Posts Tagged ‘The Harlan Twins’

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.

57th Street is my Hell.

May 8, 2008

Pittsburgh, can we talk?

It’s cool you have these paper streets and all, but what the fuck?

I get 3/4 up a giant fucking mountain and the fair city tells me no dice?

Hence, I have to Indiana Jones my way up through the Shrine of the Silver Monkey, nearly breaking my money maker (my face, thank you).

Let’s rewind:

It’s two Saturdays ago. I get word the Philadelphyinz are playing a gig at Remedy.

Recently, I’ve been getting out more, making my presence known, though probably not felt. So I decide to go. I’m antsy all Saturday…looking for excuses not to go, thinking too much. To be fair, going out on my lonesome is a big deal to me, I used to get panicky enough not to leave the apartment for days.

But I go, a cute little triumph. I get there an hour early, because City Paper lies, promptly bump into a scenester chick who unloads, “Excuse me!”

Alright, we’ll do that. I sit down and hit a few gin and tonics, waiting. Finally some heads I recognize roll in, and I slip upstairs, cover not included. There’s some awkward talk with an old friend who’s grown up, some chitchat with Skinny Friedman and Apt One, and suddenly, some cats I haven’t seen for a minute are there. The Harlan Twins were among my favorites.

And the dancing, rapture motherfucker. I’m playing pool, dancing my face off, talking Steelers, film and grad school (shit, I am totally not qualified, but I generally have an opinion about everything) at the same time.

For the record, the Yinzer expats put down a fucking great show. I’m looking forward to hitting up one of their regular joints in Brooklyn or Philly. Smooth and lovin tunes.

An ex is there, which was a surprise. Her forcefield decorum was met by a drunken handshake and an apology for her not liking me. Well. I am classy at times. Not sure if that was one of them.

So last call sounds and I’m gone like the honeybee. Since I walked around one side of the cemetery, I figure I’ll round the other side and come out near home.

For the record, it took 30 minutes from Sonny’s to Remedy.

I walk, realize this part of Lawrenceville has yet to be colonized by art-fags, and turn up 57th street. I’m an eagle scout, I can find my way. But then, disaster! 57th ends in a creepy one light road up a hill or a paper street. I am nothing if not an enthusiast, so up the paper street I go.

I have hiked hellish topography worse than this. Granted, I was sober, but still. The hill went on. And on. Then the stairs, due to some crossed stars, bore a giant “ROAD CLOSED” sign, complete with yellow tape, halfway up the bloody thing. I did what any self-respecting scout would have done, I kept going.

Enter the vines, enter the thorny branches. Enter the stairs that disappear. Yes, every stair meant six that were never put down. So I’m clinging to the rail in the dark, working my way up to some halo at the apex. Then the stairs just stop completely. I’m still only 3/4 up the hill. Suddenly, I’m back in Cub Scouts, swinging on grape vines, rolling town junk heap tires down into gulleys, clawing my way through leaves and mud to the top of something I don’t need to be at the top of.

A backyard, a dog barking, a quick retreat into the welcome of a streetlight. Yes, I arose into a backyard. Some engineer fucked up somewhere. So I wander around, keep walking. By now I’m trying to call someone, just to say hello I am fucking lost what did you do tonight. There were a couple of funny voicemails (read: drunk and frantic) some brief conversations, and then I get ahold of this real cute photographer, we end up talking through to the end.

I skip through Morningside, Garfield and one or two others. I pick up a rock on the way, why not?

Finally, I breach unto the intersection of Baum and Penn, the world has found me. I walk a few blocks, some old black dude on a corner extends his hand with a ‘What’s up.” Without missing a beat, I clutch the phone in my shoulder, keep talking, switch the rock to the free hand and shake.

Later I realize this is completely inappropriate behavior. I also realize that I met this gentleman and his friends at around 3:30 AM.

After this, it’s all eyes on Get-Go, I drop my improv weapon and it’s a cheap sub and Gatorade, it’s a thank you to my cute photographer angel for the nice chat, and then half of Return of the Jedi and some sleep, after a surprisingly eventful evening. The lesson is to get out da hahs.

It’s 4:30 when I get home. I left at 2.

It is now glaringly obvious I made a very stupid call. But I make those every few months, and it almost always results in a drunk stumble through town. And it is always a great time.

Most of these good times would not be possible without the framework of this fair city, incomplete stairways and all.

Bless you, Pittsburgh.