Thursday, May 27, 2010

Friendship Show

It’s Wednesday, and 10:30 p.m. is past the point of the night's being young. The night is old. An old old man, slouched over on his floral sofa, glasses askew and falling asleep to the mid-morning news with his gray-muzzled Terrier doing the same on his lap. Alas, I’m going out anyway because sometimes you just gotta live life on the edge. And if the night is old, then I may as well not be. So, off to the Union I go.

I smoothly hand the man at the front door a five-dollar bill. No permanent marker tonight, Ba-bee! It doesn’t matter, though. It’s Wednesday.

Alone, I walked up the stairs and stood pretty awkwardly in front of the stage, which was taken up by three young men playing some punk rock-y tunes. The Ghost of Asa Phelps were they (Yoda?), and it was my first time seeing them after hearing their name so many times around town.

Although I’m not quite that into punk rock-y tunes, I still found them entertaining. They brought me back to my earlier days. Before one of their songs, the singer/guitar player said, “This is a song about getting drunk and fucking up. I think I’m getting a degree in that here in a couple weeks.” It was funny. I laughed internally because I had no one to share the humor with at the time.

After those guys, Stomp the Condor came on, and me -- oh my -- were they a goofy group of dudes; lots of goofy dudes, at that. Their music reminded me something like Man Man mixed with ska and punk, and -- quite honestly -- I can’t think of a genre to perfectly squeeze them into because I’m bad at that.

One thing’s for sure, though: They moved in peculiar ways, sometimes taking their saxophones and other brass who-nots and strumming them like guitars. Sometimes they bounced up and down and distorted their faces. Basically, they were perpetually being weirdos.

I left for a moment to step outside with my friend Danielle (HAPPY BRTHDAY!), hardly expecting to miss much. Upon return though, it appeared that the men had removed their shirts, which I’m assuming happened either because the crowd (probably mostly the guys) requested it, or maybe they just got hot and bothered. Or just more goofy, which I didn’t think was possible (more on that later, though, because turns out it’s entirely possible). Regardless, they were playing shirtless. And they were playing wildly. And they gave me a free CD. Thanks, guys!

And next was the one-and-only, lovely lady, dollface, peach, cupcake, sex-kitten (wait. sex kitten a synonym for cutie? I don’t think so, Laura Stevenson, and of course the four men with her who made up The Cans, I’m assuming. I’m finding myself becoming more and more in love with Brooklyn bands, and these guys only heightened the infatuation.

They were SO good. That’s my lazy way of putting it. In more detail, Laura’s voice was charmingly adorable. She could fluctuate it from dainty falsettos to coarser yells. She could pluck around chords to make them sound entirely unique and then, without hesitation, turn it into a harder, fuller strum. There was a man on a squeeze box and if that statement alone isn’t good enough, too bad because I don’t know how to describe one of those.

Beside the music itself, Laura had such a delightful-ness about her. She was so kind, very thankful, and downright hilarious, able to literally turn anything said into a comical relief even if the songs she was playing were sort of sad. I could sit here and name all the jokes and wits she threw at us, but I won’t because communicating it through a blog will make it lose all its appeal. Besides, you should have been there anyway.

Last but not least were She Bears. The crowd, unfortunately, had dwindled by then. But those who chose to stay were not disappointed, because they got to hear a new song, if not, two (I’m not sure).

Oh, and about the Condor men, I noticed two of them were choreographing dance moves to the songs She Bears were playing. That’s where they proved they could be stranger. I sort of got distracted by it for a while even, and cracked up a lot. On top of that, there were a lot of jokes about Stephen’s drunkenness and a lot of mentioning the set’s dedication towards Shea, as it was his last She Bears show for a long while.

It was like watching a friendship show. In fact, the entire night was like watching a friendship show! Aw, how nice.

2:00 a.m., and the night is on the verge of death it is so old. But when it happens, it will be a peaceful death. The sort of one we all hope for.

--Hannah Cook, Live Reviews Editor

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Country Time = Sexy Time

Paying the two dollar underage fee for a free show was entirely worth it. I’d even take that poorly drawn…angry(?) face on both my hands, ‘cause Andy Friedman’s in town, everybody! Not only is his rough folk soul terribly handsome, but he also has some serious talent, both musically and artistically.

Upon my arrival to Casa Cantina, it was like I had walked into a country line dance. Er, something of the sort. There weren’t really any lines, or synchronized foot kicks, but there was some…sort of grinding going on, which amazed me or made me feel awkward. Is it possible to feel both those at the same time? Anyway, aside from the sexified do-si-do-ing, there were some more original moves going on. Hips and arms were flailing about and drunken smiles were wild.

Although there’s no harm in being more indulged in your moving bodies, it irked me a little when Friedman played a slower song that was not quite fit for dancing, and people just turned away and talked loudly amongst themselves. It seemed he literally was just playing to the backs of people’s conversations. Granted, it was a bar. I understand that. I guess I just felt bad for those few minutes.

On a lighter note, the bassist was probably the cutest man I’ve ever seen. He looked something like Michael Bolton from "Office Space." His cute, little glasses rested a little ways down his nose and his eyes peered around anxiously as his mouth formed happy frowns (if that makes sense). His pants were a little too short, and his button-up, short-sleeved flannel was only partially tucked in. He. Was. Wonderful.

Duke Junior came on after and continued to be the source of rhythm for those dancing. As usual, they were entirely loved by everyone for every minute. They’ve got a sensual twang about them. I hope they never leave Athens.

--Hannah Cook, Live Reviews Editor

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Getting Down on the Floor at Friday’s Dave Rave

Okay, so after I wrote a preview of this show, I made sure to dress accordingly-- as if it was a strictly white tie affair. I went to the Dollar Tree to buy a white t-shirt, cut it up into some edgy asymmetrical tank top (thank you, middle school home ec. class), and wore the bare necessitates, because I was prepared to dance my ass off!

Dave Rave is an OU bucket list essential. For last night’s show, the upstairs Union transformed into the inside of a tanning bed (I don’t think they were emitting UV rays – hopefully) thanks to all the black lights hung above the dance floor. I was immediately given a highlighter for the event from organizer/DJ David Alexander, then I looked around figuring out what my first plan of attack was with this trusty school utensil.

As the place crowded out, I saw that everyone put their right brain to good use. The control factor of a highlighter provides more benefits than the traditional body paint, and people were writing phone numbers, back tags like “show me your tits” and “the one to get down,” and even took highlighting to the body and face. The highlighters were also utilized by the crowd for social benefits, because -- seriously -- what better way to say, “Hey, I was totally checking you out from across the room” than to make a spontaneous marker attack to the body of your targeted subject? What are they going to do?! Note to self: be careful with targeting a subject you’re not interested in. Messages get mixed-up and you’ll find yourself completely cornered by a man trying to rub up on you.

The web director Branka Sormaz and I had to halt our dancing to laugh in amazement at some of the face art – including goggles, rings around the mouth, and, for -- some reason -- a favorite among the plaid-shorts wearing men, dots and slashes all over the face. The event had a small kiosk for all your traditional black light needs, which were so affordable it’s no question that attendees jumped on the glow sticks, additional highlighters and neon bracelets.

So the music: Well, I sure didn’t mind getting down to the variety of David Guetta tracks, including two of my favorites “Toyfriend” and “Memories,” mixed into Alexander’s, who was the second to first DJ of the night before headliner DJ B-Funk, set. There were the occasional major pop tracks thrown in; such as, Madonna's “Like A Prayer” and Kings of Leon's “Use Somebody” – which let me add, ended up being a crowd killer with its shift of tempo, but I mostly recall moments of building percussion to high-synth breakdown that happened at least once every ten minutes.

You know those moments when you and your friends form a dance circle, minding your own business, swinging your hips and chest like it ain’t no thang, and then suddenly some enthusiastic attendee jumps in to do some crazy leg jivin’ and you don’t know what to do? That seemed to happen with almost all breakdowns and I was left bewildered. However, seeing the gay-ladened faces from the audience as they spastically gyrated, jumped, flailed their arms up in the air, etc., was the most satisfying attribute of the night.

With hazed vision thanks to the fog machine, and white shirt growing more transparent thanks to some hard sweating, I had to retreat from the circle to go outside to get some air. There should have been a “WARNING: Exit At Your Own Risk” sign somewhere because I ended up screwing myself over by having the snaking line outside fill in the spots of those who left the party, including myself. The two hours inside was enough for the experience, but I’m just bummed I couldn’t report some potential crazy audience behavior to this blog’s beloved readers.

--Rika Nurrahmah, General Manager

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Palmer what? Oh. No thanks.

I’ll ditch Palmer Fest for a show at the Manor any day.

First off, getting maced by almighty cops and witnessing people throw beer bottles at the police horses doesn’t sound like something I want to be a part of for very long. Besides, watching a horse get shot and killed in war movies is always the most heartbreaking part. They just cripple at their joints and fall to the ground. Not that a beer can is as forceful as a bullet, but still. So freaking sad.

Second, it’s an intimate solo show at the Manor. Need I say more? I will. Tim Race, Wooden Wand, and some local technology-embracing wonders. There.

It was a show made for a full house.

Unfortunately, the Manor didn’t have quite the turn out I think we were all anticipating, which is a shame because it deserved everyone in town’s undivided attention.

I hate not knowing the names of people whom I’m watching. I believe that the first act of the night was a man by the name of Tyler, who produced noises made for murder movies. It’s not that it’s bad: it’s that it frightens me and makes me feel like something awful is going to happen at any moment. Perhaps that’s the point though.

Following that somewhat daunting, yet neat performance was Tim Race of Manor Animals. He sat in front of the sparse crowd, wearing his Poppa Johns uniform (he still had pizzas to deliver to all the drunk, hungry people across town) and played for us some tunes he’s written throughout his years. It was quiet and personal and I felt so bad when my friend’s completely illegible drunk text message made me laugh (and snort, I feel forced to admit) during one of his songs. That teaches me to never look at my phone during a set again. Anyway, as it was my first time seeing Tim play away from his fellow Manor Animals, I was incredibly impressed with how well he was able to carry a unique tune that perfectly accompanied the acoustics. I think some people, including myself, were even getting a little emotional over it.

The man of the night, James Jackson Toth, or Wooden Wand, came on next and laid out some delicate acoustic for the welcoming Athens crowd. His folksy, somewhat unrefined voice fit nicely with the simplicity of the night. It seemed he settled pleasantly into the living room of a stranger’s home. To my dismay, I had to leave and find my out-of-town friend, who had sprained her ankle and was limping across Athens by herself. But, luckily, we made it back in time for a few more songs.

Last was another person I was unfamiliar with, but it may have been my favorite of the night, given the mood I was in. In front of a suitcase with two electronic boxes on top sat a young man, legs crossed and fingers ready. It honestly sort of amazed me how such neat and cohesive noises came about with the simple touch of some buttons. It was honestly one of the coolest things I’ve heard. Sometimes he played samples of people talking and other times he let the noises say it all. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain now that I’m not there. But I do remember quite vividly just being transfixed on the buttons he was pressing turning red, then off, red, off, synchronizing with the beat.

Yet another successful night at the Manor, topped off with a Union Street Diner midnight snack. All was well in Athens last night.

--Hannah Cook, News/Live Reviews Editor

Friday, May 7, 2010

Will you dance, dahling?

So my senior-year-of-high-school sister may be attending her real prom tonight, but I'm convinced that ACRN's $2 Prom last night probably trumped any fluffy-dressed, line-up-on-the-staircase-for-photos event that she'll experience.

The crowd may have been sparse, but those who were there definitely held their own to make it quite the night on the town. There were flapper dresses, draped pearls, fedoras and lots and lots of plaid (..unless you're me, of course, who used this opportunity to re-wear a faux-blood-splattered, completely torn apart prom dress, last seen on Halloween '09).

Despite the 1920s theme, ACRN D.J.s were spinning tunes from all different eras (which was fine with us, because really, how much intoxicated dancing can you do to the Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith?).

People jumped on the stage to crowd-pleasers like Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." (I know, I know, but get a few drinks in ya, and you, too, would be stoked on the song), and the entire crowd was crooning at The Smiths' "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out."

Considering the playful throwback theme ("The Great SNATsby"), the good company and the energetic, it was a pretty successful night.

--Kristin Nehls, Staff Writer

Monday, May 3, 2010

AEM Fest Domination

This time one year ago, the Athens Experimental Music Fest to me was a culmination of all things frustrating in the music world. I hated the "noise" domination and the way it was slowly creeping into the Athens music scene. Frankly, I couldn't understand the appeal of scraping together metal sheets, or why creating feedback via mics next to speakers was really considered "music."

Thankfully, a year's time has proved me more open-minded.

This year I couldn't wait for AEM Fest, mostly because I've realized over the past year that "experimental" music can't be compartmentalized into the simply category of "noise," and that some of this stuff -- a lot of it actually -- fuckin' rules.

So I moseyed in and out of AEM Fest for about nine hours, and reviewing all of the bands is virtually impossible. Instead, I'll give you some highlights. (Disclaimer: I am not cultured in this scene at all. I really don't know how to distinguish what's "good" and "bad." Given that all of these sets were so drastically different, I'm just giving you my take on what was pretty groovy.)


So I'm not even going to pretend like I know what's good when it comes to this stuff, all I know is that Programs puts me in a trance that I don't really want to snap out of. Deemed as "Athens' industrial drone," Ty Owen's total and complete concentration is intriguing. If you missed it this weekend, be sure to come out next week when Programs comes back to Athens with Wooden Wand.

Interstates (Etc)

Brandon Greter actually played under a different guise, taking the stage with his musical partner Sarah Spaulding... but these two were kind of adorable (...although "adorable" might be pretty much the biggest insult ever at a fest like this one, I absolutely mean that in a good way). I might be biased since I know them personally, but Greter and Spaulding started off with this adorably harmonious guitar paddling, and continued on with a set that was -- how else to say it -- sort of upbeat and fun? Basically, I dug 'em.

Blithe Field

Becoming a staple to the Athens music scene, Blithe field was as fun and smile-inducing as ever. And when I say smile-inducing, I'm serious. Just try to get through one of his set's without smiling relentlessly. I dare ya.

Do Chimps Battle?

HOLY WOW. Returning for their second go at the AEM Fest, these people totally knocked me out. They played towards the end of the night, and rather than the crowd dying down, people were STOKED. They had the crowd a'rumblin' and the touch of femininity that's rare in this scene brought something totally new and awesome.


Notorious for their short songs and to-the-pointedness, these guys closed the night with some well-received and highly-appropriate rage. These two dudes -- Aaron Vilk and Ty Owen -- are raw as shit, and proved that shirtless-ness at male-dominated noise show is actually a contagious condition.

All in all, a pretty great experience. Kudos to Vilk for putting this fest on yet again; I hope it's one that continues to grow.

-Kristin Nehls, Blogs Editor