"Shoegaze Americana," I heard someone say at The Earl last night in an attempt to describe Roadkill Ghost Choir's music. Not a bad description at all, but before getting into that, Austin's The Eastern Sea opened.
The Eastern Sea is a wonderful indie-rock band, and one that I don't understand why aren't known better. Led by frontman Matthew Hines sweet singing voice and a revolving cast of band members featuring a full-time trumpeter. Unlike as with many other bands, the trumpeter doesn't primarily play some other instrument and use his horn only for dramatic flourishes, but plays only the trumpet.
Their sound simultaneously reminds me of a few other bands, such as early Fanfarlo, while simultaneously sounding like no one else. It was a great start to the evening, and I hope to catch The Eastern Sea again soon.
Next up was Athens-by-way-of-Atlanta-by-way-of Augusta musician T. Hardy Morris' new band. Morris is best known as the guitarist for the band Dead Confederate and as a member of Diamond Rugs, but has recently released a fine new record, Audition Tapes, as "T. Hardy Morris & The Outfit."
Audition Tapes has a more country sound that Dead Confederate, but as played last night, accompanied a pedal steel guitar and electric keyboard, with Morris on electric guitar, it sounded more like a dream-pop version of country music ("country-dream?") than anything you might hear in a hony tonk. Toward the end of the set, Morris brought on the drummer and bassist from Roadkill Ghost Choir to flesh out the sound a little more.
The video below features an acoustic version of the band and a more countrified version of their sound than at The Earl last night. It's part of a "Places in Peril" series of video Morris participated in shot at sites listed by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, and any video featuring the inimitable Howard Finster is always worth posting.
Side note: I bought one of Morris' "I Smell Hippies" t-shirts after the show, which included a download of Audition Tapes.
Which brings us to headliners Roadkill Ghost Choir. I had heard DeLand, Florida's Roadkill as I arrived at the Shaky Knees festival last May, and even though I was standing in the pouring rain, I was still sufficiently impressed with their sound that I vowed then and there to hear them again.
They provided that opportunity last night. Brothers Andrew (vocals, guitar), Maxx (drums) and Zach (bass) Shepard front the six-piece band, which also includes a lead guitarist, a pedal steel/banjo player, and a keyboardist/trumpet player. The trumpeter from The Eastern Sea joined Roadkill Ghost Choir on stage for a couple songs to create a two-trumpet horn section. The pedal steel and banjo certainly contribute to the Americana portion of their sound, while the guitar, keyboards, and trumpet give it it's shoegaze kick. Many of their songs feature long stretches of relative restraint before frontman Andrew Shepard explodes into a cathartic scream and propels the band into a fury. They even covered a song by shoegaze pioneers Slowdive.
In short, they sounded much as I had remembered them from Shaky Knees. What I hadn't expected, though, was their apparent popularity - The Earl was quite full with enthusiastic fans last night.
Last night was the last of Roadkill's current tour along with The Eastern Sea, and although the tours for both bands will continue, they are now going their separate ways. During both of their sets, however, both bands expressed their mutual respect and appreciation of each other, both calling each other best friends. They even posted an Instagram picture of the two bands posing together behind The Earl before they got in their separate vans to go their separate ways.
Tonight, Roadkill Ghost Choir plays The Blue Rooster in Sarasota, Florida, followed by a few more dates in their home state and south Georgia before embarking on a midwest tour that culminates at Austin City Limits. The Eastern Sea play tonight at The Exit/In in Nashville, followed by a tour of the eastern U.S. that includes dates in New York (Mercury Lounge), Washington, DC, Chapel Hill, NC, Chicago, and beyond. They aren't presently listing any tour dates after Labor Day on their web site, but I can't imagine them not playing a date at their hometown Austin City Limits as well, where hopefully they can catch up and trade notes with their friends in Roadkill.