Thousand and Nine***
I found some new funny photos. The nation can rest easy
Another snap from the recently found chunk of cross country
photos. This was taken in Capital Reef National Park in
Utah, the day after we visited Bryce Canyon National Park (see previous
entry). It was considerably warmer here, and
pretty much completely deserted. If you can handle the harsh
weather, late winter/early spring is definitely the best time
to visit these parks, you have them completely to yourself.
Photo journal entry of our dumb dog going for his first swim above, as
well as other Mouse and Burt photos.
with Birds of Avalon & Hammer No More The Fingers
The Cat's Cradle
It has taken me around a year after moving back to the Triangle, but
I've finally been getting into a lot of the "new" local
bands lately...and by "new" I'm referring to bands that weren't around
when I left for the left coast (and in most of their
cases they've only been around a couple of years or so). I bring
this up because this particular gig was in conjunction
with a local benefit compilation that was just released called "Hear
Here", so the bill was all local bands that are part of
This was my second time seeing Hammer No More The Fingers this
summer, and their best of the two outings. I'm
not sure if they actually put on a better show or it was just because
the sound is so much better at the Cat's Cradle, but
either way it was an enjoyable set. The gig further cemented my
impression that HNMTF have a real strong lean
towards catchy, anthemic songs that lend themselves to fan
sing-a-longs. As I said in the last review you'd be hard
pressed to pigeonhole this group with a strict comparison to another
band, but individual songs will remind you of any-
one from Weezer to Modest Mouse to even a little Dismemberment
Plan. These guys are definitely growing, building
an audience and have themselves poised as one of the next breakout
local acts...time will tell how it works out for them.
God knows I love comparing bands to other bands...it's all I ever think
of sometimes when I'm watching someone play,
asking myself "who does this sound like" or "what does this remind me
of" and completely distracting my tiny brain from
the live music at hand. But for the life of me, I can't compare Birds
of Avalon to anyone. God knows I've tried, making
my head hurt on more than one occasion, but nothing comes up.
It's just good ol' hard rock, a little seventies influenced
with a double guitar attack and a smidge of spacey keyboards. And
most importantly, it just sounds awesome. This is
an important fact.
Towards the end of their set, the Birds welcomed a guest onto the stage
- none other than Ivan Howard of The Rosebuds.
The Birds plus Ivan then proceeded to play the Rosebud's contribution
to the Hear Here compilation entitled "Brad Cook
Is Not Your Man". The song is a true story about Ivan and Brad
(from the band Megafaun) getting pulled over by the cops
because there was a warrant out for a different man named Brad
Cook...obviously, hijinks ensued. And by hijinks I mean
the only thing that kept Brad from getting hauled off to the pokey was
his lack of a chest tattoo. I've seen the Rosebuds
perform about 8,000 times, and it was a refreshing change hearing one
of their songs rocked out by Birds of Avalon,
proving that just because they are rockers it doesn't mean they can't
climb all over a pop song if they have to.
My laziness and tiredness were starting to catch up with me, but I made
a point of catching at least a few songs by the
last band, Annuals. With six band
members and two drummers, they have a big, acoustic-guitar tinged pop
really fills a room. When their first song ended with four
different people playing drums like an indie rock Blue Man
Group, I knew this group were off on their own trip. I may not
have loved every song I heard them play, but there was
enough goodness there that I stuck around a little longer than I had
originally intended. The crowd was absolutely loving
it - I had no idea they had such a huge following, but there were a lot
of young folks singing along and dancing up a storm
(or as much of a storm as you can dance up at an indie rock
It was a damn fine night of music, which is a great thing to be able to
say after seeing nothing but local acts. Not many
towns can boast having a collection of talent like we have here in the
Triangle, and we're all obviously better off for it.
with The Loners
Tir Na Nog
I was pretty excited to find out Erectus Monotone were going to
be playing a free show at Tir Na Nog - I'd sadly
missed their reunion at Merge Fest XX as it happened one of the nights
I didn't have a ticket, and was afraid I would
never get another chance. I never managed to catch one of their
live shows the first time around - even though I was
definitely a fan of their work and had a seven inch or two of
theirs. Word on the street was they brought the heat at the
Merge Fest gig, setting my hopes on high and ready to rock by the time
they took the stage. The verdict: awesome!
They definitely did not disappoint, sounding like a band that had been
playing together for years instead of one that
only recently got back together after a 15 year-ish hiatus. It
was a nice concise set, with the band playing "every
song we know", and the packed house of old folks like myself reliving
the glory years of Chapel Hill indie rock. The
flip side being that while the show made me feel young and wistful for
my college years, it also reminded me of the
fact that those days have been over for well over a decade.
A brief note about the openers, The Loners - a hard rock duo
with a bit of a garage/punk/blues vibe. You could drop
the usual references of the White Stripes and the Black Keys and maybe
even the Cheater Slicks and be in the right
ballpark, but all their best tracks reminded me the most of Eagles of
Death Metal minus the shtick.
(Picture not mine, as you can tell from the quality)
I just happened to be down at the beach and noticed that Kurt Vile was playing at one of
Wilmington's clubs, the
Soapbox. Honestly, I was rather nonplussed from what I had heard
from him but nothing else was going on, so why
not see a show?
After a completely terrible local high school band got done playing for
a bunch of hot-but-way-too-young jail bait girls,
making me feel really old in the process, Kurt Vile took the
stage. And when I say Vile took the stage, it was him
alone. Acoustic folk rock was not in line with the songs I had
previously heard by the dude, but the start of his set was
exactly that. He played a three or four songs, just the man and
his steel-top guitar...it was kinda mesmerizing actually,
some sort of mellow blues-folk combination that might have gotten old
for an entire set but was pretty entertaining for
a few tracks.
And then the rest of the band joined him - another guitarist, a
drummer...and a lady harpist. Yes, a lady harpist. I was
plenty dumbfounded but it actually worked quite well with the songs,
with the lady harpist able to carry leads with the
high strings and add pseudo-bass lines with the low strings. As a
whole they had a psychedelic/electrified folk thing
going on, with their best songs sounding a little bit like Velvet
Underground with Marc Bolan of T-Rex singing. After
the highschoolers took off there was only a small crowd left, but
everyone seemed to quite enjoy it. Oh, and there was
a dog in the crowd too that some hippy had brought along, a cute dog
that sorta wandered around getting attention
from everyone. He seemed to like Kurt Vile as well, a ringing
endorsement if there ever was one.
"Breakfasts come and
go, Rene, but Hartford, 'the Whale,' they only beat Vancouver once,
maybe twice in a lifetime."
Cut City - Manoeuvers.
Not bad for a bunch of Italians. Man, I could really go for some
baked ziti right about now...
Pigeon Detectives - This
Is An Emergency. I'm continually surprised this wasn't
a huge hit. Seems like the sort of
British snottiness the kids go nuts for.
Sonic Youth - Mary-Christ.
Fact: Sonic Youth are a pretty good band.
The Fall - How
I Wrote 'Elastic Man'. Fact: The Fall are also a
pretty good band.
The Mountain Goats - Autoclave.
Some newish Mountain Goats - I'm still not completely sold on the hifi
sound of the Goats, but these songs are decent.
The White Stripes - Broken
Bricks. I'm also no sold on the newer wound of the
White Stripes, when their older
material is clearly superior.
Them - Don't
Look Back. In the event that you didn't know, Them was
Van Morrison's band before he went solo.
Also, in the event that you didn't know, they were an amazing band.
Comes The Night.
Two Gallants - Despite
What You've Been Told. I never know what to call
the music this SF duo plays...folk
punk? Hobo rock? Whatever, it's top notch listening.
Bonus: Seems Like Home To Me.
Thousand and Nine***
I found some random old photos from our cross-country drive that I'll
be posting over the next few entries. Also, I
ran out of funny photos.
This is Bryce Canyon National Park, for the record. We went in
early March of 2008 and it was probably about
20 degrees with a strong wind. Not the most tourist-friendly
Show reviews below and
one photo journal entry at the link above if you're interested.
With the rumor mill swirling previous to this show, I knew this was a
ticket I needed to get. Luckily my friend Ivan had an
extra band pass he could let me borrow, so by the skin of my teeth I
yet again manage to make it into another Merge
I missed the first couple of bands, but this was somewhat intentional -
I knew the rest of the night was one banger after
another, and I wouldn't want to miss a single minute of any one of
I finally waddled in the club, full of taco truck burrito for the
second night in a row, just moments before Lambchopwas
about to begin performing. This is a band I've loved since my
freshmen year in college (1994, it hurts a little to think
about how long ago that was) when I bought their record at Poindexter's
in Wilmington just because it was on Merge.
I've seen the band perform live a couple of times, with no two shows
And none of those other gigs would come close to preparing me for the
sheer onslaught of musical mastery that the
'Chop would put forth this night. I may not have seen all of the
nights of Merge Fest XX, but I feel no hesitation in stating
that this was the best performance of the entire festival...because it
would not be humanly possible to top it. With at least
eleven people on stage including a horn section, Kurt Wagner and
company brought the heat from the first night. This
wasn't a mellow Lambchop performance, this was more akin to an
R&B/Soul revue from days gone by. This is a band
I've always been terrible at remembering song titles, but I know they
played one of my very favorites "Your Fucking
Sunny Day" and that was good enough for me. Oh yeah, and they
closed out the set with a cover of the Talking Heads'
"Once In A Lifetime"...I thought the entire crowd was going to shit
their pants. That would have been exceedingly dis-
gusting though so let's be glad that didn't happen. I would be
willing to be a large sum of money that when Lambchop
returns to the Triangle later in the year, this performance will
single-handedly double ticket sales. It was that good.
I did not envy anyone having to follow Lambchop...luckily it was local
lads and longtime favorites Polvo, who can do
no wrong in my eyes. I'm guessing it was largely because of the
nostalgia factor inherent at a festival like this, but the
band really rolled out the "hits" for this gig. Pretty much every
fan-favorite track from their early Merge records made
the set list...I specifically remember getting giddy like a little
school girl when they performed "Vibracobra" and closed
with "Can I Ride". It still hasn't quite sunk in that Polvo is
back together, playing shows, and have a new album coming
out...honestly, it's the sort of thing I daydreamed about for years but
never thought it would happen. Now if we could
only get the Archers of Loaf to follow suit...
PIPE!!! MOTHER FUCKIN'
PIPE!!! I have seen this band at least 4000 times, but it had
been at least 10 years since
the last time. Outside of maybe Bandway, Pipe is the ultimate
rock-n-roll party band. Singer Ron Liberti is the local
king of front men, grinning like a shit-eating kid while he prances
around the stage getting pelted with cans like a
carnival sideshow. Think Robert Pollard from Guided by Voices
fronting a punk band, and you are at least going in the
right direction. And the best part of the show? The crowd
was eating it up. I can't tell you the number of times I saw
Pipe as the opener for more poppy, mainstream bands, and the fans of
the headliner would vacate the club like a bomb
threat was called in. But on this fine evening, everyone was
soaking in the glory that is and was Pipe, probably one of
the best bands of all time, even if you don't agree with me.
closed out the very impressive evening, and as much as I love the band
my dancing shoes just didn't have the
pep in them they did earlier in the night. I clearly wasn't alone
because the crowd began to dwindle out slowly through-
out their set. It wasn't an indictment on the set Spoon played,
as they sounded fantastic as always, but the median age
at these Merge Fest gigs has skewed quite a bit older than your typical
show - folks had to get home and let the baby-
sitter leave for the night! Or maybe they were just leaving
because Spoon didn't play my favorite song, "Car Radio"!
To their credit, they did play a bunch of awesome songs like "Lines in
the Suit" and "The Ghost of You Lingers" and
"Stay Don't Go" and even closed the night with my second favorite
track, "Fitted Shirt".
It was a good show by Spoon, and certainly not their fault most of the
crowd was about to collapse from exhaustion.
Eventually I drug my ass to my car, schlepped back to the house around
three in the morning, and passed out knowing
I'd just seen one of the best nights of music I'll likely ever
Merge Fest XX:
Superchunk / Versus / Richard Buckner
The Cat's Cradle
Going into the week of Merge Fest, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to
make it to any of the shows. I was too broke for
one of the five day passes, and the single day tickets sold out so fast
that my slow ass didn't manage to score even
one. But as I was hanging out at the Jackpot during the Rosebuds
impromptu acoustic performance, the chance arose
to purchase a ticket to the second night's festivities at the
Cradle. Let's hear it for getting lucky!
One of the more frustrating/entertaining functions of Merge Fest this
time around was the label's decision not to release
the line-ups for any given night. This could be a problem when
you're eager to see a specific band, but luckily for me I
like most of their artists so I knew I was guaranteed a good
show. And not to tell tales outside of school, but since I
know a couple of folks in bands on the label, they gave me the inside
track as best they could (and even they weren't
100% sure of who was playing which night, even the nights they were
One of the more important inside tips I got was that not only was Richard Buckner playing this
but he was play-
ing quite early. This meant eating quickly from the taco truck
outside instead of standing in the long Carburritos line,
because I did not want to take the chance on missing Buckner.
I've seen many different variations of "live" Buckner,
from full band to straightforward acoustic. But it's this
version. the solo version where he constructs and deconstructs
his songs with a series of loops, that I like the best. The show
is one long song basically, with parts of his well-known
tracks from albums intertwined with free-form instrumental
segments. There were at least a couple of my favorite songs
in the mix - "Believer" from his best album "Since" and "Town" from the
more recent record "Meadow". It was a mes-
merizing performance as usual.
These anniversary shows always have a million bands each night, and I
was in and out of the club. The next bands that
sticks out in my hazy memory is Versus,
a group I feel like I saw a ton of times when I lived in San Francisco
suspect that some of those memories also include their offshoot groups +/-
and Whysall Lane). They were
always, doing their loud-quiet-loud Pixies-lite thing like they have
been since the nineties, when I probably saw them for
the first time. I always enjoy most of their set and tell myself
I'll check out some of their recordings, but that has yet to
happen. Perhaps writing this review will serve as reminder for
Superchunkclosed the night,
and I know you might find this surprising, but they were absolutely
amazing. Just like
the last time I saw them, and the time before that, and every other
time I've seen them over the last 15 years. Put it this
way - the second and third songs were "Detroit Has A Skyline" and "Cast
Iron", possibly my two all-time favorite songs
by them. After that they could have farted into the microphone
for the rest of the set and I would have gone home happy.
Luckily, they laced up a whole bunch of other amazing songs
- "The First Part", "Driveway to Driveway", "Punch Me
Harder", "Watery Hands" all come to mind, as well as their newer
singles "Learned to Surf" and "Crossed Wires". To
top it all off, they finished the night with a Clean cover (with the
help of The 3Ds, whose set I
unfortunately missed by
standing out back making small talk with some friends), "Slack
Motherfucker" and "Precision Auto". It was a couple of
minutes before 2 A.M. when they struck their final note, and I'd guess
no more than a handful of folks had left early, it
was that good of a set. When the music is that good, who needs
I'm not sure
even a show, more of a gathering, but I decided to write it up anyways.
As part of the festivities for
Merge Fest XX, The Rosebuds sent out a
text saying they would be at the Jackpot in a few hours playing some
and filming it to be used later in a possible DVD commemorating
the anniversary. So there was a small gathering of
fans at the bar,
waiting on the band, many wondering where the hell they were actually
going to perform in the place.
And then after a bit of standing around,
here comes the acoustic two-piece version of the Rosebuds through the
door, already playing a song, with a camera crew tagging along
behind them. Ivan & Kelly played a few songs there in
the middle of
the bar, the crowd gathered around and singing along at all the right
parts - it felt like a campfire sing-a-
long...minus the camp, and the
fire, and the bears trying to get into your food. I know they played
"Nice Fox" and "Bow
To The Middle" and my memory falters after that...I
probably asked for "Bluebird" and was rebuffed.
At some point
the bartender noted this show was the first and most likely last rock
show ever held at the Jackpot. That
is if you can call a duo of pop
musicians playing acoustically "rock". You can definitely call it
know, these exercises are fantastic. When the day comes that we
have to go to war against Utah, we're really
gonna kick ass, y'know?"
31 Knots - Certificate.
They went from kinda-prog to kinda-glammy, and I like the change.
Bonus: The Breaks.
Elvis Costello - (What's
So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding. Unless
you are really young or have
been in a coma for 30 years you should already know all these songs by
heart, but here they are anyways.
M83 - Slowly.
The only song I really love from his/their first self-titled record.
Morrissey - Mama
Lay Softly On The Riverbed. Some songs from his newish
album, which is awesome in case
you didn't already know that.
How People Grow Up.
Nate Denver's Neck - Cough.
My favorite death-metal folkie, maybe ever!
Of God's Creation.
Heads - Heaven.
This post is long on well-known songs this time. Guess that is
what I've been feeling lately.
Zombies - Kind
"Odyssey & Oracle" gets all the press, and it is an amazing record;
but the platter these
tracks come from - "Begin Here" - is pretty damn special in it's
Way I Feel Inside.