Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Gaby Moreno w/ Davíd Garza - Pour House (11/1/16)

After howling like a wolf for Halloween at two fairly raucous rock’n’roll shows (see photos on my facebook page), it seemed appropriate to celebrate All Saints’ Day with a little mellower vibe.  Also appropriate was the coincident line-up of two Latino artists, being as All Saints’ Day (as we call it in Catholic NOLA) has become more-or-less supplanted by El Dia de los Muertos (which is MUCH more fun).
Not to paint Guatemalan native Gaby Moreno and opener Davíd Garza with too broad a genre-brush.  While Garza has been known to incorporate Mexican rhythms into his songs, he’s pretty much a straight-ahead rocker.  His unique and varied influences range from 1920’s popular music to Led Zeppelin… and pretty much everything in between.  Likewise, while Moreno is equally comfortable singing in Spanish or English, her songs are such a broad mélange of blues, soul, and Latin as to defy categorization.

Davíd Garza is what really planted this show on my must-see schedule.  I’ve been a fan of Garza since his little acoustic trio, Twang Twang ShockaBoom, were bangin’ on bongos and standup bass on the West Mall at UT Austin (early ‘90s, to stamp a date on both of us).  The bare bones set up was a great accompaniment to his classically-trained guitar chops.  As tapes trickled over to Baton Rouge and made their way into my grubby little hands, I couldn’t give them enough airplay on Saturated Neighborhood, the local-regional music show I was hosing on KLSU.  After Twang, several solo albums with a fully fleshed-out band quickly followed.  Man-Oh-Man, those were some FUN shows!  But since then, I’ve only seen him perform once.  He rarely plays shows outside of Texas or L.A., where he currently resides.  [Side note:  Davíd has been part of the music/comedy scene at Largo in L.A., which has produced some of my absolute favorite alt-comedians... Patton Oswalt, Paul F. Thompkins, Sarah Silverman, etc.]  

In the years since Twang, Garza’s songwriting has flourished, proving him to be one of the most prolific artists working today.  He’s had his flirt with major-label success (see This Euphoria, which shoulda sold millions).  But his real strength is the range and consistency of his songs.  I assumed he’d play mostly new stuff off his recent April Fool CD, expecting just a taste of the old stuff.  Turns out, he placated the crowd, which was laced with other longtime fans who clamored for some older tunes.  The short set included several songs from Euphoria (Float Away, Kinder, Slave, Discoball World), along with later, darker tunes Drone and God’s Hands (one of my favorites).  

If you’re not familiar with Garza, look up his 4 CD set, A Strange Mess of Flowers (on itunes etc), or Eternal Tambourine (on Bandcamp).  Both are extensive collections which showcase the breadth of his career.  Check them out; you won’t be disappointed.  

Davíd Garza…
But for all my fawning over Garza’s music, the headliner, after all, was Gaby Moreno.  I’m new to her music, but can this woman sing!  And write.  And play.  SO soulful, her songs and voice both remind me of my NOLA.  At the very least, she and her band could blend easily into the New Orleans music scene.

Moreno has a growing following, receiving numerous accolades, including a Latin Grammy for Best New Artist in 2013.   Though a newer artist than her opener (and bandmate) Garza, she’s no slouch herself as far as output.  She’s put out a half dozen or so records in the past 7 or 8 years.  So the large crowd – especially for the early week, post-Halloween hangover slot – had plenty to sing along to.  And sing they did.  Quizás, Quizás,Quizás was a crowd favorite, and the title cut from her new album, Ilusión, was a quiet detour... a sweet, sublime ode to fantasy (see video below).

Now that I’m clued in, Gaby Moreno’s next pass through town will again be immediately planted on my must-see schedule… no matter who the opener is!

Gaby Moreno…
Finally, in what was possibly the sweetest moment I've ever seen onstage, Moreno brought her niece Alexia to the stage... for her United States singing debut!  They sang Fronteras, another cut from Ilusión. 
Here’s a video of Garza performing Slave, from This Euphoria; and, if it sounds familiar to Ethan Hawke fans, from the film Great Expectations. J
And here’s the title cut from Moreno’s new album, accompanied by Garza…

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Autumnal Vibin' (a mini-mixtape of local releases for your enjoyment)

Lately, I've been listening to a playlist of recent local and sorta local releases on my trusty Galaxy SIII (hey, at least it doesn't explode!).  I think these bands all go together in a mellow way appropriate for the fall season.   Since I never have time to review records, and this is only a small selection the the many great local releases to come out in the past few months, I thought I'd share some here.

Beauty World and Moon Racer celebrate their two releases Saturday at the Carrack in Durham.  Eston Dickinson recently released a collection of songs that's decidedly more lo-fi than the his last, AM Gold (fully fleshed out with his Carolina Wrecking Crew).  But this set of tunes shows that if the songs are good, production is secondary.  Sort of the same thing can be said for SE Ward, who's recent EP is stripped down compared to the full band she's been hitting stages with of late.  But either way, the songs are good; and damn if her voice doesn't sound awfully Southern for being from Vermont.  Oh, and BTW, Eston will be on Raleigh Little Radio tonight from 9:00-10:30.

While Flock of Dimes may not be considered local (listed as Baltimore on their bio), Jenn Wasner now calls Durham, I think, home.  And Davíd Garza, though not a local, was a big part of my scene coming up in Baton Rouge.  He's always been an Austin guy, but came east to play Red Stick a bunch of times when I was hosting local radio show back then, so he's kinda "local" to me.  Plus, for the first time since I've moved here, he plays the Triangle!  (Nov 1 at the Pour House, with Gaby Moreno).  I can't recommend that show highly enough; and show up to catch Garza opening!

My short little mixtape closes with Greensboro's Echo Courts, kicking it up a bit (though this song is mellower than most of the psych-romps on their new LP, In the Garden).  So here's a short little playlist of that stuff.  Be sure to check out the full releases! (which you can jump to from each of the tunes below)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Hopscotch Music Festival - Saturday Night (9/10/16)

At long last, here's the last night of my Hopscotch Music Festival coverage... is it Hopscotch 2017 yet? (I know, practically... :) )  You may have noticed I skipped the big shows at City Plaza, save for the wonderful Wye Oak on Thursday.  With all the day parties (often stretching into the City Plaza time slot) and the great night shows, I had to take a break sometime!  Plus, I've never been much for bigger venues... takes the immediacy away.  Live music for me is as much about a shared experience with the band as it is about hearing the music.  I need to be front and center whether I'm taking photos or not.

Side note:  It's come to my attention that some people think I'm "working" when they see me shooting a show, or they don't want to get in my way, etc.  Nah, I'm having fun like everybody else.  Dive in!  Say hi!  The camera's just the way I see things.

Anyway, two shared experiences I was looking forward to in this last batch of night shows were at Deep South, always a good venue for Hopscotch shows.  I had never seen Weird Pennies (of Raleigh) yet, but knew of frontman Thomas McNeely when he was with Jenny Besetzt.  The Pennies' music sounded great online, and the show didn't disappoint.  Jerky, punky indie-experimental in the vein of a (slightly less esoteric) Whatever Brains or the next band in the lineup (see later)... I'll have to listen more to fully digest their sound, but it was good.

Weird Pennies...
Next band in the lineup (see now) was Columbia, SC's, ET Anderson.  As I wrote a few weeks back after their Kosher Hut pre-Hopscotch show, they may be my new favorite live band.  Recorded, they come off a bit quieter... chill, introspective weirdness with a slow burn.  Live, they take the same songs and blow that shit up.  Either way, it's a meld of soul and indie-weirdness.  A little bit Devo, a little bit Pavement, a lot bit outer space.  That shot at the top is ET Anderson bassist Hot Tub John, his wife's eyes lit up with love (and guitar glare).

ET Anderson...
Speaking of Whatever Brains, my next stop was to be Neptune's to see Bodykit, a new project featuring Rich and Josh from the Brains.  Unfortunately, I found out on the way over they were done. But I bumped into most of Beauty World and Moon Racer (where they told me about their joint release show at the Carrack in Durham this weekend, to which all of you MUST GO!) and followed them over to Memorial Auditorium to catch a little of Andrew Bird.  I'm somewhat familiar with Bird's music (having only one of his releases), but again, me and big venues... not so much.  Still, it was a nice break from the treble and the clang.  Tift Merritt even got up and sang a couple with him (see below).

Andrew Bird...
One way or another, I was gonna close Hopscotch with some brass.  My initial thought was fellow New Orleanians the Stooges Brass Band.  I figured the shotgun shack that is Slim's would already be at capacity for Downtown Boys (sorta-kinda brass in that members come from brass band What Cheer? Brigade, who wowed Hopscotch a year or two ago).  But I was getting reports that the line at the Pour House for Stooges was around the block, and when I walked by Slim's, it was open!  So I camped out there for the remainder.

Downtown Boys describe themselves as a "bi bilingual political dance sax punk party from Providence."  Yeah, that's pretty much it.  Singer Victoria Ruiz opened most songs with a rant against the given injustice of the next song, and then proceeded to cap it with a blast of raw energy, belting out lyrics in English and Spanish with the ferocity of Ian MacKaye in his heydey.  She spent half her time in the crowd, singing and slamming, as the band held down the fort with dual saxes.  Definitely a fun way to close Hopscotch 2016.

Downtown Boys...
Are we done yet?
Not quite.  Here's a few black and white shots that better capture the controlled chaos of the Downtown Boys at Slim's.
See ya next year, Hopscotch!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Hopscotch Music Festival - Saturday Day Parties (9/10/16)

I started Hopscotch Saturday's day parties Upstairs/Downstairs at King's/Neptunes, with the OCSC party.  Slow and dark downstairs at first -- literally and figuratively -- with Boogie Reverie.  He's a CH-Carrboro singer-songwriter I'd never seen yet.  He reminded me a little of John Darnielle, or anti-folk singer Roger Manning, but his stuff I've heard online is much more wide-ranging pop-rock and experimental.  

Boogie Reverie...
Next I popped upstairs to see Mac McCaughan, who played a variety of tunes from Superchunk days to his current Non-Believers material.  Kings was packed early for this one, and they all -- from the  aging indie-dads (like me) to millenials giving props to the Merge progenitor -- appreciated it.

Mac McCaughan...
After a bite at Garland's (yummy Korean tacos!) I went back downstairs to see Shelles, for only my second time.  Shelles is the current band of Stuart Edwards from Old Bricks, with a host of great sidemen who cast hypnotic spells full of reverberating guitar and violin.  They don't play often enough, but with their just-released LP Carousel, they're hitting stages more often.  This Thursday (Oct. 6th), they bring this moody, southern gothic vibe to the Pinhook for their Durm release show (I missed one earlier at the Cradle Backroom, but I'll try to make this one).

On my way over to the Pour House, I stopped into Slim's and caught just a couple from the Charming Youngsters.  They're another local act I hadn't yet seen (there are a LOT of bands 'round here, folks!) so I wanted to make the effort.  Their quirky pop sounded good to me in an Elvis Costello kinda way; gotta check'em out for a full set soon.

The Charming Youngsters...
Then over to the Pour House to close out my day parties with a big one by Younger Brothers Productions.  Raleigh's No Eyes were the penultimate act, taking the stage in some rather sexy evening wear.  You wouldn't expect such well-dressed young gents to tear up the stage with the dark-psych-southern-doom-rock that they do.  But there you are.

No Eyes...
I can't say much more about Zack Mexico than I've said here a hundred times.  Suffice it to say I like'em just a bit.  They usually burn through an hour or so with about 4 or 5 extended jams (not to be confused in the slightest with jam bands).  This was the case with their nighttime set at Hopscotch 2015, which IMHO was the best of that year's fest.  NO ONE was left wanting for more after that blast of intense fun.  But this time, they played more songs than I remember them playing in forever.

I've taken so many shots of this band they start to all look the same to me.  So this time, let's do some portraits... TIGER BEAT-style! (anybody else remember that or am I just way too old?)

Hey kids, it's Zack Mexico!  Introducing...
The Shredder, Jamie!
The Mad Scientist, Matt!
The Wild Man, Joey!
The Machine, Stephen!
The Guru, John!
Finally, as Happy Mondays had their Bez, Zack Mexico has their Jesse...
There you have it, boys and girls, ZACK MEXICO!  

Too corny?  Yeah yeah, whatever, I've got writers' block and a backlog of photos.  Anyway, ZM are always a blast.
(Well whaddya know!  It's still a it's still alive, courtesy the interwebs!)