Sunday, March 30, 2014

Indigo Wild, She Bears & Orson Frontier / March 29, 2014 / Casa Cantina

By: Megan Fair, Copy Editor

There’s nothing quite as rewarding as the aching feeling in your feet and back as you stumble out of bed for an early morning shift, knowing all those aches were the result of heart-bursting, joy-inducing fits of dancing inspired by incredible musicians and the art they create.

And I was most certainly sore this morning after dancing along to Orson Frontier, She Bears and Indigo Wild at an ACRN-hosted Casa show. Although my wallet took a $7 beating for the event, every penny was worth the fruitful experience. 

Orson Frontier’s dramatic folk rock was the perfect start to the night. I swayed in a booth, as I had just gotten off a four hour shift and needed to rest my puppies. The band was animated and full of life, its vocalist thrashing around to the most sonic pieces of each song. The set was the best way to pique interest for the following two acts.

She Bears has a history with ACRN, and it’s good history, a history I hope lasts for many more years. I marveled at the guitar tone and was awed by how seasoned the team of musicians operated, having the perfect amount of fun and executing each song with near flawless delivery. Each moment of music was filled with subtle intricacies, and I was incredibly excited to see live use of a glockenspiel, because glockenspiels are tight and sound so sweet.

Now that the crowd was completely warmed up and midnight rolled around, the sonic adventure that is Indigo Wild took its position on the stage. Rewind now to the early afternoon in Galbreath Chapel, where the group is performing a stripped down version of “The Fog,” a new track, for a filmed takeaway show. The stripped down takeaway version sounded immense and awe-inspiring, so imagine how excited attendees of that shoot were to hear the song live and completely full. 

And man, it was amazing. The crowd was all grooving with each other and singing the words while they stomped and clapped and let their limbs go wild to the amazing, indescribable music. The vocal harmonies alone were enough to melt any soul into peaceful oblivion. After an amazing set, the crowd begged and demanded for more, and the band happily obliged, ending with “On the Hill” and a supercharged, very loud cover of The White Stripes’ “We’re Going To Be Friends.”

To be swinging my hips and stomping my feet and shouting, “WOLF! ON THE HILL!” with a crowd of enthusiastic friends and fellows was so entertaining. Many stuck around to inform all three bands of their great work, including myself. I didn’t even care that I had to be up by 7 a.m., I didn’t care that my limbs were exhausted--it was too great to not enjoy the company of kind and talented musicians who love what they do more than anything else in the world. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sotto Voce & Peter Vilardi / March 28, 2014 / Donkey Coffee

By: Christian Power, Contributor

Athens, with its flourishing music scene and abundant college population, is home to many singer-songwriters. On Friday night, Donkey Coffee was fortunate enough to host two of the town's finest. Accompanied on stage by a multi-hued cardboard donkey that was only kind of creepy, Sotto Voce (Ryan Gabos) and Peter Vilardi carried out some impressive performances.

The two friends have long been involved with performance art on campus. In addition to their musical ventures, Vilardi and Gabos have integral roles on the sketch-comedy series "Fridays Live!" and often deliver stand-up with Blue Pencil Comedy. It was very apparent that both felt at home on stage.

Vilardi served as the opening act, taking to the piano to play seven original songs, along with a cover of "Life in a Glasshouse" by Radiohead. After getting the audience's attention with the vocal-showcasing "Your Grace," he busted out the addictively catchy "Call It a Day," which was without a doubt a highlight of the night.

Not one to forgo his comedic talent, Vilardi wowed the crowd with the hilarious "Misdirection," a song driven by its spoken-word interludes that explain a commonly used joke format in stand-up. That's about as well as it can be summed up in words--it is an absolute must to hear performed live. Before introducing the Yorke-composed number, Vilardi insisted, "It's not that depressing. Just kidding, it's very depressing."

He co-wrote his final song of the night, "Off We Go," with artist Matt Munhall. Munhall will be releasing a full-length album recorded in Nashville called 700 Miles on May 6. "Off We Go" indeed reflected the professional-grade nature of Vilardi's growing singer-songwriter discography.

Sotto Voce then successfully satisfied the challenge of following up who he describes as "the best showman in Athens."

Playing a set of entirely original acoustic material along with a closing piano instrumental, Sotto Voce flawlessly executed a raw style of rapid picking and energized strumming in addition to some superb slower numbers. The rapid picking was prominently displayed on opening song "Reticent." Sotto Voce explained its origins, saying he wrote it on move-in day freshman year before his roommates arrived while imagining how great college would be.

Wikipedia tells me that Sotto Voce means to "lower the volume of one's voice for emphasis." However, the vocal performance throughout the eight songs was marked by a notable ability to prevail throughout the room. Put simply, the guy can sing.

After Vilardi returned on stage to provide supplemental vocals on "How Romantic?," Sotto Voce whipped out what he dubbed the sing-along song of the night and setlist staple, "Same Ghost," a shout-out to now-graduated friend and fellow artist Jared Henderson. It of course went over well with the engaged crowd, whose clapping hands and stomping feet joined well with the collective singing.

Gabos was originally scheduled to be supported by a different performer, but had to find someone else on short notice. I spoke to Vilardi after the show, who said he was humbled to be selected. In the same manner that Sotto Voce played alongside Same Ghost (Jared Henderson), Vilardi feels that he is accompanying Gabos in a way that will encourage their house party lineage to continue.

I asked him how he was able to prepare so easily, and Vilardi said it wasn't a challenge at all. As someone who can play many instruments (and raps under the name MC Freeman), he was excited by the opportunity to play an all-piano set. Influenced primarily by musicians like Chris Martin and Bono (but ultimately by too many artists to count), expressing himself in this fashion was something he looked forward to doing.

I was again beyond impressed at how well-written the songs by these gentlemen were. It was a great time to see these two perform and I hope they do it again soon.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Welcoming Party, Sealed for Phreshness & Hit the Ground Running / Marcy 23, 2014 / The Smiling Skull

By: Sammi Nelson, Contributor

Sunday nights at the Skull are typically slow and uncomfortably un-rowdy for the skeletal saloon. While the bar is typically filled with a mixture of shuffling college students and settled townies, Sundays experience quite a decrease in patrons compared to the weekend evenings. Such is the case for most bars, which surprised me when I found out about a three-band show scheduled for Sunday night. Now, normally I’d decline such an event, but when I found out that a friend was performing his act, I couldn’t miss the opportunity.

The crowd was undeniably a small one, but regardless of the lack of attendance, the bands went forth with their musical deliveries. The opening act was Hit the Ground Running, a group from Hudson, OH whose sound features some good ol’ pop-punk feels. While the band isn’t primarily acoustic, they performed their set as such on Sunday. They played a few songs of their own as well as several covers. The band had all of the college kids (and possibly a few townies) swooning with their “A Thousand Miles” cover.

Hit the Ground Running, whose music is a little too bright for the endearingly grimy Skull, performed a great set that has me excited to listen to their A Long Summer in Ohio EP, which comes out May 12.

The next act featured two dudes from Vienna, WV, one of which is a friend of mine. Sealed For Phreshness is a quirky alternative band whose music consists of two singers, a guitar and backtracks that produce the rest of the band’s sound. While their music contains a lot of samples such as these, the band was forced to go acoustic Sunday when their backtracks failed to work. For having never performed under these circumstances, the band showed the crowd and themselves that backtracks aren’t necessary to put on a good show.

Their music is heavily comedy-driven, with silly songs about awkward zombies, interjections like “FALCON PUNCH” and a song about dolphins, appropriately titled “Jessica Albatross”. The band also revealed a bit of their history, explaining how they originally planned to become a Christian worship group until they started writing and performing their now goofy sets.

The final act of the night was The Welcoming Party, a local Athens progressive hardcore band. This band was definitely unlike the other two performances of the night. They required a clearing of the space in front of the stage for some intended moshing by both fans and bandmates alike. The group erupted into a sound of pure ruthlessness that filled the Skull. The moshpit might have been small, but its participators thrashed to atom-scattering tracks such as “Hans Christian Anderson.”

The band had a few announcements, one of which was the bassist’s recent engagement and also the release of an EP on April 17, which is the same day they start their tour with another performance at the Skull.

As the night came to a close, I left the bar feeling energized and quite content. I got to have a lovely date night at Casa and enjoy a great variety of music at the Skull. I also learned of several EPs and local bands that are definitely more than worthy to check out.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Riley, Ghost Stories, Method Air & Hundos / March 13, 2014 / The Smiling Skull

By: Zack Baker, Editorial Director

Skull nights are special. There's an air of unpredictability, rowdiness and mystery behind every show at the Smiling Skull, and Thursday's show was no different. Unfortunately, it wasn't really the fun kind of mystery.

I walked into the Skull late, expecting to see the opening band on stage as I entered. It was almost 10 p.m. by the time I got there, a full 30 minutes after the Facebook event said the music would start. Even by Punk Time™ standards, an empty stage that late was surprising. I was stoked for the stacked line-up (Riley, Hundos, Ghost Stories and Method Air) and kind of awkwardly hung around with friends on the roof until we finally heard rumblings from the stage.

We collectively worked our way down the narrow stairs to see who was up first, arguing whether Method Air or Ghost Stories would get stuck with the closing spot. After making a quick pit stop for another Pabst, I worked my way into the crowd to see Danny Paul and Sam Stansfield warming up for their set. I was excited to see Method Air again--it had been a little while since I had seen them live and they never disappoint. The set wasn't very long, but the tunes were solid. 

After another retreat to the patio (seriously the best kept secret in Athens), Hundos took the stage. I only managed to see a brief portion of their set, but what I heard sounded great. Jam bands aren't normally my thing, and I suppose Hundos aren't really a jam band, but their chilled out vibes hit the spot. The crowd was amped for Riley, and it wasn't long before they took the stage.

Seeing the band last October only whet my appetite for its precise brand of guitar-driven rock. Having lost a synth player since they last performed in Athens, I wasn't sure of what to expect out of the band. The group absolutely slayed, ripping its way through a hefty handful of tunes. The drummer even cracked the shit out of his ride cymbal about two songs in, but kept on playing. He used the short tuning breaks between songs to spin the cymbal back around and distance himself from the ever-more splintering metal. Anyone who wasn't already a fan of the group was converted last night. The set expanded upon their recorded material greatly and blew songs out to incredible proportions.

Ghost Stories was up next, and I was personally geeking out over their set. It had been almost a full semester since I had last seen the band, and they both recorded new material and picked up Method Air's Stansfield as a second guitarist since I had seen them perform. The new material was everything I had hoped it would be--a little less Title Fight and a lot more Ghost Stories. It's hard to describe exactly what the new music sounds like, but if you're a Ghost Stories fan, it's everything you would expect. 

Stumbling out of the Skull and directly to the counter for a chicken and waffle, I couldn't help but think back on all the incredible music that had erupted from that tiny stage that night. I went into the show with impossibly high expectations for each of the bands, and every single one had blown those expectations out of the water. Like always, the Skull delivered.