Monday, April 5, 2010

Bands I Saw Last Week

Posted By on Mon, Apr 5, 2010 at 5:30 PM

In addition to getting ya'll the hot poop on what's coming up, we here at BW also want you to know what went down, and if it landed smoothly or went up in flames. That said, here's a brief rundown on some shows I caught last week:

The Monk Band with Markos at The Reef
Too many reggae bands fall into that boring jagged lurch, the stoned shuffle, as they drudge up retired anthems about pot, spirituality and politics, rehashing the same tired old tropes along with the same tired old tunes. But Markos prowls the stage like a pacing standup, eager for a victim. His enthusiasm for the music, for the show, for the game of it all, could sell a Toyota dealership. Some of his tracks are standards—one of them he's been playing for over a decade—but the sheer enthusiasm brought to the stage as Markos jiggles and sways, riffing off the crowd and tossing it back to the band, makes them fresh. And it didn't hurt that they slipped Randy Rhoads opening riff from "Crazy Train" into a breakdown. Check after the cut for an interview.

Owl City at The Knitting Factory
I've always said I'll go to anything. Owl City proved it with squeaky clean and oh-so-pretty backing musicians from the casting line of High School Musical, and sappy songs ripped off of the already sappy Postal Service. Owl City aka Adam Young gets credit for overwhelming enthusiasm and attempts at a light show, both crucial elements of showmanship that are missing in this age of musical introversion, but that wasn't enough to make up for the shameless pandering ("I'm totally moving to Boise!" quoth Young) and the doppler shift whine of 'tween girls rushing the stage as if Owl City were Paul McCartney. I had to leave for more alcoholic pursuits after four songs.

One Drop at Reef

One Drop represnts
  • One Drop represnts
One Drop offered solid reggae sans keys, horns, samples, island accents or dancehall triplets. Just a stripped down rock lineup—two guitars, bass and drums—that brought it back to the ragged mutated sounds of American rock radio heard long-distance that originally birthed reggae. They embraced atmosphere over aesthetic and that choice allowed their song structures to shine through rather than get drowned in slapback echoes. It was less reggae than it was solid pop given danceable rhythms, rhythms the crowd at Reef ate up like a Basque chorizo at 2 a.m.

Pop Cult Kids at Grainey's Basement

There was some solid rocking and decent dynamics in the vocals, though I definitely caught that "you-just-messed-up" look a few times between the singer and the drummer. Overall, the band wasn't life-changing, which wasn't surprising since cover bands pretty much are what they are. But The Pop Cult Kids earned a special place in my Saturday evening by choosing to vomit out sloppy versions of Devo, PUSA and Flock of Seagulls, rather than going the standard cover-band route of pitch-perfect, carbon-copy replicas of the original recordings down the most irrelevant of details. That kept them from being soulless hacks and instead made for some decent background sound.

Hillfolk Noir at The Bouquet

Hillfolk Noir... in a BOAT!
  • Hillfolk Noir... in a BOAT!
Resonator guitar and standup bass is a great sounding combo. Especially with rootsy chord progressions and brushes on the drums. Hillfolk Noir had a nice sound, but it was a little hard for me to take songs about being a hobo as genuine from a band that quite obviously isn't made up of hobos. They embraced and replicated the aesthetic well, but I'd be more interested to see them take the sound in a different direction.

(Full disclosure: Marko and I played in a punk rock band in high school, whose only ever out of town gig was at Bug's House of Rock here in Boise in 1997. We got in two car accidents, four fights, totally trashed the guy from Rank Review's barn and wrote a rap about the trip lifting the chorus from Highway to Hell by AC/DC on the van ride home, both of us vowing never to return to Boise. He said this show went much better.)

BW: What's the band up to right now?

DJ Markos: We're just finishing up on a two-and-a-half week tour right now. We've got a few more shows lined up, but in May I'm going to go tour in Hawaii. Then we'll hit the festival circuit over summer.

BW: You and the drummer in Monk switched up a bit, and I always knew you as a drummer. So, is it true that all drummers really want to be on lead vocals?

DJ Markos: Yeah, it's true. Think of it like putting a black and white photo next to a negative They're such total opposites, that you there's always a desire for them to be switched. But drums were my first instrument, and I always have the best time playing them.

BW: As a Greek, do you feel like it's slightly treasonous to so thoroughly embrace the musical culture of a different tropical sea?

DJ Markos: A little. But it's still island culture, and I've always gravitated towards island culture because of the way they deal with poverty. They have to make do with what they have. In Jamaica, they're like MacGuyvers. And I've applied that my life and my music. Take whatever you have and use it the best you can.

BW: So, dude, you're Greek and from Oregon. What's with the fake accent?

Markos: I spend a month in Jamaica every year teaching music to kids, with Great Shape, this program that started to help get dental care into Jamaica, and sometimes I just slip into it without realizing. It's funny cause all the little kids there try to talk shit about me, the white guy, not realizing that I can understand them when they're speaking Patios. But it's cool. They all know me. I'm the only white guy getting airplay on Jamaican radio.

BW: Reggae hit with Bob Marley, and is now pretty much a dead end commercially, especially since you're playing it in the Rocky mountains. Moreover, it's a hell of a stylistic box, imposing somewhat rigid constraints on your music that can make it hard to do something fresh with the genre. So, seeing as how nearly everything is set against you in this, what appeals to you so much about reggae?

Markos: All that stuff set against me is part of the appeal. But mostly it's just because it's been such a positive influence in my life. There was a time when I was going to move to LA, and I was down there looking around and realized I hated it. So I thought, what's the opposite of LA? I ended up moving to New Zealand for six months. I had a lot of quiet time there. And it just became clear to me that it made me happy. Reggae was more of a life than a lifestyle. And there's still enough of a niche out there for us to do our thing, and to do it with integrity. I don't feel boxed in by it, but I see what you mean. I suppose if it boxes me in, it's a box that I like.

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