Saturday, February 23, 2013

Jimmy Vest, Eric Osbourne & Harold Bon / February 21, 2013 / The Smiling Skull

By: Ryan James, Contributor
Photo By: Ryan James

The Smiling Skull Saloon was teeming with excitement on Thursday night. ACRN’s Rock Lobsters came out in droves for the soulful sounds of Eric Osborne and Harold Bon. The local folk duo was joined by Hundos, an experimental jazz quartet by way of Columbus. All proceeds went to the Spirit of Kairos. This semesterly retreat offers students a break from their collegiate routines. Held at the Fur Peach Ranch in Southeastern Ohio, attendees are promised a weekend of camping, music and new friendships.

Eric Osborne and Harold Bon began the night with their brand of “electrified folk.” Audience members enjoyed a drink from the bar, and some even took up square dancing for the night. People told jokes while an amplifier was fixed. The atmosphere was lighthearted and sociable. Hundos kept the crowd moving with their Baroque rhythms and enticing improvisations. In the words of an impressed bartender, “That was amazing—I’ve never heard anything like that before!”

There was simply no excuse for low spirits. In addition to a hefty sum raised for Kairos, ACRN was also voted into the top ten of mtvU’s annual Best College Radio Station award. If that’s not a cause for celebration, I’m not sure what is. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

ACRN Date Auction / February 14, 2013 / The Union

By: Kyle Rutherford, Staff Writer

The ACRN Date Auction. A time to help raise money for Lobsterfest, listen to great band, and make your drunk friends spend more money than they should. Thursday night was exactly that, with a large crowd happy to dance along to quality music, buy their friends and hopefully get a good little prize out of it. 

People were pretty quick to bid on some lobsters, bidding $12 - $20 before the show had even started. A young man named Steve in a red jacket was constantly outbidding everyone, making him a man of many dates and spent cash. 

The music portion started with the sounds of Columbus' The Saturday Giant. Having played all over the state and even throughout the country, Phil Cogley definitely knows a thing or two about quality performing. Playing with a guitar, looping pedals, a drum machine and a sampler, Cogley used his beatboxing and vocal skills to maintain a smooth, upbeat indie pop performance. Fortunately not separated from the crowd, Cogley worked his way through songs about reincarnation, beating death and even covered a Pixies song, all while spinning around stage and maintaining a strong, full singing voice. He ended up getting auctioned off for $20.

After a few more were auctioned off, on came Columbus' Emily & The Complexes. A favorite for many in attendance, The Complexes brought their blend of indie punk to The Union stage in an energetic, fun manner. The four members played all their songs from their full length, Styrofoam Plate Blues. There was the melancholy, like "Styrofoam Plate Blues" and the ever so hygienic "I Don't Want to Brush My Teeth." Just in time for Valentine's Day, there was also the cutesy "Would You" and "If I Had Money." For the miscellaneous pleasure, there was "Social Skills" and "Two States Away." The road has definitely been good to the boys, giving them stronger stage presence and a more powerful, yet cleaner sound. Hopefully their future tours are just as good on them. 

As the last few lobsters were auctioned off and a few members off Athens' Small Steps were bought for $10, a strong fan base stayed around for the final acts. The three-piece Small Steps was everywhere. Yes, there was structure, but the vocals and instrumentals didn't exactly go that well together. Both entities would have done better in their own, respective genre. But the band knew what their fans liked and had them dancing and moshing throughout their short set. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Seedy Seeds, The Ridges and Alex Miller / February 7, 2013 / Casa Cantina

By: Colin Roose, News Editor

Strings. Brass. Bows. Capos. That neck harmonica thing. Flannel shirts. This was to be a spectacle. Somewhere among the tangled hell of amps and chords that occupied the Casa stage Thursday evening lingered a tangible air of wonder. 

Weaving its way through the well-occupied stage into the possibly fire code-violating mass of bodies on the floor, it lasted well into the evening, transcending the drunkenness that typically consumes all by midnight. 

Wonder of the musicians, who played with the kind of dexterity usually reserved for concert halls and jazz clubs. Wonder of the audience, which packed together so tightly there was hardly any room for the inevitable dancing. And most of all, wonder at everyone coming together on a cold Thursday night to marvel at the magic made by the people under the red lights shouting, stamping and feeling the primal passion.

After arriving at the show a half hour after the start time as per my custom, I witnessed the syncopated charisma of Alex Miller. The stripped-down guitar-and-drums combo, despite being as stripped down as a rock format can get, was a vehicle in which he explored the notion of creative covering.

In fact, I entered as he was launching into a mashup of Tom Petty's "Mary Jane's Last Dance" and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Dani California." Which is a pretty good indication of how little he cared for genre borders.

Smoothing out every space between his notes into a laid-back funk groove, his style of guitar playing seemed to be ready-made for the slowly growing audience to jive along. Avoiding straight 4/4 beats, his drummer played busy dance rhythms that stretched all of his covers out into a slow, easy mood groove. He played all of them on his own terms, too--everyone from Whitney Houston to the Beastie Boys got the treatment.

He certainly had swagger. In the middle of his sultry "Let's Get It On" cover, my concert partner and fellow ACRN writer Justin Silk turned to me and laughed, "Someone's got a little too much self-esteem."

But I think tackling a Marvin Gaye tune almost implies that. Especially when that self-esteem was used to create such a convincing guitar impersonation of the soul classic.

And the voice. Oh, the voice. Roaring out the rockers, crooning out the ballads, he landed somewhere between John Frusciante and Kurt Cobain, with a heavy dose of likeability thrown into the mix. It was pure seduction--how could it not be when you cover "Let's Get It On?"

In fact, the several '90s covers he played fit nicely into his party-friendly groove style. "Say It Ain't So," "Two Princes," "Santeria"--it was pretty much a jukebox of radio hits from your childhood. If you want a guaranteed way to warm up a bunch of college kids, play all the poppy rock hits of our childhood that interested us in rock in the first place.

If only he had played "Tubthumping" or "Semi-Charmed Life" he would have hit on almost every post-grunge radio hit of the decade.

Next up was the main course. As the nine members of The Ridges piled on to the stage, it was clear that they were once again about to bond all the individual drinking, moving bodies of Casa into a single entity under their command. 

The banjos, cellos and accordion were all par for the course for this monolith of Athens music, who took its salad bowl of influences and dunked the head of each listener into it.

In fact, from the way the members warmed up on the stage, you would hardly guess that they were about to play the same kind of music, let alone be in a band together. 

There was a trumpet player in jazz concert attire playing licks, one member looked straight out of Appalachia with his banjo and flannel shirt, and the drummer was the rocker, sitting down to the kit in jeans and a white shirt. 

Always unpredictable, those Ridges. Upon hearing a martial drumbeat, rollicking guitar, or impassioned vocal during the sound check, I always thought they were going to start their first song. But could you blame me, when their songs could start with wild screaming, rapid bowing, or a classical cello solo?

Now, I could tell you that they played songs with titles like "Jackson Pollock," "Dawn of Night" and "Maritime Death Waltz." I could tell you that there was a virtuosic trumpet solo here, pizzicato string plucking there, or a stomping indie beat everywhere. I could mention that they switched between what sounded like 5/8 and 7/8 rhythms.

But that's not what The Ridges are about. Despite having a rock-solid setlist of awesomely-named songs developed in the year since I've first seen them, despite having their technical face together and then some, despite the wide swathe of instruments, none of this was the point.

It was the passion. As proved by everyone on stage. The intense "oh" tribal vocalizations all over every song, the boundless dancing energy of guitarist/singer Victor Rasgaitis, the rapid-fire sawing from the violin and cello players, the tense and heavy slow numbers--this was not a group of songs, this was an experience. 

As if any more passion were needed, it was hot. Like really hot. But that's ok, It's pretty much scientifically proven that a concert isn't really good until you feel the need to remove some article of clothing.

Rasgaitis took the opportunity to talk to everyone somewhere in the middle of all of this and asked, "Is anyone feeling hot?"

"That's what happens when you get so many sexy people in one room," responded cellist Talor Smith, to the whooping and hollering of the flattered crowd.

Rather than standing there stiffly like most bands of their ilk, The Ridges pulsated with life. Every single person on that stage, while intently focused on their particular part, was contributing to something far bigger than anyone in the room. At a time when indie bands' limited formulas burn out after an album or so, this band has created a boundless frontier for themselves, one not built on posture or gimmicks, but on drive.

And, as usual, they ended with reminding us that "we'll all be dead in the end." But instead of leaving on that carpe diem-flavored note, they brought back their grand old tradition of dancing on chairs. Rasgaitis boldly stood on a chair in the middle of a crowd who turned in on themselves to stare at the frontman while the rest of his group provided accompaniment back on the stage.

Showmanship at its finest.

After an O'Betty's break, I came back and watched the Seedy Seeds, a Cincinnati band who "want world domination, but don't want to be jerks about it." 

Well, their machine for Casa domination was well-oiled. Providing live bass and banjo to an endless array of drum and synthesizer loops, they entertained the hardy showgoers who were still there when they took the stage around 1:00.
Proving that classic college rock is not dead, they played the kind of slightly neurotic, politically correct pleasantries that you thought no one had attempted since 10,000 Maniacs and R.E.M. It was loud, but relaxing, and it was nice to just sit and soak it in after the primal stomping of The Ridges.

They played a '90s cover as their last song, too, saying it was in tribute to the aforementioned Alex Miller. I'm sorry. I don't know what it was. I don't know how I can speak to all of you children of grunge when I don't know my Superchunk from my Superunknown.

Even though every single person was drained stepping out of the bar after the four-hour show, the wonder never left. That so many talented people with such varying musical philosophies and approaches could be thrown together for a night by a turn of fate, contributing an entirely singular event in the history of music and then going their separate ways, that was a wonder.

That a bunch of people plucking at strings to create vibrations could grab hold of the attention of nearly the entire city, there was wonder too.

And most of all, the wonder that we live in an age when such complete, concentrated, prodigious musical experiences can be delivered to us weekend after weekend and then vanish into air. We don't know what we have.

Friday, February 8, 2013

ACRN Presents: Evolve, Hundos and Emcee Kilgore / February 7, 2013 / The Smiling Skull

By: Ryan James, Contributor
Photo By: Ryan James

My walk to The Smiling Skull on Thursday night was a cold one. I was determined to make it there, though. The guys in Hundos are personal friends of mine. I’ve played many shows with their former group, ZapaƱo, and we even put out a split 7” together. Needless to say, I like to show my support whenever they pass through.

The place was deserted when I got there. I sat in a corner seat, “American Woman” dripping out of the speakers above me. Hundos played first. Unfortunately, the crowd didn’t improve much over the course of their set. That didn’t seem to phase them. It’s evident that after all this time, they still enjoy playing together. I’m so used to seeing Sean Hundley sing, that I always forget how talented he is on the drums. His brother, Kevin, followed the grooves closely on bass. David Frush, with a collection of pedals at his feet, improvised over the wandering soundscapes, playing with grace and restraint. Chris Lee’s sampler wasn’t present in the mix at all. Their largely improvised songs grew from quaint jazz exercises into massive walls of sound.

Cincinnati rapper Evolve performed next. His table of drum machines and keyboards filled the tiny room with deafening beats. Many of his raps were introspective musings about the political climate. He appeared to be enjoying himself, and the few people watching him did begin to dance around during the middle of his set.

Once he was through, I ventured back into the cold. I walked back home thinking of all the little shows people miss out on. Hundos and Evolve gave it everything they had, and I was thankful for that. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Battle of the Bands / February 1, 2013 / Jackie O's

By: Kristin Ray, Contributor

When 10 p.m. rolled around, I was convincing myself to venture out into the frigid night air and up to Jackie O's. It had been a while since I had been to a show, and I wanted to see The Burning River Ramblers and Mantra play. Plus, it was Battle of the Bands, so it was sure to be a good time. 

I got to Jackie O's after the first two bands had already played, but it was perfect timing for me. BRR had just taken the stage. While they were playing, I couldn't help think back to the interview I had with Chris Rush a few days prior. I could pick up on the reggae influence in their music. I could also understand why people described them as "breezy, catchy and diverse." You could pick up on the influences from a variety of genres. While their set flowed together, no song was the same.

I had never listened to BRR's tunes before coming to this show, but I was singing along. I think their music was almost designed for that.

The crowed was dancing and the energy levels were high. The band was grooving right along with the crowd. It was hard to not get caught up in the music. 

Unfortunately, I started feeling a bit under the weather and had to leave after their set, but seeing The Burning River Ramblers play was well worth the trip up to Jackie O's Friday night.