above he only mumbled a handful of words to the crowd, he/they came to play. The songs sounded great and Dando’s voice still sounds superb. If they come to your town do not miss them (‘cos if you do you’ll hear from your friends about how great of a show it was).

 

 

Jawbox 6/22/19, Brooklyn

Dates: June 22, 2019

Location: Brooklyn, NY

The iconic punk band was live in Brooklyn June 22, 2019.

TEXT, PHOTOS, & VIDEO BY JONATHAN LEVITT

It’s been almost 30 years since I last saw Jawbox in concert. I remember it was at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago where they opened for Chicago’s Tar, with whom they had split the “Static” seven inch single at the time.  I have a VHS of that show that I shot and will one day get digitized and uploaded to YouTube. Luckily for myself and Blurt readers I was able to shoot some primo footage from the photo pit (click here to see my gallery) and check out my video of the song “FF=66” down below.

The band played 21 songs to the sold-out audience before they came back for an encore of 4 more. It was the right move to save the hit “Savory” till the end, because while that song is great, the trajectory the band took to get there is even greater.  The band may be older but the ferocious way they pummel their instruments would have made bands half their age green with envy. The sound waves hitting me at the front could’ve easily stripped the paint off a car. The audience was filled with 40-somethings who knew almost every word to every song and I could tell they were just thrilled to have one of their bands back in action. The tour that will traverse the US is an absolute must see. Hopefully this is more than just a one off and a new record is in the offing. Regardless of what happens, the world is a better place with Jawbox alive and kicking once more.

Above: the evening’s setlist.

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