Friday, June 30, 2006

Cat's Cradle benefit for Melissa York

History: Gerty! was a great, fun band that added more and more new wave influence to their indie rock, culminating in 2002's Sweets from the Minibar, which was sort of like Blondie crossed with the Cars. The Butchies were a candy-coated pop punk trio who broke up after several albums, including 2004's Make Yr Life. Butchies drummer Melissa York joined up with Gerty's David Koslowski and Shirle Hale, and they decided to call themselves the Ex-Members. Before they had the chance to do much of anything in their new incarnation, York had to have neck surgery (too much head-banging!).

Like many musicians, York's part-time non-music work didn't cover the health care costs. Tomorrow night (7/1) at the Cat's Cradle, a bunch of her friends are giving a concert to raise funds to help her out. Here's the lineup, and a sample from each band:

The Moaners: bluesy/swampy guitar/drums duo, including Melissa Swingle, who used to be in Trailer Bride.
"Heart Attack" (from Dark Snack 2005. Buy/download)

Dirty Little Heaters: another guitar/drums duo, this one a little more punkish.
"Who's Got the Blow?" (from Got It? 2005. Buy/download.)

Midtown Dickens: yet another female duo on the bill, but Midtown Dickens are more acoustic and folky. Quirky Americana harmonies.
"AM Dial"

Robosapien: old school hip hop house party meets indie rock. The riotgrrl Beastie Boys?
"Dance" (from Where the Beat End Up 2005. Buy/download)

Finally, I wrote previously about Gerty and the Butchies. Here's a track from each, and an Ex-Members demo (sounds a lot like Gerty...)

Gerty: "Short Drive Home" (from Sweets from the Minibar 2002. Buy/download)
The Butchies: "Trouble" (from Make Yr Life 2004. Buy/download)
The Ex-Members: "Hit By Hit"

So go check out the show -- good bands and a worthwhile cause. Or go here to make a donation to Melissa York.

Oh, and Melissa York has one other loose connection to the Oak Room. That's her drum set in the banner at the top of the page!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Lovely acoustic pop from Ryan Pound

Hey, posting more than once worked out all right last week, so let's see if I can keep it going. I'll try to post a single track early in the week, and then continue my more lengthy posts on Fridays.

"Into the Night" is a lovely pop song featuring acoustic guitar, cello, and a little flute. Ryan Pound released a single on Pidgeon English a while back, and it sounds like there's a full-length release on tap sometime in the near future. He plays on Thursday (6/29) at the Bickett Gallery in Raleigh with the wonderful Regina Hexaphone (previously 1, 2) and New York folk-pop duo Kaiser Cartel (listen here).

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Sammies: solid rock from Charlotte

The Sammies: "For John"
"Falling Out"
(from The Sammies 2006.)

In a little bit of a departure from standard Oak Room procedure (but not too much), here's a band from down the road in Charlotte. I got a copy of the Sammies self-titled debut album -- in stores next week -- and I quite like it. (Thanks to the folks at MoRisen for sending it my way -- check out this nice profile of the label in this week's Independent.) The Sammies blend various flavors of rock -- indie, classic, garage, a bit of hard -- without blatantly aping any one of them. They describe their sound as "a hybrid of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pavement, and MC5," which isn't too far off.

There's some great guitar playing here, not in the form of wanky flashy solos, but in the churning, shifting foundation that Murphy Upshaw and Frank Backgammon establish for the band's songs. I'm partial to the songs with a little more indie quirk to them -- the all-out rockers are fun but less distinctive, and Backgammon's vocals are more effective when they're reined in a bit. "For John" may be the best of these. Upshaw unspools a long guitar line that makes me think of some of the more cinematic elements of the Edge's style circa Joshua Tree. "Falling Out" is another good one, charging along on those ringing guitars. You can check out other songs at the band's web site and MySpace.

The Sammies play on Saturday (6/24) at Local 506, with label-mates Elevator Action and Raleigh's Nathan Asher & the Infantry. (So there's the local hook...) Elevator Action have kind of a trash/glam thing going on. Nathan Asher is the most traditional rock-n-roll of the set, verbose and earnest. The ever-pithy Ross Grady says "like Bruce Springsteen & Patti Smith on a blind date, doing lots of amphetamines."

(I often find Ross's thumbnail descriptions spot-on, or at least I can usually see what he's getting at. But his take on the Sammies baffles me: "a bunch of rednecks who spent a lot of time listening to The Cure." Do I just not know what the Cure sounds like?)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Roman Candle: finally!

It's been about a year and a half since I first wrote about Roman Candle. Back then, it sounded like their album -- a re-recorded version of their 2002 debut Says Pop -- would be coming out any day now. As detailed in this week's Independent , there was a lot of record label foolishness that delayed the release of The Wee Hours Revue beyond all reason. [BTW, Grayson Currin has written some great pieces for the Indy lately!] Finally, though, V2 released it this week, and it sounds like a winner. It's a heart-felt collection of soulful, melodic songs that should have a broad appeal.

The core of the band, brothers Skip and Logan Matheny, are from Wilkesboro, and they definitely show a country/roots influence. This is particularly evident in the lovely "New York This Morning," a shuffling acoustic number. But other songs, like "Winterlight", show a broader pop palette. Both the drum production and Logan's style often suggest an electronic/dance beat without ever really reaching that point. With mild surprise, I find that (contrary to my earlier prediction), Chris Stamey's production hasn't really changed the band's sound that much, at least on the couple of head-to-head comparisons I can make right now. But it has made a difference -- I think you can hear how much richer the sound is if you listen to the two versions of "Something Left To Say" back-to-back.

"New York This Morning"
"Something Left To Say" (The Wee Hours Revue 2006. Buy it here.)
"Something Left To Say" (Says Pop 2002 -- or maybe a demo?)

You can hear a few other songs on the band's MySpace page, including "Why Modern Radio is A-OK With Me" -- I mentioned this in my previous post, and its snarky jabs at the radio still make me laugh. The CD release show is tonight (6/22) at the Cat's Cradle with the Old Ceremony. They'll perform the whole album, and are promising "surprise guest performances", which will probably include collaborators Thad Cockrell and Keegan DeWitt. They play again at the Pour House with Patty Hurst Shifter on Saturday (6/24).

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Portastatic: "Hurricane Warning (Ignored)" (from The Nature of Sap 1997. Buy/download)
Paul Simon: "Hurricane Eye" (live in Hamburg 2002)

Well, it's total bandwagon-jumping, but what the hell. I never watched a full hockey game until the last month, but it's been fun watching the Hurricanes run to the Stanley Cup. It'll never replace college hoops for me, but I'll pay some attention to the hockey next year -- it is awfully exciting. And I may actually be starting to understand what's happening on the ice...

A week or two ago, I found out that Mac McCaughan of Superchunk/Portastatic/Merge Records has a Portastatic blog. I don't know what Mac's background is, but it turns out he's a hockey fan -- there are more posts about the 'Canes than about his band! So, partly in his honor, I'm posting Portastatic's "Hurricane Warning (Ignored)", as well as a live version of Paul Simon's "Hurricane Eye." Oh, and what the heck, here's the obvious song...

The Scorpions: "Rock You Like A Hurricane" (from Love at First Sting 1984. Buy)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Meet Bull City

Bull City: "Bum Leg" and "Game" (demos)
The Balance: "On A Wheel" and "Proof" (from The Balance 2004)

Last month, I noted that the Balance was laying low and recording new songs. Turns out, they were really breaking up -- Matt McCaughan being busy with Portastatic and other projects and multi-instrumentalist Wes Phillips returning to Iowa. (Wes contributed to a number of fine Triangle bands, so perhaps he'll make his way back here sometime.) But Jim Brantley is carrying on under a new name, Bull City, which sees him teaming up with drummer Scott Carle (who used to play with Dillon Fence, among others), Boss Bowers on bass, and "hot young ‘un guitar slinger" John Kurtz.

When I first came across the Bull City MySpace page, it only had one song: "Bum Leg", an odd little electronic composition. That turns out to be more of a goof than anything that Bull City will actually sound like, according to Jim. Given that he's still the primary songwriter, I have to think that it will sound similar to the Balance -- and he's added "Game" to the MySpace site, which I previously posted as a Balance demo. I really enjoyed the Balance's indie/power pop blend ("On A Wheel" is a good example), so I'd be happy to see a continuation of that. On the other hand, Jim promises both more of a classic rock/big guitars sound and more country in Bull City. I don't know if that means a split personality album or a Drive-By Truckers southern rock sound or what -- the demos that Jim shared with me were one apiece of each style. Revisiting the Balance's CD, it occurs to me that "Proof" manages to combine elements of both, with dobro nipping around the edges of the verses leading into some crashing guitar crescendos. The full band is slated to record demos early next month, and I'll be looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

Bull City has a pretty full slate of shows in the next few weeks to tune up for their session, and they're playing on Saturday at Kings in Raleigh. Also on the bill are Electric Sunshine, a new band led by Eddie Taylor of the Loaners -- neither of whichI know anything about -- and Big City Reverie, a Raleigh trio with a big guitar sound (the Indy says, "heart-on-the-line, wheels-on-fire Raleigh rock trio, sporting an androgenic education via Cheap Trick and Guns N' Roses like an old T-shirt") that ought to sit well alongside Bull City. They have a number of songs to listen to here and here. (The downloads are low bitrate, so just listen on line. I recommend "Under Control" and "Nightmares for You").

Bonus Song!
Dillon Fence: "Daylight" (from Rosemary 1992) Ahh, college...

Friday, June 09, 2006

Roots/Country smorgasbord at Local 506: New Town Drunks, Spider Bags, Shannon O'Connor

New Town Drunks: "Down With the Poor"
(from Trust Us With Your Car 2005. Buy)
Spider Bags: "Waking Up Drunk"
(from A Celebration of Hunger 2006. Unreleased, apparently)
Shannon O'Connor: "Ride"
(from Low In Paradise 2005. Buy)

This is the lineup for a great-looking show at Local 506 on Saturday (6/10 at 10:00 p.m., $6): a trio of bands that start from a general country/folk foundation and rough it up in various ways. I've got one song from each here, and you can hear more at their respective Myspace sites.

Shannon O'Connor is probably the smoothest of the three, and the most straight-ahead country, though tempered with a bit of book-learnin' in the lyrics. "Ride" is a sprightly song with some nice fiddling and a cool baritone guitar part. Most of her songs strike me as well-done but fairly conventional, so it's interesting to hear her do something a little darker and slinkier on "Cowboy Robot". (Listen to it here.)

I'm not sure what to make of New Town Drunks. The live videos on their web site rock pretty hard, in a Bloodshot Records sort of way. Most of the music you can hear on their Myspace site is either a sort of rootsy cabaret thing (like "Down With The Poor") or slightly kitchy singalong stuff (like "Autumn's Truck"). However it turns out, they have plenty of energy and look like they'll be loads of fun.

Spider Bags are pretty inscrutable, too, given that their hard-to-read and cryptic Myspace page seems to be their only web presence. But their music may be may favorite of the lot. The songs they have on line range from simple old-timey acoustic songs ("Devil When I Go") to rockers that make me think of Drive-By Truckers without so much Lynyrd Skynyrd ("Blood For You"). "Waking Up Drunk" splits the difference -- a country-inspired, rock-tinged drinking song.

Here's the Indy's blurb for the show (from here):

The New Town Drunks write country songs with a Latin predilection, an intoxicating swill for their friends, the commiserating drunkards. These theater-of-the-absurdly intoxicated teasers stipulate that sobriety is cheaper (but not safer) than sanity and losing your keys is safer than losing your cool. The band is having a baby (Surgeon General's warning, anyone?) and taking a break until a New Year's Eve return to fall-over form. Shannon O'Connor and Spider Bags share the bill for this O.C. hullabaloo.

When I think about it, it's kind of funny that my musical tastes have developed such that this looks like a really good show. I wouldn't have given it the time of day in college, and I shudder to think what high-school me would have said about the prospect of attending. I think one of the things that probably put me on the path to appreciating roots-derived American music was my interest in folk music traditions from elsewhere, especially Africa. Kind of a roundabout way to get there, I guess, but opening your ears is a good thing no matter how you do it.

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