Tuesday, November 15, 2011

ACRN's Pre-New Year's Bash: bustedBASS, Brothertiger, DJ Sweet Dee / November 14, 2011 / The Union

By: Cassie Whitt, Blogs Editor

This whole DJ/dance scene: not my thing. I'm not even sure to whom's set I walked in when I arrived around 10 p.m. with friends who had just left their "History of Rock" class, though all indicators point to its having been bustedBASS.

The ACRN crew nestled close in the back of The Union, perched upon its newly-added stools around tall tables as a crew of people who are into the DJ-and-dance scene flooded the lit-up floor...with props. They traded off, each--in turn--wielding a light-up hula-hoop and this strange stick-on-a-string rave contraption that looked as if it were floating as they spun it around their gesticulating selves.

But, for me, the dancing was not the point. Pre-New Year's, the long-standing ACRN tradition of celebrating New Year's early because we will all be separated (often far from this university) on the actual event, was and will continue to be about the friendships this organization builds.

Later in the night as Brothertiger played, it became about being comfortable enough with those people to lose inhibitions (even if slightly aided by various liquors.)

Brothertiger's set had the majority of the crowd standing within ten feet of a stage, moving in a strange closed-eyed cluster of in-unison sways and sighs at the electronic, blissful music.

Okay, maybe for a moment I did get it, the whole "music's got me feeling so free/we're gonna celebrate" thing...

But I'm never dancing again, just saying.

Following Brothertiger, there was a mass-exodus of sleepy, sweaty people into the storm outside and a few of us remained for DJ Sweet Dee, which was an excellent choice; as, he played a delicious mix of darkwave that I enjoyed and understood more than the music of the previous acts.

A few remained on the dance floor, but most sat back and observed.

I ended the night flanked by two of my friends singing The Cure's "Love Song."

So, it all closed with my being back within my element, sadly without confetti in my hair (The Union forbade our usual confetti-tossing tradition) and with a walk in the rain on an oddly-warm November night to look forward to.

Not bad, Pre-New Year's 2011/2012.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thomas Comerford, Dave Buker and the Historians, Emily and the Complexes / November 11, 2011 / Casa

By: Kyle Rutherford, Contributor

Though the night air was chilly, that didn’t stop many people from hitting up Casa Nueva for a folk night that consisted of Thomas Comerford, Dave Buker and the Historians, & Emily and the Complexes.

The crowd was noticeably small, though, making it hard to distinguish between concert-goers and bar attendees.

The first act, Columbus’ Emily and the Complexes, the solo project of Tyler Verhagen, warmed up the crowd with his plugged-in folk-punk style. Standing alone, he won over many with his soft, yet occasionally throaty voice. Playing many of his originals, like “Emily, You’re Right” and “If I Had Money," as well as covering Alkaline Trio’s “Fuck You, Aurora." Tyler was able to let the emotion in his voice and lyrics radiate through the crowd.

The next act, Columbus’s Dave Buker and the Historians, were one of the more interesting acts of the night. Their electro-folk sound could’ve gone easily unnoticed, possibly because a lack of their full band. The vocals of Buker and Paul Valdiviez went well together, but when it came to a bar setting, it lacked relevance.

The last act, Chicago’s Thomas Comerford, ended the night with his blend of folk instrumentals, a southern-inspired voice without the twang, and echoing vocals. His ability to keep the mood somber but still feeling good was riveting.

Unfortunately, by the time he started to play, much of the previous crowd had left. With softer songs, as well as epic rock songs, Comerford blended in well with the bar style and with those attending.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Ridges / October 28, 2011 / The Ridges

By: Kevin Rutherford, Editorial Director
Photos By: Chris Dobstaff, News Editor

OK, let me get this out of the way, first...



For the second year in a row, rising Ohio stars The Ridges played an intimate show at The Ridges, the former insane asylum which ominously overlooks Ohio University, on the Friday of Halloween weekend.

Attendees were encouraged to don Halloween costume with the promise of a costume contest after the band's set. Picture quite a few delightful outfits, including a human trophy complete with his own platform on which to stand.

But the real stars of the show were The Ridges (the band), as is customary with pretty much any show the current and former OU students play. Since their inception, the band has taken the Athens music scene by storm, and thensome: most recently with fellow Ohio indie rock breaking artists Indigo Wild.

The Ridges took their name from the former asylum, and recorded their debut eponymous EP in its hallowed halls as well. The album was spooky, old-timey and--best of all--inherently Athens-esque, three adjectives that describe the asylum, too.

So, a return to the place where one might be able to say it all began (or, a place that the band seems to owe much to, as they may have not been the same band without it) is always enticing. It's like if a band wrote an entire album about Athens (and Appalachia, as an extension) and then returned to the city to perform said record. See: Southeast Engine.

"We're The Ridges. We're at The Ridges.... beer is involved," announced Ridges frontman Victor Rasgaitis at the beginning of their set. He announced that from within a room of the asylum that juts out from the others, a larger room that probably didn't actually house any patients, but certainly saw quite a few in its time. Rasgaitis, who has a boyish exuberance when it comes to his band, and who is almost chronically smiling, was flanked by the rest of the official members of the band--cellist Talor Smith and percussionist Johnny Barton.

The band has auxiliary members who join them for every show, and included in this night's tally was another cellist, two violinists and an accordionist. Oh, and add in group vocals from just about every member of the band, as well as multiple members of the audience.

A Ridges show is certainly an inclusive affair. Even if it is one's first time seeing them live, as it was for a few in my group, one feels included and encouraged to sing along, no matter what. Whether the band is playing their own material or covers from folk artists such as Damien Rice and Sufjan Stevens, shows with The Ridges are both entertaining and enrapturing no matter one's familiarity with the music. That is something I think bands, especially on a more local level, should strive for, but having been in Athens for nearly four years now and thus having seen countless small-time acts, I feel confident saying that not many bands can do this like The Ridges.

What certainly helps is the band's likability. The music is not abrasive, and the personalities of the performers are warm, eager and welcoming. Plus, I've never met a person who told me that they dislike The Ridges. You don't get that often. Their appeal is infectious.

The Ridges rolled through 11 songs before the set's close. In addition to playing all songs off their debut EP (save for the brilliant "The Insomniac's Song," my personal favorite), staples such as "Jackson Pollock" and "Dawn of Night" also worked their way into inclusion, the latter an especially magnificent tune which will hopefully be included on a future release.

With an eagerness to play comes infectious energy. Rasgaitis was all over the place, sometimes even atop the chair on which Smith usually sat, singing to and directing the crowd in expansive sing-alongs. Barton is also entertaining to watch, even garnering a few raucous cheers from his xylophone solo. It may have been the first xylophone solo I've ever heard, I should add. Other members of the band are extremely calculating with the utmost precision, hitting each note with ease. Many of the members of the band are actually classically trained, and it shows.

Nervous laughs were heard halfway through the set, at which point Rasgaitis announced to the crowd that "our cars are being towed!" The accordion player promptly exited the room. Following his return, Rasgaitis announced again, "our cars will not be towed!" to much rejoicing.

After a fantastic cover of Damien Rice's "Volcano," the band ended their set with a cover of Sufjan Stevens' "Chicago." The cover had particular meaning, because of the band's recent trip to the city. Last weekend, The Ridges traveled to Chicago to record their first Daytrotter session. Say what you might about Daytrotter these days, especially given their recent announcement of charging folks for downloads of particular songs. Nonetheless, Daytrotter is important, a milestone achievement for a little band out of southern Ohio.

A lot of covers exist out there, but I can honestly say that The Ridges' "Chicago" cover is one of my favorites. Having seen their general excitement performing the song a few weeks ago prior to Daytrotter, and now seeing it live, it's clear that the band believes that this may be their biggest shot yet at breaking out of Ohio and into the public consciousness.

I don't like to say this often, and I may sacrifice my journalistic integrity doing so, but fuck it--I think they will. In fact, when it comes to local music, I may not have had as great a feeling as I do about The Ridges, with the aforementioned Indigo Wild coming a close second. This band of musicians---and note I said musicians, because they truly are, not just your average guys that can kiiiinda play guitar and bass and such--seem to have bigger and better press each month, thus far culminating with Daytrotter.

To say that is not saying that good things will come to the band, but that's what music journalism is sometimes all about. You make assumptions and declarations on bands you think will go big. Sometimes it succeeds, sometimes not. Check out Rolling Stone and SPIN's past lists on the matter. Wiz Khalifa got huge, as was expected. Ferraby Lionheart? Not so much.

But we still make these declarations regardless. Sometimes because we just think we'll be right, and sometimes because we WANT to be right. In the case of The Ridges, it's both. Not only do I want this band to break it big, I really do think they will.

Only time will tell. Until then, if you haven't already, check them out. If you live in Ohio, see them when they come your way. When their Daytrotter session finally goes live in a month or two, download it. You won't regret it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tubax, Marbles for Eyes & Tribraco / October 7, 2011 / Donkey Coffee

By: Katie Pinter, Contributor

Last Friday night, Donkey Coffee had the sounds of Tubax, Marbles For Eyes and Tribraco fill its cozy corners.

Though there was a small crowd, Tubax kept the mood high with their combination of reeling electronic rills, steady beats and funky guitar tunes. Basically, Tubax sounds like what a literal arcade fire should be.

The band from Bologna, Italy announced in the middle of their set that they were on their first tour in the United States and were very excited, which was clearly shown through their enthusiastic performance of original songs like "Bigfoot." Altogether, Tubax was a breath of fresh air for the normally chill stage of Donkey and really set the tone for what was coming next.

Following the animated group was Marbles For Eyes, who delivered an indie rock set bursting with soft harmonies, nostalgic lyrics, and country-rock-infused guitar riffs. From the Cambridge, Ohio group was a great variety in songs that ranged from simple singer-songwriter croons to thumping, bluegrass-inspired numbers.

Marbles got the audience involved from the beginning when a member of the crowd got onstage to fix a guitarist's strap and later when spectators were encouraged to clap along to a number. In addition to their sophomore album's being released, lead singer Matthew Smith informed the group that Marbles will soon sell DVDs and, eventually, hoodies to help keep fans warm. With the audience's warmth in mind, another Marbles member suggested they start selling fireplaces too, an idea encouraged by the crowd.

Last but not least, Tribraco finished the show on a high note. Featuring music from their newest album, Glue, the group from Rome, Italy delivered high-energy rock songs (also referred to as "hot" numbers by the lead guitarist), along with a psychedelic, mellow vibe. The band described the inspiration for a variety of their songs: some came from "South American music and impressions," while others were based upon a dry and windy village in Italy or burlesque.

Tribraco became not only a musical experience, but also an educational one when they taught the crowd how to say an Italian phrase that is said to musicians when the audience wants more music. This term was used so much that the band played an additional three songs at the end of their set.

The show was something that could have only happened at Donkey, and I now will be expecting future shows to deliver the same level of enthusiasm, along with the occasional joke and foreign language lesson.

Mountain Stage / October 9, 2011 / Templeton-Blackburn Auditorium

By: Emily Votaw and Amanda Norris

Homesickness is one of the most clichéd, yet horrendously universal experiences of any young person who sets out on his or her own--and especially for college students.

But "home" is many things to many people.

Yet, the most palpable aspect of homesickness may be longing for all the stuff your family does, and for some youngsters, a key part of their parental identity is latched onto NPR and the soothing, boring sounds it so oft provides for aging hippie mothers and fathers.

Maybe the Mountain Stage performance at Templeton-Blackburn Auditorium on Sunday, October 9 was simply a set of local (ish) bands playing at a central part of campus. But I would like to argue that it was, indeed, a parent-palooza.

And not just any kind of parents gathered to see some good kind-of-old-fashioned alt-country Sunday night.

Oh no.

Intellectual sorts.

“Out the wazoo.”

I hope those parent-sorts enjoyed the incredibly short sets put on by the numerous acts. The night started out with a painfully folky, though incredibly endearing and very impressive set by Karen Casey & John Doyle. Kind of like when that folk show comes on after Garrison Keillor’s "A Prairie Home Companion;" when any sensible dad switches the radio off.

And that set set the tone for the night – very skilled players playing for not very long.

Local musical sweethearts Southeast Engine played exactly three tunes, all expertly pulled off, especially their heart-wrenching rendition of “Adeline of the Appalachian Mountains." Keyboardist Michael Lachman was donning his traditional super-spiffy suit – a shocking exclusion from the band’s last Athens gig at Casa Cantina. I found comfort in its return.

In fact, I suppose you could just say that Sunday was a comfortable night, saying that I was surrounded by people who could be my parents and surrounded by the reassuring-yet-incredibly liberal-leaning organization that permeates all NPR events.

Needless to say, I didn’t feel too homesick that night.

--Emily Votaw, Staff Writer

Continuing where our dear Emily Vowtaw left off...

Ha Ha Tonka stole the show-- According to The Post, that is. Somehow the band's photo made it above the fold, much like they somehow got everyone in Mem Aud to stand and clap along to their, to quote Arlo Guthrie with all the irony that entails, "four-part harmony, with feeling."

I'm not sure how it happened. Perhaps I am disconnected, but I could not help feeling like I was watching Hanson-gone-country, all dressed up to play the church social in the best flare jeans that money can buy. For the record, I don't mean that as a compliment.

Luckily The Jayhawks, who closed the night, put on an enjoyable set. Their country-blues-folk-infused jam was worthy of all the hyphens and the listen. Much like Hot Tuna, who played earlier in the night, they played stuff your parents would love and you would tolerate-- which is a-okay in my book.

To close the mountain stage, all of the performers gathered for a communal jam of Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth." The track was excellently arranged, and of course my favorite soloist was Southeast Engine's keyboardist-- and, if only to echo Miss. Vowtaw's comment-- my, didn't he look snappy while doing it.

--Amanda Norris, Staff Writer

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Groove Street Fest / September 24, 2011 / The Dairy Barn Arts Center

The crowd at Groove Street Fest 2011Story and Photos By: Brooke Bunce, Contributor

Saturday marked the premier of Athens’ very own Groove Street Fest, organized by Paul Drury (director of the summer fest Boogie on the Bricks) and Jack Gould (saxophone player of First Street Heat.) The outdoor festival took place at The Dairy Barn Arts Center and brought together bands from all over Ohio to jam out in a Bonnaroo-type atmosphere.

As would be expected with any street-style musical fest, art vendors were aplenty at Groove Street, featuring handmade jewelry, do-it-yourself tie-dye and even a djembe drum booth. The lineup featured 12 bands, including notable names like headliner and Athens regular Papadosio, First Street Heat, Elemental Groove Theory, Any Colour, HELLNAW, The Pinstripes and Mojoflo.

Twenty One Pilots at Groove Street Fest 2011Columbus band Twenty One Pilots were somewhat out-of-place compared to the rest of the Groove Street lineup, but that did not hinder their performance in the slightest.

Decked out in skeleton costumes, the band put on one of the most memorable sets of the day. Composed of two members, the group combines piano, drums and synthesized beats to create a brand of music that is truthfully indefinable. Lead vocalist Tyler Joseph successfully riled the timid, not-yet-intoxicated crowd into moving and shaking to his sometimes singing, sometimes screaming and sometimes furiously rapping lyrics. Accented by drummer Josh Dun’s hard-hitting drum beats, Twenty One Pilots utilized audience participation to their full advantage, at one point even moving Dun to the crowd to play percussion amongst the crowd while Joseph pounded the drums on stage. They definitely amped up the Groove Street energy and readied the audience for a night full of jamming.

HELLNAW Drummer Wren FentonLima, Ohio natives HELLNAW (Hell Naw) took the stage shortly after, showcasing another two-member group that packed a punch. With speak-singing vocals reminiscent of Cake and heavy jazz-inspired bass lines, HELLNAW fit the bill of the expected Groove Street act. The group’s fast-paced funk continued to keep fest-goers moving, but there were times when it seemed the drawn out jam sessions were more for the enjoyment of the musicians than the audience.

As the night progressed, glow sticks were unleashed and the hillside continued to fill with Groove Street attendees. Highly-anticipated bands soon took the stage, which included Elemental Groove Theory, First Street Heat and headliner Papadosio.

Members of Elemental Groove Theory joined First Street Heat on stage and vice-versa, transitioning the two acts virtually seamlessly for an antsy crowd. Both Athens favorites and multi-membered, the two soulful bands delivered high energy performances that crowded the tiny festival stage. As always, EGT and FSH put on eclectic, funky, soul-inspired and ethnic-infused sets that left the crowd stomping their feet, swaying their hips and wanting more.

To end the night, Papadosio delivered their unique brand of jams that can only be described as electric-house-funk-soul. Extended instrumental jams suggestive of Ratatat and harmonic vocals demonstrated why it is that Papadosio has gained success across the country. Hypnotic flashing lights and fog enhanced the atmosphere of the performance and ended the night on a psychedelic note, leaving Groove Street attendees hopeful that the festival will become a yearly staple.

Emily & the Complexes, Dan Lurie & the Quarter System , and Kyle Sowash / September 23, 2011 / The Fern Gully

By: Katie Pinter, Contributor

Deep in the urban jungle that is downtown Athens, lies the mystical venue called Fern Gully. While it may not include fairies, fruit bats, and an Elton John soundtrack like its '90s movie namesake, the venue did feature the musical stylings of Emily and the Complexes, Dan Lurie, and Kyle Sowash, all of which were pretty magical.

Starting off the night was Tyler Verhagen's Emily and the Complexes, a singer/songwriter act from Columbus. From the beginning of the show, Verhagen enraptured the audience with his croons about longing and heartache with a healthy dose of angst here and there. The folk rock set was closed with a cover of Against Me!'s "Sink, Florida, Sink," with which the crowd was more than happy to help sing along.

Following the solo act was the trio Dan Lurie & the Quarter System. Coming in all the way from Portland, this indie-pop rock group dished out songs on every topic from chicken sandwiches and trampolines, to reminiscent tunes about OU's Jefferson Hall and South Green. Lead singer Dan Lurie was happy to be back at his alma mater with drummer/"snuggle bunny" Daniel Mancini and singer/wife Vanessa Rehder, but even happier to have his Athens references understood.

Soon after their crowd-pleasing rendition of "Robocop" by Kanye West, the band was accompanied by Kyle Sowash for a few electric guitar soaked numbers, which nicely complemented Lurie's lighter style.

And then there was one, just the solo sounds of Kyle Sowash to finish off the night. Also from Columbus, Sowash played his indie rock with a rougher tone than the other acts that made his set feel right out of the '90s. One of the highlights from his act was his version of the FreeCreditReport[dot]Com jingle, which his band actually recorded for a contest, and definitely kept the crowd laughing.

But just when everyone thought the show was over, Sowash dusted off an old track with a great story behind it. As told to the crowd, Sowash and Lurie were at an ice cream shop in Portland when an antsy tyke in front began morosely singing about the ice cream clown sundae he was desperate to eat. Lurie and Sowash took the boy's words and made separate versions of what is now "Vanilla Clown." Their collaboration couldn't have finished the evening on a funnier note.

In the end, the show delivered a massive amount of laughs and cheers from the crowd, all thanks to Emily & the Complexes, Dan Lurie & the Quarter System, and Kyle Sowash and their rocking beats. With Hope, there will be more nights of magic and entertainment in the future at The Fern Gully, Athens' most elusive and enchanting new venue.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Those Darlins / September 21, 2011 / The Union

By: Carolyn Menyes, Interviews/Live Reviews Editor

Okay, so maybe it was a Wednesday night. And maybe I had two papers due the next day that I was only about 40% done with. And maybe I'd gotten only minimal sleep during the previous week. (Junior year is a killer, by the way.)

But! It was ladies' night at The Union. Duke Jr. opened, followed by Columbus's Lydia Loveless and then the stars of the night: Those Darlins. And there was no way I was going to miss one of my favorite bands playing in my favorite little college town. So, as the clock struck 10 p.m., I headed uptown to see the show and to be incredibly irresponsible.

But, I think I made the right choice.

After my male companion and I paid our expensive but justifiable $8, we cold hear the sweet sounds of local folk favorites Duke Junior and The Smokey Boots. They're one of the local acts I enjoy most and a consistently good time, so I was pretty stoked.

The group was certainly on-point on this Wednesday night. Playing to a semi-sparse crowd, Duke Jr. played a good bit of songs I didn't recognize, so I have to assume that they're off their upcoming album. The new direction is one of which I greatly approve. The songs are a little saucier and a little sexier but still maintain the folk-ish, country edge we all love about these guys. I missed about half their set, so I don't know how many older songs they played total, but they rocked out to the always pleasant "Travelin' Man," which had me stomping my pink boots.

Before I knew it, their set was over. After I took a quick step outside, Lydia Loveless was up. She was the act I was least interested in. I'd heard good things (apparently she's been reviewed by SPIN), and she did put on a good show, but that whole part of the evening is a bit muddled in my mind. I was mostly anxiously awaiting the arrival of Those Darlins to the stage and creeping to look for them in the crowd.

However, Loveless did still manage to entertain me, and I have no intention to imply she was boring or bad. Apparently, all her songs were relatively long, as she said, but they were good enough on every level that each individual song, and consequently her set, went by quickly.

At one point, two members of Duke Jr. were do-si-doing in the crowd, so my dear friend Hannah and I followed suit. And if any musician (especially one I'm unfamiliar with) makes me want to make an ass of myself in that manner, then they're a-okay.

Then, Lydia Loveless left the stage, and I got exponentially more excited. Those Darlins were up next! We made our way to the front of the stage, prepared for the insanity that was about to ensue. I'd seen Those Darlins a year-and-a-half ago at Nelsonville Music Festival, and ever since then, I've been aching to see them again.

They started off by playing "Be Your Bro," the first single off their latest album Screws Get Loose. This set the precedent for the evening, during which they played most, if not all, of their second record. The girl group vibes they mixed with their signature sassy southern sound is quite original and makes for a roaring good time.

However, that leads to my only real complaint about the evening: too much new stuff. To my memory, Those Darlins only played two songs off their eponymous debut, "Red Light Love" (as seen in those Kia commercials) and "Wild One."

Despite the new material, The Union was still hopping. Though the audience tended to hang back for Duke Jr. and Lydia Loveless, everyone crowded around the stage for the headlining act. Personally, I have never danced so much at a show before. My friend and I boogied and stomped our boots like there was no tomorrow (or more specifically, no classes tomorrow). We sang along to all the words we knew so well and had a concert experience that rivaled any show that rolls through Columbus.

Realistically, Those Darlins played for well over an hour, but their set flew by. Before we knew it, they thanked the crowd and got off the stage. But! This is where my life was made.

Post-show, I gave Kelley Darlin a thumbs up and told her they put on an awesome show. Apparently, since Hannah and I were shaking our tailfeathers and shouting along throughout the whole show, the band took notice. Kelley then thanked us for our participation and that they all appreciated it and then gave us hugs! And it was a glorious hug.

So, back out into the cold, concert-less fall we went. And even though it's only been a day, I'm totally anxious to see Those Darlins again.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rosie Haney, Kaitrin McCoy, and Megan Terese / September 16, 2011 / Donkey Coffee

By: Jacob Betzner, Staff Writer

It was an acoustic pop night at Donkey Coffee featuring pianist and singer/songwriter Kaitrin McCoy.

Rosie Haney and her banjo-pickin’ friend kicked off the show, presented by Brick City Records, with a little self-proclaimed “hipster music” infused with bubbly comedy, and Megan Terese impressed the crowd with her rangy voice accompanied by the smooth guitar playing of Tom Atha.

With a good voice but limited guitar playing technique, what Haney lacked in musical ability she more than made up for in making the crowd laugh. She took the crowd on a “tour of hipster music” and ended her solo set with an a capella version of Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow’s hit “Picture” while the crowd laughed uncontrollably. Her friend then joined her for an original song about getting drunk. The song's chorus, “Tonight, you’re getting drunk/as a skunk/Who’da thunk/you could get so drunk?” also made the crowd cheer.

Next up was Zanesville native Megan Terse. Joined by Tom Atha, Terse hit a bunch of big notes and performed a beautiful cover of Etta James’ “At Last.” The duo added a few originals, covered Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be,” and finished with a heartfelt original about a failed relationship.

Finally, Kaitrin McCoy continued the night of music and laughter by playing her all-original set, which included a song about “stupid” boys and considering becoming a lesbian, giving Haney a run for her money. McCoy tried a few new songs out for the crowd including her catchy song with the working title “Addicted to Love" to close the show.

The light music combined with some good coffee made for a nice little concert for a chilly Friday night in Athens.

Friday, September 16, 2011

High Castle, Pigeonholes, Nurser, and Hippie Grinder / September 15, 2011 / The Smiling Skull

By: Sam Boyer, Staff Writer | '90s Blogger

My first venture to The Smiling Skull was marked by some apprehension. As a socially awkward sophomore, the thought of wandering beyond Court Street filled me with a ridiculous sense of dread. Translation: I’m really weird and I don’t like hanging out with people. But I’m a big girl now, and I have the ability to traipse around Athens like I own the damn place. Kind of.

Now that we’ve established the proverbial “popping” of my local venue cherry, I can get into the super rad experience that ensued.

The Smiling Skull looks slightly menacing upon first glance, but inside lies the coziest little hole-in-the-wall you ever did see. And by cozy I mean littered with (sometimes X-rated) graffiti and various vintage beer signs. Home sweet home.

The first band up was Pigeonholes, a pop-punk outfit from Parkersburg, W. Va. As I am partial to bands of the punk persuasion, I dug these guys. They were playful and had the three-chord progression thing down pat. The lead singer had a permanent smile plastered on his face, which translated to my face. If you’re happy, I’m happy, dude. And if you name one of your songs “This Coke Tastes Like Pepsi,” you automatically get my seal of approval.

The Skull started to fill up pretty quickly after the first set, but it wasn’t claustrophobia-inducing. One reason why I prefer The Skull over The Union: Atmosphere. There isn’t a ton of space, but the close quarters make for the dank bar equivalent of a group hug. “You smell like PBR and sweat. Let’s be friends!”

But I digress. Nurser was up next, and since I am ignorant to the local scene, I kept an open mind. Unfortunately, Nurser didn’t quite woo me the way Pigeonholes did. The former is a noise-rock band, so comparing the two is absurd. But after a few songs, I came to the conclusion that Nurser is just not my cup of tea. Too much noise, not enough rock. But that’s just my humble opinion. I am not the master of local music.

Due to the fact that I hadn’t eaten much all day, I only caught a few songs during High Castle’s set. What I did hear was fantastic. West Coast punks always rub me the right way. They kind of had an early Green Day thing going on, and considering my GD obsession, that is a very good thing.

I regret not seeing Hippie Grinder, but hopefully they come back around. My expectations for a “hardcore punk” band are very high.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

ACRN's Lobsterfest 2011: Day Three / June 4 / South Beach

By: Amanda Norris, Staff Writer


Bridesmaid are great at what they do-- which is play hard-hitting stoner metal-- but their sound translated awkwardly to the South Beach vibe. I’d love to see them play at the Smiling Skull or the Union with a crowd of their fans but in the context of a non-Ozzfest-outdoor-festival, the vibe was odd.

Whale Zombie

The best and worst thing about being deeply involved in the local music scene is that I see many of the same bands over and over again. I love that-- but I would be lying if I said it didn’t get old every now and then. That being said, I have seen Whale Zombie play more times than I can count. But I have never seen them quite like I saw them--or rather, heard them-- at Lobsterfest.

I have heard their endless waves of layered progressive rock soar in the acoustics of Stuart’s Opera House. I have moshed for them at the seemingly ill-fitting venue Casa Cantina. And I have found them most at home at the Union with it’s underground (yes, I realize it is upstairs, but you know what I mean) vibe suiting them perfectly. But never have I experienced them outside, in the afternoon sun, on a lazy Saturday.

Until Lobsterfest 2011 that is.

With no shoes upon which to gaze, I treated Whale Zombie’s set as a much needed pseudo-siesta-- staring up at the blue sky, getting lost in the chord progressions of a familiar sound in an unfamiliar setting. Sometimes it’s nice to change things up.

She Bears

I never knew She Bears in their Athens days but Columbus seems to have treated them well if what they debuted as new material is an indication of their new direction. She Bears’ Saturday set proved them still capable of producing solid indie pop-rock for the head-nodding, even despite recent line-up changes.


By: Scott Smith, Album Reviews Editor

The rain tried to end Lobsterfest's third day before it had even begun.

Blithe Field

The festivities began at noon, and by 12:30, the sky got dark and ominous, leading to a half-hour-long downpour. The courageous and efficient ACRN sound crew was able to save all of the equipment, and after taking some more time to set everything back up, Blithe Field was able to conclude his set.

Donning a Pink Floyd T-shirt to match the "The Wall" banner in front of all his equipment. The electronic musician led the crowd through a subdued pop landscape. His songs are upbeat but not exactly danceable; a comforting middle ground for fans who seemed to want to relax and just enjoy the music rather than let the heat take an even greater toll than it was already taking.

Asobi Seksu

To close the event was New York band Asobi Seksu. Instead of the dense shoegaze that band is known for, they instead debuted new songs for their upcoming album, Fluorescent. The new songs moved away from layering of the guitar sounds and instead opted for a more synth and lyrically-driven approach.

Asobi Seksu has really been wrongly pigeonholed as a shoegaze band, but the reality is that the band is an amorphous, ever changing musical act. Unfortunately, the weather wouldn't play nice again, and the band's set had to be cut short.

Setbacks aside, it was great three days for Ohio University, ACRN and Athens. A fantastic way to end the year, and some wonderful sounds to linger in our ears as summer vacation comes to the horizon.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

ACRN's Lobsterfest 2011: Day Two / June 3 / The Union

The Friday night edition of Lobsterfest 2011 started off at The Union with Nurser, a band who seemed very much at home within the confines of the dark upstairs music venue.

I had missed Nurser to this point, and actually had not read anything about them aside from our hilarious interview with them this week. So, aside from knowing them to be humorous young gentlemen, I had no idea what sort of music to expect.

Nurser plays a sort of... we'll go with noise rock. I can certainly see why some people would not be into this (it does seem to be a very polarizing genre), but I dug it. Shane Riley's guitar sound was probably the most untuned I've ever heard, and his vocals were admittedly a bit hard to hear over the cacophony of noise built up behind him. Then again, that's probably the point. Is it the point? If it's the point, they're winning.

One thing I could comment on was the overall tightness of the band... you can tell they've not been a band as long as some of the others, and--as a result--there does seem to be times that a beat is missed or delayed, or that something simply doesn't seem right with the music. These are just tiny instances that don't take away from the overall experience, but I'm sure they'll be back in the fall sounding better than before. And perhaps, as per their interview, playing in the vault of Chase Bank. Which would be rad.

Following Nurser was Evolve, a hip-hop act (sometimes duo) out of Cincinnati. This was my third experience with Evolve, the first coming at last year's Lobsterfest. Let me say that Evolve is an act never to be missed when he comes to the area (take note, Lobsters and Athenians not at the show last night!). Evolve is not your normal hip-hop/rap act. Rapping about the "social climate in modern Capitalist America," as he put it in an interview with us last fall, Evolve incorporates electronic beats and sounds into the easy-going rhymes. It's definitely a laid-back affair compared to what one may be used to from his genre of music.

The one thing that always irks me about Evolve's set is its length. I cannot say whether it's the fact that I'm enjoying the music or that the set really is that short, but a show with Evolve always seems to blow by. Short and sweet is at times something I can get behind for certain acts, but I'd love to hear more from Evolve. Maybe someday.

--Kevin Rutherford, Editorial Director

Narrow and the Brights. See them. Immediately.

Frontman Tim Race, whose vocals fall somewhere between a less melancholic Ian Curtis and a less-produced Paul Banks, and drummer Zach Inscho, a percussion powerhouse, put on the best set of the night with the help of their bassist Brad Wilson, no slouch himself.

Soaring guitars, a drum kit getting worked-- nearly abused-- and the conclusion that Narrow and the Brights are undoubtedly the strongest post-punk act I’ve seen come through yet this quarter, made Lobsterfest, Friday night edition, completely worth it.

After Narrow and the Brights went Child Bite. Hardcore is not my forte but I can defintely respect these guys. I probably won’t be caught at Haffa’s buying their album, but their energy was staggering. I am still trying to figure out how their keyboardist/vocalist made it around the stage that much, seemingly without missing any of his parts. I am also still trying to figure out how their bassist ended up on the floor of the Union at the end of their final track with a girl straddling him. Details will be provided as further developments come to light.

--Amanda Norris, Staff Writer

Friday, June 3, 2011

ACRN's Lobsterfest 2011: Day One / June 2 / Casa Cantina

ACRN’s Lobsterfest couldn’t have kicked off better this year. Not only is every night free for festival-goers and those who randomly stumble into the right bar on the right night, but the lineup is a virtual who’s-who of the Athens music scene as well as a few fresh faces from out of town.

Last night was a meat and potatoes kind of evening. The venue: Casa Cantina, an Athens staple and a personal favorite of yours truly. The performers: Stomp The Condor, The Kyle Sowashes, Scubadog and Tin Armor, all acts that have developed a particular following here in town.

Unfortunately my arrival was delayed, and I was only able to catch Stomp The Condor sing happy birthday to a fan in the crowd. I was disappointed to say the least, those guys seemed like fun.

After settling in, one thing became abundantly clear to me--the place was packed, and there were more people constantly filing in. I’m not a regular on the bar scene, but I can’t remember the last time I saw Casa that full in the three years I’ve been going there.

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been so surprised . The Kyle Sowashes were about to go on, but before last night I wasn’t aware of what a big deal that actually was. The bands upbeat lo-fi indie-pop is infectious. Some of the lyrical content can get lost in the loud distortion, but the brand of music and the quartet’s excellent instrumentation (guitar solos from Mr. Kyle Sowash, himself, on nearly every track) leads to such a great live show that it’s hard to care. I’ve had people simply gush about this band to me, and I’m now starting to understand why.

Nearly everyone stuck around to see Scubadog, but there was no sense of mystery surrounding it all for me this time. If you’ve trolled around the local music scene in the past few years, these guys have become all too familiar. Teddy Humpert and Jake Householder are now in their second band together. It was the first time I’d seen them with new drummer Chris Mengerink, but I honestly think this is the best show I’ve seen out of them. Maybe these journeymen are ready to break through.

To my chagrin, Casa seemed rather cavernous just minutes after Scubadog finished. The band playing the late slot unfairly has to deal with tired eyes and the need for rest from fans more so than the other acts. Most times you don’t miss anything particularly spectacular, but then again Tin Armor doesn’t normally fill the late slot. The Columbus pop act remains one of the best kept secrets. I’m starting to see the same devoted faces when Tin Armor comes to town, a sort of cult following, if you will. That sounds strange coming from a pop act, normally there’s an instant universal appeal. Consider me baffled, but hopefully soon more and more people start to notice.

Lobsterfest continues tonight (June 3) at The Union at 10 P.M. and then Saturday in front of South Green campus starting at noon.

Like I said before, it’s all free, so your broke ass doesn’t have an excuse not to go.

--Scott Smith, Album Reviews Editor

Sunday, May 29, 2011

"The Smorgasbord" / May 27-28 / Haffa's and GG's Bubble Tea's Basements

What do you mean Baker Center is closed? They actually expect us to walk up that hill all weekend?

Memorial Day weekend turns Athens into somewhat of a ghost town. The University essentially shuts down, most of the student body goes home, and a tumbleweed can be seen making its lonesome journey down an abandoned Court Street—granted the tumbleweed is in the form of an empty natty box… but I digress.

There is one event Memorial Day weekend that the left behind (I thought the rapture was last weekend?) can look forward to: “The Smorgasbord.”

Smorgasbord Day 1:

“The Smorgasbord” kicked off at 7:30 Friday Night at Union Arts, a.k.a the Basement of Haffa’s Records, with a performance art piece.

Here I will choose to lift a phrase from Staff Writer Scott Smith: “I’ve never been equipped to interpret interpretive dance.” Nor have I, Scott, nor have I. And so I chose to sit that one out in what was left of the day’s sunshine while I waited for word that singer/songwriter/poet Dawn Parker would be taking the stage.

Now I’ve seen Parker read at Donkey Coffee’s Designated Space pretty regularly, and the girl is honestly one of the best writers I’ve ever encountered. People who are getting ready to leave will literally sit back down when Zach Fulton (emcee of DS and organizer of the Smorgasbord) calls her to the stage just to hear her work. That being said, I had no idea she could sing. She can. Beautifully. Between her poetic lyricism and heart-breakingly smooth vocals, her set was definitely one to remember—as was her interpretation of the Decemberists’ “The Crane Wife” with which she closed.

Following Dawn was a poetry-reading by Dan Moore. Moore, another frequenter of Donkey’s DS, gave a truly phenomenal performance. I’ve seen him read his work countless times but never with this much feeling, this much truth.

I took a break from the Smorgasbord and returned for Hannah Cook’s acoustic set. She played some great originals, particularly one about a recent camping trip, but her cover of Ben Kweller’s “Lizzy” stood out above all the rest. That girl needs to put that on youtube. Immediately. It would shame all of the other covers into submission within the first 30 seconds. Cook was joined midway through her set by two other musicians, a guitarist and pianist. They complimented her well and, despite breaks to tune, put on a lovey show. I hope to see more of them in the future.

Closing out the night was another poetry-reading, this time by Jesse Pyle. If you’ve never been to Union Art’s, imagine a basement under a record store with black walls and floor, minimal lighting, a chain-link fence, a few random balloons, and an assortment of college-aged hipster kids, well over half of whom are toting liquor in their purses/murses. Now, imagine a man in a suit who looks like he just stepped out of Harvard grad school circa 1964 reading in fluent Anglo-saxon and Italian.

I love this town.

Day 2:

The Smorgasbord reconvened Saturday at 7ish in the basement of GG’s Bubble Tea.

Opening up the night was poet Justin Carel. Carel is another poetic talent who frequents DS and, again, though I have seen him read before and always been impressed, there was just something about this particular performance that showed he was pulling out all the stops. Carel has an uncanny ability of mixing beat poetics, humor, social conscious themes, and devastating nostalgia into creations that leave a listener sometimes laughing, sometimes heartbroken, sometimes a little of both, but always enthralled. On top of that, he does improvisations with help from audience suggestions. How Carel can turn the suggestions of “socks” and “turtles” into an introspective piece on humanity is something beyond me. But thank god he can.

After Carel, was a set by 99₵ Dreamz. It was honestly his best show to date. His beats were perfectly in line with his vocals, there were no technical difficulties, and he brought bags of computer paper strips. The computer paper thing might seem strange to you. Clearly, you have no idea how fun it is to mosh in a pile of that stuff. Try it. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Okay, now you understand.

Jokes and stage antics aside, 99₵ Dreamz has some seriously bitingly clever lyrics. He passed judgment on the college hook-up culture with “I still had the nerve to call you the very next day/ despite knowing that you slept with him instead of just fucking me” on the track “Somewhere Near State Street.” He sent a heartwarming shout-out to his girlfriend, Danielle Wallette. He did a duet with his best friend Jeni Shaw—a girl with crazy pipes who needs to play out more. And he even wrote a new song about the rapture, probably his most impressive one yet which deals strongly with dystopic themes: “I was there when the world was supposed to end/ May 21, 2011/ All the college kids were outside drinking their beers/ Nothing changed here.”

I left the Smorgasbord soon after the 99₵ Dreamz set, but I did stay long enough to see a particularly endearing short film about the family that owns Souvlakis’, narrated by their 8 year old daughter.

I can think of no better way to spend Memorial Day in Athens than in dark basements with good friends, good music, and good poetry. These are our college years. This is our smorgasbord.

--Amanda Norris, Staff Writer

Friday, May 6, 2011

ACRN St. Jude Benefit Show / May 5 / The Smiling Skull

A sleepy brain and a game of “Would You Rather” later, and we were on our way to the Smiling Skull. We were apprehensive of the price at first, but morally we couldn’t allow ourselves to use that excuse, given the show was a benefit for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. We had to think of the children.

The Athens-famous, omnipotent, flawless Nurser took the stage (of sorts) first. Things went better than the last time I saw them, but their music is so weird that it’s hard to tell when things aren’t going well. I mean that in the best way possible. There are definitely some inventive sounds coming from them, particularly from Shane Riley’s guitar. He finds the most obscure notes to play, but stirs them together so that they transition solidly.

They had some new material to lay on the growing crowd, one song in which bassist Sam Mink had to step out because he hadn’t learned his part yet. To that, Riley said something along the lines of, “Our bassist can’t play to this song because it’s such a rager.”

Blithe Field was next and to my and everyone else’s dismay, he was having technical difficulties. He tried to push through as best he could, but the beats weren’t quite the way they were meant to be. Still, he had a supportive crowd that wished him well, but his set was forced to end too soon.

Stomp the Condor, very much unlike Blithe Field, was a weirdo, rambunctious bunch. Or, really just the lead singer/keyboardist/guitarist was. They played rowdy tunes that the crowd greeted with rowdy energy. It was punk rock and other stuff at its finest. A couple of them took off their shirts, too, and of course that’s always a good time, even more so when the shirtless are wearing jorts.

The crowd was at its largest with Brothertiger, which usually is the case every time he plays. I only stuck around for a couple of songs, but left a trippy, happy, dancing group of people. That’s alls yous gotta do, anyway.

Apparently we raised $300! May good causes be benefited and may good music be cherished for all of eternity.

--Hannah Cook, Managing Editor

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Of Southeast Engine, Echo & and the Bunnymen Covers, and Allen Ginsberg

It begins with Allen Ginsberg. It always begins with Allen Ginsberg. And this Friday night, it began with Allen Ginsberg--or at least a man with his glasses and hazed stare--hitting on my mom on the Casa Cantina dance floor.

Yes friends, it is Moms Weekend in Athens and as we all know, when spring dawns on this town things can get a little preposterous. We know this, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

The walk from West Green to Casa alone proved that Athens would be in top form: encounters with Rick the Court Street pianist, two dueling violinists outside of Bagel Street, the late-night accordionist making a rare appearance before after hours, and even an enthusiastic breakdancer outside of the diner. There were almost as many street performers on Court Street Friday as there are bars. I love this town.

We arrived at Casa just in time to catch the beginning of opening act Wolf Ram Heart’s set. We also beat the door man--cheating Casa out of cover charge is a rare and exciting feat. I almost felt bad about it until the front man of Southeast Engine congratulated us. If the headliner sanctions it, it’s fair game. But I digress: Wolf Ram Heart.

Let’s talk about Wolf Ram Heart. Like most people who were raised on too much VH1 Classic, I love Pink Floyd but I also love to hate on all other forms of prog rock, all the time, always, no exceptions. Wolf Ram Heart is the exception. I loved their set. They played flawlessly and got people dancing, high praise for an opening act. The highlight was their cover of “Lips like Sugar”-- nothing gets the cougars boogieing like Echo & the Bunnymen.

After Wolf Ram Heart went Scubadog. It was their first show with their new drummer and I have to say it was a success. Whether their guitarist is using his capo as a slide or they are using an ipad as a musical instrument, Scubadog never fails to change things up and have a good time. Their set was great and Jesse Remnant from Southeast Engine even got up to play moroccos for them.

Speaking of Southeast Engine... Athens loves Southeast Engine. They are the kings of Casa Cantina. They might be on Daytrotter, but they are NOT a “national act.” They are our act, and they are great at it. They introduced tunes from their latest album Canary, which they referred to as their “ode to Athens,” and each one was a hit in its own right. Whether singing devastatingly poetic ballads about Appalachian coal miners or upbeat toe-tappers, Southeast Engine knows how to put on a great live show. They recognize that the surest way to a girl’s heart is with a harmonica but make no mistake, these boys can JAM when they are compelled.

A “bro” in the front row who had a few too many tried to get loud with Southeast Engine, but no one messes with the kings in their castle. Their drummer, always one for entertaining facial expressions, exclaimed “Shut up!”--while simultaneously accomplishing an excellent fill, I might add--and the offender retreated into the shadow of his flat-brim baseball cap, not to be heard from again.

When the set was over, Athenians of course begged for more, and the boys of Southeast Engine, like the gentlemen that they are, gave the crowd a choice: “Would you like rock first? Or anthem?” “BOTH!” we exclaimed, and they obliged, ending with a guitar solo off of the base drum. If only there would have been slashing windmills involved. Maybe next time Casa...

-Amanda Norris, Staff Writer

Friday, April 22, 2011

Emily and the Complexes/The Smiling Skull/Duke Junior and the Smokey Boots/Casa Cantina/Buffalo Killers/The Union/April 15

The rain in Spain might fall gently on the plains, but the rain in Athens pounds the bricks with more force than the hooves of Athens P.D. at Palmer Fest. Be that as it may, Athenians will get down rain or shine and, when they do, staff writer Hannah Cook and I will be among them.

After partaking in some pre-gaming...er..."snacks," we headed to the Smiling Skull to catch Emily and the Complexes. The atmosphere at the Skull was lively and we danced and twirled amidst friends and townies to the sounds of Tyler Verhagen's outlaw-acoustic-folk-blues-indie creations. He bantered with the crowd and made Harry Potter references and gave his all on every tune. Those who made their way down Union Street despite the weather were not to be disappointed. But it is not for Hannah Cook and me to stay in one place. When Verhagen (a.k.a. Emily and the Complexes) strummed his final note, we were compelled to move on.

As we made our way back to Athens' favorite crossroads (Court/Union), we ran into a few characters—including Zak, the emcee of Donkey Coffee's beloved Designated Space—and convinced them to join us at Casa Cantina for Duke Junior and the Smokey Boots. After coughing up two dollars for the cover, and receiving two frowny faces on each of our hands courtesy of the doorman's Sharpie, we positioned ourselves in front of the stage as the band set up all of its equipment. While I was rocking keen hiking sandals (monsoon season is no time for heels, ladies—certainly not in the city upon many hills), Hannah Cook's boots were itching to start smoking—and smoke they did. Duke Junior brought its A-game, playing roots so lively no toe in Casa was immune to tapping. We stayed and boogied for most of the set, but 12:45 rolled around and it was, again, time for us to be moving on.

With the Skull and Casa already covered, the only logical ending venue to our night of show-hopping was, of course, The Union, for whatever was left of Blackoutfest. We made it just in time to catch the end of an experimental band whose name I do not recall... So what I mean to say is, we made it just in time to loiter outside while we waited for word that Buffalo Killers were setting up. When word came, we were up that staircase in a hot second and positioned right at the front of the stage, ready to get our blues rock on. The Buffalo Killers started off a bit slow but once they got their momentum going, there was no stopping them. What began as a mediocre set ended with multiple bangs and an enthusiastic crowd that showed its appreciation by jostling until the law would let it jostle no more, and the bar had to give the traditional "You don't have to go home, but you do have to get the fuck out of here"—always a boost to a band's ego. Luckily, the Buffalo Killers deserve such an ego boost. I hope they enjoyed their Goodfellas and return again soon.

They say that rainy days are meant for staying in. They say that nothing good happens after 10 p.m. They say a lot of things. Hannah Cook and I refuse to take stock in such nonsense. Next time, I suggest you join us. The Athens music scene is alive, and we are all alive within it.

--Amanda Norris, Staff Writer

Saturday, April 9, 2011

ACRN's 40th Birthday Bash / April 8 / The Union

ACRN turned 40 on April 9 at The Union, and if you weren't there, then it's your own damn fault.

Alumni and current Lobsters alike turned out, making the show one of the most well-attended shows I've seen ACRN put on in a while. Given my absence from Athens for the previous four months, seeing the formidable lineup of bands was quite intriguing. Whale Zombie, In Silent Movies and Scubadog had been personal favorites prior, while the D-Rays were a completely new act for me. With a lineup featuring some of my Athens favorites and one that could very well be destined to join those ranks, it was sure to be a great night.

The D-Rays are a psych-garage rock band that features Erick Coleman on guitar, Missy Pence on bass and Aaron Lemley on drums. Now, I will probably be showing my unfamiliarity with the Athens music scene prior to, say, 2009, but I'm not quite sure what band(s) -- if any -- the former two had been a part of prior to the D-Rays. I only assume they've been in some other bands due to their playing ability. Coleman was great on guitar, and probably quite formidable on vocals as well, though the vocal mix we're all so used to at The Union made him a bit difficult to hear.

I enjoyed everything about the band. Coleman and Pence were tight together, with Coleman letting loose some ripping guitar solos and Pence staying steady with more than a few appealing basslines. I can dig any band in which I can actually hear the bass quite well, and the D-Rays are one such band. And to be quite honest, the most pleasant surprise of the band's set in my mind was drummer Lemley. He so happens to be the drummer of Athens country-folk standard Duke Junior and the Smokey Boots in addition to his tenure here, and while I absolutely adore the Boots' music, Lemley's drumming was far more subdued -- as one might expect from such a band. With the D-Rays, Lemley seems to be able to let loose far more often, and it's altogether quite appealing, as he's an extremely talented drummer.

Given my relative ignorance of the band's genre, I can't speak to whether the band played mostly covers, mostly original tunes, or any combination of the two. I do know at least one song was a cover, as it was announced as such. I could not recognize any of the songs, so I cannot and will not speak to the original ownership of each song, but I will say this: if they were covers, I think they did the originals proud, and if they were originals, these guys could be going somewhere-- or at least could release a kick-ass album.

In Silent Movies, now a Columbus-based three-piece, took the stage next. It had been over 10 months since I had seen the band, always a favorite around here, so my excitement was evident and I pretty much told everyone at The Union to which I spoke that hadn't seen the band before (see: freshmen) that they were about to see a very formidable set. And ISM didn't disappoint. Throwing in some seemingly newer songs (I'm pretty sure I hadn't heard the songs in question, at least) and the standards such as "Deep Sea Diver" and "Plan of Attack."

Speaking once again to the general inability to hear vocals all that well at the venue, it proved slightly difficult to discern that what singer/guitarist Josh Landis was saying from time to time, but quite frankly, I was enjoying the set from nostalgia enough that I didn't care all too much. Both Landis and bassist Mike Jones were quite fun to watch on vocal-less segments of each tune, Landis following the old Christopher Walken/Bruce Dickinson adage of "Explore the space." I was also surprised to find that the band had found a new drummer: Randy, whose last name I do not know. I'm not going to be that guy that decides to compare old versus new from here, but we'll certainly say that Randy is a more-than-formidable replacement.

Now, let me get this out of my system: SCUUUUUUUBBAAAAAAAAAA.

Yep, Scubadog was the next band. Scubadog showed once again why they're one of the best live acts in Athens today. Truly, words cannot and will not fully describe the enjoyability of the four-piece's set. Jake Householder and Teddy Humpert were a devastating two-pronged attack as always, on both vocals and guitar/bass. Their banter is hilarious, and their songs are just damn catchy. In one such instance, Householder deemed the band's upcoming tune about their affinity for cops, which set Householder and Humpert into a minute-long shpeel ("But aren't they all?") before finally declaring, "Respect your local law enforcement officers!"

For me, the funniest part about seeing Scubadog live is that I still don't know half the names of the songs. Do I know the songs in terms of actually recognizing them when they're played? Absolutely. But aside from "Randy" and "Patience," I've got nothing. For me, that almost adds to the myth of Scubadog, a "super-group" of sorts that hadn't even released any recorded music until recently, when two singles were released digitally. If there is one band that I wish would record a full-length here in Athens, it's Scubadog. Hands. The fuck. Down.

Before I continue on, I must express my happiness that Josh Antonuccio is still playing in the band. Unless I just heard incorrectly, I had been under the impression that 2010's ACRN Lobsterfest was to be his final show with the band. This statement, was it ever made, has been disproven a number of times now. I'm not complaining, because Antonuccio is probably one of my favorite guitarists to actually watch play.

By the time Whale Zombie rolled around, I can honestly say that I was a little inebriated due to the fact that my 21st birthday had been just two days prior, meaning that I could actually buy drinks for myself -- and that I very much did. This caused my attention span to become a bit limited, and thus my engagement with Whale Zombie's set was curtailed. Still, as always, they put on a great show. Despite their not playing my personal favorite (I think it's titled "Transcendental Bullshit"), the mix of instrumentals and vocal-infused tracks kept the audience on its toes and moving -- quite a bit. Aside from a corner of The Union that went into a frenzy during the D-Rays' final song, dancing was never as crazy nor as plentiful as it was during Whale Zombie's set.

All in all, I'd say the night was a rip-roarin' success. Super yayz, all bands involved. Super. Yayz.

Following the show, I hit up the Union Street Diner -- and let me tell you, 3 a.m. steak and eggs has never tasted so delectable.

--Kevin Rutherford, Managing Editor

Friday, April 8, 2011

Goo Goo Dolls / April 6 / Templeton-Blackburn Memorial Auditorium

Crowds of eagerly rowdy college students and families filed outside of the Templeton-Blackburn Memorial Auditorium as they waited for their chance to burst in and take their places in the rock-and-roll-infused extravaganza.

An enthusiastic roadie was seen playing wall ball in an alleyway against the wall, waiting for the band to go on. I heard a group of college students singing in unison, “Goo Goo Dolls! Goo Goo Dolls!” confirming that they were, in fact, waiting to see the popular band from Buffalo, New York with the same name.

As I pushed my way through the doors and found my designated seat (that I did not sit in, since rock n’ roll requires no lounging around), I overheard several women swooning over lead singer John Rzeznik. One woman who was near the front of the stage even turned towards the hungry audience and excitedly threw her arms in the air several times and hurrah'ed to get the rest of us even more riled up than we already were, all the while managing to form her hands into rockin’ devil horns. The amount of energy and suspense was fantastic; it was possible to even smell the musty fumes of sweat as fans jumped up and down, prepping for what was bound to be a rock show of epic proportions.

The opening act, Kingsfoil, brought the atmosphere’s energy level on overdrive and they even had a free t-shirt giveaway on Twitter. A group of rowdy dudes next to me started swaying and dancing to the music, their baseball caps falling into their eyes from the immense force of their un-choreographed movements. When Kingsfoil left the stage it grew black and a new backdrop emerged from the previous one. The high-pitched screaming indicated that it was time for the Goo Goos to take the stage.

Strobe lights, fog and killer acoustics were all part of the Doll’s impressive set. Rzeznik even called out a couple in the front row. The woman’s boyfriend seemed uninterested in the show and Rzeznik was able to get him initiated into Goo Goo-dom through the use of witty banter and his amazing lead singer sass. The show was fantastic, and the gang played famous songs such as “Slide” and “Better Days” as well as songs featuring vocal performances from bassist Robby Takac. Much to my dismay, I left for the restroom during the middle of their set and as a result, missed the first forty or so seconds of “Iris” (at least I was able to run back to my seat for the majority of the song).

When "Iris" ended, the band thanked Athens and exited stage left, I turned to my friend Morgan and shook my head at her since I had a premonition that the Dolls were not going to be gone for long and would need to return for the audience’s demand of an encore. My precognition was indeed correct, and the Dolls with their perceived trickery, came back onstage and, to the audience’s approval, played about five more power-driven ballads.

The Goo Goo Dolls really made their exit right after their encore and as soon as they exited for good, swarms of fans grabbed their personal belongings dangling from the untouched chairs behind them and scurried out of the auditorium. On my way out I spotted college students and families alike, proudly donning Goo Goo Dolls merch. The appreciation and overall energy of the Goo Goo Dolls’ “friends” (as Rzeznik called his fans) were part of the reason why this show was undoubtedly a major highlight in Athens history.

--Capril Ciulla, Staff Writer

Friday, April 1, 2011

3/31 Free Show at Casa Scene and Heard: Vagrant Beat, Walk the Moon, and Mind Fish

It’s been about three weeks since I have seen the Athens local post-hardcore 5-piece Vagrant Beat and I must say that I am continuously impressed by the quality of their performances and the music itself. After listening to their opening set for recently-gone-viral, Cincinnati native synth-pop group Walk the Moon and Athens’ rock group Mind Fish at Casa Nueva, I consider myself a part of their fan club, The Vagrants (as opposed to Beaters).

Before the show began I took some time to talk with Walk the Moon drummer Sean Waugaman about the band’s recent success. He told me stories about SXSW where the band played with The Airborne Toxic Event amongst others. Walk the Moon recently gained popularity from their music video for “Anna Sun” and as a result have had an article published in Spin magazine and will be on the Last Call with Carson Daly show tonight, April 1.

The energy Walk the Moon played with was infectious as the entire crowd danced to the catchy choruses of songs like “Quesadilla” and “Car”. They played two new never-heard-before songs, one of which was unnamed and the other I quite honestly just can’t remember the name of. After the show, lead singer Nicholas Petricca thanked the audience, especially those who were at their show last year in the Spacement and encouraged everyone to stick around for Mind Fish and hang out with them after the show.

Mind Fish took the stage with the windows already fogged up from the energy of the previous two bands, and did what they do best; which is putting on a very hands-on performance that included lead singer Dean Tartaglia dancing on things and with his adoring fans in the audience. The band definitely got the crowd involved, inviting people up on stage to shake their hips and even got those who didn’t know many Mind Fish’s song singing along to their medley of Foghat’s “Slow Ride” and their own song “Detroit Rock and Roll." The night ended with the repetition of the lyric “Dean’s got a band and it’s the best in the land” and, despite the slight narcissism, Mind Fish gave a performance that kept the crowd on their feet and dancing all night long.

Highlights of my night? Lead singer of Walk the Moon, Nicholas Petricca's, coming up to me and thanking me for rocking out so hard during their set and the scream at the end of Vagrant Beat’s song “Vignette." Gives me the chills every time.

--Matthew Bemer, Staff Writer

Vagrant Beat photo: Ryan Murphy

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Kaitrin McCoy and Dawn Parker / March 4 / Donkey Coffee

As I ventured into the back room of Donkey on Friday night, I was feeling a little bit concerned. You see, the last time I went to a show at everyone's favorite coffee shop, it was fall quarter of my freshman year. I was there to see an open mic night, and during my somewhat lively game of Scrabble, my group was yelled at by the hippie musician on stage for not paying adequate attention.

So, yeah, Donkey and I don't have the best track record for shows. However, I decided to put our differences aside and go out to see Kaitrin McCoy for her C.D. release show. My friends and I arrived a little early, paid our very reasonable $2 cover, and sat on a back couch to chat with the lady of the evening. Before we all knew it, the nine o'clock hour had come and opening act Dawn Parker took the stage.

Armed with a guitar, the opening act started in to her first song. Her smooth and soothing voice overtook the reasonably-sized crowd for the first song and a half. Unfortunately, Parker's string broke halfway through her second song. It was a little awkward as she finished out the song, but the situation was handled as well as it could have been. Instead of finishing out her set with only five strings, the guy handling the sound offered to run home to grab his guitar so she could display her songs as best as she could. Parker took him up on his offer, and a spontaneous 20 minute intermission was taken, as the crowd listened to Radiohead songs and chatted amongst themselves.

When the guitar was retrieved and Parker retook the stage, she replayed the entirety of the song that was interrupted at the request of her musical savior. And it was a good thing too. This track was easily the most memorable of Parker's set. With the interesting, yet powerful lyrics like "He's my brother just as sure as you are mine / But I only eat and drink with my own kind," she certainly had the audience thinking. Parker continued her set to the attentive audience with more of her sing songy acoustic jams, including a cover of Neutral Milk Hotel's "King of Carrot Flowers Pt. One." Parker then rounded out her set with a Christian hymn, which was simple and pretty.

The opening talented songstress must have brought a lot of support with her. Because as Parker left the stage, many people left the venue. That's just unfortunate for them, because the next act, Kaitrin McCoy, showed that she has a huge amount of talent. As she sat down on the piano bench, her bubbly personality was super evident. McCoy chatted with the audience for a second and thanked them for coming, took a sip of her water, and busted into her first song.

The small, yet attentive audience, was then wowed by McCoy. She displayed an impressive range both vocally and on the piano. Her songs were mainly on the more serious side of the spectrum, with honest lyrics about life and love. This was then offset by her bouncy little stories between songs, including an adorably failed joke, and the overall positive vibes she sent out. This aspect of her personality, however, was displayed when she sang "The Silly Song," a Ben Folds-y, well, silly song about how boys suck. McCoy also successfully tackled a Regina Spektor cover, which is certainly no small feat.

Finishing up at 10:30 to "let [the crowd] get drunk in true OU fashion," McCoy left the Donkey piano bench to sell copies of her CD, Icky Romantic (an anagram of Kaitrin McCoy). I suppose I can't speak for the rest of the crowd, but I left feeling jealous of all the singer-songwriter talent that oozed from both Parker and McCoy. 'Twas a night of simple, pretty music, which is really the best kind.

And while Donkey as a venue is still a teensy bit too quiet for my taste, I found myself re-accepting it as a venue. Particularly because I didn't get a stern lecture from any shoeless hippies.

--Carolyn Menyes, Staff Writer

Friday, March 4, 2011

Brothertiger, Monolithic Cloud Parade, Historians, and Iron Jim & The Broken Hand Band / March 3 / The Smiling Skull

Things didn’t go quite according to plan last night, but unexpectedness and spontaneous behavior is what makes the fun world spin ‘round. And that’s just where we were last night—the fun world, also known as the Smiling Skull.

On the bill for the evening were Brothertiger, Monolithic Cloud Parade, Historians and Iron Jim and the Broken Hand Band. Who, I believe, ended up actually playing were: Brothertiger, Historians and Iron Jim with a different bassist than usual, with no trace of Monolithic Cloud Parade. A bummer, yes. But the night still went on and good spirits were still rustling like the ghosts at a Christmas feast at Hogwarts (Microsoft Word knows what Hogwarts is!).

Iron Jim played first, but I missed most of it since the hustle and bustle after my first arriving was still going on after they ended. I don’t remember hating the sound that was going on, though. I guess that means they were okay in my book.

Historians were next, and I didn’t absolutely love them. It could have been due to the crumby sound system, but the vocals seemed a little off. They played a varied set, though, with no song sounding quite like the other, and sometimes the intricate and bouncy instrumentation picked up the slack, but for the most part, I wasn’t too enchanted.

Brothertiger, as per usual, got most of the people on their feet and cutting loose. He’s got quite a following too. In between songs, one could hear many chants of “Brothertiger!” and even some singing along a bit. It’s safe to say he’s an Athens favorite and he’s one of my favorites too. Anything a sister can boogie to is something a sister loves—and loves even more if it’s unique and self-created.

--Hannah Cook, Managing Editor

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Vagrant Beat, Damn Animals & Zapaño / February 25 / The Smiling Skull

 By: Matt Bemer, Staff Writer

For the past two weeks the members of Vagrant Beat have been up until the early morning recording and practicing down the hall from my room, filling the hall with echoing sounds of reverb and phaser guitars. Last night at the Smiling Skull, I finally got to hear all those sounds come together live.

Vagrant Beat may have been the opening act, plagued by technical difficulties, broken guitar strings, crappy mic stands and wasted biker folk; but the 4-piece post-hardcore act couldn't have had more energy. What really impressed me was the lead singer's willingness to get into the crowd and jump around. Their sound was impressive: obvious At-the-Drive in influence mixed with lots of effects-driven guitars and an occasional Ian MacKaye-esque scream from the lead singer, Ryan. Overall, I was impressed by the sound and quality of the live performance they gave, given the rough start they had.

Following them was an Athens garage rock band called Damn Animals. There's not much to say about their performance. Outdone by the opening act, they just sounded generic. For a moment I thought they would break the mold and play something unique when their guitarist brought out an auto-harp, but disappointment ensued.

Zapaño closed the night. I have heard a lot of buzz regarding the jazz fusion/progressive rock quartet and I must say I was very impressed. They sounded a lot like The Mars Volta with some stoner metal influences. Frontman Sean really got the crowd into the music with his impressive vocal improvisation. The band as a whole is tremendously talented and it definitely showed throughout their solos.

The incorporation of a saxophone into their music definitely brought a fresh angle into their music and I really enjoyed the show, until I got a half hour into it.

Repetitive bass lines combined with similar breakdowns and song structures made the show drag, and I was actually glad that they ended close to 1 A.M. and did not go until 2.

Although the Skull may not be the best place to hear a band, last night was definitely a great night to see Vagrant Beat and Zapaño put on a show.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Flow Town Four / February 15 / Red Brick Tavern

If you asked me where I’d most likely be found on a Tuesday night, I’d probably say curled up in my bed, watching the latest episode of “Tosh.0” or “South Park." The last place I’d suggest would most likely be Red Brick Tavern with a beer in hand, especially considering my 9 a.m. class the following day and my lack of sleep because of midterms and exams.

However, I admit, after this past Tuesday that may be the first place to look for me.

Because this past Tuesday I experienced my first Flow Town Four show.

It was fate that brought me to Red Brick that cosmic night. Okay, so it was more like my editor had stared me down into taking a show preview for Flow Town Four and I was supposed to interview them before their weekly tavern performance. Instead, I ended up watching their entire set and having more fun than any responsible adult should on a weekday night.

Flow Town Four deserves recognition alone for the fact that the so-called “stage” the band performed on was about the size of Red Brick’s bathroom. Dead serious. When they started setting up their instruments, I honestly didn’t think they would fit a drum kit up there, let alone three amps, multiple instruments and all four band members. However, the band persevered.

They kicked their two-hour long set off with Better Than Ezra’s “Good,” which is also the simplest term to describe their performance. In my year and a half at Ohio University, this is one of, if not my favorite, live performance. The band mixed their set with a lot of mid-90ies and early 2000s classics; songs that they knew would keep bar shufflers interested. Every couple of tracks Flow Town Four played an original, fit perfectly into the setlist.

The dual vocals with guitarists Benjamin “Butch” Wagner and Jordan Youtz allowed Flow Town Four to vary the music they covered with songs such as; James’ “Laid," Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle” and even Coolio’s “Gangsta's Paradise”. The latter left me extremely impressed, considering it’s not everyday that you find a white boy with a guitar in small-town Ohio who can actually rap.

Even though Flow Town Four had already won my heart over through their impeccable cover selection and their genius flow of O.A.R’s “That Was a Crazy Game of Poker” into Blink-182’s “Dammit” it was their performance of “Flippy Floppies," an original track written by Youtz, that turned me into a fan. The laid-back, surfer style can make anyone smile and the lyrics are so damn catchy that I cannot stop singing it in my head.

When a band plays for two hours, it’s typically pretty easy to find yourself spacing out. Hell, I even find myself losing interest in a 50-minute class. But the band had my attention the entire show. They made me want to dance and sing, and left me literally sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation of what song they would play next.

The good news about Flow Town Four is that they play at Red Brick every Tuesday starting at 10 p.m. The even better news is that you can still get in if you’re under 21, and if you arrive around 9 p.m. your chances of getting carded at the door are slim to none. The best news however, is that you’re going to hear a talented Athens band play some amazing music.

Kristin Spicker, Staff Writer

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Miracle Vitamins / February 12 / Smiling Skull

Saturday night was one of those nights that I had to piece together with my friends afterward, just to make sure everything was as preposterous as I remembered.

It was.

One is always bound to run into some characters at the Smiling Skull and, perhaps because the weather is getting nicer, Saturday night seemed to bring out more characters than usual. Townies were getting in touch with their argumentative sides. A group of shufflers-- who probably would have felt more at home at Crystal or even Dave Rave-- were clamoring for “birthday shots” for their “girl’s 21st.” Two dogs-- referring to the animal, not the two old men hitting on miss birthday shots-- were getting their mingle on. You would think that two dogs roaming freely about a tavern would be odd. It wasn’t. Those dogs were the most normal, chilled out, occupants of the Skull Saturday Night. But I digress. I’m here to talk about the music.

We stayed for one band. It was all we could bear.

They were called The Miracle Vitamins, and they hailed from Toledo. I’ve been instructed by a friend who is much more tolerant than I am to state that some people were enjoying it. I, however, would like to clarify that “some people,” refers to an enthusiastic potential cousin or groupie of Miracle Vitamins and what was presumably his less enthusiastic sidekick, who proceeded to dully nod his head in the affective manner characteristic not of the ironic-though-appreciative hipster kid, but rather of a normal human being who is extremely bored.

Miracle Vitamins was a folk group. They had a drum machine. They had a leapfrogesque-piano-keyboard-toy. I cannot make this stuff up.

Every song in their set inexplicably referenced New Hampshire. That prompted my friend, an Arctic Monkeys fan, and myself to write a parody of "Fake Tales of San Francisco" on the spot: “He talks of the east coast but he’s from Toledo/ I don’t quite know the distance/ But I’m sure it’s far/ Yea I’m sure it’s pretty far/ And yea I’d love to tell you of my problem/ You’re not from New Hampshire you’re from Ohio/ So get off the stage/ and put down the fake piano thing.” Not very creative, I’ll give you, but hey, maybe if we get Weird Al to record it we’ll have ourselves a hit. Regardless, we ditched the Skull soon after and headed for the Union Street Diner.

The waitress asked our orders and two of my friends ordered the same thing. In reality, his response was “I’ll have what he’s having.” In a perfect world it would have been, “I’ll have what he’s having, as long as it doesn’t include any Miracle Vitamins.”

*Contributions were made to this in the form of collective-remembering from Corey Sheely [non-staff writer], who offered a non-future-music-critic’s perspective; Chris Dobstaff [staff writer], who diligently took notes on his iphone and offered invaluable help in the act of penning uncreative song parodies; and Jacob Bowman [staff writer] who failed to make what could have been the night’s most memorable quote an actual quote.

--Amanda Norris, Staff Writer