Thursday, February 20, 2014

Broken Mouth Annie with Uglyography

As I said in my last post, I am not above reviewing shows that I am involved in or perform in! Uglyography rarely performs a show without another band, so this gives me a great excuse to write about all the great acts that join forces with ours.  And of course, blatant self-promotion is an unfortunate reality for DYI artists....

A few brief words about Uglyography's opening set on the night of February 15 at Belmont House of Smoke:

This was our first show since Halloween night (also at Belmont), and our first show with the new lineup of Albert on bass, DJ on drums, and myself on iWood Quirkatronic.  Months of development time in the practice room yielded us a brand new 45 minute set including 10 new originals and 3 covers.  Being our "first time," I was a little jittery about it and blundered up the first couple of songs pretty good, but we soon sunk into our groove and entertained the room ... I think.  After our set, friends and fans that had seen us before kept making a similar motion with their hands while describing our new sound ... the motion of coming together, cohesiveness I suppose.  Felt really good and it seems that we may be on to something ... onward marches the saga of quirkadelic rock!

Photo by Seamus McGrann

Ready to do their typical job of rocking the socks off the room, Broken Mouth Annie arranged all six of themselves on the cozy stage at Belmont and looked as comfortable as I've seen them.  And I've seen them a lot. Never have they appeared uncomfortable, but crowded up together and raising a ruckus they appeared completely at home and have obviously honed their performance into something that is natural for them. There has been an evolution over the last three years.  To me, they have always been a rock band.  For a long time, they used the "Americana" description, and I suppose that still applies some degree. But I would be more apt to go with the technical term I've already used once here:  "Rocking Socks off."

Photo by Seamus McGrann

In their beginnings, there was definitely a pretty strong acoustic and slightly twangy influence, especially in their debut 5-piece form where they did not have a bassist.  The chemistry between violinist Chris Samulski and lead guitarist Mike Howland was apparent back then as they took on dual solos and licks over the folksy but aggressive acoustic rock songs penned and sung by Anson Morris.  The rhythm section consisted of drummer extraordinaire Matt Scruggs and Victoria Hundley on the "kill drum??" (is that what they call it, for real?  it's a big floor tom she beats on) and tambourine. Without a bassist, Hundley's "kill drum" helped out filling in some of those bottom frequencies. The arrangement was fantastic.  They were entertaining.  It was in your face, but still had some certain laid back quality that stood them apart from many other bands outright.

Enter bassist Steve Jones.  Steve is that type of bassist whose face doesn't typically match what he is playing on bass. In other words, he could be pulling off lightning fast run, arpeggios and bends and if he was making eye contact with you his face might display zero effort or change. Naturally, when Jones came on board, he did his bass duties, learned the songs, and added his own touch.  He was a very easy fit, and the already great songs sounded full and complete.  Now, here is where my personal theory comes in, and it is just a theory:

The punch of the bass overtook the band.

In a good way, of course. I am familiar with how adding a new member or instrumentation can change the entire feeling and mood of what is being played.  There is no denying that adding a bassist also means adding a rock solid foundation and a certain indescribable power to an ensemble.   This power was undoubtedly felt by the original five members of Broken Mouth Annie, and as a result they began to play more powerfully.  The songwriting took a small step away from the Americana feel and a bigger step towards more straightforward rock n roll.  To put it simply, the band became a six-piece powerhouse.

So back to the show at Belmont ... the powerhouse performed at ease and managed to keep the room dancing all night long.  Even if the main dancing instigators were obviously there to get some tail by dirty dancing with whatever tail was willing, Broken Mouth Annie provided perfect music for getting your freak on.  For the fans ... they played several brand new songs I hadn't heard before.  They played a few original standards and of course a variety of well-chosen covers including songs by Weezer, The Pixies, Violent Femmes, and The Flys.  I am hearing very little Americana influence in the new material, and that is OK.  They have become what they have become, and nobody is complaining.  I am especially digging a lot of the new effects that Samulski is using on his violin.  Some of it sounds very synth-like and some sounds like trippy guitar rock. All the experimentation and evolution is currently being captured on a new album, recorded by Joe Welch at Studio J to follow up 2011's award winning album, The Frustration King.

Big thanks goes out to our friends Broken Mouth Annie for inviting Uglyography to join them for this show. Also big thanks to Patrick Walsh at Belmont for the most terrific sound job I've heard for a long time in this area.  Love the stage and your expertise!  Thanks to Seamus McGrann for not getting mad that I stole his pictures off the scroll n stare book.

Check out the music:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

In a Nutshell: Shows n stuff from early February

In my first post for this blog, I predicted and emphasized that I wouldn't be able to review every show that I attend.  I've been to a few good events over the past two weeks but life has been good and busy, so rather than try to catch up here is a quick recap of my musical journeys of the past couple of weeks:

1)  I never said I was above reviewing my own shows!  On Saturday February 1, my old band from the early 2000's The Outer Loop returned to the stage at The Point in Phoebus. We had to turn WAY down and the staff seemed concerned about keeping the floor clear for the fire marshall.  But all in all we rocked our folk punk and everyone had a great time!  The acoustic duo 2 Day Sun opened the show for us with their groovy melodic sounds and I would recommend checking them out if you see they are playing around town. Keep a lookout for many more shows by The Outer Loop this year. The next one is with The Framers at 80/20 Burger Bar in Ghent on Saturday April 12.

2) On Monday February 3 The Norva hosted Veer's annual Local Music Awards.  The night was full of great performances by local artists, and was presented like a Grammy's style awards ceremony.  The Norva was a nice appropriate venue for the event and hope to see it there in future years.  Best thrill of the evening was that The Framers took home the awards for Album of the Year and Best Emerging Artist!  There is a lot to talk about and report so I will provide links to other stories in case you are looking for a more detailed report.  Congrats to all the winners, nominees, and performers!

Veer Magazine Report
Sam McDonald's Sound Check Report

3) Following the Veer Awards, we went to an after party at Belmont House of Smoke where SICMaN of VA was jamming their funky, heavy, wailing, sometimes iPhone driven sound.  SICMaN is always a pleasure to watch on stage.  I was there for about an hour and I think we saw about 6 or 7 songs, including the sic classics "Cutter," and  "Mal's Still Around."  Coincidentally, Joe Welch, drummer for SICMaN, should also be congratulated for a job well done on producing The Framers' award winning album, Sunlight Fever.  It was truly a party at Belmont, and hearing sicness was the best way to celebrate the Framers' win!

4) No Bunny at Strange Matter in Richmond. On February 9, I was lucky enough to see No Bunny for the third time in a classic club called Strange Matter (formerly Twisters, Nancy Raygun).  No Bunny delivered!  Think poppy, bouncy, sloppy, catchy punk rock, all fronted by a slimy dude wearing a bunny mask/ears (mangled and ratty at that) running around stage stripped down to his speedos. Excellent stuff. We saw just a few minutes of Richmond's Nervous Ticks and a full set by Wisconsin's The Hussy, both entertaining acts in their own rights.

So yes, this was a hodge-podge of a report, but I'm finally catching back up on life and hope to be able to provide more detailed reports.  I feel a little better that most of these are either not conventional or not local, but I won't bore you with my excuses.  Have fun and see you out there soon!

Check out the music!
Outer Loop:
2 Day Sun:
The Framers:
No Bunny:
Nervous Ticks:
The Hussy:

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Pixies at The National, with Fidlar

Okay, Okay, I realize The National is not in the 757, which contradicts the name of this blog, but  ... who cares?  It's THE PIXIES!  They are a band that changed the way I look at music and songwriting, and to this day I wear out their classic 5 album catalog on the regular.  Every now and then I come across someone my age or younger who has never heard the Pixies and I feel sorry for them.  I also feel sorry for those who tried to get tickets to this show and failed to do so the day they went on sale because it sold out in a matter of hours.  When I saw the show announcement I was very surprised that they were playing such a small-ish venue.  The National's capacity is only 1500 people, and The Pixies have easily sold out many arenas the size of The Hampton Coliseum or Chrysler Hall.  So I was excited to see them in a somewhat intimate environment.

I caught most of the opening set by Fidlar, and as much as I hate to do this, I don't really have a lot to say about them.  Perhaps I expected a band that was opening for The Pixies to be more eclectic or stand out in some way.  Don't get me wrong, this L.A. based rock group was tight and on point.  They had all the elements of a good punk/skate rock band with good melodies, breakdowns, etc. but they just didn't hold my attention enough for a band on a $45 ticket.  However, they did have a large number of fans in the audience who were singing along enthusiastically, so perhaps there is a more to this band than a first cold listen offered me.

When The Pixies took the stage, my attention was first drawn to checking out their new bassist, Paz Lenchantin.  For those who don't know the saga, Kim Deal quit the band in mid 2013, was quickly replaced by Kim Shattuck, who was then fired before the end of 2013 (allegedly for getting over-enthusiastic and stage diving during a performance?) and quickly replaced by Lenchantin.  So yeah, I wanted to see what she was bringing to the table, and it was mostly what I expected.  She was pretty, played the classic bass lines note for note as recorded, had a voice very similar to Deal's, and smiled a lot.  She filled the shoes well, and although it would've been nice to see Kim up there with them again, Paz'll do.  They started their set with a loud and rowdy "Bone Machine." which gave her a chance to shine on vocals and bass simultaneously.

The crowd was immediately going nuts, and all the band members had smiles on their faces.  For the duration of the show, they all seemed to be enjoying themselves.  I can't say the same for the two previous performances I've seen by The Pixes.   In past shows, it wasn't that they weren't performing well, but it just seemed like they may have tired of performing and possibly doing it for the money.  Maybe.  Or maybe since the previous venues were so large I was too far away to see the smiles.  Regardless, at The National I was not too far from the stage and was able to catch all the glances and gestures between players and their energy level stayed high for the duration of the show.  After all these years, singer Black Francis (Frank Black) is still able to roar as throaty as ever and switch to almost a whisper without any problem.  Joey Santiago is still gazing out to the crowd as he plays his simple yet perfect bendy guitar leads, and continues to rock his experimental solo during an extended "Vamos."  For a good portion of this solo he unplugged his guitar and played his 1/4" cable instead by simply touching it, complete with effects pedals.  David Lovering still holds it steady on the drum kit with fog blowing up around him at all times, and gets the trophy for the most romantic vocals on "La La Love You."  My favorite tune for the night was actually a slowed down version "Nimrod's Son" which came out beautiful and creepy!  Besides the obvious absence of Kim Deal, there couldn't be much more a Pixies fan could ask for.

The following is the set list as best as I could make out.  Unfortunately, since I haven't kept up with the band's very recent online releases (bad fan, bad fan!!) I did not know all the songs, so I apologize for the gaps.  But they did play quite a bit of new material, and it stood up well between the old classics.

Bone Machine

Wave of Mutilation

River Euphrates
The Sad Punk
Gouge Away
Crackity Jones
Isla de Encanta
Monkey Gone to Heaven
Where is My Mind
Nimrod's Son
Mr. Grieves
The Holiday Song
Motorway to Roswell
Ed is Dead
Here Comes Your Man
La La Love You
Break My Body
I've Been Tired

Encore 1:
Broken Face
Head On

Encore 2:
Planet of Sound