Saturday, December 7, 2013

ACRN Pre-New Year's Bash / December 5, 2013 / The Smiling Skull

By: Abbie Doyle, Copy Editor

What a strange thing it was to be alive in the Smiling Skull Saloon last night. Imagine walking up or down West Union in the POURING RAIN (damn it, global warming, give us snow!) and ducking into the Skull for shelter, alcohol or companionship. Okay that last one might be a bit of a stretch, but surely it’s happened in the past.

So you’re inside the Skull, and what do you see? Colored Christmas lights and Christmas trees, first of all! It was very festive and made the place look a thousand times friendlier, until you noticed the typical semi-ratty looking older men at the bar, hunched over their drinks and shiftily eyeing the nearby youth. Then there were the underage students trying to catch the bartender’s eye, the gaggles of students sitting and standing, and then the guy onstage wearing a Santa hat and headphones while manning a turntable.

If nothing stood out to you, you probably don’t visit the Skull very often (it’s worth the trip, at least once). But if you are a frequent visitor of the ever-so-quaint Skull, a DJ providing the tunes for the saloon is about as out of place as it can get.

Well folks, last night ACRN hosted its annual Pre-New Year’s Eve Bash at the Skull with the contributions of three DJs: Santa-impersonator KashmerikDJ Barticus and Overwaves. The show was originally supposed to be at the Union, an environment that would have made much more sense. However, due to extenuating circumstances, the bash was moved to the Skull.

Now, where to begin? Kashmerik performed a set of dubstep remixes filled with seizing bass lines and managed to engage in casual conversation with the audience at the same time. He was both entertaining and festive in his Santa hat. 

After Kashmerik’s performance, DJ Barticus took the stage in a flat bill reading “YOLO” in the Rastafarian colors of green, gold and red (no comment). He proceeded to play somewhat generic remixes of pop songs, like Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” and “Roar” by Katy Perry. Some women in the crowd enjoyed singing along to these tunes, but that was about the friendliest response he received. You could tell he was super into what he was doing, but it was hard for that energy to flow from DJ to audience.

Finally there was Overwaves (rocking a fabulous new haircut), who was definitely far more spirited than the previous acts. By this point in the evening the haze of alcohol was rather thick, and the bash—which started around 10 p.m. and went on till after midnight—was much less uncomfortable. A member of the ACRN family, Overwaves created a far more enthusiastic atmosphere than his forerunners.

By the end of the night, mostly everyone was drugged, sleepy and ready to go. While the Skull wasn’t the desired venue for the night, it was an interesting change of pace and, no matter what the situation, the ACRN crowd is always a great one to be around.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sal Lake, Busy Busy, & Vagrant Beat / November 24, 2013 / The Pink Mistress

By: Garrett Bower, Contributor

Those who made the frigid trek to The Pink Mistress Sunday night were treated to a diverse show of local staples Sal Lake and Busy Busy, a solid set from former Athens dudes Vagrant Beat and even a dash of comedy thanks to The Blue Pencil Comedy group.

The comedy acts opened up the evening with a slew of crude comedy ranging from social networking harassment to the tale of a drunk dude in Alden, armed only with a handle of Jack and a bag of Doritos.

Next up was the infamous Sal Lake, who crouched down among his keyboard, looper, bass and trusty bicycle wheel. He attended to his instruments with clinical precision, conjuring up hypnotic, ambient walls of sound before tearing the pieces apart in fits of screaming and distortion.

Next up was Vagrant Beat, a noise rock band from parts all over. They incorporated the best of classic rock riffs and new experimentation as well as their vocalist, who filled the soundscape with eerie wails and energetic screams, jumping and dancing all the while. The Pink Mistress here in Athens was a halfway point for the group, as they continue on their 10-date tour, setting sights on Kent and Mansfield next.

Finally, Busy Busy rounded out the evening with their signature touch of full-bodied ambience and encompassing sound, filling up the tiny venue and sweeping up all those in attendance.

It was a calm, chill night (figuratively and literally) and was a treat for anyone in attendance. The atmosphere was rare and highly underrated in a sea of drunken nights in crowded basements with kids bigger than you always starting fistfights.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

ACRN Presents: Small Steps, Frankie Teardrop, Shower Beers & Stella / November 23, 2013 / The Union

By: Garrett Bower, Contributor

Saturday night at The Union was a departure from commonality for those who attended. With scene staples Shower Beers, Frankie Teardrop and Small Steps, as well as the lesser-known Stella, the show was a disorientating blur of screaming, violently bashed guitars and furious drums with a hell of a lot of noise to drive the whole thing over the edge.

It felt like too much Dramamine or some other dissociative. Listeners were thrown into this abrasive world of sound, wholly disorientating. The members of each band slowly succumbed to the delirium as the night drew on, with brief fits of sanity where the music reformed into tangible cohesiveness before being beaten back down with a scream or beat that bled the entire spectacle back into one inescapable din.

I’m not entirely sure what’s to be taken away from nights like this. To me, it felt like a showcase of subversive anger, with the bands demonstrating violence for violence’s sake. Perhaps that’s the point--to leave preconceptions at the door and be buried in something alien and think outside of what you know and what’s familiar.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Scubadog / November 21, 2013 / Casa Cantina

By: Abbie Doyle, Copy Editor

Rock ‘n’ roll is alive and well in Athens! Last night at Casa Cantina, I had the extreme pleasure of watching Scubadog perform its first show in nearly a year. Scubadog’s guitarist happens to be Ohio University’s beloved professor Josh Antonuccio. I’ve never had Antonuccio for class, but he is my advisor, so to see him become a rock star onstage was simultaneously epic and hilarious.

Casa was overflowing with people, a majority of the spectators being media students. There were a few professors spotted in the crowd, wearing nondescript clothing and hats pulled down over their eyes. Nice try, but we see you and we are going to slyly send a Snapchat of you to all our friends.

The crowd for the first band, Maza Blaska (who was very good, check them out), was sizable and grew during the show, but when Scubadog took the stage, the crowd had more than doubled in size and rowdiness. A lot of people were especially jazzed to see Antonuccio onstage--there were shouts of love and praise from the audience for the professor, and he played it very cool and acted like he didn’t hear any of them.

As soon as Scubadog played its first explosive notes, people were going crazy for them. They laid out such fun, fast beats that you couldn’t help but move along with them. The gig started with a few people dancing, and ended with almost everyone in the audience getting their groove on.

Antonuccio is a damn good guitarist, and if you don’t believe me, you need to get your ass out to a Scubadog show. He shredded and wailed away on his guitar so passionately he broke a string. Lead vocalist/guitarist Jake Householder was the frontman of the group, so naturally it was up to him to suck up the audience’s attention while Antonuccio hurriedly replaced the string. Householder talked to the audience about giving thanks (he was clearly pulling it out of his ass, as he doubled over in laughter several times during his rambling), and ended up throwing beef jerky into the crowd. He was so engaging with the audience it felt like he was an old friend. His stage presence was excellent, and he kept everyone excited while Antonuccio rushed to get his shit together.

In tribute to the late Lou Reed, Scubadog played four Velvet Underground songs. The first they played was “Sunday Morning,” which is about ten times slower in tempo than all of Scubadog’s songs. It was a great change of pace and mellowed out the crowd, which was a little necessary at this point in the show. BAC levels were high and there were some assholes moving about, which detracted a little from my opinion of the evening, but that’s not Scubadog’s fault.

Scubadog doesn’t play too often, which is quite a bummer because they’re so damn good. Next time you hear about a Scubadog show near you, you better get the hell to that show because it’s definitely worth seeing. You’ll dance, you’ll laugh and you’ll have a rocking good time.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Ticket Home / November 11, 2013 / The Barn

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

Intimate house shows are kind of a rite of passage for bands. Luckily for Athens residents and OU students, the area hosts many of them. So when Columbus metalcore act My Ticket Home announced it wanted to play some house shows on off-days from touring, it was no surprise that someone from Athens decided to get them down here.

Monday night, about 25 people met at The Barn to see the Rise Records four-piece play a fairly intimate show. The band is on tour supporting its new LP, Strangers Only, and has been on tour with Nonpoint for the last few weeks.

The space in The Barn was just big enough for the small crowd and band setup, so attendees were fairly up close to the band. Being the fan that I am, I made sure to park myself right in front of lead vocalist/bassist Nick Giumenti.

The band started with “Teenage Cremation,” bouncing around the small area while the crowd did the same. Compared to its older melodic metalcore sound, the band has morphed into more of a nu-metalcore sound. The new album gives off the same vibe that Slipknot’s first record did, but with even heavier vocals. Live, Giumenti is just as aggressive as Slipknot’s Corey Taylor while guitarists Derek Blevins and Matt Gallucci work together just like Jim Root and Mick Thompson.

Since the band was only using studio monitors, the vocals weren’t very clear. Fortunately for fans of the band, they knew every word to their set. From “Keep Alone,” “Painfully Bored” and the first single off the album, “Spit Not Chewed,” the band and the small crowd were energetic throughout the set and gave the band a memorable first house show and a great Veteran’s Day. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

ACRN Presents: Giant Claw, Summer Sausage Sanders & Dead Pigs / November 7, 2013 / The Smiling Skull

By: Xavier Veccia, Staff Writer / Rap Mixtape Blogger

Note: This is not a real conversation. This is just what I imagine I would say to a bro if he came with me to the Giant Claw and Summer Sausage Sanders show last night.

“Bro. Bro. Bro. Bro.”

“What?”

“What's going on?”

“I don't know, dude. We just got here.”

“Why's this guy just, like, chilling on the floor screwing with his synthesizers?”

“Dude, shut up. We just got here.”

“What am I supposed to do?”

“Just listen, bro.”

“But, like, do I bob my head? Tap my foot? Interpretative dance?”

[sigh] “Just bob your head or something.”

[awkwardly bobs head] [head bob doesn't cue up with music] [stops bobbing head] “It's not working.”

“Let's just step outside.” [steps outside] “What are you doing in there, bro?”

“What am I doing in there? What about those guys?”

“They're playing their music. It's a show.”

“But it's, like, weird.”

“What did you expect? Mumford & Sons? This is the Skull.”

“Oh man, I love Mumford & Sons.”

“They's sooo good. Can we just talk about...wait, no, stop. That's not the point. Just go back in there and listen to the music.”

“But...”

“Just do it!”

“Fiiiiine...”


Moral of the story: Athens music isn't for everyone. But for those people who do enjoy it, it's hella awesome. Giant Claw and Summer Sausage Sanders put on a good show of trippy-ass, synth-heavy songs. And even if I couldn't bob my head, it was still pretty cool.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Folk Fest / October 19, 2013 / Franklin Ave.

By: Kyle Rutherford, Staff Writer

Music for a good cause is something fairly common in Athens.

Saturday's "Folk Festival" was just that--a gathering of musicians to benefit the Be the Match Foundation, which helps find matches for patients in need of bone marrow transplants. OU Sophomore Handen Roberts helped to start the festival because the foundation helped when he needed a life-saving transplant after being diagnosed with leukemia in 2011. 

Rain came early in the day but it still didn't deter Athens residents from coming out to watch music on the handmade stage. 

The festival as a whole could barely be considered a folk festival considering the wide array of acts that played. Headliner W.C. Lindsay played a wonderful set of electro-pop, Blonde was more of an indie rock group, Tall Trees had more of an experimental progressive rock sound and the ever popular Fathers of the Revolution combined surf, swing and other rock genres to create something of their own.

Even with the cold weather, the turn out was great as well as the music.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Rambo, Toy Store Riot, Centerfield, & others / October 5, 2013 / The Wolf Haus

By: Megan Fair, Contributor

The Wolf Haus was buzzing on Saturday, full to the brim with show attendees. The show, which took place in a very sweaty, warm room, featured artists RamboToy Store RiotCenterfieldHeart Attack ManAges and Ghost Stories. The evening was composed of fiery short sets and plenty of comradery. This show was an absolute treat, as the variation in sound between each group kept the event interesting and fun.

The night kicked off with Rambo, the acoustic project of Zac Freeman. Although it was his first show, Freeman absolutely brought it. The acoustic set was full of wonderful emotion and sad jams, and Freeman’s perfect mix of depth, gruff and gentleness in his voice made for a really pleasant experience. 
Following Rambo was the very punk, very badass Toy Store Riot from D.C. Who doesn’t love foul language and wildly fast punk beats? Toy Store Riot was doing punk right, and their drummer was an absolute machine. The three-piece was wildly entertaining, and they are worth seeing. 

Centerfield dove right in after Toy Store Riot, delivering a punk/emo set of short, poignant songs. Heads were busy bobbing all around, and their drummer, Mark Bessler, was also killin’ it. The band had a fun presence, not to mention the hilarious tale of Centerfield pouring out a bottle full of pee that so conveniently ended up on Toy Store Riot’s windshield. Whoops! 

Heart Attack Man followed, and...wow, just wow. This melodic indie punk band formed just this year, but they have already developed a wonderful sound. The well-received group’s tunes are barely two minutes long, but packed a tremendous punch. The band emitted a bit of a Joyce Manor vibe, which was very pleasing to the crowd.

After Heart Attack Man came Ages, who were equally as rad. Ages brought the heavy to the show, and their melange of punk, emo and melodic hardcore really rounded out their sound. The room, packed at maximum capacity, was full of head bobbing and swaying to their punk as fuck set. I’m fairly confident that everyone in that room wished they could have been circle-pitting and swinging their fists around, but the high attendance presented an obstacle in terms of space. 

Athens’ natives Ghost Stories closed out the show, delivering their indie pop-punk/emo sound. These DIY darlings delivered an emotion-filled set, and many of those in the crowd were singing along. The crowd was the rowdiest at this point, but who knows if it was solely the power of Ghost Stories or the alcohol or perhaps both? The world may never know.

Wolf Haus absolutely killed it on this one, and if you are presented the opportunity to see any of these acts, take it--take it hard, and enjoy. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Vinnie and the Lubricators / September 28, 2013 / The Over Hang

By: Megan Fair, Contributor

This weekend, I ventured down Court Street to the Over Hang to see a free show featuring Vinnie and the Lubricators. To be honest, I was expecting old dudes and mediocre dad rock, and I wasn't hopeful about the outcome. When I saw the four-piece on stage, half of them wearing sunglasses, cheetah print gangster fedoras and shot glass necklaces, I felt my worst fears had been realized.

This is when the universe gave me a nice slap on the wrist for judging a book by its cover. Although the bar band was performing covers, it covered them absurdly well, and played a fun mix of songs. The Lubricators even covered Cake and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which were both very well executed. These were musicians that could really rip, and their drummer had some wild gospel chops. The vocals were spot on, and Vinnie's range was impressive, especially whilst covering Stevie Wonder and Elton John

While at points cheesy, nobody could discredit the band for being boring. The vocalist and bassist would jump, sway and lean in synchronicity, and the whole band was smiling and enjoying themselves. These four men absolutely loved what they were doing, and they never let the energy drop for their whole set. Except for the keyboardist/organ player.  He was shooting off some major moody diva vibes behind those sunglasses and straight face. 

Overall, the performance was a pleasant and groovy surprise that made for a fun Saturday evening. While I wouldn't go out of my way to listen to their music on my own time, I definitely gained mad respect for their seasoned musicianship and joyful energy. 


Word of Mouth / September 28, 2013 / Casa Nueva

By: Courtney Mihocik, Contributor

The Athens-based Word of Mouth Jazz Band took to the stage for an early show at Casa Nueva on Saturday. The six-piece veteran band switched up singers and soloists, showcasing the talent and style of each member.

Each song highlighted each of the six band members, from the keyboardist to the drummer to the saxophonist, bassist and vocalist--each solo emitted raw emotion and spirit while the rest of the band supported their comrade. Despite being a jazz band, they never played a song that could put one to sleep. The more modern jazz style had everyone in the bar nodding their heads, snapping their fingers or even on the floor dancing with their friends.

This highlight of the show was when saxophonist Kyle Slemmer dished out smooth solos while accompanied by a steely bass guitar and keyboards. Slemmer also stepped up to the microphone and sang--his deep baritone voice captured the style of jazz. At one point, he even whipped out a flute, seemingly from nowhere, and busted out a beautiful solo.


Word of Mouth had high energy for every song--even when the beats per minute dropped, the energy and enthusiasm were just as high throughout the entire show. We left Casa with our ears satisfied by the sound of modern jazz.

Friends In Distraction / September 27, 2013 / Donkey Coffee

By: Nadia Kurtz, News Editor

The likable Athens punk-rock band Friends In Distraction is at it again. But this year the band is upping the ante, with a full drum set and electric sound effects. Quite an improvement from the sole acoustics of the two years prior.

The trio, composed of Dan Baker and Garrett Hood on mic and guitar and Dylan Sams on drums, rocked out last night with a loud, upbeat set at Donkey Coffee. The crowd was definitely not as dense as the band probably would have liked for its 2013-2014 school year debut. It was a strange occurrence for the typically packed Donkey Backroom to have empty chairs and empty tables (that was not supposed to be a Les Mis reference, but think what you will).

Despite the shortage of "friends," the band kept its most devoted fans captivated by its punchy sound.

As a somewhat devoted fan of Friends since its development two years ago, the band has evolved quite a bit and has expanded its setlist. Many of the songs sounded familiar, but it's clear that the band has been working on songwriting as well as thickening its instrumental sound.

Hood, who has typically been a little more behind the scenes during shows, came out and actually sang/co-sang almost all of the songs. It is obvious he is becoming more comfortable in the spotlight, and his softer croons contrast well with Brown's more nasally hollers.

Sams, who used to operate a simple djembe during the band's earlier acoustic days, owned the drum set like it was no one's business. The powerful sounds really helped liven the band and worked in conjunction with Baker and Hood's compelling voices.

Overall, the show was enjoyable, but it could have been more exciting with the addition of people and some dancing. But I feel like maybe Donkey isn't really the right place for that. It might be time for Friends In Distraction to leave its acoustic melancholy at the coffee houses and bring its new, robust sound to the bars.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Chrome Moses and Dune / September 13, 2013 / Casa Nueva


By: Abbie Doyle, Contributor

Last evening, Friday the 13th (which occurred with no incidents, no spooks, nada), I headed over to Casa Nueva to watch Dune and Chrome Moses perform. With me was my best pal Amy, who is visiting from Cincinnati (my hometown--reppin’ the 513).  It was an eventful evening. 

While heading up Court Street, I realized we were walking behind Albums Reviews Editor Colin Roose. I was like 95% sure it was him, so I called out his name (took a couple tries) and we had a nice brief chat before he and his company headed into CVS. Amy and I continued on our way to Casa, and the guy who was taking money at the door tried to let us in for free, but Amy had no idea what was going on and gave him money anyway, which was amusing. 

Shortly after Dune began to play I realized I had forgotten to include links in the album review I’d sent Colin six hours previously, so I spent the next half hour worrying about it. I shot him another email and was able to return my attention to Dune. The lead singer (who had a beautiful guitar; hell if I know what kind it was but it was a beautiful instrument) was quite drunk. A few songs into the gig, someone in the crowd bought him a shot, which he chased with the PBR he’d been nursing the whole show. The bassist of Dune was so great--we were sitting closest to him so the bass and the drums were the loudest things I could hear, which made me a very happy camper. The sound system was great--the dude in the sound booth was saying you could hear the dishes rattle. The sound was reverberating in the floor, in the walls, in my bones. Live music is one of the best things in the world, and I would definitely see Dune (who is from Athens) play again.

At this point in the night, it was around 11:30, and Amy and I were the sleepiest of sleepy bears. The music was keeping us awake but as soon as Dune went off stage we were practically asleep on the table.  Friday nights are not easy nights, man. You’re tired from the week, you’re tired from the, um, activities of the evening. Fridays aren’t easy. 

We stayed for a few of Chrome Moses’ songs, and they were fantastic. Very different sound from Dune, who was heavy into the bass and drums. Chrome Moses, hailing from Pittsburgh, utilized a slide guitar, creating a country/bluesy rock feel, and it was quite enjoyable. But we were sleepy as hell. All I could think about was food (specifically Big Mama’s and Chicken-N-Waffle), and I really wanted a Pepsi, so we hauled ass out of there and indulged in some munchies. Both bands were excellent, acted professionally and would definitely see me again at a future show.

Friday, September 6, 2013

ACRN Presents: Zack Kouns, Gazer & Sign Off / September 5, 2013 / The Smiling Skull

By: Megan Fair, Contributor

"Where am I?" I muttered to myself as I watched Zack Kouns beat another man with a leather whip, and later as he convulsed violently on the floor. To be clear, I was at the Smiling Skull seeing aforementioned Zack Kouns, as well as Gazer and Sign Off

Anywho, Zack Kouns. His set could be best described as noisy, intriguing and haunting--just a strange man with lots of vocal effects and some technology producing plenty of strange noises. They were the kind of terrifying and controlled chaotic sounds you'd hear resonating through a very messed up fun house. There are definitely clowns in said fun house. It reminded me of Sunn O))) in the sense that it was rather ambient and haunting. I certainly wasn't bored. It was quite the spectacle. 

Post-Mr. Kouns, Cincinnati-based Gazer played its first show outside of Cincy. Welcome to Athens, post-punk hombres. The three piece's sound could best be described in a simile: it's as if you tossed old Nirvana demos, The Chariot's Long Live and The Dillinger Escape Plan into a musical blender and blended it into a delicious, biting post-punk milkshake. I certainly drank it up. There's something irresistible about the wild energy that a mixture like that brings to the table. The set kept everyone's attention and contained some pleasantly diverse songs that I'd listen to of my own accord. 

Sign Off brought an excited crowd, and the band played a frantic set. That's a really good way to describe a lot of the music tonight--frantic. The crowd was boisterously hollering and shouting at every opportunity for the experimental two-piece. There was noise and reverb for all to enjoy. The Portsmouth post-punkers are certainly an experience to behold.

Overall, the night was an ear-ringing, boisterous event that left everyone entertained or at least really curious. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Method Air, Busy Busy, Night Stalker, & Slut Castle / August 31, 2013 / The Union

By: Ross Lockhart, Staff Writer

Once upon a time, I worked at summer camp, and while working at this summer camp, I wore a decrepit pair of moccasins that were probably never intended to be worn outside. I liked them despite their impracticality and wore them on the walk to the waterfront every day. Inevitably, a huge hole appeared in the right and shortly after, the left. The day the first hole materialized, another counselor named Bret, undeniably the biggest tool I have ever met in my life, suddenly surprised me with a moment of profound sincerity. As I raised my defeated shoe in mourning, he rested his hand on my shoulder and looked at me.

"All good things must come to an end, man," he said.

While I never wish to see Bret again, his corny pseudo-philosophical instance of empathy has stayed with me to this day. I still have the moccasins somewhere. They're wearable, but remain embalmed in a kind of stasis, preserved in a bubble of fond memories. To take them out again would be a violation of their retirement, a breach of the unwritten code of old shoes. Extracting any more use from them would only result in their needless destruction. It's best to leave them in a nice dry spot, out of view, simply for the thrill of discovering them years later. I remember these shoes. I had a lot of fun in these shoes.

All good things must come to an end.

Walking into The Union, I felt like Keanu Reeves after waking up from the Matrix. Dripping umbilical fluid across the black and white floor, all my friends were there and I felt really good about that night. Drinking some beers with the boys. Everything was great. Busy Busy, a noisy, mostly instrumental band made up of a bunch of my good buddies, started off the music with a short but ear-splitting performance. Forgoing their usual sprawling sound for a tighter, more concise set, they sounded great and I couldn't stop smiling. They'll hopefully be playing the odd show now and then, so be sure to catch them if you get the chance.

After that, I went across the street and ate my first chicken waffle. While it was certainly unlike anything I've ever eaten before, I can't say I enjoyed it the whole way through. The bizarre honey mustard/maple syrup sauce they drench those things in kept me coming back for more, but when it was all over, I immediately regretted touching my lips to that evil nectar. It felt like I just eaten a brick of fiberglass insulation. I couldn't shake the feeling that I was going to vomit and the beer didn't help much, either. In spite of this, both Slut Castle and Night Stalker were great. They are both relatively new local bands you'll probably see a lot of this year. There was an older lady wearing a pink cowboy hat who was really loving it. She would dance nonstop around the bar, get another drink and be back on the floor, ass shaking and waving her hands in the air.

When Method Air finally went on, everyone was ecstatic. I felt so proud seeing Sam and Danny up there. We all became good friends over the summer and they have remained one of my favorite bands, period. They opened with a new song, “Noise Violation,” which was inspired by the fun-hating, party-ruining, cop-calling lady who lives up the street from us. I looked around and the crowd was an ocean of smiles. Instant magic. Ripping into a Guided by Voices cover, Sam played his guitar and sang with the care and finesse of a father quieting a crying baby. When Shower Beers' Jon Gordon joined the band on stage for a rendition of the Smashing Pumpkins' “Starla,” IT happened.

IT is when everyone is perfectly in tune with the music, when the separation between audience and performer completely disappears. IT is when every component of the experience becomes important, which is a fragile thing, but there comes a realization that everything is perfect--a visceral connection with the music and the people around you. Each person in the room becomes essential to the moment and everything falls into place. My face started to hurt and I realized I had been smiling like a fucking goofball from the second they took the stage.

They finished the song and the crowd immediately screamed, "ENCORE!" Sam looked like such a rock star as he strummed the opening to “Election Day.” “Every morning I forget the night before / Emptiness is swept up off the kitchen floor,” he sang. Everyone joined in. “What's the deal with everyone? / Why do they look that way?” To see my friends up there, playing music that means so much to them surrounded by people with unwavering love and support for their art, suddenly brought from me such a tide of emotion that I felt like crying. This is IT, I thought. This is fucking IT. Sam wailed on his guitar until his face was red, Grant's hat flew off, and when the song ended everyone screamed and cheered and hugged. It was the most beautiful thing I've seen in a very long time. I left the bar last night in a strange euphoria, intoxicated by the energy of the show and my friends around me, feeling like anything is possible with a clear head and a chicken waffle bubbling in my tortured stomach.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ghostwriter, Hairspray Blues & Bram Riddlebarger / April 29, 2013 / The Union


By: Travis Boswell, Contributor

Maybe I really haven't been paying attention, but has The Union always had those multicolored spotlights? Throughout Monday night's show, I kept getting distracted by these "hype lights" (the name I will call them from now on) shooting all kinds of crazy circle patterns, regardless of the amount of hype on stage! But there were plenty of good uses for it that night.

First up was Bram Riddlebarger and His Lonesome Band. I'm extremely unfamiliar with country music, but even I can tell that this is good country music. The singer had some real emotion in his voice, the bassist was on point and the pedal steel guitar player shredded. Seriously, I want to learn the pedal steel guitar. It sounds cool and you can sit down while you play it!

Up next was Hairspray Blues, all the way from Portland. I remember this from the conversation the drummer had with a drunk patron, the latter of which was trying to figure out where Portland is. There's two of them in America. It's very confusing.

Anyway, this was not a blues group. Well, maybe a blues group from Hell. With a little bit of rockabilly from Hell. In a good way! They're like punk, rockabilly, sprinkle in a couple sludge metal breakdowns, and lots of screaming. The crowd really got into it, and the set was extremely loud and fast for just a two-piece band. My ears were ringing after the set because I think they both requested for the mikes to be louder instead of more balanced. In this case, focusing on the sheer attack made much more sense than "precision" or "sticking to a setlist." As you can probably guess, the hype lights went crazy throughout the whole performance.

The last act I saw was Ghostwriter, also from Portland. It's one man with an electric guitar, banjo, harmonica, bass-pedal-hooked-up-to-a-tambourine percussion and one of the meanest growls I've ever heard. I suppose I could classify it as "roots rock" or "folk," but with a vocal delivery that I did not expect. He could've sung about puppies taking a bath and made it sound completely menacing with his low, brooding growl. As someone who grew up listening to the greatest deathcore and screamo bands of our time, I was totally into it.

So, Monday was one of the most musically diverse shows I've seen at The Union. Bram Riddlebarger is someone to look for if you have even the slightest taste for country, and hopefully Ghostwriter and Hairspray Blues make their way back to Athens eventually. Now I'm going to see how much pedal steel guitars are because they sound so good.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Grupo Fantasma and Bomba Estereo / April 16, 2013 / Stuart's Opera House


By: Nick Rose, Contributor

“I haven’t been this excited for a show at Stuart’s in a long time” says the stage manager to a wanting crowd all warmed up by DJ Self Help.

Soon, songs explode: a three-piece horn section belts out frantically--congas, bass and Kino Esparza shouting at the top of his lungs on stage right. Finally, timbales, dos guitarres and a full-on drum kit make this modest opera house feel like a scene out of Havana Nights.

Kineticism—this is the theme of Grupo Fantasma and Bomba Estereo’s double bill yesterday evening at Stuart’s Opera House.

Fantasma opened up the night in style. This latin funk orchestra has an organic sound where the rawness of James Brown intersects with traditional cumbia rhythms and Santana-like melodies making for a frenetic pace to their music that burns down the house.

In fact, when Grupo Fantasma played their Latin-funkified interpretation of the Talking Heads classic “Burning Down the House,” they had the audience in the pocket. Even if the cats in the pit didn’t grab how to dance to the beat at first.

Southeast Ohio isn’t a world music Mecca. There is this roots vibe that’s hard to shake at the beginning because Latin music is different from bluegrass. The rhythms, instrumentation and melody are worlds apart and it was hard to find something to relate to. Especially when melody and harmony disappeared for over an hour during the Fantasmo set alone.

Plus there is a lot of clutter in this band’s music. It’s hard to manage 10 musicians playing 10 instruments at one volume—loud. Grupo Fantasmo brought the party, but, like a bad date, it missed a connection building intimacy with the audience. Even so, they still killed it and there’s something to be said for an opening act that gets called back for an encore. That is the stuff of legends.

As Fantasmo was a party in the streets, Bomba Estereo took it to the discotheque. Its beat driven electronica sound emitted a very intimate club feel, but it’s the band’s frontwoman Liliana Saumet that sells it. She’s got spunk that transcends any language barrier and when she screams the audience screams back willingly.

Mood lighting, dynamics and a fog machine helped a little, too.

The biggest thing this group has going for it is a deceptive improvised feel. Bomba works like a DJ divided into fours: Simon Mejia and Julian Salazar provide the themes and low end, Kike Egurrola is a human drum machine and Saumet is equal parts hype and vocals. Like a DJ, the band sounds like it's just going with the feel of the moment, but it’s very apparent that every vamp down to the set list is carefully laid out in a way to produce a dramatic and memorable experience.

Bomba flows when they play tracks off their latest release, Elegancia Tropicale. The cumbia-influenced “Caribbean Power” proved a high point as the group wandered into the synth-laid groove built up by Salazar and unleashed with Saumet screaming, “Elegancia Tropicale!” By now, most of the audience found a groove and the Stuart’s pit spilled over with motion.

This wasn’t the case for everyone, unfortunately. A language barrier, lack of distinct melodies and definitive endings seemed to make some of the concert-goers really uncomfortable.

Grupo Fantasma and Bomba Estereo aren’t bands that people see for melodies and distinctive lyrics, though. They’re party bands that make their audiences sweat and that’s pretty cool.  

Friday, April 12, 2013

Timeflies and Bailee Moore / April 10, 2013 / Memorial Auditorium


By: Alexis Evans, Contributor
Photo Credit: Michael Pronzato (The Post)

Fashionably late or just desperately trying to avoid suffering through Bailee Moore's “White Girl Raps Fast” opening act, me and my crew of ladies stumbled up the steps of Mem Aud over an hour late. Spare refreshments wedged between my lady lumps, it’s only a matter of a ticket check, opening of clutch, and a quick tear and I’m in.

The mix of sweat and cheap Victoria’s Secret perfume wafted through the doors, as we saw a sea of girls dressed in bandos, mini skirts and wedges chanting along to the EDM intro “Timeflies! Timeflies! Timeflies!”

But really we all know nobody really cares about Timeflies. You see these ladies heated up their curling irons for one thing and one thing only: Cal Shapiro, a Jewish hunk of man, who’s possibly too attractive (if there even is such a thing) with his white smile, gelled locks and adult Justin Bieber lips. It’s only an added bonus he can sing.

The enormity of the stage almost swallowed up the duo up as they took the stage, but luckily the constant assault of flashing neon lights was enough of distraction. Warning: Don’t bring your epileptic friend. Concert could induce seizures.

Only a true Timeflies fan could appreciate the set list. A perfect mix of mixtape faves, Timeflies’ Tuesday YouTube covers and of course their hit singles “Swoon” and “I Choose You." Sly Cal had a lil' something up his sleeve, though. Armed with a white sheet of paper, he busted out one of his famous freestyles, but better. This baby was an OU edition. The audience roared every time Shapiro referenced something specific to our homey Appalachian nook, such as: OU Crushes, Tony’s Hot Nut, Strouds and Fugitive Fest.

After pretending to end the show, Timeflies retook the stage conveniently finding their most popular songs still left to play, and alas, the true end to the show. There was nothing left for me to do but capture one last duckfaced Snapchat and head to the bars, all the while thinking of all the dirty things I’d do if to Cal if I just so happened to casually bump into him on Court Street.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

ACRN Birthday Bash / April 4, 2013 / The Union


By: Xavier Veccia, Staff Writer

Thanks a lot, Mom.

What do you mean why am I being snippy with you? You know damn well why. You never throw me any good birthday parties! I mean, pin the tail on the donkey? That's some baby stuff. You know what ACRN had at their party? Freaking indie bands! Where's my indie bands, huh, Mom?

One of them, The Saturday Giant, even did a cover of “Gangsta's Paradise” and “Where is My Mind?” And all I get is grandma singing me “Happy Birthday” on the phone. Off pitch, too, might I add.

And it was at The Union. There were a bunch of people there, just fooling around and having a good time. That's much better than our moldy basement and my cousin with the sticky hands.

Oh, and ACRN even had a dance party. Overwaves a.ka. Kyle Rutherford a.k.a. “The Mixologist” a.k.a. The Mr. 11Fest runner-runner-runner-up played a killer set while a bunch of drunk people danced the night away. And no, Mom, the chicken dance doesn't count as dancing the night away.

You know what, I'm just going to live with ACRN from now on. They know how to party. Unlike you, Mom.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fathers of the Revolution and Midwest Revival / March 23, 2013 / Donkey Coffee


By: Nadia Kurtz, News Editor
Photo By: Reverbnation.com

Donkey presented the typical coffee house atmosphere Saturday evening. The Backroom was packed with coffee addicts, intellectuals, music lovers and the regulars who just probably didn’t have anything else to do on a Saturday night.

Athens quartet Fathers of the Revolution opened up the show with a lively set. Singer Daniel Spencer was spot on with his characteristic, old-timey vocals. I am used to seeing the band in The Front Room as their original acoustic trio consisting of just guitars and vocals. For this show, however, the band performed with their new drummer and plugged in the guitars. 

This made for a much louder, livelier and ever more professional-sounding set for Fathers. Unfortunately, none of the audience got up to dance, most likely due to either the cramped room or the fact that High Fest just wore people out today. I guess I could have made the first move, but, let’s be honest, I don’t have either the guts or the skill.

But even with the lack of movement, the audience seemed thoroughly pleased with Fathers of the Revolution. By the end of their set, some gutsy fellows in the front yelled out, “One more song!” and boy, did Fathers deliver. The last song made an impression that would turn any mediocre night into one that made the trek to Donkey in the cold worth it.

After Fathers of the Revolution, a trio called Midwest Revival took the stage. The band must have sensed the audience’s laziness, because the set was pretty much all mellow. I mean, I guess it would be hard to liven things up when you are just two acoustic guitarists and a soft-voiced singer.

Not to say that Midwest Revival was bad per se, but the mellow music really brought any energy that may have been there to non-existent. I guess if you are going to do an easy acoustic set, a coffee shop is the place to do it.

The band interspersed a set of original pieces with covers that were all very pleasant to listen to. Even though the band describes itself as folk, there is an obvious different between Midwest and Fathers. 

By the end of the set, I was sleeping, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. The warm room and dim lighting probably played a part in that as well. Each band brought something to Donkey last night, and the quirky coffee shop was the perfect place to do it.