Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Sowashes are back!

The laudable lineup of The Kyle Sowashes, Scubadog and Blithe Field took to the stage late Saturday evening at Athens' Casa Cantina. I arrived rather early, having missed out on two Casa shows in the past due to the venue already being "at capacity" before each show's allotted start time. I had no intentions of making that mistake a third time, and I was pleased to find that the place wasn't even half-full when I arrived.

Blithe Field started off the evening. As the only act I had not seen prior to that evening as well as the first act of its kind I had witnessed live, I could not hide my intrigue as Blithe Field's single member began his set. As the venue slowly filled up, we bobbed along to the sampled, electronic beats that filled the room. One song in particular was passingly referred to as a "club jam," and if our honeys were in the vicinity, we should find 'em. Paraphrasing, of course. I did not have a honey, so I felt a bit lonely. Then, no one else really seemed to have anyone either, so I couldn't really be too upset.

The men of Scubadog came next, and as they proved once again, there is never a dull moment at a Scubadog show. They sounded even better than I remembered them -- and it hadn't even been a month since my first encounter with the band (when they played with Flotation Walls and She Bears earlier this month at the Union). The energy was high and as far as comparing Scubadog to the other two acts that evening, they actually probably got the most substantial crowd response.

Oh, and did I mention the show was sponsored by Twilight? Well, it was. Scubadog's Teddy Humpert told me so.

Columbus' Kyle Sowashes capped off the evening.

I saw these guys at Lobsterfest last year, and to be honest, they were probably my favorite act. Their banter can be hilarious, and their songs are just as praiseworthy. You get a real "normal guys" vibe with this band, and it seems as if everyone can relate to at least one of their songs. The best part was that if you hadn't seen the Kyle Sowashes before, it really wasn't a big deal; they played a fair amount of new songs mixed in with some of their much older material. One comment from lead singer Kyle Sowash: "We wrote this song when you guys were probably freshmen in high school." Gee, Kyle, now I feel old, too.

The Sowashes' set ended a little before one in the morning, capping off two-plus hours of some toe-tapping, arms-flailing goodness from three of Ohio's finest. All in all, a good night for live music in Athens, Ohio. You should've been there.

-Kevin Rutherford, Senior Critic
Photograph courtesy of The Kyle Sowashes' Myspace

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Duke Junior album release party!

Local darlings Duke Junior & The Smokey Boots celebrated the release of its album Bag of Bones with drunk revelers and close friends Friday night at Jackie O's.

I showed up towards the tail-end of Duke's warm-up, so not much can be said. The members played a 30-minute set, the crowd was sparse but growing and the familiar scents of Jackie O's homebrew clouded my thoughts and invaded my nostrils. Under a drunken haze, I swayed to the emanating swoon of lead singer Jess Kaufman's voice. Despite being a woman of such small stature, Kaufman's voice commanded the attention of those in attendance, while the sweet country twangs of Casey Davis' guitar lulled the bar into peaceful submission.

I was glad that this was just an appetizer as I eagerly anticipated the full course, and I am not usually one for corny analogies.

New York-based Nightmare Riverband played next to the ever-expanding Jackie O's clientele. I'd heard from a trusted source that they sound like a mix of Tom Waits and Beach Boys, and I must admit that the description was spot on. Midway through the set, members of Duke Junior joined the band onstage for an impromptu cover of Katy Perry's “Hot n' Cold.”

I blabbered to a friend that I “love this Taylor Swift song,” only to be reprimanded for my lack of pop culture knowledge. It was, however, good to see such camaraderie amongst musicians as none tried to hide his joy in playing a Top 40 hit.

Nightmare Riverband ended its set with the audience at peak energy level. A solid opener. The time was right for a Duke Junior reprise.

I'd first seen these darlings open at a Manor show last year, and they have since become the toast of the town. Duke's folk-infused country music combines the charming and rustic elements of Athens into finely tuned tracks that capture the essence of our beloved little town.

The aforementioned Kaufman and guitarist/bassist Kyle Martin exchanged vocal duties throughout the set. The Martin-led “Two Dollar Bill” eased newcomers to the band's nuanced sound, and later on, Kaufman vocalized the pain of a long-distance relationship with the gentle “Honey Go On.” The highlight of the set was a very drunken rendition of my personal favorite “Traveling Man,” which features Matt Horne on the fiddle in a bluegrass hoedown.

With upcoming shows at Casa and The Union, Duke Junior is fast becoming an Athens staple, and judging by reactions from so-called bros and hipsters alike, none at all seem to be in opposition to this burgeoning troupe of talents.

-Paolo Balboa, Staff Writer

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Southeast Engine: My Athens music scene tradition

I am often asked about the Athens music scene by folks who are either not active show-goers or don't live here. My first question, if the person is familiar with indie rock at all, is if he or she has heard of Southeast Engine.

Most of the time the answer is yes.

It doesn't matter if you think Southeast Engine is over-rated, if you think their music is boring, if one of the members of the band once gave your friend's friend a dirty look this one time three years ago. Whatever. Southeast Engine is Athens' most popular indie rock band for a reason, and you just cannot ignore that.

Southeast Engine was the first local band I ever saw perform in Athens. This was a little over three years ago. Between now and then, I've seen roughly 150-200 shows here in little ole Athens. And I think I've missed only a handful of local Southeast Engine shows during that time period.

Why, exactly?

I'm not saying Southeast Engine is the absolute best band in this town. I'm just saying that they really capture what this town means to me -- and to other people, too. They bring back a lot of memories for me throughout my college years. My friends have changed, my tastes have evolved, even my personality has grown since I was a freshman. But seeing this specific band play the Casa Nueva stage hasn't.

ANYWAY, I saw Southeast Engine play again last night at Casa. They were, as usual, more dynamic live than they are on their recorded albums. I danced, I sang along, I fist-pumped like I was a member of the "Jersey Shore" cast. It was bliss.

Fresh off a string of touring dates, Southeast Engine debuted a few new songs off their upcoming album last night. We saw bassist Jesse Remnant trade his bass for the keys on a particular track that sounded like the latest Wilco album. The new songs felt comfortable. They felt like relaxed fit Southeast Engine.

We also heard frontman Adam Remnant pontificate on the verb tenses most often associated with the phrase "rocking out." The grammar nerd in me had a good chuckle, but you know, he's right. Rarely is the term "rocking out" used in the present tense. It's most often associated with the idea of "rocking out" sometime in the future, and "having rocked out" previously. He's a charming and wise fellow, that Adam Remnant.

All quippy on-stage remarks aside, the highlight of Southeast Engine's set on Saturday was "Where Are You Now?", a song off one of the band's older releases. In fact, this song is ALWAYS the highlight of every Southeast Engine set. It's the song generally toward the end of the show, in which the audience screams a series of "OHHHHs" along with the band and claps furiously. It's always incredibly loud and energy-filled, and my throat usually hurts a bit afterward.

Here's a pretty good video of the song's performance in Chicago about two weeks ago. Just imagine the crowd participation times a trillion toward the song's end and that was last night.

The set was over a bit after that, until the crowd started chanting "Holy Ghost." I could hear the screams very clearly through the wall of the girl's bathroom, in fact.

Southeast Engine obliged. The crowd went wild! You all know how this story ends. Great night.

-- Jillian Mapes, ACRN Editorial Director

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Casa shenanigans

Athens' Aquabear Legion did it again with an amazing (free) show on Friday night at Casa Cantina featuring Snarlas, Tim Race, Moon High, Dragline Bros.

-Photos by Gabriella Owen

Friday, January 22, 2010

Manor Animals pleasin' crowds at The Union

Thursday night was a good night for local indie rock in Athens, Ohio. Having a (surprisingly) free show at The Union were the lo-fi, surf-gaze-rock-what-have-you bands Whale Zombie, Seascapes and Manor Animals. With both Manor Animals and Seascapes containing members (Zach Inscho and Tim Race) from the former Athens indie enterprise Russenorsk, you know you are going to have a good time.

I unfortunately only got to the show in time to catch the end of Whale Zombie’s set, but what I did hear sounded superb as I headed to the back of the bar to find the two other bands scratching set lists into napkins and throwing back drinks to calm their nerves. Seascapes really perked up the crowd with their surf-inspired indie rock, and everyone was ready to go when the Manor Animals came onto the stage.

Named such because all the members live together in the house dubbed Bruce Manor on West Union, these gangly boys toppled onto the stage and ruled the stage with that classic Midwestern indie we ACRN-ers have all grown to love. While the crowd was small, the music was big, making this show a great kick-off to the weekend.

-Kelly Kettering, Features Editor

Photos by Kaitlyn Bernauer

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sold out... at the Union?

I couldn’t believe it; this was the first non-ticket Union show I’ve been to where the place was, according to the door man, “at capacity” by 10:30 p.m.! If that in itself doesn’t explain why the Skeletonwitch/Ringworm show Saturday was buzzworthy, then let me clarify.

The place filled up by 10:30 p.m., leaving a full house for opener Slaughterhog to entertain. I’ll admit, I’m not real down with the tech-metal aesthetics that this band encompassed. The crowd’s verdict was split between the intrigued/excited and the aforementioned opinion.

Amish Electric Chair played a quick, punk rock set to the metal-inclined crowd. If I’m not mistaken, I believe they played their five-song EP Straight. No Chaser in its entirety – it was that short. Maybe a surprise to the band, but quite a few audience members got down to the hopping drums/power chord mixture of this punk margarita.

Around this time I overheard a few people talking about a line of kids rejected at the door. I was aware that several people drove hours for this show, and if you were that unfortunate few that couldn’t get in – my heart goes out to you.

My goodness -- I got chills after the end of Ringworm’s set. Pre-set, singer Human Furnace was warming up by stretching out his arms and doing a couple jumps. Little did anyone around him know that this harmless battery was capable of charging the whole venue into madness. Two fights broke out and Human Furnace questioned the audience saying, “I thought this was Athens, Ohio – not Columbus.” (Columbus hardcore shows are known to provoke fights for the sake of it.) Nevertheless, the crowd was into the thrash metal/hardcore mixture of old and new songs from The Promise to Justice Replaced By Revenge. Me, I was mind blown!

I’ve been to Skeletonwitch shows since 2005 and it still doesn’t get old! The fog machine nearly blinds the top story of the Union into this cryptic ecstasy, as from time to time you see 15 to 50-year-olds raise their horns and headbang to the band’s riff-packed song catalog. Skeletonwitch has gotten international exposure, and you can tell by the fresh seed of fans mingling in the crowd. For some who were occupied by the push-and-shove behavior of the crowd, the set seemed long; but for others, the added encore that included some even older songs from At One with the Shadows was an added touch to their sweaty and stinky night.

-- Rika Nurrahmah

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Athens music truckin' on through the snowfall

I put on my coat and braved the cold last night as I made my way to the Union. When I arrived it was obvious that I wasn’t the only one who thought the freezing walk was well worth it to see Scubadog, Flotation Walls and She Bears rock the night away.

The night started off with Scubadog. I arrived late, so I caught the last of their set. Although they are a rather newly-formed band, they had no problem attracting a following and I had to push through a sea of people to secure my spot in the front.
Next, Flotation Walls, who came from Columbus, took the stage. The five-piece band played hard, with their dramatic orchestra-influenced sounds. The crowd members sang along with their fists in the air as they continued through their set. I watched as the bassist ran his bow along the edge of the cymbals and almost every member continuously changed instruments.

The night was coming to an end, but people were still packed tight as She Bears took the stage. The Athens favorite got the crowd’s feet moving until the bar closed. Despite the cold weather and seemingly never-ending snowfall, it was clear the concert-goers weren’t phased when it came to good music.