Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Scumeating Tour Kick-off with Chambers, Thimble vs. Needle and Scumeating at Glow - Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Scumeating - Glow

Scumeating Tour Kick-off with Chambers, Thimble vs. Needle and Scumeating at Glow

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What can you say about Glow? It’s a strange space, a cross between an airport lounge and a mid-80s disco. But this is the second time that I have seen Scumeating there. There is something to be said for that: schizophrenia meets irony in a soft leather chair overlooking the transient activities of Railroad and Holly. Maybe it’s perfect. I don’t know. There is always a bizarre cake around and someone ordering a grasshopper – which the bartender has to go online to figure out how to make. Meanwhile, the crowd is festooned with glowstick bracelets and ominously quiet. Church disco. Waiting for a plane. 

Chambers - Glow

Chambers, made up of the Sarah Jerns and Matt Curtis, breaks the quiet with two massive guitar hammers. Reminiscent of the Dirty Three. Stumbling slow noise. Waves of electric strings. Feedback music. Loud and relentless instrumentality. The two of them, each with guitars, standing on the dance floor like noise drunk gunfighters in a Sergio Leone dream of the agonies of echo. Beautiful. And in the strangest way, upsetting all expectation, getting into your skull with whips of lightning and ripping the tissues of your brain to pieces. If there was a heroin addict in the crowd, he’d be wanting to shoot up about now. Grace note: walked over the bartender at the end of the set to get a beer and he said to me: Jesus Christ, I was about to lose it with all of the fucking noise! Music to drive bartenders at the Glow insane to. Kudos, Chambers. 


Thimble vs. Needle - Glow

Next up, a variation (minus Chris Stainback) on Thimble vs. Needle with the inimitable Kat Bula on guitar/vocals/violin, Anna Arvan on cello/vocals and Tim Leighton on drums/guitar/mandolin. After the beautiful noise comes exquisite harmonies as in  “The Only Girl You Are Not Allowed to Kiss.” These songs seem to epitomize something just underneath definition, perhaps it’s the mood of the 21st century with a healthy sense of humor. The musicianship is outstanding but casual, not forcing itself through the performance. Just there and talented. With each time that I have heard Thimble vs. Needle, I am reminded how much they make me smile with their subtle self-conscious odes of self-consciousness. Near the end, Tim sings a song with the line “Hey Buddy, you’ve got puke on your shoes.” It is delivered flat, as a dirge, a lament. The others join in harmony. Beautiful. “Hey Buddy, you’ve got piss on your knees… blood on your hands.” Appalachian Bellingham. Reminded of the Band at Big Pink. 


Scumeating begins to assemble. Jess Manley told me he has a migrane but believes it will help his performance. Undoubtedly. Fiona has just come in from K.D. Laing, wondering why no one seems to know who she is. And Robert, newly shaved pate shining, is in a “fine damned mood.” All of this seems auspicious. Chris Gusta is up there on guitar. Bill Anker on drums. A.J. Hawn on keyboards and Kat Bula is standing off to the side with her violin. It begins in media res, a wall of sound that was not there before is suddenly in front of the crowd. A wall of raw emotional, but sharp edged, music. Robert Lashley’s words sing out of a storm of intensity. Imagine back to a time of trying to tune into a distant radio station and all of a sudden all at once hearing pounding drums, infernal violin and guitar and keyboard, a fucking trombone, what? and the haunting voice of a preacher trying to save sinning souls from the hands of an angry god. Imagine Don Quixote on acid with a band tuned to his every Pulse. This is Lashley, the poet unleashed. Songs don’t seem to begin or end as much as take a breath before coming right back at your throat again. Jess Manley spins voices out of the ether. Kat Bula’s violin and Fiona’s trombone seems to be waging war against each other, trading musical salvos like punches. Ankers’ thunderous drumming holds everything into place. Gusta and Hawn setting the limits to the music. And the Voice of Lashley like a rusty knife over the strings of an ancient guitar, from the edges of time, rhapsode. It is like nothing else you are going to see. Here’s hoping their tour will offend, alienate and utterly shock the rest of the world into abject admiration.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Mallard and Chris Con Carne at the Ridge Wine Bar - Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Chris Con Carne at The Ridge

The Mallard and Chris Con Carne at the Ridge Wine Bar

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

At it’s best moments, the Blues let’s you know that everything could be worse. By treading some sort of weird voodoo line, the singer lets the music take over and sing through his bones. The long history of possession, echoing with the thudding heart of darkness, and yet, still being sung out in a song. When it is good, it is like nothing else. There within the hardwood floored alterna-space of the Ridge, I heard Chris Con Carne sing and play the Blues in a way that I have not heard in a long time. There on the simple carpet stage: a chair, a guitar, and an amp. Stripped down slide string daemonic voodoo songs sending the dedicated crowd into a zoned-out trance of primal appreciation. This was conjuring music, the ghosts of Blind Lemon Jefferson and Mississippi Fred McDowell drifting in to sit quietly in the corner while “Wish I Was in Heaven Sittin’ Down” rang out. Each song developed upon complex rhythmic blues patterns creating a thing uncanny, weird and sadly beautiful. Chris’ voice singing out from underneath as an annotation on the human condition. At one point, he turned on an electronic tanpura on top of his amp which created an evocative drone under the songs. Echoes of Ry Cooder’s Paris, Texas soundtrack during the singing of “Going Down South” – fading in and out with a deep south swamp riff of “Baby Please Don’t Go.” There at the end, a plug was kicked or a circuit tripped, killing the mic and the amp, stripping the sound down to a raw purity. Chris played straight on through it, the slide raking now against the strings, clicking like locusts singing in the summer heat, summoning up the ancient spirits of the Blues.

The Mallard at The Ridge

The Mallard up next, consists of Greer McGettrick, vocals and guitar, and Dylan Tidyman-Jones, drums and vocals. There was sonic disturbance, low ambient feedback uncurling around the Ridge, before they even picked up their instruments. As soon as they kicked in, there were vestiges of The Cramps and Sonic Youth: the echo-drenched guitar noise amped way high. Simple snare sounding like gunshots. Coming on now like ironic Japanese Surf pop. Raw rock n roll noise music. Down in the primal Pulse of the thing. Makes you think about breaking something. The Mallard delivers her songs with harmonic hollers and yelps of being, defying you to find categorization. Imagine some sort of twisted 50s girl group filtered through the apocalyptic decades of the 80s and 90s, then warped from too many drugs and the all too natural cynicism that is endemic to the 21st century. Gives you an idea. The Mallard has the bones of music on display: a cranked-up amped-out guitar, a tribal drum pounding and an existential wail.  At the end, it was beautiful: they walked away and let the feedback swirl. Echoes of the machine.