Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Recent Reviews

I've been to several shows over the past few weeks, without posting any reviews of them. So, without ado, here are my brief and occasionally shoddy reviews a few recent shows:

Frank Black, August 11 @ The Duck Room
The Frank Black show was a good, but not great show. It was just him and a guitar. Even if it was Jesus and a guitar up on stage (and this was pretty damn close), the dynamic would get old after about an hour.

He played four Pixies songs - Frank Black, not Jesus - and they were "Holiday Song", "Monkey Gone to Heaven", "Wave of Mutilation", and "Where is my Mind?" He played a John Denver cover to open the show. He played "Los Angeles". It was a sold out show. There's not much more to say than that. I wouldn't kick myself too hard for missing it, if you did.

Of Montreal & The Minders, August 14 @ Mississippi Nights
The last time I saw Of Montreal here in town, it was a sellout and just a great, great party. This time was good, but not as good, and I'm saying that even though the venue I saw them at earlier in the year (the Gargoyle) didn't serve alcohol. The Minders were first, and they were great, without me even knowing any of their songs. I imagine that if I had known the songs, I would have enjoyed them as much, if not more than, as Of Montreal. As for their sound, I would describe them as your typical Elephant 6, 60's influenced-pop crossed with the noise and feedback of Sonic Youth's and Yo La Tengo's melodic noisy passages. it worked very well. They even closed with a cover of Pink Floyd's "Lucifer Sam" as a tribute to the recently deceased Syd Barrett.

Of Montreal's set started with the band members marching onto stage waving battlefield-styled flags and wearing dresses. The band started out good, but it seemed like the mix was a little off. A couple instruments were monstrously loud, and you often couldn't really hear Kevin Barnes' vocals. The mix problems really pissed me off for the first 20 minutes or so. Then the beer kicked in and I didn't care quite as much. Additionally, the volume level was painfully high. Imean, it was really, really loud. It hurt the overall experience because with a band like Of Montreal, who have a lot going on and the whose melodies tend to be the loudest parts of the songs, the mix got really distorted at the crescendoes of the songs. I would say the crowd generally picked up the energy level as the show went on. Also remember that it was on a Monday night.

They took a quick break before the encore, in which they played a great version of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" as they have been wont to do on this tour. If YouTube wasn't being a bitch, I would post video of it. Overall, the show was great, but I liked Of Montreal's perfomance better when I saw them last February.

Chuck Berry/The Haints, August 16 @ The Duck Room
Chuck Berry plays once a month at Blueberry Hill here in St. Louis. It sells out every month, too. I went in 2000 when I first moved to St. Louis and had a great time then. We decided it was time to go back and, six years later, Chuck still sounds great. He looks appreciably older, and his hands are a little slower on the fretboard, but his voice is as solid as ever and he is always the consummate showman. His son plays the second guitar in the band and his daughter sings on a few songs. She also plays a mean harmonica on several songs and just wails. On stage, Chuck also plays the doting father, stepping back for his son to take the spotlight on solos and prodding his daughter out of the corner and to the front of the crowd. It was a solid show.

When we walked in, The Haints were already playing. They were playing a americana/50's rock meld that brought to mind Buddy Holly as much as it did Son Volt. The singer's voice sounded familiar, but I was sure I had never heard The Haints before. It all fell into place when a friend informed me that The Haints were more commonly known as the Groovie Ghoulies. This was their country/acoustic side band. Having never seen the Groovie Ghoulies play live before, I didn't recognize them. They were good, but I definitely prefer the Ghoulies.

Split Lip Rayfield, August 17 @ The Duck Room
SOLD OUT. I suck because I should have gotten tickets beforehand. Boo to me.

Decibully/The Headlights/Gentleman Auction House, August 29 @ the Hi-Pointe
There were several bands playing this night that I wanted to see. The night out was also to serve as a last hurrah at the soon-to-be-closed Hi-pointe for me and my friends.

We first showed up at the venue right as Gentleman Auction House was finishing, which was unfortunate, since they really were the band I was interested in seeeing. There had been a booking foul-up, and the ended up only playing for about 20 minutes. Bummer for me. Up next was some band that I believe was actually touring with Decibully. This unknown band was horrrible. The music was slightly mathy, but the guys voice was so bad... and it was mixed really high in the mix. We lasted about one song before we headed downstairs to the bar. It was the last week open for the venue, so we were happy to sit down at the main bar (the music is upstairs) and reminisce about the place.

After about 40 minutes, we headed back upstairs to see The Headlights, who are from Champaign, IL, and were great. The most obvious musical reference would be Grandaddy, with less fuzzy distortion. The songs were sung by both the dude guitar player and the chick keyboard player. The chick had a great, great, voice. Breathy like Bjork, but not quite. It fit with the music very well. They would go from keyboard-heavy ambient moments right into bright and poppy indie rock songs. The bass player also played keyboards and would occasionally whip out an acocrdian. I liked them.

Then was Decibully. It was three people from Decibully plus 3/4's of The Headlights on stage. I really wanted to like them. Or, I should say, they really wanted us to like them, but it just wasn't happening. They were always on the verge of playing just an awesome rocking-out part, but never did. It was frustrating. All the songs started sounding the same. It was like a showcase for how great the singer was -- he clearly wanted to be Eric Bachmann or John Darnielle -- but the problem was, his lyrics were nothing to write home about and the songs themselves didn't draw you in, so you weren't really left with much. It was a school night, so we left early.

Overall, it was an OK evening. I wouldn't see Decibully again. I would show up early to see The Headlights if they were playing with someone else I knew. I might even see them on their own.


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