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

Friday, February 11, 2011

ACRN's Date Auction 2011

So this year's ACRN Date Auction was successful, to say the very least.

I made it just in time last night to catch the end of She Bears' set and immediately regretted not having arrived sooner. Because had I come to The Union before 12:30, I might have seen more of the band's delightfully catchy rock performance, which they executed sans shirts. Delicious.

After a couple bottles of liquid courage in the form of PBR (judge on), I was ready to be auctioned off with some Wizard's Guild goodies. During this intermission, the rest of a troupe of ACRN members and other prizes were sold to the highest bidders of the night. Thanks so much to all who participated!

Whale Zombie took the stage after the auction closed and brought their standard level of distorted, surf-y, noisy rock in an appropriately deafening volume. After playing for a while, the trio ended on an extremely heavy noise jam note, allowing outsiders (who I assumed to be friends) to assist in adding to the noise on the various instruments.

Overall, a good time was had by all, and the funds for Lobsterfest were supplemented in a generous and exciting way.

--Courtney Baldasare, Editorial Director

Another Perspective:

Let's just say it's a little bit discouraging being bought for $17 from a girl you don't even know. I would imagine she just wanted a cheaper tattoo, seeing as I came with a Decorative Injections coupon, but still. Come on. I even offered a free slice of Goodfella's of whatever flavor you wanted. There's only cheese and pepperoni, but essentially the possibilities are endless.

Regardless, ACRN's Date Auction was a total blast. There was a really decent turn-out, wonderful music and rambunctious times.

Brothertiger played first, and so we danced, of course, because that's what you do when a delicious slice of electronic pop music is handed to you. And it was his birthday, so happy birthday, Brothertiger.

After that was some bidding. That went well, though it seemed like the only people truly interested in buying people were people in ACRN. At one point, I bought Matt Wesley and a certificate to Fluff for $12. Best $12 I ever spent, but Matt, I expect a band practice from you now. Lord knows is been way too long.

She Bears was next and it's an understatement to say they were well-received. Two girls bought them for $150 and a romantic pizza-party in Columbus. Oh and also for them to take their shirts off. Nice.

The crowd had dwindled a bit by the time Whale Zombie came on, but those left were a raucous bunch. I was forced into a playful mosh pit that had me sliding and falling all over the floor. Dangerous, but fun. Sometimes you just have to live life on the edge.

--Hannah Cook, Managing Editor

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Nelsonville Music Festival Headliners Announced at Benefit Show

Duke Jr. and the Smokey Boots undoubtedly stole the stage last night at Casa Cantina as Scubadog, Whale Zombie, and Chris Biester opened, but the real show-stopper was the announcing of Nelsonville Music Festival’s headliners.

Chris Biester’s soulful voice and blues/folk guitar got the crowd going early in the night. His onstage banter was not only heartfelt, but also hysterical. Sharing personal experiences of near car crashes and more, he got the crowd laughing and ready for the show to come.

Scubadog’s set was fun and energetic, playing mostly the band’s own material. The band covered Bruce Springsteens’s “Dancing in the Dark,” which got the lights off and the hips shaking at Casa.

After Scubadog’s set, the headliners for Sunday and Friday of the festival were announced. On Friday, the festival will welcome country music legend George Jones. Jones has had 14 number-one country hits, including his 1959 song “White Lightning.” On Sunday of the festival, Neko Case will bring her indie fury to Nelsonville. Known for her solo work and work with the New Pornographers, Case is among the best female singer-songwriters in the world.

Whale Zombie played next with their ambient, flirting with shoegaze, style. Every band that played seemed to have a little extra vigor in their set, excited at the thought of Nelsonville’s yearly extravaganza.

After Whale Zombie’s set was the moment everyone was waiting for. The announcement of Saturday’s headliner was here. The crowd grew almost silent and then the words were spoken. The Flaming Lips will be headlining Saturday of the festival, and the crowd erupted.

The Flaming Lips have been kings of the indie scene for almost 30 years now. The Flaming Lips are most known for their album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, which is not to lessen the band’s 12 other albums.

Duke Jr. and the Smokey Boots took the stage after that. The band played a mix of new and older songs, each of which as earnest as the last. The sultry Jessica Kauffman got the crowd going with the band’s rendition of “Shaking All Over,” and Kyle Martin’s vocals also captivated the crowd. Matt Horne’s fiddle and banjo combo brought it all together as Aaron Lemley and Casey Davis mesmerized as well.

This very well may have been the show to see this quarter in Athens, but Southeast Engine may prove otherwise opening sibs weekend Friday February 18th at Casa.

--Brian Bound, Staff Writer


A second perspective:

“What is happening in Casa Cantina right now?!?”
“I think... I think it’s a mosh pit”

Friday Night in Athens marked what was perhaps a first for beloved Casa Cantina, a full out mosh-pit (complete with token mohawk-dude) brought to you by Whale Zombie. That hard wood floor has never seen so much action. I hope someone got those kids some tofu fries. They looked exhausted by the time Whale Zombie finished their set.

Scubadog killed it, as always. I’m not sure anyone represents a college town band better than Scubadog and that’s why we love them. Well, that and that Bruce Springsteen cover.

Duke Jr. and the Smokey Boots closed the night. Unfortunately I had to book-out part of the way into their set, but from what I saw they we’re playing great and by the looks of the crowd they would carry on without me just fine.

All this being said, maybe you heard it mentioned that last night at Casa marked the announcement of the Nelsonville Music Festival 2011 headliners. Neko Case Sunday night, George Jones Saturday night (apparently I was the only college kid that knew who George Jones was. Let me school you: Elton John’s glasses, the rugged "badassadry" of Johnny Cash, and a sad sad soul. He wrote country songs when they were still worthy of a listen. I swear, there was a time when that happened), and--hold your breath indie-kids--THE FLAMING LIPS Friday night! Now I’m not a big Flaming Lips fan myself but I’m still darn proud that our Nelsonville Music Fest can attract such a big act. Great Job, fest-planners.

Now, someone help that mohawk-kid. I think he hurt his arm...

--Amanda Norris, Staff Writer

Guinea Worms, Blithe Field, Mousetrap Breakfast Serial & 99c Dreamz / February 3 / The Smiling Skull

It was so cold last night that I let grumpiness consume me on the walk to the Skull. With my hood up, my shadow looked like a human-lion or a person with a fro, but blocking the frigid air from slapping me in the face was all I cared about.

When we passed over that Union hill and the Skull came into view, contentment immediately replaced my grumpiness and I was ready to forget about my fragile, fractured ankle and rock out with my cray-cray out.

First up was 99 cent Dreamz, who is a a man named Paul. By himself, he played some pretty raw tunes consisting of his guitar solos and electronic drumbeats. He apologized for the shitty sound a few times, because the sound wasn't THAT great. But he worked with what he had, which was apparently music equipment he bought from friends. The best part of his set was when he invited his friend onstage with him to perform a rap-garage rock hybrid of sorts. The guy rapping, whose name I didn't catch, was awesome and really s'pportin' his buddy Paul. I was grinning pretty big the whole time.

After that was Blithe Field--a local favorite of mine. There may not be a lot of action going on onstage, but it's as if his fingers are band members in and of themselves, each responsible for an instrument within a button.

I can't help but find myself mesmerized by the bouncing movement. It's such a mystery as to what noise will come from each tap and manipulation of the machine. Once the ear's anticipation is met, it's deeply satisfied with the sounds of children laughing and soothing synth and samples of acoustics and even Joanna Newsom! Boy was a excited to hear that neat little tweak of "Peach, Plum, Pear."

Don't forget about the dog! There was a big ol' black mastif just walking around the bar and he was a cute-cute. I tried to make friends with him, but so was everyone else, and he didn't choose me.

Up next was Guinea Worms, and they were rambunctious young men: Rambunctious and weird and a total blast. They played some hardcore-ish garage rock that was as coarse as a horse(?). We found ourselves jumping around the Skull's solid ground, punching our fists through the air and kicking our heels and shaking our heads. That remained pretty consistent through their whole set.

We missed the last band because we grew tired and hungry and decided it was time to leave.

And so, the sound that lay me to sleep that night was that of my ears' ringing, which was so piercing that I, aloud, asked my ears to please be quiet. And they didn't listen, and still aren't listening. Damn ears. I can only imagine how incapable you're going to be when I'm old.

--Hannah Cook, Managing Editor

Photo Credit: Guinea Worms Myspace