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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Shades' Strong-Sounding Debut at VAC

Posted By on Thu, Aug 11, 2011 at 10:50 AM

Shades, onstage at Visual Arts Collective
  • Josh Gross
  • Shades, onstage at Visual Arts Collective.

Due to traveling in the "right circles," and their appearance on the C.O.T. mixtape, Boise band Shades had a lot of buzz preceding their Aug. 9 debut show at VAC.

And they lived up to much of it, playing a rich set of dark-sounding mid-tempo electro-pop songs that were somewhere between Joy Division and The Knife, all of them saturated with deep reverbs and effects that melted the instruments and melodies into one lush sonic slurry.

Even Shades' songs bled together at the edges, cavernous echoes fading into the next song without banter or introduction from the band. It was a sound one could easily get lost in, and the show was a strong debut for any band. Generally, it's a given that any first gig will be a multidimensional disaster. That was far from the case for Shades; their songs were intriguing, en vogue and well-performed.

But lack of disasters aside, it was the sound, not the show that was on display. Despite the deep bass and often-dancey beats, electro-pop—frequently a product of laptops and keyboards—is often known for underperforming on stage. Shade sported a full lineup of guitar, bass, keys and vocals, but mustered the same level of presence as a laptop duo. They didn't attempt much other than looking pretty, which they did in spades, to make their performance "a show."

It was disappointing, because presentation is clearly a principle the band understands to some degree. They made an abstract video featuring their music over shimmering images of water that matches and highlights the textures in the music, but appeared to make no attempt to incorporate those themes into their live show. And while the audience at VAC didn't seem to care much about presentation, the rich textures of Shades' music presents so much opportunity—something like this, for example—that it almost seemed as if the band is still searching for something. Let's hope they find it. Four dudes standing still isn't a tremendously compelling image even with a soundtrack. But add a little bit of atmosphere and the sound could hit like a sledgehammer.

Until then, for all the potential the band has to be successful both in and beyond Boise, the buzz is just a sound.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Brett Netson Band at Red Room

Posted By on Tue, Aug 9, 2011 at 2:40 PM

Looking a bit like a homeless-era Peter Green, Brett Netson, guitarist for Caustic Resin and Built to Spill, stepped onto the stage at Red Room on Aug. 5 and said, "This is going to be loud."

He wasn't kidding.

Netson's guitar hit the audience like a sonic haboob, instantly enveloping them in a colossal sound, a hypnotic buzzsaw drone that could rattle innards. Over that, he sang vocals so drenched in reverb that the melody slurred as if drunk.

The first song The Brett Netson Band (Netson's new solo project) played, moved back and forth between two chords, allowing no silence to sneak through. Beneath the chords, the rhythm section kept things steadfast with one thunderous mid-tempo, cymbal-heavy beat. Between the drone of volume and the psychedelic vocals, it was easily what The Beatles "Tomorrow Never Knows" might have sounded like had it been a product of the grunge era.

Netson scaled things back a bit for the second song, easing up on the distortion but not on the vocal effects. The song definitely wouldn't qualify as a ballad but it moved in similar directions.

Some bands are true collaborations. Some are just there to back one central sound or set of ideas. The Brett Netson Band falls more into the latter category. Though the rhythm section was solid, the core of the sound and the arrangements were Netson's guitar-based explorations of the nature of sonic reality.

The band finished off with another 15-minute blast of pure noise. When it was finished, to quote Wesley Willis, "The crowd roared like a lion."

The Brett Netson Band only played three songs and Netson had a simple explanation for that.

"We have a short set. It's a new band," Netson said.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Scenes From a Scene #031—Low-fi

Posted By on Tue, Jul 26, 2011 at 3:11 PM

Boise rockers Low-fi released their second album of pretension-free indie rock with a big show at The Knitting Factory on July 22.

For those who didn't make it, or who don't like to drop a hard-earned Hamilton on an unknown, their sound is also chronicled here, in Episode 31 of Scenes From a Scene, Boise Weekly's award-winning video series on local music happenings.

[ Video is no longer available. ]

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ant Lion Explores their Potential At Tom Grainey's

Posted By on Tue, Jul 12, 2011 at 11:16 AM

Ant Lion at Tom Graineys Basement
Cello is a mind-bogglingly dynamic instrument. It's equally capable of ominous droning foundations, sing-song melodies and savage stabs of rhythm. Whenever I see one onstage, my interest is piqued simply because of the sonic potential it presents.

Ant Lion—a Boise-based guitar and cello duo that played a set at the new Sunday night music series at Tom Grainey's Basement on July 10—started down some interesting paths, but stopped short of mining the possibilities that a cello affords their brand of indie-folk.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Music Series Aims to Make Tuesdays Less Sucky, More Uber

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2011 at 11:01 AM

On June 28, several dozen local music fans crammed into Visual Arts Collective for a free set from the relatively unknown Follow That Bird, a raw garage-y trio from Austin, Texas, for the debut edition of the VAC's new music series, Uber Tuesdays.

Organizer Eric Gilbert, keyboardist for local band Finn Riggins, said he set the series up because he is consistently contacted by touring bands who are looking to do an off-night show on their way through Idaho. He was quick to admit there's not much happening musically on Tuesdays. Yet. And by giving it a name, he's hoping to cultivate a reputation for the series as the thing for music fans to do on a Tuesday.

Notable bands booked for the series so far include Dirty Mittens on July 19, and The Prids on Aug. 2. There will not be a show next Tuesday, July 5, because of the holiday.

Gilbert says he's also working with bands and management to keep the shows free, but that may not always be possible.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Dax Riggs Shuns Sub-Genre at Red Room

Posted By on Fri, Jun 24, 2011 at 2:58 PM

Dax Riggs onstage at Red Room

Indie, surf, electro, garage, punk ... there’s not a lot of sub-genre-less rock around lately, and the term rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t really mean much anymore.

From the moment Dax Riggs stepped on to the stage at Red Room, it was clear the word “roll” didn’t even apply. Riggs was pure rock—guitars and riffs and howls channeled via a greasy-haired miscreant with balls so big they could have been hanging out of his pant legs. But eyes closed and amp cranked, the Austin-based former frontman for Acid Bath and Deadboy And The Elephantmen barely even moved. He was too completely lost in his performance.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Scenes From a Scene #030—Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.

Posted By on Mon, Jun 20, 2011 at 3:57 PM

Detroit, Mich.-based band Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. gets it.

They get catchy songwriting, production value and negative space being as important as tones. They get being serious and goofy at the same time. And most of all, they get that live performance isn't just playing the music they've written, but that it's a separate and unique presentation that deserves the same amount of thought and creativity that goes into writing a song.

DEJJ's spacious pop music sounds retro and futuristic all at once, imbuing peppy indie and electro-pop chops with the spirit of experimentation that came with early advances in recording technology. It's no surprise they cover The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows." If Brian Wilson were a product of the modern era, there's a good chance he'd sound like Jr. Jr.

And when DEJJ steps onstage, they bring costumes, lights, bubble-machines and a grip of skeleton masks—they invite the audience to wear the masks and join them onstage.

"The only reason you get to play the show is because people came to it, and that inherently makes it their show. So if the people want to get onstage and sing, they have the right to do that, I think," said DEJJ guitarist Joshua Epstein.

If you want to see what it all looks like, check out Episode 30 of Scenes From a Scene, Boise Weekly's continuing and award-winning video music series.

[ Video is no longer available. ]

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Scenes From a Scene #029—Talkdemonic

Posted By on Tue, Jun 14, 2011 at 2:00 PM

There aren't a lot of viola-and-drum indie hip-hop groups around. So when one comes your way, it pays to grab the video camera and get down to the show.

That's what Boise Weekly did when Portland duo Talkdemonic was in town opening for Modest Mouse's sold-out show at the Knitting Factory.

The result is Episode No. 29 of Scenes From a Scene.

[ Video is no longer available. ]

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Brent Amaker and the Rodeo Cowboy It Up at Red Room

Posted By on Wed, Jun 8, 2011 at 3:05 PM

It's hard to tell if Seattle-based cowboy crooner Brent Amaker is serious or not. From his band's matching black boots and cowboy hats, to the lit cigarette in the mouth of the electric guitar player—who looked just like the Marlboro Man—to the black mask the acoustic guitar player wore, there were hints of irony everywhere at the Brent Amaker and the Rodeo show at Red Room on June 4.

Even Amaker's lyrics were almost caricatures of Western themes - the sort of thing you'd expect from parody artists.

"I'm the man who sings the songs you love / like your favorite whiskey song or the one about the gun," he crooned in "I'm The Man Who Writes the Country Hits."

But as his baritone voice rumbled over a rolling train beat a la Johnny Cash, it was impossible not to feel it could be homage as much as it was kitsch. The twang and verb of the leads took the sound even further, giving the band a slightly post-apocalyptic country feel, the perfect soundtrack for a gunfight at the end of the world or a yet-to-be-shot Quentin Tarantino spaghetti Western. But that may be because the band's visual presence was so strong and so emotionally anchored, seeing them onstage almost felt like archival footage of the '60s, when nuclear annihilation and cartoonish cowboys dominated the airwaves.

The sound didn't stray much, all train beats and twang (though Amaker does cover "Pocket Calculator," by Kraftwerk). But it worked. More than just rehashing a classic sound, Amaker managed to make it his own while maintaining its appeal.

But the question remains: Is he serious? Answer: I don't know. And in the end, it probably doesn't even matter. Because whether he is or isn't, it's working just fine.

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Slideshow: Rocking Along in the Tumbling Tumbleweeds at Ranch Fest

Posted By on Mon, May 30, 2011 at 4:01 PM

Headed out to Tumbleweeds, Idaho, for two days of music and photo opportunities at Ranch Fest over the weekend.

There were sets from dozens of touring and local bands, both on the barn stage and more intimate acoustic sets around the campfire.

There was so much talent on display it's hard to call faves, but the two acts that stuck out most to me were Yeah Great Fine, a percussively dancey indie group from Portland and Larkspur, an early-60s style country group featuring members of Sleepy Seeds and Spondee. Their set was mostly covers, but they nailed the Patsy Cline sound, complete with weeping slide guitar and standup bass on their originals as well.

Click here to see a slideshow of the show.

Or, check out a few videos of performances from A Seasonal Disguise, Grandma Kelsey and Jared Mees.

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