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!