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.

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