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Music Days 3 & 4: Part 2

Jennifer Kelly and Kevin Pearson






One of the great lost UK punk bands of the late 1970s, the Homosexuals split before they ever made an album, leaving only a dustbin’s worth of home tapes, EPs, and singles for punk aficionados to ponder over at their 1983 break-up. Those who did invariably asked why this superlatively dissonant, surreal, unarguably great band never broke the surface. Now, some 25 years after the band’s disintegration, singer Bruno Wizard is performing live as the Homosexuals, backed by NYC synth-punkers Apache Beat. It’s just him this time (though he is working with Anton Hayman on a new record), but even solo he’s pretty powerful as he struts and exhorts and glam-punks his skeletal way through forgotten classics like “Hearts in Exile” and “Soft South Africans”. One song, he says, he has not performed in 22 years. Its edges haven’t softened a bit since. (JK)


FANFARLO @ Wave Rooftop

Despite technical problems, problems so severe they took an integral keyboard completely out of the mix, London-based Fanfarlo pushed on unabashed, belting out songs that combined the Smiths, Belle and Sebastian, and Swedish pop. “I think we’ve got more than enough instruments to play a song,” explains frontman Simon. They do: A cursory glance around the stage brings into view guitars and drums, trumpet and violin, a mandolin, and a sadly unused singing saw. Due to the technical issues, the set list is scrapped and the six-piece band (five guys and one girl) confer to decide which songs they can actually play. It’s this down-to-earth approach to a major problem that transposes into their tunes. They sound like the first day of summer or a requited crush, all giddy smiles and fluttering hearts. They are precious, yet unpretentious, and may very well, over time, become your favorite band. (KP)


CITAY @ Spiro’s Outside

Citay’s set nearly gets hijacked right at the beginning as two hip-hop types from the venue next door saunter on stage and refuse to leave. The band -- all three guitarists, drummer, bass player, and keyboardist -- look exhausted (it’s their third show of the day), and clearly not ready to fight for stage space. But the two leave without incident, and Citay’s trippy, guitar-centric set gets off the ground. The band, started by Ezra Feinberg of Piano Magic as a studio project, has expanded so that it now has, essentially, two lead guitarists. One of them, Adria Otte (who plays violin on Last Kingdom) is tiny, self-contained, and one of the best female guitar players I’ve seen. She and her counterpart play complicated, interlocking parts, snaking around each other’s riffs, drawing out an eerie e-bowed tone, and doing a complicated dance that makes Citay’s folk-psyche-rock drones all the more interesting. (JK)


MAKE A RISING @ St. David’s Church

The music Make a Rising make defies categorization. Tacked tonight on the end of an instrumental showcase, the Philadelphia-based band use vocals, eschewing the edict set forth by the prior groups. It’s this against-the-grain approach that makes them a consistently exciting band, but it’s also their downfall. Their resistance to being pigeonholed (coupled with the fact that they’re competing against several bigger bands all playing the coveted 1 a.m. slot) unfortunately keeps the crowds away. Playing in the beautiful confines of St. David’s Church, a venue with pitch-perfect acoustics, the six-piece put on a full-blown set despite the lack of attendance. Theatrics (at one point a band member wearing a fish head is disemboweled) and their own weird amalgamation of prog, piano-led pop, ambience, and trumpet-led freakouts combine for one of the more compelling shows this weekend. (KP)


EVANGELISTA @ Spiro’s Outside

Carla Bozulich announces that she’s learned all her moves, all her sex appeal, everything she knows, from Bob McDonald (of Hank IV) and even does a credible imitation of his poker-legged dance, the band thrashing and slashing behind her. But really, Evangelista’s music is in another universe, eerie, shivering, distorted and beautiful, adorned with altered cello and hypnotic repetition. Big buzzes of bass shake the floor and walls, and Bozulich alternately sings in her deep contralto and plays guitar with some sort of toy microphone. At one point, she is hopping up and down as if buffeted by the sheer white-noise squall of feedback that surrounds her. “Open your eyes, adjust your eyes to the dark,” she wails, and the music pierces you like a too-bright ray of light. (JK)


NINO MOSCHELLA AND DARONDO @ Free Yr Radio Broadcast Corner

The story of Darondo is steeped in mystery. After releasing several singles in the early '70s, songs that saw him compared to the likes of Sly Stone and Al Green, the San Francisco-based musician simply disappeared. (Apparently -- to cut a long story short -- his partying ways got the better of him.) But a phone call a few years back put him in touch with Nino Moschella, whose own backing band provides today’s music for the enigmatic Darondo. Striding onstage for a short, two-song set that encompasses soul and funk, blues and jazz, Darondo dances around like a man half his age. His voice is still strong and stunningly unique, but it’s his showmanship that gets the crowd cheering. “Back in the day, they claimed I was too fast,” he states. “They claimed that I was doing things that I wasn’t really doing. They said you have to leave town, so I left town.” With that, he throws his handkerchief in the air, spins around, and catches it. It all just goes to prove that you can teach an old dawg new tricks. (KP)



While the Homosexuals are finishing up outside, San Franscisco songwriter Kelley Stoltz is hammering away at the jaunty piano of “Memory Collector”, off one of my very favorite albums, Beneath the Branches. At first glance, Stoltz seems a little conventional for this out-there WFMU showcase, but his set is far more rocking and far less well behaved than that of most Sub Pop singer/songwriters. He dedicates “Underwater’s Where the Action Is”, off the great Antique Glow, to program manager Brian Turner, who is, he says, always off exploring new music. Then Kelley himself explores some mind-altering grooves, stretching pop songs into crazy, elongated vamps that rock hypnotically. I ask him later about the rocking-ness of his set, and he says he’s just trying to get ready for an upcoming tour with the Dirtbombs. “We’ve got to keep up with them.” (JK)


HANK IV @ Spiro’s Outside

Though the drummer’s wearing a shirt that reads “Coalition for Aging Rockers,” Hank IV, out of San Francisco, are sort of a new band, led by Bob McDonald (ex of Bun-Kon) and members of the Icky Boyfriends, the Roofies, the Resineators, and about a dozen other bands. (There are only four of them.) McDonald is late to the stage, perhaps delayed by the full-leg brace that is strapped to his leg. Or perhaps not, because it doesn’t seem to bother him at all when he dances a spastic jitterbug, one leg stiff, the other not, up and down the stage. The set is blistering, classic punk, pitched somewhere between the raw power of the Saints and the jokey belligerence of the Nightingales, hitting songs from 2006’s Third Person Shooter -- “Crime of the Scene”, “Hole in My Eye”, and “Got Got” -- that already sound like classics. (JK)


THE CYNICS @ The Soho Lounge

Pittsburgh’s reigning kings of retro NY Dolls-esque garage pop have taken over the long room at Soho Lounge, pulling Joe Emery and Jeanine Attaway from the Ugly Beats up on stage with them to augment their back-to-basics sound. I’ve been loving their latest, Here We Are, and they do play the lasciviously lovely “What She Said” (sample lyric: “Before I was walking/ I was giving head.”) and “The Warning”. Still, it’s mostly the catalogue. As mop-headed singer Michael Kastelic struts and preens, Greg Kostelich hunches taciturn over his guitar through rough-edged gems like “Living Is the Best Revenge”. This is rock and roll distilled to its essence, made saucy with ambiguous sexuality, and served straight up, no ice. Nothing complicated, but it kicks. (JK)



The Convention Center Day Stage probably isn’t the best place to see any band, let alone a band as bombastic as Bodies of Water. Frontwoman Meredith Metcalf acknowledges the stuffy surroundings from the off, talking -- tongue firmly in cheek, of course -- of pyramid schemes. The LA-based five-piece confound the stale environment, though, by putting on a stirring show. Their songs are epic Greek odysseys of oscillating synths and tribal drums, choral calls to arms, and a deep entrenched belief that music is life. Sitting just a few rows from the front, with no one obscuring my view, was like watching the band from the comfort of my own living room. And, after standing through so many shows in varying degrees of distress, I kind of liked it. So did the band. Towards the end of their emphatic set, Metcalf speaks again. This time she’s sincere and a little surprised: “This is fun. I know it’s weird, but it’s fun.” (KP)



Sons & Daughters’ show is being taped for television, which, a guy next to me explains, means that if they mess up, they will have to start over from the beginning and we will have to be excited about them all over again (or perhaps one of those giant cameras will bonk us on the head). That doesn’t happen, though, as the band rips through a kicking set of mostly older material, hitting twitchy “Gilt Complex” and big, booming “The Nest” from their new album, but closing with the considerably darker, more menacing “Johnny Cash”. Great band, weird venue. (JK)


BON IVER @ Emo’s

Justin Vernon opens up the ghostly songs of For Emma, Forever Ago in this lovely daytime set, floating spectral, evocative falsetto over strums on a battered silver resonator guitar. “Flume” breaks in the middle with a freeform, feedback-y interval, and “Skinny Love”, a crowd favorite, builds in intensity, a soft song suddenly blown up into a loud one, drums cracking on the upbeats and thumping on the downs. With “The Wolves (Part I and II)”, Vernon and his two-person band sing the phrase, “What might have been lost,” again and again in a triumphant crescendo, as the drumming turns fractious and jazz-like underneath. You expect quiet beauty from Bon Iver, but not this much excitement. (JK)


WHITE RABBITS @ Club de Ville

“We’re Spoon, from Austin, Texas,” states White Rabbits frontman Gregory Roberts at the start of their ferociously energetic afternoon set. Obviously, they’re not. But there is a certain amount of Spoon’s bite in their carefully structured songs. The band couple this with The Walkmen’s taut, tightly wound dynamics, then top it off with the Hold Steady’s barreling, barroom piano. The propelling force is their two drummers, who provide the backbone for the band’s frenetic, emotionally charged, and unpretentious rock and roll. It’s not too hard to imagine Bruce Springsteen making this music if he’d been born in the late 70s and grown up listening to indie rock. Musically, despite their double drum set-up, the six-piece, Brooklyn-based band is not the most original act here, but they’re one of the best to experience in the live environment. (KP)


LE LOUP @ Emo’s Annex

Sam Simkoff of Le Loup didn’t have a band when he made his debut, the banjo-flecked, multi-tracked, self-recorded The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nation’s Millenium General Assembly. It’s no surprise, then, that now, accompanied by a large ensemble, he sounds completely different, less of a freak-folker, more of a party. The first, as-yet-unnamed song bristles with percussion, Simkoff frenetic in a tambourine-shaking monkey-dance across the stage. The second turns epic, cinematic, and loud as a girl brings a French horn into play. “More banjo in the monitor,” says Simkoff. “In fact more banjo in general.” But banjo is only a part of it now, in an act that is less delicate and way more fun than you’d expect. (JK)

More Le Loup Photos


JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE @ The Yard Dog Gallery

The son of roots-rock titan Steve Earle fields an old-time country band, including Dixie Chicks pedal-steel man Pete Finney and Buddy Miller drummer Brian Owings. They’re dressed to the nines in black suits and cowboy hats, and armed with fiddles and keyboards pitched to sound like barroom pianos. The tent is packed. From my spot, behind the stage, I have a prime view of piano player Skylar Wilson’s back and not much else. Still, that’s not such a bad spot, as the band forages through shuffling country (“A Good Life”), driving roots rock (“South Georgia Sugar Babe”) and soul (“Far Away in Another Town”). At 25, Earle got fired from his dad’s band for misbehavior. But who knows? At 35, he might be hiring. (JK)



The drummer’s got a “Punk Sucks” t-shirt; the ringleader Elia Einhorn, a Morrissey one. So it’s fair to say that the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir is not your typical Bloodshot band, neither country nor roots nor really punk. What it is, really, is bouncy, jump-up-and-down pop hitched to difficult, self-lacerating lyrics. Flame-haired, rail-thin Mary Ralph bobs to and fro over a Gibson Melody Maker, and band members crash into each other as they pogo across the stage. The songs are about broken love, suicide, and depression, but you hear them with a big grin. Morrissey would be proud, don’t you think? (JK)

Photo: Jay Kelly

More Scotland Yard Gospel Choir Photos


NEON NEON @ Cedar Street Courtyard

Conceived for a concept album about the life of carmaker John DeLorean, Neon Neon’s sound, like the DeLorean itself, is emphatically '80s. Primarily a project for LA producer Boom Bip and Super Furry Animals singer Gruff Rhys, Neon Neon perform here with a full backing band and, in keeping with the 80s theme, an impressive array of keytars. Swashes of synth slash against programmed beats. Drum machines thwack, and a fretless bass provides the funk. It’s like VH1’s I Love the ’80s squashed into one 30-minute set. From the power pop of “Alderon” to the Human League-aping “I Lust U”, Neon Neon cover the decade with idolatry rather than irony and remind us that, at some point, in our own ways, we’ve all loved the ’80s. (KP)


PATTERN IS MOVEMENT @ Gallery Lombardi

Way down on West Seventh, Home-Tape Records is having a low-key, outdoor party in an almost residential enclave just off the main drag. When I arrive, Philadelphia’s avant-pop duo Pattern Is Movement is setting up, a pair of guys who met at a church youth group, started a Christian hip-hop band, then drifted into a weirdly sweet, elaborately orchestrated brand of baroque experimental pop. Live, it’s much more explosive, thanks to drummer Chris Ward’s manic, off-kilter bursts of fury, but still fragile and evocatively nostalgic, as singer/multi-instrumentalist Andrew Thiboldeaux croons in a tremulous ’20s radio falsetto. (JK)


SLARAFFENLAND @ Gallery Lombardi

Danish jazz-rock-experimental collective Slaraffenland drape their mics with fresh flowers as they set up, a complicated procedure involving multiple instruments -- brass, wind, and traditional rock ones -- for each of the four-person live band. It’s worth it, though, as slow-moving, transformative instrumental vamps crest and subside and the four members sing in unison. The highlight is when they invite all drummers, and anyone who would like to drum, onto the small stage to play percussion (among the takers, Seth Olinsky from Akron/Family and all of Megafaun). The afternoon sun beats down on a blissful, chaotic cadence of drums, tambourines, plastic maracas, and shakers, as if a Brazilian carnival has touched down on West 7th. (JK)

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