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Sunday, Mar 22, 2009
Photos: Jennifer Kelly

Across the highway again, heading east, I’m not really going to Mrs. Bea’s, but I stop in anyway. Mrs. Bea’s has a pretty amazing line-up on Saturday, maybe 20 bands, underground as hell, and half of them names I’ve circled on other showcases and missed. When I get there, the Mexican punk band Los Llamarada is playing its primitive, noise-skronked dissonance, songs that pound over and over on the same keys, same strings, same short (English) phrases. They make the Stooges sound like Mozart in comparison, unadulterated, un-modulated aggression. The guitarist is sitting on the concrete, holding his own ear against the blast of sound, howling into the mic, slamming on the strings. The girl playing keyboards, splays her fingers straight out, banging on one, maybe two, three at most notes, in the most untutored of patterns. Later, she comes to the mic, making snakey, body-bending dance moves and keening short, anguished phrases like “So sorry” and “We’re guilty” over and over again. 


 


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Sunday, Mar 22, 2009
Photos: Jennifer Kelly

I caught Freedy Johnston while looking for a beer. Now I’m hungry and I get another chance to see the Uglysuit (who had just finished when I got to the Touch & Go showcase on Friday). They’re playing at Homeslice Pizza, on the back patio, and while there is a disconnect between some bands and brilliant sunshine, no such dissonance intrudes here. That’s because the Uglysuit’s three guitar pop is tailor made for outdoor venues, as expansive and dreamy as, well, a blue-sky Saturday afternoon in Texas. Heck, they even have a song called “And We Became Sunshine”, full of layered, luminous guitar lines and breezy pop choruses that build like high cumulous clouds. There is, admittedly a slight whiff of pot-and-patchouli jamminess in the band’s extended instrumental breaks. You can see how the band’s communal hippie vibe would maybe be too laidback in certain settings… but not here, not today.


 


 


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Sunday, Mar 22, 2009
Photos: Jennifer Kelly

Back at Spiro’s again, where I get a second shot at Obits. 


Two years in the hatching, unnervingly different from Rick Froberg’s previous garage punk outfits like Hot Snakes or Drive Like Jehu or Rocket from the Crypt, Obits rides freight-train blues rhythms over night-time expanses, its songs driving but still, evolving slowly out of repetitive grooves, more like rough-edged Johnny Cash than punk.  Songs like “Widow of My Dreams” has a riff that backsteps down the scale, sliding off towards the horizon like a blues-dreamed hallucination of “Peter Gunn”. “Two Headed Coin” shuffles on the same lonesome train tracks, split down the middle by a roadhouse bass solo. There’s even a blues cover—the old song “Milk Cow Blues”—sped up and strobed through with punk rock surfbilly power chords. It’s not Hot Snakes, and that leaves some long-term fans cold, but it’s pretty great in its own way, anyway. 


Wovenhand

Wovenhand


The front room is hearteningly full for Wovenhand


Wovenhand, if you’re not familiar with it, is the solo-project-that-grew for David Eugene Edwards of 16 Horsepower. His latest, Ten Stones, is an intensely powerful, old-testament-prophecy-crossed-with-Joy-Division-drumming, far more rock than previous outings and, indeed, as rock, in its way, as anything else that came out last year. It is a great record, my third-favorite for 2008 and almost universally overlooked. (PopMatters’ Justin Cober-Lake and I were the only people to vote for Ten Stones in this year’s Pazz & Jop, and we were both kind of bummed that no one else got on board.) 


But look, here we are at Spiro’s and there is a big crowd and a palpable sense of excitement, as this slight, blond man in an Indian headband soundchecks the eerie soundwashes, the booming drums, the reverbed vocals that characterize his sound. The crowd, too, has a real person/real fan feel to it, rather than the have-to-see-this-buzzy-band distraction of the industry-heavy showcases. “Ten dollars,” says a woman in front of me, “that’s the deal of the century.” Get that? She paid for this, and she’s glad to be here. Refreshing.


She’s right, too, because Wovenhand is stunning. Edwards is seated nearly the whole time, leaning out over his chair to growl into the mic, turning it around to lock in with his long-time drummer Ordy Garrison or commune with bass player Pascal Humbert (also ex-of 16 Horsepower). You realize, almost immediately, that Wovenhand is no longer a solo project, not anymore, because the power in the sound comes as much from Garrison’s pummeling drums, from Humberts’ thunderous bass, as from Edwards. Edwards is the visionary, spinning out gothic landscapes of galloping horses and men standing judgment, switching from guitar to mandolin, leaning into the mic for exhilarating barks and shouts. But the material is great because of the way it melds outsized rhythms with Pentecostal dread. It is overwhelming, fantastic, too much in all ways to process. I feel as if I cannot take in a single more piece of music… that mentally, physically, emotionally, I’m full to the top. 


So naturally, I pass through Major Stars on the way out. 


Major Stars

Major Stars


I’ve seen Major Stars before. Based in Boston out of the independent record store and label Twisted Village, the Major Stars have been cranking ear-melting, mind-spinning psych and rock for a couple of decades. A few years ago, they added a third guitar player and a singer, opening up their instrumental fuckery into something like hard 1960s rock. Something like it, but more open-ended, more prone to free form jams and sudden left turns. Guitarist Wayne Rogers prowls the stage restlessly, back and forth between guitar heroine Kate Biggar and singer Sandra Barrett. Biggar urges listeners to support freeform radio and local radio stores, in between songs, and you wonder what’s going to happen next year or the year when all the record stores are gone, and all the radio stations are owned by one company and Live Nation decides what bands you get to see in every city. Bleak times ahead, but for now, freakiness rules at Spiro’s.


 


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Sunday, Mar 22, 2009
Photos: James Edward Crittendon
Frank Turner

Frank Turner


Jail Guitar Doors is an organization that seeks to provide instruments to anyone using music as part of prisoner rehabilitation. As far as their showcase went, it was both an enjoyable and frustrating night. The frustration came from a super-chatty Friday night crowd, who completely drowned out Howard Elliott Payne and an admittedly tired Ed Harcourt. Others fared better. Otis Gibbs‘s strong voice always projects, so he had no trouble. Neither did Hey Negrita!, who were fantastic fun with their blend of traditional- and skiffle-touched songs. Beans on Toast will stay in people’s memories as well. Short, standing on a chair, and playing a child-size guitar, the gravel-voiced Beans on Toast led the crowd through several riotous songs of questionable taste about things like cocaine addiction. Frank Turner closed out the show, but ran up against the show’s time limit. His solution? Take it outside. With the crowd following, he and Beans on Toast finished up the show as a crowd of curious passersby joined the throng.


Otis Gibbs

Otis Gibbs


Hey Negrita!

Hey Negrita!


Beans on Toast

Beans on Toast


Frank Turner

Frank Turner


Frank Turner and Beans on Toast

Frank Turner and Beans on Toast


 


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Sunday, Mar 22, 2009
Photos: Jennifer Kelly

Chris Woodhouse’s (from the FM Knives) new band is harder, faster, and louder than the old one, a screeching, hurling, spastic menace of a band that gets what has been a fairly sedate crowd, up to now, slamming in the pit. One guy even hazards a crowd surf, though it doesn’t last long. Neither do the songs, but while they’re on, they’re insanely aggressive, body-blowing onslaughts. More Mayyors, please.


 


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