Sunday, April 27, 2014

Lobsterfest 2014 / April 24 - 26, 2014 / Casa Cantina, The Union, Central Venue & The Smiling Skull

By: Ross Lockhart, Contributor

I wrote a Scene and Heard post about Lobsterfest last year, but it turned out to be about me fighting with my old girlfriend. Upon reading it again, the piece overtly reflects a distinct indecisiveness characteristic of most music and sex-obsessed 21-year-olds exploring the perpetual conflict between obligation and desire. My favorite passage, for example, reads: “Everything was a little hazy so I sat down and drank some more cheap beer on a porch. From the view on the porch I watched my girlfriend climb a fence. At home we fought viciously but made peace to order more pizza. A half an hour later she was crying again while I stared at the rebirthed pizza in the toilet bowl.” It was a good weekend, but it was also a bad weekend. It was heaven and hell, yin and yang, pain and pleasure indistinguishable.
My younger brother is 18-years-old and I barely know him. It's unfortunate, but my relationship with my family has suffered since the day I left for college. I always told myself that there would be time to mend things later on, but with my brother graduating from high school and my grandparents moving into assisted living, it feels like time is running out.
My brother, Craig, has hardly been anywhere or done anything on his own. He's stays close to home because of his friendship with our youngest brother, Wyatt, and from being coddled by our admirable, yet unknowable parents. Craig says he's sick of high school and small town suburban life. Since his spring break coincided with this year's Lobsterfest, I invited him down to Athens to escape the pressures of adolescence for the weekend.
When Craig arrived, I switched into cool-guy-older-brother-mode and took him to the dining hall. He seemed completely overwhelmed but excited. After that we went to see Aaron Carter even though Craig had no idea who he was. AC’s visit to Athens quickly became a dead horse. It was a humbling reminder of the dehumanizing effect of celebrities. The most profound assessment I've heard about the spectacle was this: “He's up there in front of everybody doing his thing, but when it's over he's just going to go back to wherever he's from and be alone again.” Needless to say, Craig was unimpressed.
We then decided to splurge on party supplies using the substantial amount of pocket money my parents had given him for the weekend and went back to the house. That night he said he wasn't feeling well, so I headed to Casa solo. Ghost Stories played a solid set that further established them as the hunkiest band in Athens. With Slam Stansfield as an official member, the group's sound has evolved without sacrificing any of their goofy boy-band charm. Eric Bishop sang “If it's meant to be it will happen” and wiggled his hips. Everyone cheered. After that, dust from 1000 yrs played an insanely loud set that provoked plenty of “Yeah, I wasn't really into that” reactions.
Craig was feeling better the next day and was able to partake in our house's ice cream social. While we had a decent turnout in spite of the rain, we barely put a dent in the cream. Harold's mother, a poised and elegant woman, came down to visit for the night. When it was her turn to do charades she threw herself onto the floor and waved her arms and legs while doing so. Everybody lost it and Harold guessed the word: Bodysurfing.
Frankie Teardrop had already finished playing by the time we got to The Union. “I'm not upset that you missed it,” Shane Riley told me. “But that was probably the best set we've ever played.” Distraught, I bought a beer for myself and a Rum & Coke for Craig. Moltar played fifteen minutes of undulating electronic noise that mostly confused the attendees. Craig was fascinated. “Is this music?” he asked.
After Moltar came Horse Lords, who were amazing. Their music is a combination of uptempo math and progressive instrumental rock with one of the members switching between auxiliary percussion and saxophone. When he first blew on that sax, the crowd lost their minds. They played three 10+ minute songs, and every movement was highly dynamic and exciting, which made for one of the best sets of the whole weekend. Craig was thrilled. He had never seen live music before. “Wow,” he said. “Those guys killed it.” He had a big, goofy smile on his face.
Saturday was a long, hazy day. We spent most of it on the porch drinking beer and killing time until the show. At Central Venue, Giant Claw performed. Craig said he was “pretty cool.” Hyrrokkin ripped it. Craig said they were also “pretty cool.” We skipped out on the rest of the bands until it was time for Deerhoof to play. They put on a great show, especially the drummer, Greg Saunier. “I Swear to God, dude,” Sam said to me. “That's the best drummer in the world.” Saunier gave a short and moving, if not slightly abstract, speech describing life on tour as “repetition and variety both in the extreme” as he dripped sweat all over the stage. Lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki played the bass and kicked her little legs from side to side. Deerhoof has been around for ten years and they still look thrilled to be playing music together.
Everything was a blur at The Smiling Skull. (New England) Patriots are the best band ever. Toupee was amazing. I went upstairs and found Craig surrounded by my friends. They were teasing him, asking him if he knew what a spank bank was. “I mean... I know what it is, but it's not like I have one,” he said, blushing with a blissful, drunken grin on his face. Small Steps (or Stepping Stones, as Craig called them) played their last set ever to an especially rowdy crowd. My beer got knocked out of my hand and spilled all over the stage. With his hair dangling in his face, Grant held his guitar over his head and punched it until the feedback sounded like a demonic scream. It was a truly primal moment. He looked like a neanderthal wielding a giant bone with all the under-evolved apes losing their shit in awe of his power. I've seen Small Steps play tons of times, but this was something special.
I wanted to stick around and give out sloppy hugs, so Craig walked back to my house by himself. When I got home he was asleep under the glow of the porch lights, his head propped in his hand. He woke up and stretched. “Tonight was so fun,” he said. “I think I should go to sleep.” I said goodnight and sat by myself listening to the quiet. My ears were ringing. Sam came and sat next to me. “Today was the best day of my life,” he told me. “It's so sad and beautiful. When you play music together, that's an unbreakable friendship. It's something you can never give up.” Harold joined us and we all sat reflecting on the glorious day.
In the morning I asked Craig if he wanted to get some food before he left but his head and stomach hurt. I hugged him and said goodbye. As he drove away I felt really sad, like there was something missing. Maybe I should have been more considerate. Maybe I should take myself more seriously and be a better role model and brother. Four hours later he sent me a text. It read:
“Made it home. Thanks for having me man. I had such a blast. Have to do it again sometime.”
This made everything okay. I feel as though I understand Craig now, or better anyway. We still have a lot of things to learn about each other, more than could ever be learned in a single weekend, but we finally have some memories to share just between the two of us. It feels good. Being a big brother is a responsibility I never wanted until now, but Craig is cool. We had fun.

P.S. This Lobsterfest and sibling bonding would not have been possible without Shane Riley and ACRN with help from the Student Activity Commission. Thanks!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Indigo Wild, She Bears & Orson Frontier / March 29, 2014 / Casa Cantina

By: Megan Fair, Copy Editor

There’s nothing quite as rewarding as the aching feeling in your feet and back as you stumble out of bed for an early morning shift, knowing all those aches were the result of heart-bursting, joy-inducing fits of dancing inspired by incredible musicians and the art they create.

And I was most certainly sore this morning after dancing along to Orson Frontier, She Bears and Indigo Wild at an ACRN-hosted Casa show. Although my wallet took a $7 beating for the event, every penny was worth the fruitful experience. 

Orson Frontier’s dramatic folk rock was the perfect start to the night. I swayed in a booth, as I had just gotten off a four hour shift and needed to rest my puppies. The band was animated and full of life, its vocalist thrashing around to the most sonic pieces of each song. The set was the best way to pique interest for the following two acts.

She Bears has a history with ACRN, and it’s good history, a history I hope lasts for many more years. I marveled at the guitar tone and was awed by how seasoned the team of musicians operated, having the perfect amount of fun and executing each song with near flawless delivery. Each moment of music was filled with subtle intricacies, and I was incredibly excited to see live use of a glockenspiel, because glockenspiels are tight and sound so sweet.

Now that the crowd was completely warmed up and midnight rolled around, the sonic adventure that is Indigo Wild took its position on the stage. Rewind now to the early afternoon in Galbreath Chapel, where the group is performing a stripped down version of “The Fog,” a new track, for a filmed takeaway show. The stripped down takeaway version sounded immense and awe-inspiring, so imagine how excited attendees of that shoot were to hear the song live and completely full. 

And man, it was amazing. The crowd was all grooving with each other and singing the words while they stomped and clapped and let their limbs go wild to the amazing, indescribable music. The vocal harmonies alone were enough to melt any soul into peaceful oblivion. After an amazing set, the crowd begged and demanded for more, and the band happily obliged, ending with “On the Hill” and a supercharged, very loud cover of The White Stripes’ “We’re Going To Be Friends.”

To be swinging my hips and stomping my feet and shouting, “WOLF! ON THE HILL!” with a crowd of enthusiastic friends and fellows was so entertaining. Many stuck around to inform all three bands of their great work, including myself. I didn’t even care that I had to be up by 7 a.m., I didn’t care that my limbs were exhausted--it was too great to not enjoy the company of kind and talented musicians who love what they do more than anything else in the world. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sotto Voce & Peter Vilardi / March 28, 2014 / Donkey Coffee

By: Christian Power, Contributor

Athens, with its flourishing music scene and abundant college population, is home to many singer-songwriters. On Friday night, Donkey Coffee was fortunate enough to host two of the town's finest. Accompanied on stage by a multi-hued cardboard donkey that was only kind of creepy, Sotto Voce (Ryan Gabos) and Peter Vilardi carried out some impressive performances.

The two friends have long been involved with performance art on campus. In addition to their musical ventures, Vilardi and Gabos have integral roles on the sketch-comedy series "Fridays Live!" and often deliver stand-up with Blue Pencil Comedy. It was very apparent that both felt at home on stage.

Vilardi served as the opening act, taking to the piano to play seven original songs, along with a cover of "Life in a Glasshouse" by Radiohead. After getting the audience's attention with the vocal-showcasing "Your Grace," he busted out the addictively catchy "Call It a Day," which was without a doubt a highlight of the night.

Not one to forgo his comedic talent, Vilardi wowed the crowd with the hilarious "Misdirection," a song driven by its spoken-word interludes that explain a commonly used joke format in stand-up. That's about as well as it can be summed up in words--it is an absolute must to hear performed live. Before introducing the Yorke-composed number, Vilardi insisted, "It's not that depressing. Just kidding, it's very depressing."

He co-wrote his final song of the night, "Off We Go," with artist Matt Munhall. Munhall will be releasing a full-length album recorded in Nashville called 700 Miles on May 6. "Off We Go" indeed reflected the professional-grade nature of Vilardi's growing singer-songwriter discography.

Sotto Voce then successfully satisfied the challenge of following up who he describes as "the best showman in Athens."

Playing a set of entirely original acoustic material along with a closing piano instrumental, Sotto Voce flawlessly executed a raw style of rapid picking and energized strumming in addition to some superb slower numbers. The rapid picking was prominently displayed on opening song "Reticent." Sotto Voce explained its origins, saying he wrote it on move-in day freshman year before his roommates arrived while imagining how great college would be.

Wikipedia tells me that Sotto Voce means to "lower the volume of one's voice for emphasis." However, the vocal performance throughout the eight songs was marked by a notable ability to prevail throughout the room. Put simply, the guy can sing.

After Vilardi returned on stage to provide supplemental vocals on "How Romantic?," Sotto Voce whipped out what he dubbed the sing-along song of the night and setlist staple, "Same Ghost," a shout-out to now-graduated friend and fellow artist Jared Henderson. It of course went over well with the engaged crowd, whose clapping hands and stomping feet joined well with the collective singing.

Gabos was originally scheduled to be supported by a different performer, but had to find someone else on short notice. I spoke to Vilardi after the show, who said he was humbled to be selected. In the same manner that Sotto Voce played alongside Same Ghost (Jared Henderson), Vilardi feels that he is accompanying Gabos in a way that will encourage their house party lineage to continue.

I asked him how he was able to prepare so easily, and Vilardi said it wasn't a challenge at all. As someone who can play many instruments (and raps under the name MC Freeman), he was excited by the opportunity to play an all-piano set. Influenced primarily by musicians like Chris Martin and Bono (but ultimately by too many artists to count), expressing himself in this fashion was something he looked forward to doing.

I was again beyond impressed at how well-written the songs by these gentlemen were. It was a great time to see these two perform and I hope they do it again soon.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Welcoming Party, Sealed for Phreshness & Hit the Ground Running / Marcy 23, 2014 / The Smiling Skull

By: Sammi Nelson, Contributor

Sunday nights at the Skull are typically slow and uncomfortably un-rowdy for the skeletal saloon. While the bar is typically filled with a mixture of shuffling college students and settled townies, Sundays experience quite a decrease in patrons compared to the weekend evenings. Such is the case for most bars, which surprised me when I found out about a three-band show scheduled for Sunday night. Now, normally I’d decline such an event, but when I found out that a friend was performing his act, I couldn’t miss the opportunity.

The crowd was undeniably a small one, but regardless of the lack of attendance, the bands went forth with their musical deliveries. The opening act was Hit the Ground Running, a group from Hudson, OH whose sound features some good ol’ pop-punk feels. While the band isn’t primarily acoustic, they performed their set as such on Sunday. They played a few songs of their own as well as several covers. The band had all of the college kids (and possibly a few townies) swooning with their “A Thousand Miles” cover.

Hit the Ground Running, whose music is a little too bright for the endearingly grimy Skull, performed a great set that has me excited to listen to their A Long Summer in Ohio EP, which comes out May 12.

The next act featured two dudes from Vienna, WV, one of which is a friend of mine. Sealed For Phreshness is a quirky alternative band whose music consists of two singers, a guitar and backtracks that produce the rest of the band’s sound. While their music contains a lot of samples such as these, the band was forced to go acoustic Sunday when their backtracks failed to work. For having never performed under these circumstances, the band showed the crowd and themselves that backtracks aren’t necessary to put on a good show.

Their music is heavily comedy-driven, with silly songs about awkward zombies, interjections like “FALCON PUNCH” and a song about dolphins, appropriately titled “Jessica Albatross”. The band also revealed a bit of their history, explaining how they originally planned to become a Christian worship group until they started writing and performing their now goofy sets.

The final act of the night was The Welcoming Party, a local Athens progressive hardcore band. This band was definitely unlike the other two performances of the night. They required a clearing of the space in front of the stage for some intended moshing by both fans and bandmates alike. The group erupted into a sound of pure ruthlessness that filled the Skull. The moshpit might have been small, but its participators thrashed to atom-scattering tracks such as “Hans Christian Anderson.”

The band had a few announcements, one of which was the bassist’s recent engagement and also the release of an EP on April 17, which is the same day they start their tour with another performance at the Skull.

As the night came to a close, I left the bar feeling energized and quite content. I got to have a lovely date night at Casa and enjoy a great variety of music at the Skull. I also learned of several EPs and local bands that are definitely more than worthy to check out.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Riley, Ghost Stories, Method Air & Hundos / March 13, 2014 / The Smiling Skull

By: Zack Baker, Editorial Director

Skull nights are special. There's an air of unpredictability, rowdiness and mystery behind every show at the Smiling Skull, and Thursday's show was no different. Unfortunately, it wasn't really the fun kind of mystery.

I walked into the Skull late, expecting to see the opening band on stage as I entered. It was almost 10 p.m. by the time I got there, a full 30 minutes after the Facebook event said the music would start. Even by Punk Time™ standards, an empty stage that late was surprising. I was stoked for the stacked line-up (Riley, Hundos, Ghost Stories and Method Air) and kind of awkwardly hung around with friends on the roof until we finally heard rumblings from the stage.

We collectively worked our way down the narrow stairs to see who was up first, arguing whether Method Air or Ghost Stories would get stuck with the closing spot. After making a quick pit stop for another Pabst, I worked my way into the crowd to see Danny Paul and Sam Stansfield warming up for their set. I was excited to see Method Air again--it had been a little while since I had seen them live and they never disappoint. The set wasn't very long, but the tunes were solid. 

After another retreat to the patio (seriously the best kept secret in Athens), Hundos took the stage. I only managed to see a brief portion of their set, but what I heard sounded great. Jam bands aren't normally my thing, and I suppose Hundos aren't really a jam band, but their chilled out vibes hit the spot. The crowd was amped for Riley, and it wasn't long before they took the stage.

Seeing the band last October only whet my appetite for its precise brand of guitar-driven rock. Having lost a synth player since they last performed in Athens, I wasn't sure of what to expect out of the band. The group absolutely slayed, ripping its way through a hefty handful of tunes. The drummer even cracked the shit out of his ride cymbal about two songs in, but kept on playing. He used the short tuning breaks between songs to spin the cymbal back around and distance himself from the ever-more splintering metal. Anyone who wasn't already a fan of the group was converted last night. The set expanded upon their recorded material greatly and blew songs out to incredible proportions.

Ghost Stories was up next, and I was personally geeking out over their set. It had been almost a full semester since I had last seen the band, and they both recorded new material and picked up Method Air's Stansfield as a second guitarist since I had seen them perform. The new material was everything I had hoped it would be--a little less Title Fight and a lot more Ghost Stories. It's hard to describe exactly what the new music sounds like, but if you're a Ghost Stories fan, it's everything you would expect. 

Stumbling out of the Skull and directly to the counter for a chicken and waffle, I couldn't help but think back on all the incredible music that had erupted from that tiny stage that night. I went into the show with impossibly high expectations for each of the bands, and every single one had blown those expectations out of the water. Like always, the Skull delivered.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

ACRN Date Auction / February 13, 2014 / The Union

By: Garrett Bower, Staff Writer

The Union was true to its name last night. The ACRN Date Auction was fraught with love and alcohol. I couldn’t tell you who sold for what—or who even sold, for that matter—but what I can tell you is that between loud and amazing sets by four awesome bands, I was an inebriated cupid, scrambling to spread the love and hug anyone I had ever met or maybe even heard of once in passing.

On the stacked line-up was Friends In Distraction, Nightstalker, Hundos and Zaleski. It was one of the more well-rounded shows I’ve been to in recent memory, with each band offering up a nice spin on their loud, punk archetype. From Nightstalker’s fabulous, kimono-clad psychedelic set, to Zaleski’s unrelenting fury, everything clicked magnificently.

So it’s the day of sickly sweet mushiness and I’ve got a spectacular headache and a few fuzzy memories of me kissing a distraught Rob Kerr passionately on the cheek to recall Date Auction 2014. If you excuse me, I’ve got a hot date for hella free wings—more spoils of the evening.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Uptowne Buddha, Bright at Night & Mrs. Helen Highwater / February 7, 2014 / The Union

By: Alexa Smith, Staff Writer

A great group of pals and sibs assembled Friday night on Union and good times were had. The night reeked of insane musical talent that certainly revealed some wicked dance moves from the crowd. And what a crowd they were, reacting to the sweet sounds their ears beheld them with nothing but smiles and endless energy. You know the night was a success, for when they left, all were noticeably sweatier from when they had arrived.

Mrs. Helen Highwater heated things up in a big way. They proved themselves as newcomers, and certainly impressed. The early crowd was into it, and those who came later missed some great stuff. No worries, though! Redemption is available Friday for a V-Day party at the Skull or Saturday at Jackie O’s. Be there or be square.

On deck was Bright at Night, also keeping their word in their one goal of the night: to get everybody dancing. They had a very likable quality and rare, distinctive excellence that made them stand out as a group. Bartlett hypnotized with his deep rasp, a voice that is individual and uncommon. Big fans of guest performers that they are, Bright at Night invited Emcee Schwartz from The Dysfunktional Family to mix things up a bit. It was happenin’.

Feeling pretty good from some complementary "to-kill-ya" from a kind sir named Ernie, the anticipation of the Buddha was piling high. When the jams started, something about them made you want the show to never end. So fresh and so clean. They had an old school feel about them that reminds me of the days when a crowd’s heart was really in it, no matter who was playing—live music is live music. An overwhelming sense of togetherness was happening and it was pretty cool to be a part of it. A collective love of music that could bring a tear to your eye.

Left exhausted and fulfilled, the night came to a close, but with sore-legged reminders of a truly splendid time.