FRIDAY AT TAPHOUSE HAMPTON:
Moving Cities: This trio is a very tight, very polished powerhouse that I want to call punk rock but might be a little too groove oriented to qualify. The grooves ranged from melodic pop to reggae/ska to tripped out jamming. Think early Weezer having a strong pot of coffee with Sublime while the guitarist tweaks his delay and thick guitar sound to borrow from The Edge, and you have a breakfast party that quenches your hunger for a great local sound!
Motorboatel: Another trio at the Taphouse that totally blew me away, Motorboatel's name drew me in and the jazzy, highly proficient jamming kept me afloat late night. There aren't too many vocals going on here, but they are not needed. Although all three players are total masters of their instruments, I was mesmerized by the drummer's jazzy unpredictable style that kept the jams flowing but subtly changed the feel constantly so that you were never quite sure what to expect. It was difficult for me to look away from him. This is not to undermine the guitar work which somehow blended smooth jazz and hard rock into its own unique presence, and the bassist's solid and always interesting riff work. Additionally the bassist had a moog synthesizer in front of him and another bass moog unit that contained a pedal akin to what you see at the bottom of a church pipe organ. He was able to work these into the music seamlessly, adding a bit of psychedlic wonkiness to the mix. Great stuff guys, can't wait to see you all again!
SATURDAY AT TOAST NORFOLK:
Feral Conservatives: Unfortunately I missed the Feral's set for this show, but I have seen them several times and was honored to perform alongside them a couple of months ago. These guys and lady are one of my local favs. They are mandolin driven punk rock that is both cutesy and bold, upfront and sentimental. The front woman hooks her mandolin up through distortion and effects pedals to create a powerful sound coming from such a small instrument, and her vocals can be both sugar sweet and shriekingly massive. I like both of those vocal styles, but I believe her shriek to be the finest in Hampton Roads. Previously a trio with bass, mandolin and drums, they have recently added a guitarist to thicken the sound and arrangement, and it greatly enhances the mandolin heavy aura that is created. This week they embarked on a 10 night/11 show tour and I'm glad they will be representing our music scene at its finest up and down the eastern states. Feral Conservatives' full length album remains in heavy rotation in my disc changer, and the stellar songwriting skills become more and more apparent upon every listen.
Prairie Empire: Although it was past 10pm when Prairie Empire took the stage at Toast, the heat and humidity had not tamed down from the day's massive heat wave, and every audience member was completely drenched in sweat and ready for some soothing music that would hopefully help cool them down (Note to TOAST: as awesome as your venue and shows are, please please please consider some form of cooling or strong fans in your outdoor open air venue. I realize it won't be a heat wave forever, but in the meantime I'd hate to see folks pass out from heat exhaustion, which it appeared many were edging towards that night!). Prairie Empire delivered the beautiful melodious and harmonious sound that was needed for such a moment. The lead lady began the set with a soft autoharp strummed ditty backed by soft mallet stricken drums, and the familiar and solid bass sound of Norfolk's own Jacki Paolella, who had joined them on a month long tour (this was the final show of the tour). Jacki effortlessly harmonized with the lead vocals in her own stylistic manner and the result of the trio was a heartbreaking yet uplifting soft celebration of life, love, and depression (yes, depression can be celebrated through music, of course). The panting crowd was focused and quiet for the mostly softer grooves of Prairie Empire, and it seemed the perfect moment to cool down after a long sweltering day. But then ...
Yurt: The heat finally began to wane and the energy immediately picked up when the quartet that call themselves Yurt took the stage. The crowd gathered and dancing ensued. Although the specific styles of each Yurt song differed greatly, the Bozeman Montana outfit steers towards a fun, kooky 80's synth dance sound that was a refreshing change of pace. 80's comparisons ranged from The Police to Cyndi Lauper to Talking Heads, and the male to female vocal switchoffs varied the range further. Between songs, they made self reference jokes, all involving the term "Yurt" and their music did not take itself so seriously which is why it was really fun. I couldn't tell if the drummer was over the age of 16, but she held it down solid and simplistically ala Mo Tucker. This was the last show of Yurt's tour as well, and they were definitely able to go out with a bang with Norfolk's enthusiastic dancing audience. I hope they come back to this area and I will announce a dance party in advance!
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