Monday, February 27, 2012

Adam Remnant, Jesse Remnant, Todd Burge and Billy Matheny / February 27 / Donkey Coffee

By: Colin Roose, Staff Writer

Since I usually only go to the free-for-all amateur open-mic nights, it was a something of a star-studded evening when I witnessed the songwriter-in-the round performance of Adam Remnant, Jesse Remnant, Billy Matheny and Todd Burge at Donkey Coffee on Saturday.

I have to admit I came into the show unaware of the pedigrees of any of the participants. In fact, their description on Donkey's website was the extent of my knowledge of them, which was something to the effect of "the finest songwriting talent in the area."

Now, just about anyone who's walked down Court Street will tell you that that is the kind of phrase routinely scrawled on those show posters taped to lampposts, and being something of a jaded Donkey showgoer, my expectations weren't exactly sky-high. But all it took was one round to prove definitively that not only were these guys professionals through-and-through, they were indeed some of the finest guitar buskers in a town already filled to the brim with promising folkies.

The half-an-hour late start time meant that I could grab an iced chai and claim that sweet armchair right in front of the stage before the show. I love Donkey.

The crowd slowly filed in after me, being the usual types that populate the back room, sitting at tables, chatting, reading a book. But when the four gentlemen stepped up onto the stage, the little noise there was erupted into applause that was louder than anything else that evening. This wasn't going to be amateur night.

Anything but, actually. The Remnants and Matheny are three-fourths of Southeast Engine, the poster children for Athens folk music whose latest album Canary received rave reviews and got them featured on NPR. Todd Burge is an accomplished West Virginian songwriter who has performed at CBGB's and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Yet despite their differing affiliations, their performances, both as an ensemble and individually, were cohesive and complementary to the point that I wonder why they aren't all in a band together.

After the warm welcome to the performers, there was surprisingly little non-musical noise onstage or offstage. No whooping. No whistling. No grinding, thank God. There was only total concentration, so palpable that every plucked guitar string, every tapped piano key could be felt as if it were the only motion in the room. Such an environment created the atmosphere needed for all four songwriters, whose only common trait was their predilection for storytelling, part relationships, part introspection, and all soul.

Adam Remnant was up first, playing a clean electric guitar with a slight country twinge. Being the lead vocalist for Southeast Engine, his set predictably included some songs from his band. Being unfortunately unfamiliar with the Appalachian authenticity of their music, I couldn't name them, but the others backed him up with harmonica, acoustic guitar, and piano for a full band treatment. His patience was admirable as he fingerpicked simple-yet-effective chord sequences and philosophized about relationships. With his almost childlike voice, you couldn't help but believe every word he said.

Next in the sequence was Todd Burge, whose technical acoustic flash and charisma validated his twenty-year performing experience. Chatting up the attendees with stories of his lyrical inspiration, he managed to touch on Facebook statuses, the film Easy Rider, and the story of Jesus throughout one show.

But even though his influences for songwriting weren't very traditional, his playing certainly was - watching him play, I felt like I was sitting in on a back porch performance by a Tennessee mountain dweller. Even while strumming the complex Dixieland-like patterns, he was still able to show off his personality and singing range through his loud vocalizing along with the guitar melody. Burge was a fantastic all-around showman and earned his place as the bon vivant of the evening.

Adam's younger brother Jesse followed, who showed the least pure folk influence of the four. Although he categorized his first song as "electric blues," his performance was far less formulaic than that name would imply, staying away from predictability with an indie singer-songwriter feel.

His skill as backing singer for Southeast Engine particularly shined, as he came up with amazing vocal-centric melodies and jumped up into the falsetto range during the climactic bits. That kind of wailing is in just about every singer-guitarist's back of tricks, supposed to show emotion and be "beautifully ugly," but the average belter usually overdoes it and leaves out the "beautiful" part. Remnant is one of the few I've seen who can use the technique to reach breathtaking peaks instead of just blowing a lot of hot air onto his microphone, and added a layer of honesty to his songs about love and falling asleep driving on the highway.

Billy Matheny played last in each round, hopping between piano and guitar as needed. He began one of his rounds by announcing his intention to name his next EP Exile on Main St. 2 and asked the audience to promote the title on Twitter with "that pound key thing" before jumping into his soft, intimate-feeling compositions. The keys he pressed on the piano were often simple chords, but they had the catchiness of a nursery rhyme, having an almost Leonard Cohen-like way of sinking in.

One of the most jaw-dropping parts of his set was when he picked up a guitar and mentioned to the others to improvise along with him in the key of G. While he played the main sections, Burge's harmonica blasts, Jesse Remnant's piano embellishments and Adam Remnant's rhythm guitar transformed Matheny's tune into a song. With so little to go on, their chemistry molded a polished piece that commanded respect.

The show concluded with Matheny's "West Virginia Waltz," a catchy old-time shuffle with a backstory. He explained that he had heard a band play a song with that name years ago, and couldn't find any recording of it or anyone else who could play it for him, so he reconstructed the melody as best he could. It bothered him, he said, that a song could just cease to exist like that, that it could be played for so many people and no one would remember it.

And that's exactly why these shows are worth going to. When such gifted musicians grace Athens, how else will anyone know ten years from now what they sounded like? For their part, these four songwriters epitomized the purpose of a venue like Donkey, to showcase what we have going for us musically and reveal exactly what our regional identity is. When we have folks like Matheny that determined to keep tradition alive, you can bet our scene has something going for

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dave Rave presents: Love and Light / February 15 / The Union

By: Kyle Rutherford, Contributor

Wednesday night drew a small crowd to the Union for what was probably one of the most insane shows the place has seen in long time.

Currently on their North American tour and moving on toward their set at Miami, Florida's Ultra Music Festival, glitch/crunk/dubstep duo Love and LIght killed the small show, and left me wondering why there were so few people there. Then I remembered that people need sleep for class the next day... fuck it.

The first DJ supporting was DJ Pro Bono, who started off the night with a nice house-infused dance set.

Next out was Capt. PlannedIT, who played a heavy Drum and Bass set, infusing some elements of dubstep and glitch in.

Last supporting was DJ Technician, who played a set consisting mainly of very heavy dubstep, something the crowd didn't seem used to and didn't know how to react to, prompting the DJ to as "What? You guys don't like real dubstep?"

Love and Light started and ended their set heavy and upbeat, bringing so many elements of heavy electronic music together that bass drops rattled speakers harder than ones at a 3-day metal festival.

Their original tracks blew me away and they seemed like they were having so much fun on stage, compared to some DJs who seem all business and focus.

The unfortunate part, as usual, were the many drunk attendees, ruining it for the others that came to see a good show, by heaving their friends up so high that they hit the ceiling. Not Cool.

But, throughout the set, all was not lost, and the thumping beats brought a great night to a small but worthy crowd.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Forward Ohio Fundraiser (Fumes, Slave Labia, Cop Hugger, Difficult Dogs and Emissions) / February 9 / Casa

By: Matt Bemer, PR Director

Editor's Note: Tonight on ACRN's Scene & Heard blog, we're trying out live-blogging, really just for the hell of it because we decided it would be fun. Stay tuned as I--Blogs Editor, Cassie Whitt--post Matt Bemer's texts from the 2012 Forward Ohio Festival fundraiser show throughout the night!

10:00 p.m.
Headed over to Casa. Thoughts? It's a bit chilly.

10:23 p.m.
Difficult Dogs sound-checking. Guitarist played a lick of American Football. Bring me some jazzy jazz, Cap'n.

10:28 p.m.
Melodic harmonies, FTW! here at Casa. Opening act Difficult Dogs slips up a bit, but it is only the first song.

10:36 p.m.
Difficult Dogs has broke out into a more melodic hardcore set. Which is cool with me--and the rest of the crowd. Head bops seem to be the way to go.

10:38 p.m.
Drummer Spencer has a Snowing shirt on, and I am okay with that. Heavy math rock influences...

10:42 p.m.
Two words. Cow. Bell.

10:43 p.m.
Casa is pretty full, and Difficult Dogs is only halfway through its set.

10:47 p.m.
Casa may not be the right venue for these dogs. It is their first time playing this type of venue and they've got the showmanship, but the crowd has held back from interacting by the stage. Still, solid set so far.

10:49 p.m.
The bass drum has fallen over. Actually, the whole drum set seems to be held together by a carefully positioned brick...

10:58 p.m.
Difficult Dogs' set is over. They're really a niche band. Midwestern '90s emo/math. That's basically my niche. I am content. According to the mumblings of this crowd, Fumes is next.


11:15 p.m.
Fumes equals pit at Casa.

11:17 p.m.
But not a dangerous one, mind you. Just watched a too-hardcore hardcore dancer told to knock it down a few notches. Safe environment here.

11:18 p.m.
Lead singer of Fumes has so much reverb on. That is all.

11:20 p.m.
Just the way I like my punk. Every song under 1 minute.

11:23 p.m.
Most of the time, the mic is being swallowed by the lead singer. That coupled with the reverb--it's getting tough in here.

11:24 p.m.
And that was it. How long was that? 12 minutes? Like I said: quick, fast, punk.


11:33 p.m.
Dion and the Belmonts' "A Teenager in Love" is on for listener pleasure, or just as a juxtaposition to Fumes' nightmarish screams.


11:40 p.m.
Pretty sure this is Emissions. More melodic. Still punk. Always punk.

11:42 p.m.
They have the crowd pretty riled up, but I'm not sure if that's a result of the previous set's energy. The bassist can riff, though.

11:53 p.m.
The pit is basically the size of the entire floor. Start the sets tough, end tougher.

12:15 a.m.
Slave Labia takes the stage. It's 3 girls from Columbus playing punk rock.

12:19 a.m.
Slave Labia lead singer is screaming, "Shut the fuck up!"

12:21 a.m.
Out of my niche with this band...

12:23 a.m.
The pit is primarily female at this point.

12:31 a.m.
Slave Labia's next song is called "Masturbation at Work." Lead singer asked the crowd how many people have masturbated at work. A surprising amount of hands shot up. Did I mention they were sexual?

12:34 a.m.
ACRN event photographer Katie O'Leary is being grinded on by a female crowd member. After numerous refusals, the lady spat beer out of her mouth and in our general direction.


12:42 a.m.
I've seen Cop Hugger numerous times, and they always put on a terrific show. Athens punk at its finest. I'll leave you all with that.


Great bands, great night, great cause.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Woodland Slumber, DJ AA and bustedBASS/ February 2 / Casa

By: Kyle Rutherford, Contributor

Casa may have warmed up Athenians, but the music inside got people moving. Backed by Woodland Slumber and DJ AA, bustedBASS moved a full house into a frenzy with their interesting mixes, and exciting songs.

Woodland Slumber warmed up the place with a very mellow set, mostly consisting of some ambient and alternative electronic. His mixing was good and his song selection was great, but the only problem was a lack of people.

When DJ AA started to play, the place began to fill up. He mostly played a set of hard electronic and house, mixing in a little dubstep every once in awhile. The crowd seemed to enjoy it and were moving throughout; it just almost sounded like it was the same song over and over.

The duo of bustedBASS killed their set from the beginning with a dubstep remix of "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes. They music they played ranged from from pop remixes to other types of electro. They kept their energy up throughout. They are truly an act to experience for yourself.