Posts Tagged ‘Live Music’

Jenn Gooch w/The Harlan Twins @ Howler’s Cafe

November 6, 2008

What better way to ring in a new month with a new musical discovery or two? Since mastering my iGoogle organizer app, I’ve been all up ons in terms of shows. The Harlan Twins, being at the top of my local list, had a show last Saturday at Howler’s.

Howler’s has come a bit of a way from my first introduction; a Maxipads show well over two years ago. Sadly, that was the most recent show I had been to before Saturday, though I am on a first-name basis with a bartender or two.

The new stage, new tables and splashes of paint make the already intimate venue really come together. I’ll be seeing more than just the bar from now on, especially since the BBT is still out for the count due to water damage from a fire upstairs.

After piecing together my list of potential shows, I decided to figure out who I was seeing alongside the Twins. After a myspace sampling, I was satisfied in the knowledge that I might just be purchasing Jenn Gooch‘s latest release, Gift Horse.

George Neal of The Slow Burners, friend of Gooch and fellow Texan opened with some looong acoustic balladry and stompin’, priming the pump. Gooch joined onstage for “Probably Fine”, which they wrote together.

Shortly after, the petite banjoess ascended the stage and introduced us to a themed setlist; love and loss, isolation and bein lonesome and ‘shit hittin the fan’. The technique worked pretty well, and I was instantly charmed by Gooch’s unassuming nature and between-song humor.

While any cute girl with an instrument will do it for me, the vocals she threw down were terrific. Her southmouth lamentations reminded me of Scout Niblett, while her lyrical skills, especially with songs like “Jonestown Koolaid” evoked a darker version of Joanna Newsom‘s poetics.

She blew through her set; most of her songs are under three minutes. After grabbing another beer, I snagged a copy of her album, already excited to feed it to my iPod. I was even more excited when I got home and discovered her banjo was just a vehicle for her musical alter-ego and that she was primarily an artist, with a site and everything.

The Harlan Twins shambled onto the stage in quick order and turned in another solid performance. James Hart’s guitar work is compelling and thrifty, especially on “Stones in my Passway”. The only self-indulgence you could fault him for is basking in the gravelly brilliance of his voice, but I’m not gonna fault that. As a friend mentioned at their last show, you can tell a good rhythm sections if they look relaxed. At times the bassist looked bored when he wasn’t exchanging grins with the drummer, and that only happened when crazy breakdowns were occurring.

The set was shortened by two songs due to guitarist Carrie Battle’s hearing issue, who has some sort of alien probe in her ear canal that interferes at inappropriate times. Yet again, her mic was nowhere near loud enough, so it may be just as well that the crowd didn’t get to hear “Blue in Bloomfield”, which is not possible without her smokey pipes.

Beyond discovering Jenn Gooch, I found that The Harlan Twins were only one of several formidable alt-country and southern rock outfits. Their next show, at the indomitable Brillobox, is with Lohio, another album release shindig.

I gave Gift Horse several hard listens when I got home, and was overjoyed that the no-frills music I fell for at Howler’s was honestly transcribed in the recording process. It’s not hard to fuck up a solo show or album, there’s plenty of examples of artists doing that, but I was pleased as punch to add the album to my playlist. Given the fact that Gooch is a one-trick pony as far as instrumentation goes, the album is surprisingly lush with exploration and self-examination, which is distinctly reflected in the sounds and language of the album: Slow and melancholy remembrances like “Maybe Tomorrow” are awash in a sea of overt sexuality (“Sealust”), humorous accounts of abortive romance (“Prestidigitation”) and fast burning apocalyptica (“Jonestown Koolaid”).

Show Rating: B+

Album Rating; Gift Horse: A

Thanks to Jenn Gooch for giving me some tongue-in-cheek meditations on love. I’m already cramming the disc down my roommates’ collective throat.

Furthermore, I’ll buy the soundman who can get it right for the Harlans a beer (the keyboards were also too loud at times), honest.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah @ The Brillobox

October 24, 2008

While it can be argued that life could get better, it doesn’t. that is to say, despite my complaints about and in recent weeks, life is by most accounts pretty swell. It don’t get better than this, and I’m dealing.

The other night (October 21) I went to see Clap Your Hands Say Yeah at the Brillobox. It’s always nice to have national acts acknowledge the existence of Pittsburgh. Hopefully the enthusiastic yet stationary (dance, damn you!) crowd meant that we’ll see them again in the future. It was their first time here, but I think we left them with a good impression.

Admittedly, I am not the number one superfan of CYHSY. I dig them ok, but I was not in a position to sing along. I don’t usually jump on Pitchfork’s bandwagons, because I find the lot of them to be insufferable pricks. I just happen to be very enthusiastic about live music, hence, I was there.

Doors opened at 8, which meant I wouldn’t get there until half-past, and that no music would begin until like 9:40. Approximately. My bad mood in the meantime was diminished by the soundman playing “Oh! You Pretty Things” and “Autumn Sweater” over the system. It was not helped by the fact that the ‘box is non-smoking now, and apparently I managed to time my cig breaks so that I was cancering myself all by my lonesome.

Why grouchy? Well, because I was at a show, alone, again. Either I’m too much of an elitist indie fuck for my friends or they have little to no interest in good music. Yes, it’s more complicated than that, and I could prolly help my case by, uh, making friends with someone at these shows, but whatever. I don’t need another friend, I’ve got too many friends.

So I’m 3/4 or something for going to shows alone in the last six months or whatever, I missed out on Ukiah last Saturday. A big bummer, because when I finally got up the nerves to leave the house (and bathe, jesus. I was all kinds of shambles) and go for a walk around midnite, Howler’s was packed. Packed with all sorts of kids just like me, drinking pbr and smoking cigs and enjoying music that sounded great from Liberty Avenue. I don’t know who the headliner was that night, but between them and Ukiah, it would have been well worth the five bucks to get in.

I did have a date for the CYHSY show, but luck has been absent for me recently, so it fell through. I gave someone at the door my extra ticket gratis in the hopes of shoring up my karma.

9:40 and local band Donora came on. Think Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ second album meets the Cardigans. The bassist was having more fun than an amusement park and laying down some perky five-stringed grooves, and singer/guitarist was confidently belting out some solid pop nuggets. I will most definitely stay frosty for future show of theirs. Maybe buy their EP.

It was a long wait for yrs truly, with nary an ear to squawk into. But joy of joys, it did happen. CYHSY treated the crowd to a propulsive set, including four new songs, two of which laid down before the one song I could confidently sing at least some of the words to- “Satan Said Dance“. It didn’t matter, because barely anyone danced. I guess they’re not down with Beelzebub.

Obviously, albums don’t do any great band’s live show justice and this was no exception. I didn’t care much about the yokels around me, I let myself get sucked into the jangly yet danceable wall of sound. Their records sound flat compared to the live act, obviously. Also, CYHSY does that with their production anyway (something I kind of hate), which is why I am not a superfan.

It was a mixed crowd, some well-dressed, some shabby (hiya!), some young, some old. Two such older dudes in front of me were totally into the show, pumping fists and going on about how CYHSY have put out some of the best songs of the last ten years and obscuring my view. I’m kinda short.

After a nice long set:

Space Junk
Is This Love?
Man at the Bar
Satan Said Dance
Details of the War
Strong Man
In This Home on Ice
Trotsky’s Fence
Gimme Some Salt
Statues
Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away
Clap Your Hands!
Heroes
The Skin of my Yellow Country Teeth
Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood

CYHSY departed from the stage to some loud thunderous applause (get it?! ha!). Many in the audience, coincidentally, were demanding that particular song. For our foot-stomping and whistles, we were rewarded with a two-song encore:

Some Loud Thunder
Heavy Metal

While I don’t think that CYHSY can lay claim to towering above their contemporaries, I have a new-found appreciation and interest in them. At the very least, the music is some of the best self-conscious, neurotic dance-rock in this decade that occasionally employs a harmonica. I can safely say they’ve pretty much cornered that market.

Grade: B

And only because I refuse to give such an esoteric outfit anything higher out of principle, and for all the energy in the music itself, the band themselves couldn’t stoke more than a dozen people to move around like their shoes don’t fit.