Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dave Rave 2-Year Anniversary / January 28 / The Union

By: Kyle Rutherford, Contributor

The dark forces of the underworld were at hand at Saturday night when Columbus's roeVy creeped into The Union for Dave Rave's 2-Year Anniversary show.

The first set of the night by DJ Time Traveler was a fun and somewhat soothing set, where the crowd got really into the beat of the music, consisting mainly of electro-house. There were hula-hoopers, stage dancers, and everything seemed to open up just fine. His only problem was a somewhat annoying intoxicated girl that kept taking to his microphone to scream "DAVE RAVE!!!" over and over.

DJ B-Funk played a great set, mixing in remixes of popular pop/hip-hop with other electronic songs. His set made the whole place jump and heat up really fast. His set consisted of some heavy bass songs, like "Breakn' A Sweat" by Skrillex ft. The Doors, "Lionheart" by Afrojack, and "Save the World" by Swedish House Mafia.

Last out were "The dark lords of electro" roeVy, a hard electro/dubstep duo that don head coverings with red lasers pointing out of what is made to look like their eyes. The light show, the projected images, and the music made for an extremely intense set.

The projections consisted mainly of the group's name multiple times, "666," and upside down crucifixes. The energy on the packed dance floor was incredible, making me think multiple times that the floor would cave in. Their music was mostly original, consisting mainly of some very hard electro and dubstep, mixing in some of their recent songs off of their The Demons EP, like "Raum" among others.

Luckily for those in attendance, "the #1 party at the #1 party school" was at least 10 steps above normal.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Emily And The Complexes, Mom's Weekend & Difficult Dogs / January 27 / a basement in Athens

By: Cassie Whitt, Blogs Editor

"UP DA PUNX," the flier for this event jokingly advertised, something refreshing to see in the Athens scene, which is dominated by a more quiet, happy-go-folksy sound that just doesn't do the trick for me.

So, what could be a better environment for a punk show than a shady-looking basement filled to the brim with some of Athens finest shady-looking-but-harmless characters?

A late start, a full basement and a mob of people outside the house signified that not everyone would get to experience the music up-close, but few seemed to mind that as Mom's Weekend (who seemed to be having an identity crisis at the start when they introduced themselves as Sign-Off) took the floorspace designated as the stage area.

"You guys can get all up in my grill. I don't mind," the vocalist proclaimed, coaxing the crowd closer before they launched into a set riddled with a mixture of old-school punk flavor, something more reminiscent of bands like Touche Amore or La Dispute and plenty of "weird Freudian shit."

"Did he just sing, 'I hate my hot mom.'" Yes. Yes, I believe he did.

Following Mom's Weekend, unexpectedly by most of the crowd, Snake Head (or Snakehead, or Snake-head; get a web presence, dudes), a hardcore band that mixed upbeat guitars with earth-rattling guttural growls drove people out of the basement by the dozens. "Fuck that," a few muttered, as they escaped the small-but-rowdy moshpit that dominated the tiny basement space.

Many went outside, where a practicing vocal trio (or quartet; it was too dark to tell) in the backyard became a more interesting and safe focal point.

The screaming stopped, the old crowd parted and a new one packed in for Emily and The Complexes.

It's all fun and games, you see, until the mosh pit breaks the window. Mosh they did, and window-break they did, an incident that cleared the potentially-guilty from the basement at the halfway point of Emily and The Complexes' set.

That's their drunken, shove-happy loss; as, Emily and The Complexes as a full band is well-worth watching. Formerly in Athens, Emily vocalist/guitarist Tyler Verhagen had performed only as a solo act, working his way from acoustic at the Fern Gully to electric at Casa before filling out his sound by adding drummer Tom Konitzer and bassist Jordan Finke at this show.

Having seen them in Columbus over Winter break as a full band, I can say that since then they have improved greatly. Even in the sub-par basement sound conditions, they sounded great: hands-down the best of the night.

Along with past crowd-pleasers like "I Don't Want To Brush My Teeth" and "Styrofoam Plate Blues" (with a full-band-given facelift beyond the version one may know from The Efficiency Demo), the band debuted a couple new songs, one of which was titled "Trailer Home" and introduced by Verhagen as being about Nelsonville. They also did not disappoint yours truly, a hardcore Alkaline Trio fan, with their cover of "Fuck You Aurora."

Next time Emily And The Complexes are in town, be there. And don't be the window-breaking asshole who ruins it for everyone. Seriously.

I skipped out before Difficult Dogs, but I overheard recently that they "bring out the indie bitches" and evoke the mosh. So, there's that.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lennon Orchestra / January 20 / Jackie O's

By: Kristen Spicker, Contributor

“Oh yeah, I’ll tell you something, I think you’ll understand.”

This is how Beatles cover band Lennon Orchestra started their set Friday night to a packed Jackie O’s full of dads and hipsters.

And let me tell you something: It was amazing.

I had many reservations going in. From the $5 cover fee to the idea of a three-hour set and the fact that if this band screws up The Beatles, it’ll be near impossible for any redemption. But Lennon Orchestra has been playing tunes from the Liverpool group for years, and their familiarity showed.

However, before I get too far into this I need to set a quick disclaimer: First, I was in the back of the bar and could barely see the stage. Also, it was loud back there and I might have missed a few technical things that I’ll critique later on. Third, although I like The Beatles I wouldn’t call myself a fan. I don’t know their discography very well. However, my father is a Beatles fan and he sat there all night telling me what changes Lennon Orchestra made and what they left out.

That being said, it was obvious with the first song, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” that the cover fee was worth it. Lennon Orchestra’s lead vocals were stunning; no matter which member was singing. Unlike The Beatles, the band didn’t have one member sing John Lennon songs and another sing Paul McCartney’s songs, but instead divided it up in their own manner. Joey Hebdo skillfully managed to sing tracks from both vocalists while capturing the true essence of their voices.

Lennon Orchestra’s rendition of “I Me Mine” was one of the best of the entire set. The minute the song started my father sighed and said, “This is a tough one to do.” However, we were both extremely pleased with the outcome. Everything seemed to fit together smoothly. The drums were strong and the vocals were spot on. The transitions between tempos in the track flowed together effortlessly. “I Me Mine” proved that not only did Lennon Orchestra like The Beatles, but that they knew the music as well.

Another stand-out track was “Revolution.” Instead of picking one version to cover, Lennon Orchestra molded the two together. The result was up-tempo with less aggressive guitars. Although the back-up vocals went in and out throughout the song, the lead vocals were steady and strong then entire time.

The band took a break after an hour of playing before launching into “Eleanor Rigby.” Any of the kinks from the first hour had been worked out. The drums were sharper and the harmonies stronger. I was disappointed when the track was over, and would’ve been perfectly happy for the track to go on for another five minutes.

However, the first two hours were just a warm-up compared the to the band’s third time taking stage.

By that point in the night, the majority of the bar had enough drinks in them that Lennon Orchestra could unleash the “classic” Beatles’ tunes. “Hey Jude,” “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” “Across the Universe,” and “All You Need Is Love” all made an appearance. Lennon Orchestra stuck pretty close to the tried-and-true versions, which made audience participation all the easier, with woo girls and belligerent dads taking over the dance floor and providing the band with more back-up vocals than needed.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Ridges and Deadwood Floats / January 13, 2012 / Donkey Coffee

By: Colin Roose, Staff Writer

"Melodic folk-rock." That description could sound either intriguing or repulsive to you, but needless to say it carries some connotations. Three-chord acoustic strumming. Lyrics out of the Paul Simon handbook of singer-songwriter confessions. A rhythm section serving primarily to prop up the ego of the frontman.

Yet that was how Victor Rasgaitis, lead singer and guitarist for The Ridges defined his band's sound to an inquiring fan in line in front of me for their show with Deadwood Floats at Donkey Coffee. Despite the acclaim I had heard about the group, I must admit that my expectations were lowered upon hearing this description. I figured they would probably play okay-ish background music for chatting with friends over a latte, but not much more.

Well, if ever there were a case for the misleading homogeneity of genre labels, this was it. The Ridges' set was as far from coffee shop music banality as possible, showing the energy of stadium rock in the humble back room of the Donkey.

After about an hour past the scheduled start time of 8:00 due to sound difficulties, the Columbus-native Deadwood Floats were ready to play, mandolin and xylophone in tow.

The band stood out from the typical folk idiom with their uncommonly versatile musicians. Their drummer and accordion players switched roles occasionally, while singer Drew Williams alternated between ukulele and piano. Banjo and violin were also heard as the band showed off their charmingly eccentric original compositions. However, the highlight of their set was a cover of a song by Massachusetts band The Woodrow Wilsons, whose majestic guitar riff really made me wonder why its writers were so obscure.

By the time Deadwood had finished their set, the number of people in the room had reached fire hazard-like proportions, and the only standing room was in the back. It was so crowded, in fact, that Victor Rasgaitis came up to me and asked if he could remove my table in order to make more room for the audience before his band came on. That was the final indication that they were going to play more than tea-and-Scrabble fare.

The Ridges made an extravagant entrance into the show, standing among the crowd to perform their first song. It spoke volumes about the band to see that they did not need to be on stage behind amplifiers to make an impact, as Rasgaitis sang and played guitar while standing on top of a chair and percussionist Johnny Barton danced around with what appeared to be claves. The impact of a cello really hits hard when the strings are vibrating one foot in front of you.

When they finally did go up on stage, the fans all came near to the platform in some kind of folk mosh pit. Despite the pressure of the fans so close and the difficulty of fitting the six members in the small performing space, the group seemed undaunted and started directly into their next song. This was not a band to give meaningless introductions.

What followed was a whirlwind of pizzicato strings, whale-call imitations, and psychedelic-era backing vocals. With few breaks to even allow the crowd to clap, the band played through several numbers in succession, sounding almost like they were performing one grand 45-minute epic. Throughout the entire set, Rasgaitis moved around the stage, shouting and dancing like it was the last time he would ever perform, while cellist Talor Smith remained seated, bowing out the melodic lines with finesse.

However, The Ridges made it clear that they were a band to be listened to, not simply watched. The complexity of their music recalled the niceties of an orchestra rather than the folky indie band that they appeared to be. Barton more often provided subtle atmosphere with tambourine and cymbals than standard 4/4 timekeeping. The band included a trumpet, whose sound provided a wonderful brassy contrast with the guitar, violin and two cellos. The group took full use of the sonic capacities of their instruments, from gentle string interludes to bashing drums and fast strumming.

The best part of all, however, was their knack for bringing their compositions to life. Despite the overwhelming amount of energy and passion onstage, the members never tried to play over each other. Sometimes a solo cello or vocal part would appear, before eventually building up to a full band wall of sound. Everyone contributed for the sake of the song and the song alone.

The only real stage banter came when Rasgaitis announced before the last song that there would be a cheesy sing-along part at the end. The band's performance had stylistically veered toward a classical performance up to that point, albeit a very engaging one, but it began to feel like an arena show once the audience began to chant along. That small concession to the conventions of a normal rock concert was the perfect way for them to thank their audience and balance out their symphonic approach.

It was rather amusing to watch the reactions of the audience in front of me close to the stage. Some regarded the changing tempos and multi-sectioned songs with a blank stare, while others swayed back and forth, and still others tried to dance like it was club music. This kind of confusion indicates that The Ridges play what popular music is in dire need of right now - indescribable blends of sound whose creators follow their own musical instincts rather than being copycats to their favorite bands.

I don't blame Victor Rasgaitis for not quite knowing how to classify his band. After an hour of listening to their music, the best way I could boil down what I had heard was some kind of orchestral-folk-pop-jazz-rock. And if that's the sound of a band synthesizing diverse influences in such a natural way as The Ridges, more of that, please.

Evolve, Brothertiger and Blithe Field / January 14, 2012 / The Fern Gully

By: Kyle Rutherford, Contributor

Take me to outer space!

The Fern Gully was packed and alive Saturday night when Blithe Field, Brothertiger, and Evolve came to play.

Blithe Field’s sample electronic set was great, starting in from some of his slower songs that kept the crowd mellow, but finishing off to some more dancey songs that made the floor start to cave. What was memorizing about his set was his focus. There was so much going on around him, but he never looked up of broke concentration. Very impressive in my mind.

Second was synthpop Brothertiger, who played the most energetic set of the night. Jagos’s lively set had the essence of a more upbeat Depeche Mode, with better vocal effects and louder keys. Everyone was moving for the entirety of his set, during which he played songs like “Feel” and “Lovers” from his Vision Tunnels EP, and some off his new LP Golden Years, which comes out March 27.

Last was Evolve, an alternative hip-hop artist from Cincinnati. What was great was the he did all of his own music in real time off of his laptop and a few effects/samples boards. Most of his lyrics were about civil issues, often things involving the government. Very punk-influenced. His electronic beats were phenomenal, making some crowd members want to go to outer space, and they were easily comparable to any professional electronic musician that has any sort of popularity.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Scubadog, Old Hundred and Jesse Remnant / January 12, 2012 / Casa

By: Carolyn Menyes, Interviews & Live Reviews Editor

Maybe this is stereotypical... but junior year sucks. More specifically, winter quarter of junior year sucks: Too many classes, too much homework, and yeah, it's only week two. The only thing that got me through my 19 hours worth of classes this week was the idea that I would get to go to Casa Cantina on Thursday to see one of my favorite local bands, Scubadog. And that's exactly what I did.

I strolled into the venue and paid the $5 cover just in time to catch the last few songs of Jesse Remnant's solo acoustic set. At this point, the crowd was a little sparse, but the music was good, as is to be expected. Because of my tardiness, Remnant's time on the stage came and went too quickly, though he was soon to return performing bass duties for Scubadog.

Before that, though, Columbus' Old Hundred was set to play. They're frequently around Athens these days because they're recording an album at 3 Elliott Studio, and they sure do fit in. Their brand of alternative folk rock is perfect for Athens and Casa, specifically. The band produced full sounds that perfectly fit this old college town, and the audience definitely felt it.

A highlight of their set was certainly their last song: a cover of Neutral Milk Hotel's "King of Carrot Flowers." I've heard this song done by several other bands at local shows, but never before was the emotion of the lyrics captured so perfectly. The crowd, which had grown since Remnant's set, sang along to every word, creating one of those special bonding moments.

And finally, the moment I'd been waiting for all week had arrived: Scubadog was about to play. After their opening number, lead singer Jake Householder asked those in attendance to get cozy and close to the stage, which the audience did. Householder also preceded most of the songs at the beginning of Scubadog's set with something along the lines of "this is a dancing number."

And dance the audience did. Casa's floor was a mess of boogying bodies. Scubadog's infectious indie-pop was, in fact, the perfect way to let loose after a long school week, and not just for me. People shook their tailfeathers and shuffled their feet like they never had before. It was very much a party.

I'm unfortunately unfamiliar with most of Scubadog's song titles, but a highlight every time I see these guys is their love song, which Householder always precedes with asking the audience to grab and sway with the person/people in the audience they love. Seeing couples hold hands and friends sway during this lovely melody always melts my heart.

And also to continue their tradition of being slightly zany and always incorporating food, Scubadog brought out a birthday cake for David Bowie, who had just turned 65 on January 8. The audience sang "Happy Birthday" to Bowie, and a lady brought out a cake for him. Unfortunately, she dropped the pastry on the floor at the conclusion of the song, so no one was able to eat it (though many probably still would have). A Scubadog banner also found its way into the audience, and fans held it up and danced with the banner, while shouts of "SCUBA" echoed through the venue. It was all a little silly, but it was the perfect kind of Scubadog antic that makes their shows so fun.

The indie pop funtimes continued for a good while, but unfortunately, Scubadog's show was over all-too-soon. However, it was a dancing crazy fun time that was the perfect release for busy students.

Twenty One Pilots, MBANZA and Dean Tartaglia / January 12, 2012 / The Union

By: Kyle Rutherford, Contributor

Sunshine and cats: that seemed to be the theme at The Union Thursday when Westerville, Ohio’s Twenty One Pilots rolled in to play a free show for a packed house of patrons who seemed happy to be out of the snow.

Opening bands included MBANZA and Dean Tartaglia from Mind Fish, both from Athens.

Tartaglia started the show with only him, his guitar, and a backup electronic drummer. Now, I’ve never listened to Mind Fish until I started writing this review, so I’m not exactly sure if he played any of their songs. But, he played a good amount of stuff that the crowd could easily grasp: a more pop-punk-like set that compares to Weezer, or even a stripped-down Fall Out Boy. The major mindfuck of his set came when he sang a song about his cat, using meow more than most lyrics.

The 8-piece MBANZA came next, donned in face paint and feathers to make themselves look like members of the Lost Boys from Peter Pan. Their Folk/Roots set was pretty great, though the younger crowd could only get into it had they had a few drinks in them. The more interesting part of their set came from a vocalist/percussionist who did some sort of a melodic yelling, like the guy singing at the beginning of The Lion King, but with no words. Their covers of “Lotus Flower” by Radiohead and “You Are My Sunshine” were interesting, as well as great.

Last onstage, much to the crowd’s pleasure, was Twenty One Pilots. It’s hard to give these guys a particular style, but I can say they sounded like a more electronic version of Flobots, but with the stage presence and energy of--dare I say it--Hollywood Undead; the rap skills of pretty much any great artist in the game; and a light show comparable to that of Innerpartysystem. By all that, the crowd was wowed. The raw energy coming out of the two members was incredible.

Most of the music played from a laptop controlled by drummer Josh Dun, but Tyler Joseph smoothly transitioned between singing/piano, keyboards, and rapping. The crowd was intense, with constant jumping and alcohol-spilling, though no one seemed to care. Their cover medley included “Steal My Sunshine” by LEN and “It’s Gonna Be Me” by 'N Sync, and everyone ate it up.

A band could be a crowd-pleaser, but not play well musically. But overall, the unsigned Pilots could soon be a force to be reckoned with in the alternative music world.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Hyrrokkin, Sport Fishing USA and Sign Off / January 5, 2012 / The Smiling Skull

By: Kyle Rutherford, Contributor

A good crowd packed into the stuffy Smiling Skull Thursday night for a rock show of interesting styles. Out to play were Hyrrokkin from Yellow Springs, Sport Fishing USA from Yellow Springs, and Sign Off from Athens.

Sign Off started the night with a noisy experimental post-punk set, with songs that changed from a classic heavy punk sound to an experimental/electronic sounding noise rock in less than a few seconds.

Not bad for a band that only consists of a bassist and a drummer.

Next was Sport Fishing USA, a band that takes classic rock, shoves it into modern indie, and takes near-pop vocals and lyrics of young adult/teen angst and shoves them into the indie. It's like a a "turducken" (Chicken stuffed into a duck that is stuffed into a turkey and cooked) for the ears.

Some things that stood out about their sound was that brothers Nathan and Brendan Moore harmonized fantastically on practically every song played. Nathan was also able to break down into guitar solos and interludes that sounded somewhat prog-rock and experimental while the rest of the band kept the crowd moving.

Last out was Hyrrokkin, an avant-garde/experimental trio for which one could go absolutely ballistic. Everything seemed to be completely in-place, but so scattered and crazy when it came to how it was structured. No song sounded similar, with some songs sounding as metal as the background music of a Sylvester Stallone movie, or as soft as those of an ambient group. But normally the soft parts were only intros/outros to even more heavy instrumental insanity. What was thoroughly impressive was that the bass part easily kept up with the guitar riffs, even sometimes matching the pattern altogether.