Friday, December 7, 2012

ACRN Presents: Jonathan Hape, Frankie Teardrop and Small Steps / December 6, 2012 / The Smiling Skull

By: Ross Lockhart, Staff Writer

I feel like I don’t go out that much. This is probably an exaggeration, but with all the shows that happen around Athens, it seems like I see very few of them. I wasn’t about to miss this one, though. For whatever reason, I had hyped this show up to myself a great deal. I felt a strong sense of culmination, like everything was coming together. It was one of those nights where everything just felt right.

My friends and I showed up at the perfect time. Frankie Teardrop was just about to go on. The humble threesome assembled behind their respective instruments and got right to it. Dudes were shredding. There was a notable difference from the last time I had seen them perform. Everyone in the crowd was completely engrossed immediately. It seems that the group has finally closed in on a sound and how they want to play. The audience huddled around the band intently, too interested in the music to thrash around. They played fast songs, heavy songs and closed it out with a distinct, mostly instrumental, ridiculously groovy banger. Just like that, Frankie Teardrop became my new favorite band. Tonight, The Skull. Tomorrow, the world.

Obviously, Frankie T was going to be a hard act to follow, but I was stoked to see visiting artist Jonathan Hape perform as well. He had a unique one-man-band setup with a guitar, custom rigged kick and snare drums and plenty of pedals and fancy-looking gear. Unfortunately, there were some issues with the setting up of said gear. My guess is he felt rushed and certain plugs didn’t make it into the correct holes. He started playing, and the mix was low and uneven. Everyone just looked at each other nervously. The sound guys tried to crank it up, but to no avail. It was a shame because he was really going for it, oblivious to the confused looks on everyone’s faces. I don’t think fingers should be pointed at anyone specifically, though. Shit happens. Despite the technical issues, he played well from what I could hear and everyone stuck around to give him a courteous applause when he finished. I thought that was swell. Ain’t no scene like the Athens scene.

Small Steps were last to go and, as expected, incited some good-natured ultra-violence. As the group furiously ripped through their set, combatants flailed about and tossed each other around mercilessly. Patrons became gladiators in a sinister beer-drenched arena. Even the tiniest of girls weren’t safe from the mayhem. Buckets of sweat splashed everywhere as Grant Engstrom and the gang beat the living shit out of their instruments. Some dudes lifted their friend onto their shoulders and slammed him into the disco ball above. I couldn’t help imagining how cool it would be if his head were sliced off by a ceiling fan.

All too quickly, Small Steps were finished. Handshakes and good jobs were exchanged. People poured out of the bar to smoke and pursue more adventures. It’s always funny to see a place that was in complete chaos just a moment ago return to normal like nothing ever happened. I think it can be safely said that everyone had a blast last night. The best part is, it’s only a matter of time before we do it all over again. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Wobble on the Bricks / November 16, 2012 / The Union

By: Kyle Rutherford, Staff Writer

On a cold night in Athens, The Union was heated up by bass music and the sweat of many satisfied attendees. The latest edition of Dave Rave’s Wobble on the Bricks hosted a variety of talent from all across the state.

The first DJ to grace the stage was Kingpin of Columbus. Having played the Athens DUB101 spot this past April, it was obvious he would bring a diverse set. True to his name, the capital city DJ performed with a bowling pin at the front of his setup.

Much of his set didn’t rely on bass music, but sort of up-tempo stuff. There were disco-sounding tracks, but also a bit of trap music. The variety was a good match for the beginning of the night. Shout out to James Castrillo for wearing a tie and cardigan while he played. Classy!

Columbus' Magua played a very heavy set. The beginning of his set started out pretty glitchy, but varied through dubstep and a bit of trap. Magua is a very exciting DJ to watch, in that he practically balls up energy behind the decks and throws it back at the crowd. He jumps and throws down to songs, works the mic and is just an overall fun person to dance to. Kudos.

Out of Cleveland, Thunder St. Clair brought yet another heavy set. Having killed it while opening for Crizzly back in April, it was pretty much impossible not to get him back ASAP. He definitely didn’t disappoint, mixing behind clean bass music, grimey dubstep and upbeat trap music. The talented and experienced DJ was downright fantastic in his mixing and song choice. Plus, the lucky dude gets to open for Zeds Dead next Wednesday.

Last out was Ohio University student DJ Paulo. According to Dave Rave, he is a student from China via Brazil. Much of the beginning of his set began with glitch and a little bit of moombahton. But as his set wore on, a few dubstep songs were added in. All of this was very minimal compared to the remaining drum n’ bass & drumstep that was played.

His music soaked up all remaining energy by show attendees, even with his somewhat different style of mix ins/outs. The only problem was a friend of his acting as a sort of MC. It was cool in that it kind of gave you the feel of an underground Los Angeles or London DNB club, but the man occasionally went a bit over the top.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Killer Mike / November 12, 2012 / The Union

By: Ross Lockhart, Staff Writer

Tickets were 12 bucks, and despite my honest recommendations, no one could be persuaded to go with me. Fuck it, I thought. I never ride solo. It’ll be a character-building exercise. I bought my ticket ahead of time, which I thought would ensure an opportunity to buy drinks at the bar. Doors were at eight, so I rolled up to The Union at a quarter past nine thinking that the action would be starting relatively soon. All my preemptive measures proved to be for nothing. The guys at the door asked for my ID, and I gravely told them I was underage. No 21+ wristband. All wasn’t lost, I hoped. Maybe the dude working the bar wouldn’t notice.

I walked up to the counter, two dollars in my hand and a fat “how’s it going, man?” look on my face. The bartender reciprocated my warm greeting and asked me what I would like. 
"One PBR please."
"Can I see your wristband?" he asked kindly. My heart sank. 
"Oh, uh… I didn’t get one." He was nice about it, and politely told me that he couldn’t sell me drinks if I didn’t bear the mark of a 21-year-old. I was embarrassed. This was basically my worst nightmare turned reality. I thanked him anyway and retreated to the back of the bar, where I sat and thought angry thoughts about the government for a few minutes. When my internal hissy fit was over, I decided that if I wasn’t going to get drunk, I may as well take advantage of my forced sobriety and drain every little detail out of my surroundings.

I’m groomed to believe that liking hip-hop involves a certain amount of nerdiness, but looking around, I felt like the biggest goober in the room. I desperately scanned for someone lamer than me so I could displace my self-consciousness onto them. The bartender came over and asked if I wanted a soda. Fuck no I don’t want a soda. I don’t drink soda, thanks. I’m not fucking 12. How degrading. I had hit an emotional rock bottom. Some other nerdy dudes walked in. Thank God. Like any normal human being, I judged the shit out of them to make myself feel better.

After an eternity of sitting alone at the bar, eavesdropping on everyone’s conversations like an asshole, the Dysfunktional Family took the stage to get the crowd pumped up. I was impressed. They had commanding stage presence and energy. The ladies were digging it. Looking up at those dudes, surrounded by a mob of goofy-looking white people steadily bouncing their middle fingers up and down, I came to a realization. The hip-hop scene in Athens, small as it may seem, reaches out far beyond the walls of a small-town bar. The Dysfunktional Family is made up of people who, like in a real family, support and love each other unconditionally. It’s all about community and brotherhood. They truly could give a shit about what people on the outside think about them and their scene. It’s the people inside it that matter. At that moment I stopped feeling like such an alien and more like a privileged guest. Everything was going to be okay. I was a part of something special, even if just for a night.  

Of course, once the music stopped and The Dysfunkt Fam wrapped its set, the familiar pangs of isolation returned. This time, though, it was kind of funny. I laughed it off. A beaming Hil Hackworth stepped off stage. I gave him a tearfully limp handshake and a “that was sick, man.” He thanked me and continued to the bar, leaving me alone with myself. I walked in little circles pretending to have a purpose for about 10 minutes.

There was one more guy to perform before Killer Mike. He was wearing an Atlanta Falcons beanie. I forget his real name, so I’ll just call him Mr. Meanie Beanie. He was alright, but I’ll say that his flow was weak compared to Hil and Schwartz. Those dudes set the bar pretty damn high. By then the crowd had grown to a decent size and everyone could barely keep their anticipatory boners down. Mr. Meanie Beanie knew the score. He wrapped it up before everyone got too bored. Without further intermission, Killer Mike burst on stage.

He was a big motherfucker. Even bigger than I had expected. He immediately set it off with his explosive verse from R.A.P. Music opener, “Big Beast.” Fuck yes! Everyone went nuts. He was rapping so fast and so hard I couldn’t believe it. His eyes were red. I felt his anger. His passion. I stood frozen to the spot, too terrified to move. This was only the first song. Holy shit! The song came to an abrupt end. A toothy grin emerged from beneath his jungle of a beard. Suddenly he wasn’t so scary after all. He gave a heartfelt monologue honoring the people of Ohio.

“I’m in the Midwest now, where people work their asses off. For six years I worked MY ass off to get here. There’s no place I’d rather be.”

He couldn’t have chosen his words any better. The crowd went berserk and he unleashed a volley of songs like a fucking machine gun. Each was more intense than the last. I was dumbstruck. It felt like I was being physically attacked and I was loving every minute of it. He gracefully wiggled across the stage like a circus elephant. Someone passed him a blunt and it disappeared after one mighty puff. When he stoically invited us to join the political party of “I don’t give a fuck” to segue into his government-bashing hit “Reagan,” I found myself joining a sinister chorus of “Fuck Ronald Reagan!” To hear that song on the album is one thing, but to experience it first-hand and feel the hatred and damnation in his words was nothing short of visceral. Had I died and gone to heaven? I may or may not have came in my pants.

Unfortunately, contrary to what everyone in attendance (including myself) may have thought, Killer Mike is only a man. After a scathing a cappella rendition of “Go!” there was a crack in his voice. A collective gasp echoed through the room. The big guy had gone and overdone it. Wounded, but far from dead, he kept on going, even harder than before. This brought the crowd into even more of a frenzy. I winced as his vocal cords strained and splintered. Sweat ejaculated from his big chocolatey brow. Never before had I been witness to such conviction. At last, he just couldn’t go any longer. He wiped his soggy face with a towel and swung it over his shoulders like a heavyweight boxer. This was a knockout victory, not a defeat. His shirt was soaked through save for a lonely spot on his belly. I felt as though I should bow or something . He was Jesus, but better.  

It was all over. I floated to the stage. He knelt down and took my trembling hand in his. I was a child. “Thank you,” I whispered. Through his sunglasses his eyes sparkled and said, “Thank YOU, Ross Lockhart.” I blushed. He disappeared. I stumbled out of The Union in a daze. The people who had been my brothers and sisters for the brevity of the show stood around, smoking. I took a drag of the night air. It was pure and clean. I walked home in the dark, listening to the streets of Athens sing their old songs as the stars smiled down at me.  

Saturday, November 3, 2012

She Bears, Indigo Wild & Deadwood Floats / November 2, 2012 / Casa Cantina

By: Nadia Kurtz, Staff Writer

When I heard Indigo Wild would be performing at Casa Cantina, my Friday night plans were set. Also performing would be Deadwood Floats and She Bears. A nice night of folk/indie rock was just what I needed.

After I had committed to going to the show, Indigo Wild cancelled due to an illness. Needless to say, I was devastated. I went to the show anyway, and even though some adjustments had to be made, the night was an overall success.

When Deadwood Floats took the stage, the crowd at Casa was pretty dull. Everyone there was just sitting and chatting, seemingly oblivious to the fact that a band was about to perform. When the five-piece band struck their first note, however, heads turned and all attention was on them.

With two guitars, a drum set, ukelele and accordion, Deadwood Floats had the charming sound of a happy little indie/folk band. By the third song, people were dancing up front and others were swaying in a tight group in the center.

Probably the best songs from the band were the ones that were heavily ukelele-based. They were just pleasant and the singers all had clear voices with the slightest bit of twang.

On the fifth song, the percussionist threw in a little surprise by introducing his glockenspiel. Even though the singers were fantastic, what really stood about about this band was its occasional sections of pure instrumentals.

By the end of the band's set, more people were filing into the bar ordering drinks and the level of rowdy was increased by a tad bit.

Following Deadwood Floats was Indigo Wild’s replacement, a Columbus band called Cliffs.

The duo, which consisted of a guitar player and a drummer, was pure punk rock, and honestly, I was disappointed. The attention of the audience began to die down as well, although I’m not sure if this was due to the music or the fact that people were getting drunker and more impatient.

Cliffs’ tunes tended to be overly lengthy and their lyrics were of the typical punky sort, challenging religion. One song was even “about existentialism and shit.”

The set dragged on, and I began to feel more and more like going home. Luckily their set wasn’t too long, and the anticipated She Bears were about to perform.

Unfortunately, right before the final set the crowd began to disperse and people were leaving the bar.

Although She Bears went on pretty late, the four-piece band still kept the attention of what was left of the crowd.

The band announced that this was the kick-off to its tour to promote their recently produced three-track EP.

She Bears performed a set of catchy, upbeat tunes that weren’t really dance-worthy, but it was still a pleasant end to the evening.

Many of the band's songs were very indie-sounding with some hints of pop. The percussion really stood out throughout their set, and the band never really slowed things down.

The only issue with She Bears’ set was the sound, as the instrumentals frequently drowned out the singer’s vocals. Besides that, the band finished on the right note, leaving the audience to stumble home with a satisfied feeling.

Friday, November 2, 2012

ACRN Presents: Emily & The Complexes, Stella & Friends In Distraction / November 1, 2012 / The Smiling Skull

By: Amanda Norris, Staff Writer

The Smiling Skull--ever the subject of our youthful yearnings. The place where a young, ill-adjusted pseudo-hipster kid can go for a fair cover charge, a sympathetic bartender and usually a pretty entertaining show. About half the time the crowd at the Skull can be more entertaining than the act. Last night's crowd was pretty tame, however, and Emily and the Complexes, the highlight of the night, were anything but.

Now I'll admit I'm a bit biased in that I've known this bunch of boys for awhile now, so of course I'm going to enjoy their set. But I think you can trust me when I say this band has grown a lot. I've watched the band grow from lone front man Tyler Verhagen into a trio at their first house show and now a solid four piece--a cohesive unit onstage and off. My roommates and I have screamed "I DON'T WANNA BE PRODUCTIVE"--an intro lyric of theirs--on more than one hopeless weeknight spent studying. And of course we do know all of the words and will sing and dance along. Because the best fangirls are friendgirls, and there's nothing wrong with loving a band you know well. Say what you will about college town shows, Emily and the Complexes is always a good time and, when amongst friends, so is the Smiling Skull.

Friday, October 26, 2012

ACRN Presents: Evolve, Chemical Committee & Emcee Kilgore / October 25, 2012 / Fern Gully

By: Kyle Rutherford, Staff Writer

Fern Gully was gettin’ gangsta Thursday night when an eclectic hip-hop lineup stormed its doors. The small room was packed with listeners who were eager to hear what the three men were able to bring to the music world.

The first artist was Emcee Kilgore from Parkersburg, West Virginia. Kilgore was very humorous and energetic in his first performance, occasionally getting into the faces of attendees and spitting his lyrics. His vocal style is very loud and aggressive, yet his humor and vocal prowess are what make his music into the quality form that it is. Also, his instrumental tracks sounded more like something one would hear in classical music.

Next was Chemical Committee from Cincinnati. Much of his set was spent standing with his eyes shut, expressing his poetry over heavy bass instrumentals. Lyrically, he was very deep and his presence was an odd, but original way of expressing his inner self.

Last to play was Cincinnati’s Evolve. The Realicide Youth Records signee brought his original, powerful music to  Fern Gully, along with a sort of, how the kids say, "swag" that included delivering his poetry through closed eyes. The music was moving and drawing, with vocal elements on the punk side, layered over electronic-based hip-hop beats. The small room was a perfect element for Evolve, who even had a projector pointed at him. Audience members could only stand and bob their heads as Evolve went between manipulating multiple samplers and synthesizers to laying down vocals that spoke of near anarchy and a lack of understanding of the world.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Andy Grammer / October 23, 2012 / Templeton-Blackburn Memorial Auditorium

By: Matthew Bemer, Copy Editor

I showed up late to this show. Late and alone. Apparently my friends are anti-pop music nerds that are too good to accept a free ticket. I'll admit it, I showed up with a negative attitude as well. An attitude of an unpopular kid at the high school lunch table alone and staring at the cool kids singing their poppy, nonsensical lyrics while I poured over whether or not "Letter of Resignation" is about a woman killing herself or a bad drug trip that takes her to a place she doesn't want to go. Or maybe it really is about her resignation. 

So I was bitter about not being there with anyone, about sitting alone to the side of MemAud while middle-aged women sang every word of Andy Grammer's every song. Every word. Every song. They even danced along

And while that spectacle was happening, Grammer was singing out to the first 30 rows of MemAud who were actually singing back to him every single word of every single one of his songs. 

Back it up. Grammer's popularity didn't spike until he wrote and recorded his debut single, "Keep Your Head Up." It's a song he wrote after a long day "slinging CDs" in the tough streets of L.A. Grammer was so devoted to playing and performing in the streets to gain popularity that to this day he still calls those people that stopped and listened his coworkers and his CD slinging days his full-time job. "Keep Your Head Up" was a song he wrote to himself about not giving up after those long days where no one listened and no one stopped. 

And then he released his self-titled debut full-length which has seen three singles, two of which charted and one that is destined to be in a couple weeks max. 

Sometime between me tweeting about feeling out of place (shameless) and Grammer's (actually pretty awesome) cover of Rihanna's "We Found Love," it hit me. This guy is doing what he's wanted to do all his life. He's been promoted from working the streets to working this college crowd and he's loving it. Trust me, he told us at least 10 times that he's loving it (and that Ohio is his absolute favorite place to play). 

I put on a new lens and adjusted to the uncomfortable feeling that I am standing in the corner alone. I put aside my longing to make some commentary about verses like, "I've got five bucks waiting on a matinee / I love to see films in the middle of the day / Same movie seen a different way / I don't think that makes me crazy." Instead, I sat back and enjoyed his set. And you know what? He's got a pretty good back story, he keeps the crowd engaged and he can beatbox pretty well.

Words of advice from the man himself: "Keep Your Head Up." (You should seriously check out that link. He made the first interactive music video ever, or at least as far as we know.)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Old Lights / October 18, 2012 / Casa Cantina

By: Hannah Cook, Editorial Director

It’s a damn shame when a band travels great lengths to play a show in Athens and finds itself greeted by a half-enthused, shrimpy Casa crowd. It’s even more of a shame when the band is actually good.

Old Lights, from St. Louis, were more deserving, but they didn’t shove it in Athens’ face or anything. Instead, they powered through the awkwardness that desolate bars inevitably create for an energetic show full of dual harmonies and catchy hooks. Had there been more people, it would have been a wild time, but since there were only, like, eight of us, it was a little anticlimactic.

My friends and I did our best to pick up the slack of the invisible audience, but there’s only so much three stupid, drunk 20-somethings can do. At one point, we harmonized with the bassist when he did a solo song. He didn’t know it was happening, but I really felt like we had some great musical chemistry going on.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Southeast Engine / September 28, 2012 / Stuart's Opera House

By: Katie Pinter, Staff Writer
Photo By: Katie Pinter

After trekking into the unknown territory that is downtown Nelsonville, I was pleasantly surprised to find an entire block party centered around a last minute Southeast Engine show. 

Friday's show was part of the free summer concert series held by Stuart's Opera House. Obviously, it's now sweater weather instead of summer, but this change of season seemed to fit better with the tone of the band. The event was also part of the town's Final Fridays on the Square, an art event that closes off the center of town so that people can walk around to the different galleries and art shops. Overall, the sense of community was really strong since a lot of people came out that night, with the largest group centered around the stage.

The show was set up outside in a small, empty parking lot across from Stuart's, which is not exactly ideal for a chilly fall evening. People just camped out on blankets or folding chairs or the cold asphalt, like myself. It's interesting to note the number of families that were present. Although there were a lot of aging hipsters and college age kids present, many young families with hyper toddlers were there as well. Good to known they're keeping them cultured while they're young.

I arrived about four songs into the band's first set, and it was very apparent that the crowd was feeling it. All of the children were dancing and playing close to the stage as Southeast Engine charmed on with their folk rock. Seeing the kids bop around created a nice vibe - you could just feel everyone letting themselves take the time to enjoy the show. 

The band's line-up did not include bass player Jesse Remnant, but had a cool-looking guy wearing a blazer sub for him. The only downside to this was that the harmonies were not as prominent throughout the tracks as they usually are. Instead, lead singer Adam Remnant carried the vocals, starting off with songs from their album Canary.

After the next song, drummer Leo DeLuca started giving some background information about their group. He mentioned that he and Adam started the band as teens back in Dayton, OH and they listened to a lot of another band from the area. That band was Guided By Voices and Leo added that the next few tracks would be from GBV, off their album Bee Thousand. 

Leo and the band quickly played through two of the GBV tracks and then took a break before their second set. In this time, everyone wandered around to the shops and galleries and I managed to snag some hot chocolate and a grilled Nutella and banana sandwich. Needless to say, I was having a great night and eagerly headed back to the lot as the band dove into its second act. 

Continuing on with more GBV tracks, Southeast Engine really connected with the crowd because everyone around me seemed to be either singing or just grooving along to the music. The guys' cover of "I Am A Scientist" was just perfect - so sweet and simple.

The night finally came to an end with one last cover, "Down By The River" by Neil Young. Halfway through the song, the band turned the song into a jam session, with each member showing off their chops while Adam laid out his killer guitar skills with an impressive blusey rock solo. 

As the band wrapped up its set, I thought back to something Adam had said earlier that night: "We'd been looking around for the ideal place to play around Athens, and I think this is it." Looking around the crowd, I don't think anyone would have disagreed.

DUB101 / September 28, 2012 / The Union

By: Kyle Rutherford, Staff Writer
Photo By: Kyle Rutherford

The first of Cumulus Entertainment’s dubstep 'n bass music tour, DUB101, came through Athens Friday night. The Union was infiltrated by two up-and-coming dubstep DJs/producers, Eric Evasion and Sean 2:16 of Cleveland.

First to play was Capt. PlannedIT of Athens. PlannedIT stayed with a light hip-hop sound to begin with, and then moved on to some upbeat glitch hop. While playing a remix that he produced, PlannedIT was joined onstage by a friend with a guitar. The light, elongated notes rang through the music and created an interesting sound that one doesn’t always hear in electronic. As his set winded down, Capt. PlannedIT threw around a little bumpin’ trap music to finish off. 

Next out was Easty of Athens. Personally, I have seen Easty perform many times with his intense dubstep style, but this evening was something different. The man had to have been touched by Zeus because he brought it hard. The energy was intense as Easty faded in and out of each song, mixing through remixes of Diplo & Lil’ Jon and SKisM. Easty, whose real name is Matthew Roberts, was bombastic while on stage, moving from mixing to speaking into the microphone to jumping around like a madman. 

Next out was Eric Evasion. Eric played one of the first DUB101 shows in Athens about a year ago, and he certainly brought back his same intensity. Having played The Werk Out Festival this past month and the Big Dub Festival in August, Eric has a lot following him. His music choice is heavy, grimy, dirty and pretty much any other word that is used to describe dubstep these days. He had the feel of producers like Datsik and Excision, with crazy bass throughout the set, which was sometimes difficult to dance to.

Out to clean up was Sean 2:16. While focusing on the American side of dubstep, Sean also had a heavy trap side to his set. Songs like “Booty 2 the Ground” by ƱZ x CRNKN, as well as “Original Don (Flosstradamus remix)” by Major Lazer were mixed in for the trap side, but Digiraatii’s remix of “Cleveland” by MGK brought the crowd to the more dubstep side of his set. At one point during Sean’s set, a college age student repetitively asked Sean to played the ever so popular “Gangnam Style.” The night’s MC promptly replied with, “Ya’ll want some K-Pop?," to which I repeatedly replied “Hell no!”

Monday, September 24, 2012

Frame Family Band and Fresh Wreckage / Donkey Coffee / September 21, 2012

By: Colin Roose, News Editor

I'm not too keen on ringing in my ears after a concert. As someone who would like to work with audio as a career, as well as a hopeless music-listening junkie, I'm fairly adamant about preventing heavy decibels from reaching my eardrums. For these reasons, I prefer Donkey to smaller, tougher places like the Smiling Skull or The Union, where guitars jangle rather than roar. So I stepped into the coffee joint that evening hoping to achieve maximum comfort sitting in a padded chair and letting the sound waves gently flow into my head.

It did not go as I expected.

No, I walked out of that show wondering if my aural sense had aged a couple of decades. No joke. Not since the Aerosmith stadium concert I went to had I so sorely underestimated the power of determined players. And it was so unexpected! The openers were a group of clean cut, gentle acoustic players and then there was this whirlwind Columbus bunch who might as well have taken an air horn and unleashed its power into my poor un-earplugged cranial appendages.

Why, Donkey? Why must your safe, predictable mom-and-pop walls host such a violent 180° shift? Why must you so beautifully confound my expectations?

Seriously though, the show was really a fantastic contrast. Band lineups are generally geared toward a specific sound or audience, but I for one love it when this is not adhered to.  Beginning with the light, fluffy, pleasant folk of the Frame Family Band, the show didn't lead into another folk group but into the crunchy, alternative sounds of Fresh Wreckage, which was one of the most colorful lineup choices I've ever seen.

The Frame Family Band crowded into their small circle of chairs onstage at 8:00, so close that they had to twist their arms to avoid hitting each other with their guitar and banjo necks. How cute. They clearly weren't going to be hopping around on chairs and shouting like The Ridges.

"We decided to be really cool and instead of printing out our lyrics and stuff, we decided to have a Mac up here," singer Castle Frame told the audience before the first song, perching a blue laptop with that ubiquitous Apple logo on a barstool in front of her. Oh, how I weep for the younger generation, who will never understand the vital importance of handwritten set lists and lyric.

The group kept things simple, usually using two guitars and a banjo to play their usually chord-spare, strum-strummy sort of music. If James Taylor had a band, the Frame Family Band would be a nice approximation of the "Fire and Rain" aesthetic. The vocals had a pretty, unadorned sound that recalled Taylor's everyman feel, and the band laid down the basic chords without worrying about flashiness or showmanship. They were so down-to-earth that their percussionist slapped the box upon which he sat.

In fact, the impression I kept getting from their performance was a charming type of simplicity, the kind that pioneers must have played in their covered wagon circles. That is, if the early Americans played Ween covers. In addition to their originals, they ran through "Chocolate Town" and "Mutilated Lips," softer offerings that fit well with their cozy feel. 

They also went through a John Denver song that wasn't "Sunshine On My Shoulders." I'm a bit relieved now, as I thought I was the only person born after 1974 who still listened to John Denver.

Fresh Wreckage sauntered up next, geared up with pedals, a keyboard and a huge drum kit. They called themselves pop-punk, but they seriously more looked like they walked out of '90s MTV. Flannel shirts, backwards ball caps, the whole bit. Their keyboardist even had a shirt on that said "On Your Mark, Get Set, Go Away." How much more grunge can you get?

This image was bolstered by their inclusion of Alanis Morissette's  "You Oughta Know" in their set. Their quite charismatic singer Bobbi Townes might not have sang in quite as high of a register as Ms. Jagged Little Pill, but she made up for it by sounding like she was mad at hell at whatever poor fellow had the misfortune to make a mess when he went away. Add this to the soaring heroic guitar solos and extended beat-heavy ending and it went from a nice alt-pop song to a pounding alt-pop monster from a young and hungry touring band.

Their originals didn't slouch either. Their sort-of ballad "Forever" soared with the aid of the guitarist Brandon Chapman's ever-shifting tones and processors, and captured the same transcendent soft-to-hard feel of the Smashing Pumpkins' "Today." "Perfect One" utilized a pseudo-classical intro courtesy of the synthesizer's strings that showed that they weren't afraid to change their rebellious tone. "I'm Just Saying" had the should of an old Songbook standard in a modern rock skin.

Their wild card of the night was a cover of Katy Perry's "E.T." mashed together with "We Will Rock You." Townes belted like the original (without all the autotune) and like most band covers of Top 40 songs, they improved upon it by putting some meat on its bones. Props to them for pointing out the subtle rhythm rip-off between the two, as well.

So it was loud, it was soft, it was Seattle circa 1992, it was flower power-ish, and best of all, it didn't repeat itself one bit. Can more venues take a cue from Donkey and stop genre-booking? Please? I won't even mind if I have to protect my ears next time.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bright at Night & Burning River Ramblers / September 15, 2012 / The Union

By: Mike Kasarda, Contributor 

I haven’t seen a live act in weeks. And by weeks I mean probably months.

Saturday night’s groovy get-down at The Union featuring Bright at Night and The Burning River Ramblers remediated the situation indefinitely. Amidst a sizeable crowd of sweaty, giddy and blissfully drunk friends and strangers, I felt a surge of energy emerge from the soles of my shoes, through my legs, around my hips and all the way out my fingertips. It was a feeling I hadn’t experienced in a long time, but surely one I remembered.

Whether I knew the person next to me or not, it was apparent that these restlessly determined 20- or 30-somethings had one objective in mind: dance until they summoned the gods of funk and breezy alternative rock, or at least until they collapsed in a heap of sweat, PBR and chicken-and-waffles.

Bright at Night kicked off the show around 10:30 with boss beats, groovy bass lines, a smooth pairing of trumpet and saxophone, and rousing, energetic, hip-hop flow from Emerson B on the mic. Bright at Night’s rich, tight sound was exceptional and seemed to possess some voodoo magic that sent arms and legs flailing about. The band brought guest after guest on stage, including Dysfunktional Family and members of The Burning River Ramblers, that made every song fresh and exciting. These funky dudes know the art of jamming well and displayed a proficiency in improvisation in songs like “Has Anybody Told You?” With reggae/funk style strumming and silky notes from the horns section similar to newer Slightly Stoopid, Bright at Night produced a set that made me delirious with dance fever.

It was no wonder then that by 12:30 everyone was ready to take this party into the early-morning hours and proceed into the alternative rock adventure led by The Burning River Ramblers. Hitting on what seemed every conceivable genre, BRR provided a plethora of polished tunes that swayed the crowd, ignited enthusiastic moshing, and even sparked a little square dancing and feet stomping – all within the first ten minutes. This breezy bunch fed off the energy from the crowd (which by now had grown to the size of the entire top floor of the bar) and jammed with a zealous enthusiasm that burned hotter than the Cuyahoga River Fire of ’52. The Ramblers stoked the excitement on the dance floor, inviting guest appearances on stage (from musicians to fans and friends) and collaborations with Bright at Night that were true crowd pleasers. The Burning River Ramblers’ performance was a perfect nightcap to a dance-filled evening that more than satisfied all fans new and old.

All in all, Saturday’s show was the perfect physical and musical therapy after a much too long live music hiatus, and reminded me how some good tunes to dance to with some funky friends can really make your weekend outstanding.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Skeetones / September 8, 2012 / The Union

By: Kyle Rutherford, Staff Writer
Photos By: Kyle Rutherford

The Union was straight up funky Saturday night with a night of bumping music. There were saxophones playing, DJs DJing and the floor quaked from the amount of dancing.

The night started out with a set by DJ More. The OU sophomore kept it down tempo, mixing through a variety of hip hop, bass music and trap. The empty dance floor was a downer, but More still played through a great set.

Next out was DJ Pro Bono, keeping it funky with a variety of genres. He started his set with a bit of classic Top 40, throwing in some Michael Jackson and other funky stuff. As his set moved along, Pro Bono spun some harder electro house, making the venue’s floor vibrate. This vibration was only a test for what was to come. Pro Bono also played a heavy bass and house set during the later set change.

Skeetones, the night’s headliner, were an interesting Cincinnati five-piece. They had the style of a jam band with very minimal vocals, but with a very heavy electronic influence (four of the five band members had laptops in front of them). Much of the music was upbeat to ambient dance music, with songs that typically ranged from 7-10 minutes long. The band’s drummer had an energetic style, playing from simple backing to beats to a near drum 'n bass style.

Last out was Sassafraz from Athens. The six-piece group played the funkiest set of the night, with a sound that mixes funk, hip hop and just a bit of jazz. The heavy bass parts, inclusion of saxophone and trumpet and rapped vocals gave the band the feel of Flobots and even Elemental Groove Theory. Emerson, the band’s lead vocalist, led a well-orchestrated set, able to go from soft, jazzy vocals to up-tempo rapping. The dance floor was shaking through the whole set, definitely making The Union the funkiest place to be in Athens.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hunnabee & The Sandy Tar Boys / September 7, 2012 / Street corner

By: Nick Rose-Stamey, Contributor

While West Virginia-based 600 lbs of Sin fumble through the electric menagerie in the back of their tour van, a faint thump pulls the listener away and up the street from the cover-charged Casa Cantina
gig. A block away, a ragtag bluegrass band known collectively as Hunnabee & The Sandy Tar Boys lit up the night. Or was it just the fluorescent lamps that they played under?

Reformed from the ashes of (the now dead) Mbanza, Hunnabee & The Sandy Tar Boys features Hunnabee Simonetti on fiddle, Jake Loew on four-string banjo, Ben Kain chunking away on a ¾ guitar, Sweet Baby Jake (the group’s everyman) and Aaron Smith providing the thump on upright bass. This smaller setup works to the group’s advantage (Mbanza, in its prime, shifted between 9-11 members), offering an intimate and mobile experience. Blazing through bluegrass standards such as “Hey Black-Eyed Suzy," “The Craw Dad Song," and “Little Bird,” it took no time for the group to generate an audience. Did I mention that they were busking?

For whoever it may concern, busking is the art of spontaneous street performance by either an individual or, in this case, a group of individuals for “gratuities.”
The group’s performance, being about as planned out as the album Free Jazz, delivered. Why? Well, for one, the group is tight. Not one rhythm or melody line fell out of place during their hour plus-long set. This is a bunch whose efforts during their rehearsals show because of the relative comfort that they have with their material. It is because of this that their comfort then translates into the audience’s comfort, which pulls everyone into the bluegrass sound, the heart of the experience. When the band can have fun throwing a series of songs out in the same key (“D-songs” as bassist Aaron Smith called them) and motivate an audience to move to them all, that proves the band’s second greatest feature: their X factor.
“We all sing,” explains the group to a passerby. Confused, the young man with his gauges tries again. “Yeah, but who's the singer?” It’s a fair question given the group’s name. Anyone would assume that Hunnabee leads the crew, but that isn’t the case.  And that is the only stumbling point of this potential-endowed band: not one of its members will take the reigns for longer than a chorus. So, even with just five members, the group has too many voices. But this is a minor complaint and could be a case of over criticism. Thoughts?

Anyway, it would be unfair to critique Hunnabee & The Sandy Tar Boys' performance by a paid gig standard because payment was optional. But they have earned a professional review because of the bluegrass soul that they fearlessly expressed and the sheer joie de vivre that they created on a lonely street corner one night in Athens, Ohio.

Now, look up Hunnabee & The Sandy Tar Boys on Facebook and check them out on Saturday, September 15 at the Pawpaw Festival!

Get hit in yo’ soul!