Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Weekend roundup:

Lowery 66/Knife in the Water, the Carousel, April 11, 2003

Caveat #1: The lead singer of Lowery 66 is a good friend.

Caveat #2: The Carousel is not a big place, but bands generally manage to play there without making my ears bleed.

Lowery 66 was earbleedingly loud, which is somewhat understandable given that the band is a six-piece that takes the occasional noisy skronk breaks. However, they really needed to cut the volume a bit last Friday. Both guitars and the keyboards were just way too loud. The violinist was all but inaudible (and sometimes the drummer!). The pain was worth it for the songs, though, which are beautiful, beautifully crafted, and quite catchy, like the best work of Yo La Tengo and Wilco. Their set was short, but the material was very strong (I'd say "uniformly strong" but the re-arrangement on the final song was far too Trail of Dead-headed for me), which, given the volume, made for an excellent show.

Knife in the Water were their usual languid selves. The volume was much more controllable and the intimacy of the club suited the band more than some of the other settings where I've seen them. Their songs are less arty than Lowery 66's, but the two bands fit together with this odd grab-bag of influences that seems popular these days. (What is this genre called? It mixes 80's indie-rock with Hazelwood-style chamber-country-pop, alternates between third-album Velvet-y minimalism and lush symphonic-style songcraft, and goes from whisper-quiet to a skronky thrash on a dime. Besides KitW and L66, there's Champale, Richard Davies, the Kingsbury Manx, Lullaby for the Working Class, and, more removed, Yo La Tengo's 2000 album, Bedhead, the Pernice Brothers, maybe Lambchop, definitely others. I'm going to call this style "lush cowpop" until someone comes up with a better name.) Half of the Austin scene turned up for KitW's show, included the aforementioned Trail of Dead guys, and the place was packed. Some young self-involved cool kids even stood between the band and the tables, ensuring that no one but themselves could possibly see the band play. Anyway, KitW wasn't doing much besides playing, so it didn't really matter. The music was excellent, and the beer was cold, so it was quite a decent way to spend a Friday night.

Ladyfest Benefit, Beerland, April 12, 2003

The lineup was the Swamp Girls, the Nice Dynamics, the Meat Purveyors, and All Night Lincoln. The organizers seemed to be looking for a lineup that was at least 50% female.

The Swamp Girls were an all-female trio with acoustic guitar, electric bass, and a harmony singer. Although they were clearly in the Lesbian Music mold, they were far more Freakwater (yes, I know that the Freakwater women are not lesbians, thank you) than Indigo Girls, to my immediate but lasting relief. However, they needed a lead instrument, if only for color, and how.

The Nice Dynamics were very enthusiastic, although I'd be surprised if they'd been playing their instruments for very long. The band consisted of a female drummer, a male acoustic guitarist, and a female accordionist/violinist. Yes, no bassist. Yes, it mattered. Starting in the back, the drummer's expression alternated between a heartmeltingly cute smile and a steely look of determination. Her rig was the oddest I've seen - a high-hat, some crash & splash cymbals, a tom where most drummers have their snare, and a bass drum that I suspect was a floor tom turned sideways. The guitarist guy was playing fairly cheap equipment, which, unlike, say, the cheap-but-effective equipment I use, produced an ungodly trebly and thin sound. The way that he was jumping around the stage left me wondering what band he thought that he was in, because it sure wasn't this one. The accordionist/fiddler was the truly talented member of the band, and she carried most of the weight by also being the primary singer. She obviously had years of violin in her background, but she didn't play the violin much. On her other instrument, she had a good grasp the button side of the accordion, but barely touched the key side. Anyway, like I said, they were very enthusiastic, and fun to watch in a garage way.

The Meat Purveyors were fantastic. They bitched a bit about playing the benefit, but not being invited to play the actual Ladyfest, which was funny. They played bluegrass with punk style (and even covered a few punk tunes, some of which out-rock-geeked me), and generally rocked the place. I sat & thus couldn't see them for most of their set, because the audience was mostly female and mostly short, and I felt like the Great Wall of China every time I stood up.

I heard-but-didn't-listen-to the last band because I was talking with the Meat Purveyors' guitarist, who's a cool guy, and who I envy. The guy, like me, works for the State, which, unlike me, allows him to do things like touring America and Canada with his band and/or Neko Case, recording with Jon Langford, and being a Bloodshot Man. Goddamn, that's the life. Nice guy, too. He used to play in the Horsies, who put out an album called Trouble Down South in the early 90s. I joked that my band (Trouble Down South) should rename our EP "Horsies" to keep the confusion factor high. Anyway, he's going to try to catch one of our next couple of shows. If he's not playing. Or on tour with Neko Case (the bastid!).


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