Saturday, February 28, 2015

Compared To What?


I didn't know the video version of this classic performance existed.  Les McCann and Eddie Harris, from 1969.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Future Islands at Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, February 26, 2015


About this time last year, Future Islands were one of a great many interesting bands that were touring the North American continent in support of their latest album - in the case of Future Islands, their new album Singles.  Then, in one of my favorite success stories of 2014, they got their chance to debut on the Letterman show, and they absolutely nailed it.  They didn't do anything that night that they hadn't been doing before on stages all across the country, but they just came on and were themselves - the best possible version of themselves, to be sure, but they stayed true to their act.  

David Letterman Trying to Turn Future Islands Dance Moves Into a Meme

Letterman raved about their set, gifs of singer Sam Herring's dance moves went viral, and before you knew it, Future Islands just exploded and went from playing mid-afternoon sets on the summer festival circuit to headlining. What I love about that story is that they did it all without resorting to gimmicks or guests or shock tactics, but just by staying true to themselves.   

Last night, Future Islands headlined at a sold-out Variety Playhouse.  But first, Atlanta's Nomen Novum opened. 


Nomen Novum is one person, David Norbery,  who plays synths and guitars, as well as sings catchy synth-pop songs, Here are some samples:


I don't think I've ever caught him live before (although I've certainly seen him listed at the local clubs), and he provided a diverting and entertaining opening to last night's show.  He even worked in a cover of Disturbed's The Sickness into his set (you can hear a recorded version of it over on his SoundCloud page).  


Next up were Raleigh's Lonnie Walker.  We've seen Lonnie Walker before, when they opened for Spoon and St. Vincent during Day Two of Hopscotch 2014 in their hometown.  They sounded far better last night to this listener than they did back then, or maybe this listener simply paid more attention last night and wasn't as concerned about getting a good spot in the audience to catch Annie and Britt later.  Last night, I enjoy their hooky, quirky songs much more than I had last summer, so either they're the most improved band of the year or I'm the most improved listener.  Either way, I'm glad that I got to catch them again last night, as they really turned around my impression of their music.


But yadda-yadda-yadda, the full house was there last night to see Future Islands, although I suspect most of them didn't know of the band until this happened: 


Herring and company took the stage at 10:30 p.m. last night and played a 90-minute set, including the extended encore.  They played most of the songs off of Singles, performing crowd pleaser Seasons (Waiting On You) not at the end of their set  but about four songs from the end.  They included older numbers like Walking Through That Door from In Evening Air, as well as their newer, more well-known stuff.  Herring certainly did not disappoint those fans there just to see him bust his dance moves, as he danced and gesticulated almost constantly, shaking hands and singing into the faces of those at the front of the stage, as he alternated between his usual singing voice, his death metal growl, and his outright scream.  Between the vocal gymnastics and the histrionics, he had the over-the-top emotional dial turned up to 11 all night.


We've seen Future Islands once before, back in July 2012 when they played the Hell stage at Masquerade and our old friends Psychodubasaurus Rex opened.  I may have enjoyed that set even more than last night's, probably because I was just discovering Sam Herring's style, not yet having shared their Letterman performance with the rest of America.  Reviewing that set, I wrote:
Future Islands are a synth-pop ensemble fronted by the dramatic, emotive singer Sam Herring. Dressed in black slacks and a tucked-in black shirt, Herring looked almost like Neil Diamond but sang like Tom Waits-meets-Morrissey-at-a-particularly-emotional-moment.  His voice ranged from a wimper to a growl, sometimes several times in the same line - he could probably challenge Mike Patton (Mr. Bungle) for sheer stylistic range.  He might sound like a crooner launching into a power ballad one moment and then a Cookie Monster death metal singer the next.  Half the fun was watching Herring raise his fist, pound the floor, thump his chest, and jump around the stage as he used his body as well as his voice to wring every drop of drama out of each and every line on each and every song for all he was worth.  The crowd went wild, many mimicking his antics in the audience. It was at many times deliberately and flamboyantly over the top, but a fun time was had by all.
That's what Herring brought to Letterman last year and brought to Variety Playhouse last night and has led them to their well-deserved success.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Halloween Mixtape by Algiers



This may be posted a few months too late, but here's a cool mixtape by the band Algiers.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Algiers


Algiers is a London/New York band of musicians from Atlanta, "the rotten hub of the Ol’ American South," according to their official bio, "where W.E.B. Dubois once saw a riot goin’ on, and where the hell and highwater swirls ‘round to the knees."  I have not heard or heard of them before, but I'm pretty impressed.  Post-gospel, anybody?

Actually, as I dig a little deeper into their biography, it seems we may have crossed paths at least once before. Back on September 13, 2012, Algiers' guitarist Lee Tesche played with Atlanta's Lyonnais at 529, who were opening that night for Blues Control.  I was there (dude), but can't honestly claim that was anything close to seeing Algiers (although it was a great show).    

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Pharoah



You'll either get this or you won't, you'll either love it (or already love it) or hate it, but in either case, words would be unnecessary.  From 1966.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Dodos and Springtime Carnivore at Vinyl, Atlanta, February 22, 2015


"Welcome to your Sunday night rock 'n' roll show," Meric Long of The Dodos said to the audience early in last night's set at Vinyl in Atlanta's Center Stage complex.  It seems that everyone was well aware of the day of the week, as the show started relatively early (by rock standards), 8:30 p.m., and with only two bands on the bill, I was home before 11:00 (in time to catch the second airing of The Walking Dead on AMC). 

But first, before I watched TWD, there was in fact, a rock 'n' roll show, and a good one at that. Opening for The Dodos was a relatively new act, and truth be told, the real reason I headed out, Springtime Carnivore.


Springtime Carnivore (not to be confused with Portland's Summer Cannibals), is the project of singer Greta Morgan (Hush Sound, Gold Motel).  She is pretty much the band, handling the vocals and guitar, occasionally moving to the keys, and even playing a song or two unaccompanied.  The music was a bright and engaging pop-rock with touches of dream pop.  Greta is a decent guitarist and has an incredible voice and good pitch, and it was a bit amazing to watch her effortlessly carry some of the higher notes of the songs without any apparent strain.   


The self-titled Springtime Carnivore album dropped last year and although produced by no less than Richard Swift (Damien Jurado, Foxygen, The Shins, etc.), Springtime Carnivore's live sound is more rocking and less pop-sounding that the recordings suggest, and that's a good thing.  Fans of bands like Alvvays and The Vivian Girls should find Carnivore enjoyable.

It's abundantly clear that Morgan has abundant talent and with a few lucky breaks could make it big in indie music (oxymoron?).  Last night, Springtime Carnivore stole the show, at least to this member of the audience.

I was a bit surprised when The Dodos set up the stage with the drums right out in front (and feet away from me).  Based on the fullness of their recorded songs, I didn't realize that they were in fact a drum-and-guitar duo (obviously, I'm new to their music).   


The Dodos, who've been around for a while now, play a music that falls somewhere between shoegaze and garage folk-rock.  Despite only having two musicians, they produce a wide variety of sounds, boosted by Meric Long's expansive pedal board and looping techniques, and refreshingly, they didn't have to rely on a laptop computer to provide samples and fill-in parts for the songs.  Also, judging by their general demeanor and stage banter, they seemed like some genuinely good people, for whatever that's worth.

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Last night, they didn't have the back-up guitarist they brought with them to the Letterman show, and I understand that they used to have a vibraphonist fill in their sound  But to be honest, they didn't sound like they were lacking much of anything last night. 


For extra added bonus points, they brought Greta of Springtime Carnivore out on stage with them for the last song of their encore.


The Dodos clearly had some devoted fans at last night's show, with frequent shout-outs for favorite songs (they started their encore MTV TRL-style, letting the audience choose the song).  Overall, it was a fun and instructive night, and I got to hear a new band with a lot of potential and an established act that was at lest new to me. 

Plus I got home by 11 on the night before the work week started.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Meanwhile, Back in Iceland


Fucking vikings.  Here's what I like about this video, other than the song (obs) and the orchestral- sounding indie rock: the comfy sweaters, and the cool performing space, and the blonde hair and blue eyes, and the intriguing band name and quirky instrumentation, and their fluent command of the English language, and the dorky interpretive dancing.  

But other than that, there's not a lot going on here.  Fucking vikings.