SHOWS I'VE BEEN TO RECENTLY, AND THE DEGREE TO WHICH THEY RULED OR SUCKED.
-YOUNG WIDOWS, RUSSIAN CIRCLES, COLISEUM @ SPANISH MOON
-DEGREE OF AWESOMENESS INDEX: 6.5/10
Let me just preface this by saying I paid more than I wanted to for this show, got pretty drunk, and was in a very critical mood that night. I arrived with Hope and Andrew during Coliseum's 3rd or 4th song. I've heard a bunch of hype about this band. Bryan did a show for them at Banks St. years ago, and they toured with High on Fire. Judging from the t-shirt designs I'd seen, I was expecting some brutal DIY punk-infused hardcore/metal...like something Profane Existence would give a favorable review to, but less crusty. Well, I was non-plussed when I heard some pretty tame metal with only a slight hardcore influence. Nothing special. You'd think the bassist was playing in Iron Maiden with the way he was jumping around and headbanging. All I could think is, "man, that guy must have to get pretty fucked up every night to enjoy this mediocre shit that much." Highlight of the night was the singer's comments in between songs about how believing in ghosts is stupid. Total agreement there. Skeptic til death for life!
Young Widows came on next. I've seen these guys maybe 3 or 4 times now, and while it's pretty much the same show everytime, it still never disappoints. The guitarist's Telecaster-through-a-full-stack tone is such a welcome break from the creamy tones I'm used to hearing from loud-ass bands (including my own, for that matter), and his use of slapback delay really gives it a unique spin. They have such a huge sound for just a three-piece; one that's part Jesus Lizard and part Breather-Resist, which is these dudes' older band. Rather than mindlessly meld a bunch of genres together to create a virtual melting pot of styles, they take a few different influences and put them together to create something unique. Success, gents.
Next came Russian Circles, who I'd seen a couple years back (I think they opened for Red Sparrowes). I don't remember feeling one way or another about them back then, honestly. And maybe it was the two double well whiskeys, but I was just not impressed at all with this band. I bet if I hadn't already heard Explosions in the Sky, Pelican, GS!YBE, and all of their not-as-good imitators, I'd be creaming myself over this band. But I am a jaded asshole who has seen more crappy bands in basements and shitty bars than is healthy, and it takes a really good band to make me interested in this style these days. To their credit, they were loud as all hell and had some decent heavy parts. Unfortunately, the riffs weren't interesting, the atmosphere not impressive, and their light show just made them look pretentious. Sorry, guys...
-WHY? @ SPANISH MOON
DEGREE OF AWESOMENESS INDEX: 2.5
Everyone was talking about this show 3 months before it even went down, so I knew something was up. Part of me wanted to go just to see what all the fuss was about, but the cover charge was more than I would spend on a band I've never really heard. Fortunately (or not, depending on how you look at it), my friend Walt from Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship? had just been on a tour with a band called Dark Dark Dark who toured with all the bands playing that night, and he got Hope and I on the guest list. Ok, let me just get the obvious jab out the way: More like WHY? does anyone give a shit about this band? My first instincts upon this nearly sold-out show were the pangs of utter confusion. I carefully assessed the situation: a bunch of random people I have never seen at shows watching a guy who looks your boy from At the Drive-In alternately rapping/singing with a live backing band. My eyes nervously scanned the room until I stumbled upon a clue that would provide the context I needed to understand the phenomenon happening before me: an Anticon shirt. Now I'll admit, I was way into the first couple Sage Francis albums. But if this is what all the white kids who sort-of-kind-of know something about underground hip-hop are into, count me out. I'm no hip-hop expert, but I know what I hate.
I'm not shitting you, this band sounded like 311 to me. I'm sure the lyrics are lightyears ahead of what those beach-dwelling-even-though-they're-from-the-Midwest chart-toppers are capable of, but the delivery was painful. Dude's singing voice is grating as hell, like if 311 hired one of the hundreds of whiny emo singers I saw between 2002-2003 (for those of you who were unfortunate enough to have seen any of these dudes, think Armor For Sleep, Copeland, The Conversation, etc). Tons of Bros were swaying, lifting their High Life bottles in the air, eyes closed, reciting every last word. This is just pure shit.
-BIG SHIP / BYWATER GYPSY MARCHING BAND @ NOLA BOOKFAIR
-DEGREE OF AWESOMENESS INDEX: 7.0
I spent all day Saturday on Frenchmen St, cooped up behind a table in the Blue Nile. My girlfriend and her friend were participating in the annual NOLA Bookfair, and I was helping them sell prints, blank books, zines, etc. At about 4:30pm, right as our BBQ Tofu Poboy w/Tater Tots arrived from 13, we headed to the corner of Chartres and Frenchmen to see her friends play. It was most of the horn section of Big Ship plus a bass drum/trombone/baritone/and a percussionist. The crowd gathered at the corner as the first song started. A definite marching-band vibe was in effect, though the songs were much looser than anything John Philip Sousa would imagine, and there are certainly few other marching bands out there that cultivate the train-hopping Bywater gypspy look. The songs were great and the musicianship was A+. These are not your typical crusty punks who don't know how to play their instruments, these are mostly classically-trained people who know what they're doing. Fuck, if only half the old-timey punks in New Orleans could play like this. My only complaint is that the rhythm section was a little too rigid. I would've like to hear some more funky second-line beats thrown into the mix.
People started dancing, mainly the aformentioned old-timey punks, but this being the bookfair, there were also a few young toddlers getting down to these family-friendly tunes. This made for quite the interesting scene, especially when one dreaded crusty with missing teeth began drunkenly skanking as if at a Less Than Jake show, nearly plowing right into these poor kids.
At this point, two guys wearing Polo shirts neatly tucked into khaki shorts came up right behind me. One guy turns to the other and says, "This is the weirdest shit I've ever seen in my entire life."