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"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