Sunday, April 25, 2010

Gettin' Crunk for Jesus! Wait, Can You Do That?

The Christian rap concert that took place at Siegfred Hall Saturday looked and sounded a lot like any other rap concert, but with people spitting about their love for God and a lack of the sexually liberal, scantily-clad women. This was definitely a kid-friendly show, but the energy was about as grown as the college kids who put it on. Plus, the lyricism these emcees had were far beyond basic.

Only 1 Way opened up the show. They were a pretty energetic trio, did a lot of dancing on stage and were very charming. They even threw in a full dance routine for one of their songs, which no one was ready for!

Then Defender of the Arts, aka Michael Stover, a freshman from OU came on stage. His message was about being a college student and a Christian, a message that was pretty relevant for the OU students in attendance. He totally ripped an Atmosphere joint, a straight hip-hop record, which definitely surprised me. All and all through his lengthy rambling between songs he was humble and down to earth. You could definitely tell it was his very first performance.

D-MAUB, which stands for Dedicated to Making All Underestimaters Believers, performed next. He was awesome during the sound check as he spit a quick freestyle testing the mics, so I knew before the show started that his set would be dope. He had a mean, slick flow and aggressive lyrics. He was very comedic and sounded nothing like a contemporary Christian. My favorite line out of his set was "and its all because He picked me like a nice fro." But his set, unlike the other artists who performed, wasn't all "God is good all the time" and "Praise the Lord". D-MAUB came with a crunk joint called "Keep My Name Out Your Mouth," a song about backstabbers. This song had the crowd hopping around like they were ready to fight... all this for Jesus? That's what it felt like. However, there were no violent lyrics in the entire song.

A female emcee named Candance Evans also performed. She instantly shot down the popular "Jesus is my Homeboy" tees, spitting an anti-homeboy freestyle. Then she came with a highly female/hetero-fabulous rap about being married to Christ. I mean, you don't hear about men saying they are married to Jesus Christ, do you? It's pretty rare.

With all of these gritty beats being played and crunk-esque lyrics, I almost forgot I was at a Christian rap concert put on by Divine Covering, an organization that creates programs for the Christians in the Black community. I had a good time being here, and it let me know gospel music has become more than just hand-clapping, foot-stomping, call-and-response spirituals. It's developing into something almost anyone can find themselves listening to.

-Star Watson, Blogger

Saturday, April 24, 2010

It was a CD release party! Yeah!

Last night was the Manor Animals' CD release party for their new EP "Rearranger" at The Spacement. This is a blog about it.

Upon arrival, I don't even know who was playing. It was their last song and it was just some guy on the drums and a guy on the guitar. Allegedly, one of them was singing but I don't believe it. Everyone was super into it -- maybe too into it if you ask me. But then again, I veer more toward being aloof and never feeling an extreme emotion. So whoever was playing, they were a bit too raucous and noisy for my taste but they got the crowd going. I even heard one little peanut of a male say "I am so. FUCKING. tired" before wiping his face and exiting The Spacement.

Next up was Krill. I spent a majority of their set trying to come up with a clever play on their name and a word to describe them. MagKRILLiscent? But they weren't.

Krill was kind of "blah" even though the crowd experienced "The Doppler Effect of Concert Interest" (I just coined that so it's a little bit rough). The front row is always the one that goes all in immediately, even if the band is shit. And then, everyone slowly has an "oh yeah, music" reaction and starts nodding their heads as well. It's all very strange and scientific.

Naturally, Manor Animals played last. By the third song, a substantial crowd had gathered and it seemed as though everyone had decided it was prime time for a moshing/pushing/"dancing" session despite the fact that they were playing "Ceremony" by New Order which I just can't imagine is the type of song that entices people to push and shove.

All right, I'm going to wrap this thing up. Manor Animals was enjoyable as they usually are. The other bands were mediocre despite the crowd really giving it their all in shifting from foot to foot or nodding their heads, and the crowd was a strange mixture of fun and people that I wanted to tear down with witty and critical insults. A usual Friday night in Athens.

Oh, and I stopped in at Dance or Die. NO ONE WAS THERE.

-Kaitie Firm, Blogger

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Blackoutfest Day 3

10:45 P.M

There seems to be an inherent tardiness bound up in weekends for me; thus, it was nearing 11:00 p.m. as I finally approached The Union for the third and final installment of 2010’s Blackoutfest. As I neared that beloved stretch of sidewalk, the buzz of lubricated chatter coupled with a flood of patrons rushing to suck down cigarettes signaled the end of a set. I hurried to find dear friend and editorial director Jill Mapes, who informed me that the remainder of the evening held naught but two bands in store – apparently, Nebraskan rockers Brimstone Howl were unable to make it. Quite unfortunate, as I was looking forward to hearing from a band that has Flannery O’Connor listed on their MySpace as one of three influences.

Ah well, I shrugged as I ambled towards the bar. I suppose a good band is hard to find.

Thrilled with my pun and trying not to dissolve in self-satisfied giggles that would surely (and deservedly) draw disdain from my fellow show-goers, I readied myself for the onslaught of rock promised by the rearing-to-go Greg Ashley Band.

11:48 P.M

The Greg Ashley Band has been pounding it out for a good 20 minutes or so now, and have just delved into a 15 minute instrumental track that ultimately commandeers their set. The ability of these fellows to shift from easy, floating, borderline-trippy riffs to throbbing, insistent ROCK with such ease is really quite admirable. Their collective intensity is concentrated in their faces, in the hard knit of a brow and in the rolling beads of sweat. The drummer, who, bucking tradition, has set up his kit front and center, is so intent on his task that it’s a surprise his eyes haven’t bored holes in the skins. His sticks, the ends swaddled and bulbous, never falter.

12:40 A.M


In a valiant attempt to ensure that all those around him are well aware of who they are about to see, the slightly-swaying fellow in front of me seems to have gotten jammed on repeat. He’s loud, yes, but so cheery – despite the fact that I’m continually having to duck his precariously clutched libation, I find myself joining in on his excitement. After all, it is f*cking Dead Meadow.

By the time the band has finished setting up and the first chord has rung out, The Union is nearly completely obscured by a dense fog. The machine responsible gurgles satisfactorily on stage, continuing to spew its vapor innards as the audience whoops and gropes about wildly. Amidst the haze, Dead Meadow launches into their distinct brand of semi-psychedelic rock.

1:50 A.M

The band played until 10 minutes 'til closing time, and rarely have I seen The Union so energized. There was a surprising amount of moshing/failed crowd surfing for a band often characterized as “stoner-rock,” but hey, I’ll take that buzzing sort of high energy crowd over a stock-still audience any day. The band greeted the hour with equal enthusiasm, ultimately drawing Blackoutfest XV to a close in a most satisfactory manner.

I meandered downstairs to say goodbye to my scattered-about-the-bar friends before taking off, and as I walked in was greeted by raucous laughter, clinking drinks and the crack of one last game of pool, an overwhelming air of camaraderie and a resounding chorus of Sister Christian by Night Ranger. God, I’m going to miss this place come June.

-Jen Kessler, Managing Editor

Blackoutfest Day 2

Blackoutfest summoned the masses to The Union on Friday as Skeletonwitch played to a near-capacity crowd on the festival’s second day. Bands took to the stage at 6 p.m., as Wizard Beasts, Spooktober, Saturn Missle Batteries, Dropdead Sons, Guinea Worms, Bass Drum of Death, This Moment in Black History, Thomas Function and Buffalo Killers put on a rock ‘n’ roll clinic prior to the headlining set at 12:45.

Regrettably tardy to the performance of “South-beast” Ohio hardcore band Wizzard Beats, I arrived for the lo-fi, high energy set of Spooktober and the anthemic psych-rock of Dropdead Sons. The venue was as crowded as the bill, and Cleveland punk outfit This Moment in Black History did not fail to enthrall its audience in one of the most furious performances of the night.

Not to be outdone, Skeletonwitch signaled its return to Athens with the familiar flurry of blastbeats, airborne beer and dueling guitar that earned the band its rabid following. I staggered out of The Union thoroughly impressed with the endeavors of the independent music community in putting on and hosting the event for 15 years.

Seeing the energy in that diverse line-up made it a memorable night in Athens. Stay tuned for Saturday’s headliners Dead Meadow and the rest of another mammoth lineup.

-- Marshall Pearson, News Editor

Friday, April 16, 2010

Blackoutfest Day 1

The rocking and the rolling and the blacking-out began for the weekend last night with the kicking off of the first night of Blackoutfest, now in its fifteenth year. Being that it was a Thursday show, the crowd was modest but dedicated as bands began at 6 p.m. with Bright Effs, Holly Grahams, Seascapes, Hex Net/Dragline Bros, We March, Puffy Areolas, The Johnny Ill Band (a Terrible Twos side project), Wheels on Fire and headliner Tyvek.

While I was not able to get to The Union as early as 6, the bands playing in the latter part of the evening certainly rocked the house, and Tyvek, of Detroit, MI., was a great end to the night, wailing and howling with their voices and guitars. And trust me—plenty of people were blacked out for it! The fun continues tonight with headliners Buffalo Killers and Skeletonwitch. Get there early if you need to buy tickets -- I'm told 150 advanced ones have already been sold!

-Kelly Kettering, Features Editor

Saturday, April 10, 2010

ACRN birthday -- pretty much awesome

On a cool April Friday night, Lobsters young and old descended upon the Union for a night of cake-induced debauchery, balloons and well, obviously, good music. Lots and lots of good music.
ACRN's 39th Birthday Show began with a bang with the boys of Andrew W.K. cover band Who Knows? (hailing from Athens High School). Who Knows? took to the stage in front of a mixed crowd of both high schoolers and OU student s, and they certainly got the crowd into a raucous mood, inciting singalongs and even a near-mosh pit. Adding to the intrigue was the presence of a plethora of balloons tossed into the crowd, which bounced about like beach balls at a Nickelback concert. (By the way: if you can correctly name the movie I just so wittingly referred to, send me an email at and I will high five you the next time I see you.)
A portion of the crowd dissipated following the end of Who Knows?'s set (apparently ACTs were the next day), though a sizable crowd remained for prog-jazz quartet Five Deadly Venoms, while a few latecomers straggled in. They were the lone band I had seen before (Lobsterfest 2K9, wut wut!) and, as with before, did not disappoint. Flipping between vocal tunes and instrumentals, the band employed the use of a saxophone -- which was played captivatingly by also-guitarist Ben Ashman.
The tunes subsided for a while as a glorious lobster cake was presented for all to see onstage. And as anyone who's spent way too much time on the internet knows, when presented with delicious cake, you must eat it. And so we did. And it was delicious.
In my cake-induced stupor, I was caught off guard when the next act, In Silent Movies, went on. Thus I could finally check them off as one of those local acts that I keep hearing about but never actually see. I'm glad I finally made it out to see 'em. This trio probably has one of the better chances of any in the area to turn heads on a larger, more national stage. I hate to make a Muse reference here because the style of music is most definitely not one and the same, but dammit, I haven't heard three guys make this much noise since Muse. Their banter was perfect as well. "Women and Children First" and "Deep Sea Diver" were certain standouts.
The evening reached the beginning of its end, with the Cutter Family closing out the party. By that point, many of the attendees had departed for the evening. It was almost somewhat amusing that the apex in terms of turnout had showed up for the first band, whereas the low point was for the final act. Nevertheless, the Cutter Family put on a blistering show, with rapid punk numbers and songs about, as the frontman put it, drinking and being alone. Ah, the good life.

The time came for closin' up, and so those of us who remained at the show to its close headed on out, back into the cold, I for my usual ritual of Ali Baba's Gyros after a Union show. All in all, it was a diverse show, full of many different sounds and many different people. Thanks to the Union for having us, and happy 39th, Rock Lobster! Way to do it with style.

-Kevin Rutherford, Senior Critic

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hey man, are you here for the chill wave?

The Smiling Skull may just be one of Athens' most precious "hidden" gems; for the Union-dwellers who are low on cash and sick of the same 'ole crowd, The Smiling Skull is definitely the place to check out. And if you weren't there last night, I have to be honest when I say that you missed.

I've never seen The Skull so hoppin'; students and townies alike were diggin' the tunes brought to us by yours truly, ACRN. The night started off with Chiswola, who debuted last week at The Union's free show. Honestly? They weren't really my jam. I thought they sounded unrehearsed and a bit too off-the-cuff -- but I'm probably biased, just in that their taste didn't really align with mine. I'll hand it to them, though; they're doing something different, and for that I commend them. Plus, they got the crowd movin' and groovin', so kudos for that.

"Hey man, are you here for the chill wave?" <-- Decidedly the best pick-up line ever, Brothertiger came up next, bringing on said chill wave. I don't know if my "beverages" were slowly sinking in or if this music is truly just mesmerizing at any given time, but Brothertiger enchanted me into a stupor that I don't often fall into in public. I totally dug 'em, and based on the equally-entranced audience, I'd say they were altogether well received.

Sad enough, Whale Zombie was the last act I caught last night. The aforementioned beverages were consumed all too quickly, and my bed was a'calling. But Whale zombie, as usual, was a toe-tapping, dance-able success. They were the perfect end to my night, as ended my night squirming between too-full tables and too-drunk college kids towards my walk home. Whale Zombie's tunes reverberated in my brain for the remainder of my evening, and altogether the kick-off to ACRN's birthday weekend was a total success.

-Krisi Nehls, Blogs Editor

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Good music, awful photos, nice night

First off, I love free shows. Especially free shows that happen at The Union. Unfortunately, last night was apparently the night to have shows because they were happening everywhere.

Chiswola started things off, and to my surprise, the stage wasn't being utilized; it was actually really awesome. The crowd was really into it and the band - described as "surfy chinese punk" - seriously delivered. With loud, catchy drum beats, fast and dirty guitar licks, and screaming vocals, how could anyone go wrong?

I chatted with the drummer, Brent Lawson, for a few minutes and he had this to say: "At the beginning, I felt excited. At the end, I felt tired." Understandable what with the non-stop drum playing he did. Perhaps even more laborious as he was wearing sunglasses in the already dark Union.

So, Chiswola. What the hell does that mean? The response I received was, "it means 'we're so fucking angry.' It's kind of girly, like if a girl got really frustrated she would say [at this point, Lawson adapted a classically exasperated girl voice] 'Ah, chiswola!'"

I stuck around to see Mr. Leg. It was this kid sitting on the floor with a magical box which played samples of songs but also enabled him to add different sounds, songs, and beats. At this point, I was really feeling it and thinking "Why is this not Dance or Die right now?" The only thing I wasn't into was that he would play some delicious, sexy beat and then suddenly (I guess this is what makes it "experimental") there would be a bunch of commotion with cymbals and piano and lyrics and it just threw off my whole groove.

But it was free so who am I to complain?

-Kaitie Firm, Blogger

A touch of home (plus some supa' fans) at Casa

Finally. A night where the miserable cold isn’t hindering my ability to walk safely and comfortably around town. Instead, it’s pleasant and agreeing with most everyone’s outfits of shorts or skirts or bare arms. For now, I’ll not bitterly question Ohio for it’s consistent fluctuation in weather. I’ll forget about the fact that it was snowing on my Spring Break because tonight I’m not wearing my Sam’s Club winter coat (thanks, Dad) and it’s okay.

My friend and I arrived to Casa a little after 10:00 in hopes that things would have sort of gotten started. But one thing I’ve learned is that shows in Athens never really start when they say they will on Facebook. So we walk through, pay our 7 dollars and get a smiley face drawn on our hands. Yeah I get it. I’m not 21. Drawing a smiley face doesn’t make me feel any better about that. Big, bold permanent marker is big, bold permanent marker no matter the shape it’s drawn in.

Anyway, we sort of awkwardly waited around for Manor Animals to begin. I’ve seen them a fair amount of times and if my ears heard correctly, they played for us some new tunes that’ll be coming out on their new EP here soon. They also tapped around on this odd little white contraption that made neat sparkling noises. I wonder what it was...?

Pomegranates, a band from Cincinnati, came on after. Naturally, I was pretty giddy about seeing them not only because they’re super good at playing this pretty unique music, but also because it felt like a little piece of home (that I missed a lot quite honestly) was coming to remind me that it was still there. Of course, that wasn’t what Pomegranates came to do. I mean, they don’t even know me. Regardless, they played, and it was wondrous. Jumpy and dreamlike noises were being showered on the crowd and it felt even more surreal with smoke drifting around their bodies and through gleaming green lights.

The reaction of listeners was also sort of surreal. I couldn’t decide who to watch and wonder about more - the four girls in the front who were obviously all about some Pomegranates as they were flailing and singing and taking pictures of themselves with the band in the background... OR the plaid-shirted man to the right of the stage who was dancing like an old fool and making all sorts of dancing faces. He was funny. Since the Pomegranates' supa’ fans were standing right in front of me, they took up most of my distraction from the band. Thanks a lot. No, I’m kidding. Pomegranates are really good, I know. They deserve some serious attention, no matter the way it’s presented I suppose.

I reluctantly left with my friend after they played and ended up missing Southeast Engine. But I can imagine they were Athens’ favorite and played as well as they ever do. I can imagine people danced like old fools.

-Hannah Cook, Staff Writer

Friday, April 2, 2010

Via Audio: even whiskey couldn't save 'em

I stepped into The Union Thursday night with a sense of slight curiosity for the out of town band, and to see how Athens' own have progressed since the last time I saw them. It's been a few months since the last time I saw Manor Animals, and they were still quite the young band then. Since then, one of our own at ACRN has written a very good feature article, and the band has evolved from a side project that gets shows, to something of a burgeoning entity around the Athens musical scene.

On the other hand, Brooklyn-based Via Audio was on the bill, and I'd spent some time of my Spring Break visiting a friend in Brooklyn. We hung out in Park Slope and Williamsburg and I saw Black Lips and drank a lot of Brooklyn Lager. Nevertheless, I felt after only three days in New York's undeniably coolest borough that I was of the city. A false belief indeed, but the fact that I knew which subway stops were the so-called “hip” stops led me to believe that I should check out this Brooklyn band, even if I'd never heard them before.

These beliefs in tow, I arrived to The Union late under a growing haze of whiskey-induced drunkenness. Now, I don't know if it is just me or if this is some kind of universal truth, but does music not sound 10 times better when one is under the influence of alcohol? It does. There, I answered my own question.

Manor Animals have improved drastically since the last time I saw them, and they are now able to command The Union stage with relative ease. The days of their own basement, fond as they may be, were cramped and sweaty, but under the red glow of The Union stage, the jangly flavors of the Animals' music swelled and breathed with openness and ease. Singer Tim Race's voice quivered and shook as he led the band through a 30-minute set as the crowd, friends and newcomers alike danced and sweat to the roommates' rhythms.

In between sets, I resumed my Union custom of playing and losing a game of pool, while also making very poor passes at women. I smoked more cigarettes and drank more beer in defeat, hoping that Via Audio would pick up my down-and-out spirits.

And, they didn't. I now redact my statement from earlier claiming that all music sounds good when one is drunk. Is it the blandness, the lack of fluidity and cohesion in a song that makes it sound bad? Are they not playing in the same key, or are they playing legato's when they should be playing staccato's or any other musical jargon that I can't claim to understanding? It may damn well be a combination of these things, or none of them at all. What I know is that I am a man of simple and undiscerning taste, and still yet, Via Audio could not satiate my musical thirst. They were not original and they sounded just like every other band in the world that waves its flag under the moniker of “indie.”

And OK, no band is ever truly original and everyone sounds like someone else, but with that universal truth in tow, is it so hard to create enjoyable music that'll get my body to shake and move and sweat and cause me to temporarily forget about worldly problems in the rife of a rock 'n' roll show? Perhaps, maybe it is. Who am I, a music critic writing in a car on his way to Columbus and listening to Jack Johnson, to judge someone else for their attempt at art?

Alas, readers, I apologize for leading you down that road. Existentialist quandaries aside, my night ended halfway through Via Audio's set. I gave up, I got drunk and I talked about stupid things with friends. Another Spring Thursday spent at The Union, and definitely not the last.

-Paolo Balboa, Staff Writer