Monday, November 26, 2012

REVIEW: Japandroids, Swearin’ Nov. 20 at the Firebird

Three years after Vancouver, BC’s Japandroids arrived to pummel  the Billiken Club, the duo of guitarist/lead vox Brian King and drummer/vox David Prowse returned to St. Louis to burn down the Firebird.

I walked through the front door and into a dark, milky fog that made it impossible to see more than five feet in any direction. I could just make out the audience: several couples, a father and daughter team, but mostly men in that familiar 18-28 range. The thick air was hotter than Satan’s taint and humid as Florida swampland…which was actually a welcome respite from the fall chill of St. Louis waiting just outside the door.

Japandroids brought along Brooklyn/Pittsburgh pop-punk outfit Swearin’ as their openers. The four piece strolled on stage well after their supposed start time, but whatever—no one in the audience seemed to care about the wait. They kicked off with “What a Dump,” from their 2011 cassette with the same name and, as one might hope from a pair of singers who also date, Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride share vocal and guitar duties well together. It was apparent Crutchfield is more reserved than Gilbride (who resembles Ben Folds in all aspects of attire and physical traits), but she bites, too. “Kenosha,” off 2012’s self-titled LP, is a damned good kiss-off to an ex-lover, and Crutchfield brought the right brass to the refrain, “I hope you like Kenosha so much you stay there.” I feel you, girl.

Gilbride sings in a bratty tone that never turns cacophonous. He sounds like a lovable little brother who insists on tagging along as the older kids roam the town. The two singers work in dissimilar tones and keys from one another, so their back-and-forth lead vocals propelled their double-digit opening set along swiftly—I'll be damned if it wasn't the swiftest 40 minutes I've ever experienced.

Japandroids' Brian King soundchecked with that signature Canadian vernacular: “EH, EH, EH, EH!” he hollered into the mic. The pretty redhead-in-a-bottle next to me took pictures of King with her phone. “I’ve got to get a picture of that face!,” she said breathlessly. Indeed, King looked like a dapper Highness of Rock N’ Roll Frivolity with his white button-down and flattering black jeans. But it was his stage banter, improvised when Prowse busted his kick pedal before the band even got through their first song, that won the night: he told jokes. JOKES. “Why don’t hipsters make good lovers?" he asked the crowd. "They lost their seven inches.” “Why don’t lobsters share? ...They’re shellfish.” Bless his charming, charming soul.

Pedal fixed, and King having stolen the hearts of everyone hot-blooded female in the room, Japandroids got wild—as promised. They hurled themselves into “Adrenaline Nightshift,” King’s veins raised and visible in his taut forearms, and Prowse endangering every nerve leading to his cranium with his violent head thrashing.

Japandroids went feral. King threw his “you”s to the crowd during “Art Czars,” pointing at a different face with every pronoun. The guitar riff from “Hearts Sweat” (from 2009’s Post-Nothing) somersaulted over Prowse’s sinuous drumwork and sounded dangerous, like thunder in a black sky. Prowse's strong voice led “Rockers East Vancouver," and King kept his promise to "dance my fucking ass off!" Mosh pits stormed and passed during the 17-song set. "This is a fucking jam, if you know what I mean," said King by way of introducing their version of Mclusky's "To Hell with Good Intentions." He challenged the crowd to “keep up,” but no one could match King’s frenetics. Didn't stop us trying though, and the whole night felt like a late-entry highlight of the year. When King asked if they wanted “two or three” more songs, every hand was raised with four to ten fingers raised.

Adrenaline Nightshift
Fire’s Highway
Art Czar’s
The Boys Are Leaving Town
The Nights of Wine and Roses
Rockers East Vancouver
Younger Us
Heart Sweats
Wet Hair
Evil’s Sway
The House That Heaven Built
Continuous Thunder
To Hell With Good Intentions (Mclusky cover)
Young Hearts Spark Fire
For the Love of Ivy (Gun Club cover)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Delta Spirit w/ JEFF the Brotherhood at the Pageant

Check out new photos by Micah Mickles of Delta Spirit with JEFF the Brotherhood at the Pageant. Click here for the full set.
Delta Spirit, photo Micah Mickles 

JEFF the Brotherhood, photo Micah Mickles

Thursday, November 15, 2012

REVIEW: Regina Spektor, The Pageant 11/8

Regina Spektor, Only Son 
Thursday, November 8
The Pageant

Regina Spektor graced St. Louis with her ever-adorable presence in support of her recent studio release, What We Saw From the Cheap Seats on Thursday, November 8. Without having any overly elaborate set-up or production, she and her modest 3-piece back-up band wowed a sold-out crowd at The Pageant. Opening for Spektor was Only Son, the moniker of singer/songwriter Jack Dishel, who also happens to be Spektor’s husband. Pretty adorable, right?
Photo by Micah Mickles

Dishel lived up to his stage name by going solo on this tour (though he does frequently play with some back-up musicians, who can be found on the recent Only Son album Searchlight). He came out and played a heartfelt and intimate opening song, then paused to introduce his “band”: a lone iPod, glowing on the stool beside him. Dishel’s stage presence remained awkwardly charming throughout, and his dark, curly white-guy ‘fro and leather jacket made him look a little like a young Bob Dylan. Even when he pulled out an occasional (well-received) quip, he came off as a pretty shy, soft-spoken fellow. His only weakness was probably his “band”—while they were totally spot-on musically and it all sounded great (I mean, it damn well better), there was just some sort of element or chemistry that was lacking on those songs. There were even a couple of songs where his guitar was so well-mixed with the iPod, he might very well have had his volume down, and we’d never be any the wiser. His solo songs were awesome, though. He mentioned mid-set that the last time he’d played in STL, it was at the Creepy Crawl. There was a cheer from the crowd, though mostly from folks over 21. He plugged the video for his last song of the set by telling us to go watch it because he pisses off Macaulay Culkin in it. Hell, I’m sold—Dishel seemed like a cool guy and, iPod aside, he really is a great musician and songwriter.

After the crew painstakingly hauled out and arranged Regina Spektor’s huge, shining, gorgeous Steinway piano, Spektor walked directly out to center stage and took hold of the microphone. Her first lyrics, on “Ain’t No Cover,” were sung a cappella, and the only sound in all the Pageant, besides her hauntingly beautiful, grandiose voice, was her index finger gently tapping on the microphone. Spektor then took her seat at the piano, and her backing musicians joined her onstage. They had a pretty simple set-up: a cellist and keyboard player seated downstage from Spektor, and a drummer tucked so far stage right and behind a clear drum shield that he was out of view from his side of the balcony. 

Five songs in, the band set into the instrumental opening to “Small Town Moon,” and Spektor opened her mouth to start singing but stopped all at once. In her shy, demure speaking voice, she apologized for stopping the song, explaining sheepishly that she got freaked out by one photographer’s cameras up front, which was doing a “scary rapid-fire photo thing.” And you could tell she didn’t want to yell at anyone but rather make it seem like she was the one who was being inconvenient—it was all very sweet and humanizing, rather than what could have easily turned into a rock’n’roll asshole moment with words chosen less carefully. She modestly encouraged the photographers to please keep taking lots of pictures, but maybe not rapid fire, if they wouldn’t mind. The crowd all just wanted to give her a big hug—only Spektor could make a show glitch so sweet and endearing. 

She went old school for a couple songs, then returned to newer material. Midway through “Eet” she lost track of some lyrics (which I’d been warned was not uncommon for Spektor), but she laughed it off and jumped right back in without missing a beat on the piano. As that song concluded, she stood up from the piano to welcome Dishel back up, and they met center stage for a beautiful duet, “Call Them Brothers,” that can be found on Only Son’s album. “The Prayer,” which followed, was sung in its original Russian lyrics, and then Spektor made her way across the stage to a previously untouched keyboard to jump into “Dance Anthem of the ‘80s.” She returned to the Steinway for another handful or so of songs before ending a great set that touched a decent, though not overwhelming, expanse of her career. She and the band returned for a four-song encore, ending on “Samson,” one of her slower, more serious songs, and leaving the crowd charmed and pleased not only by Spektor’s gorgeous music, but by her quirky, girl-next-door stage presence.
By Suzie Gilb

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

REVIEW: Electric Six / Little Hurricane / Girls 2021

Tuesday, November 6 at the Firebird
“My people need a place to go,” says hyper-throated frontman Dick Valentine in one of Electric Six’s finer songs, “Down At McDonnellzz.” That place was the fabulous Firebird, the venue of choice for this band of misfit rock stars, which has become their de facto home when they come through the STL. This time through they brought Girls 2021 and Little Hurricane, two stellar groups whose dynamite opening sets were unfortunately timed, due to the proximity of both a national presidential election and the utterly palpable anticipation surrounding Electric 6’s set. That’s not to say that Girls 2021’s hyped-up indie rock and Little Hurricane’s boy/girl blues blasts didn't garner applause and audience response, but it was obvious to everyone that both the election and the headliner were making it hard for folks to concentrate.
When Dick Valentine took the stage, speaking in a perfectly reasonable voice, it took a moment to recognize him. Where was the bombastic character that he portrays on all of Electric Six’s impressive output—already at six albums, with a live record and another new album on the way? It wasn't until opener “Crazy Horses” blared out of the gate that Valentine's true voice was revealed.
Once the horses were out of the proverbial barn, Valentine growled, cackled, shouted and sang some of the most self-aware meta-rock tunes out there. From songs of bawdy behavior (“I Buy The Drugs”), rock n roll excess and general mayhem (“Danger! High Voltage”) and so on, Electric Six could be mistaken for indie rock’s Spinal Tap, if it weren’t for the fact that they seem tomean it. You get the feeling that the band might actually, for example, set fire to a Taco Bell or give out a P.O. box where you can request drugs from their lead singer. But around those self-aware, winking, ironic-or-not? lyrics are ironsided rock songs, so when the band drops into the shuffling keyboards of “Newark Airport Boogie,” you’re dancing and laughing simultaneously as Dick Valentine shouts, “Here’s the part where everybody breaks into song!” In the middle of a song. 
But the band doesn’t just do meta-commentary; it has its fair share of shock-value moments too. “She’s White” would make The Darkness blush, despite not being actually vulgar.  Even if it’s not autobiographical, “I Buy The Drugs” probably makes the cops check Dick extra careful when they pull the band over. That’s to say nothing of their biggest hit, “Gay Bar,” which culminates with the lyric, “I’ve got something to put in you / at the gay bar.” Ew.
It says something about Electric Six's sense of humor that they not only say what they say, but that the audience gets pulled into the band's rock n roll reality. This conversion happens courtesy of sheer hard work on the part of drummer Percussion World, keyboard slayer Tait Nucleus? (sic),  guitarists Johnny Nischal and The Colonel, and bassist Smorgasbord (who also gets the coffee, apparently). The band behind Valentine’s bluster backs it up with classic rock guitars and keyboards tuned to make you dance. Basic four-on-the-floor rock in a setting like the Firebird would sound kind of out of place—the ‘Bird is mostly known as a place for freak-folk, indie hip-hop, metal and all flavors of out-there music—but the regal rock legacy that precedes Electric Six is almost a show unto itself.
 The crowd was full of first-timers and lifers both, with each taking in the spectacle and getting their dancing orders from Dick, The “Dance Commander.” The set was peppered with semi-hits (“Gay Bar”, “High Voltage”) and obscure cuts including new songs (one of which I believe was called “I Am A Song!”) from their new album. This was the band’s 4th time to the Firebird in 2 years and the end of their current tour in support of their last record “Zodiac” before working on the new album. Such a tireless treadmill of productivity would destroy lesser bands but this is Electric 6 we’re talking about. They’ve built themselves a castle in the ever-shifting sands of fickle indie rock and the thing they do is just keep building new foundations, stacking their ouvre higher and higher until such a towering series of albums and shows and songs is their legacy in and of itself. It can take a toll. What many in the crowd may not have been aware of, was that guitarist The Colonel was heading on to other projects leaving the leads in the hands of the estimable Da Ve. But with such a fiery frontman and a deep deck of players, his absence was barely noticed. The show, after all, must go on.
by Jason Robinson

PREVIEW: Delta Spirit, JEFF the Brotherhood, & FIDLAR

Thursday, November 15 at The Pageant

Working at a record store, there’s so much music constantly streaming in that it can be hard to choose what to try out next, and after seeing their name plastered around the shop for the last few months, there was something that initially put me off about Delta Spirit. So I only recently found my way to the band’s self-titled third record, and it turns out it’s really great. At its core, San Diego’s Delta Spirit is a rock band: they have a knack for catchy songs, loud guitars, a pair of rumbling drumsets, and the occasional keyboard crisping the edges. They aren’t just another run-of-the-mill band with forgettable songs: Matthew Vasquez’s soulful voice is the key ingredient in the band, shading from hard rocker to gentle crooner in a matter of a few tracks. Their fuzzed-up Americana is further set apart by the creative application of two-drummer percussion. Sometimes wonderfully simple, as on heartfelt single “California,” the rhythms get much more complex and dynamic on hard-grooving songs like “Otherside,” all banged out with utter precision. Their Pageant set, topping a bill with bong-rattling party-rockers JEFF the Brotherhood and L.A. punks Fidlar, should bring some depth to the night, including some tender songs, a few ironsided sing-alongs, and mostly lots of crazy dancing. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Jump Starting A New Record

The duo of Justin Johnson (of Pretty Little Empire) and Sarah Ross, The Jump Starts, officially released their latest album, What Hides Inside last night at Off Broadway and they brought all their friends from the record to help them.  The infectious music got the crowd moving as the band kept it loose and fun, which was the intent.  Johnson can get intense with his vocals and Ross’ lighter attitude and singing is a great contrast to that, on the album and certainly live. Running through all the songs from the record as well as a couple tunes from their first album, Ready, Set, Go, the band and the audience had a blast.  Check out some photos from the show and the setlist below.

1. Always Alone
2. How Long Did You Know?
3. Stop Guessing
4. Carryin' On (w/Jay Lewis)
5. Written On The Water (w/ Jay Lewis & Curt Brewer)
6. There You Are (w/Curt Brewer)
7. Lord Who Knows? (w/Curt Brewer)
8. Lie In Your Bed
9. Love You The Same
10. You Better
11. Don't Need Much (w/Melinda Cooper)
12. What Hides Inside (w/Melinda Cooper)
13. Stuck (w/Melinda Cooper & Ryan Albritton)
14. Last Time (w/Melinda  & Will Godfred)
15. Long Way Home
16. Long Walk Home
17. Daydream Believer (The Monkees cover)

18. Come Home, Come Home

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Matt & Kim at the Pageant, November 4

Check out photos by Micah Mickles from the Matt & Kim show at the Pageant. Click here to see the full set. 

Photos shot for ELEVEN by Micah Mickles

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sharon Van Etten, Damien Jurado, Indian Blanket

Monday November 5th
The Firebird

Sharon Van Etten is one of those singer-songwriters who can craft a tender song and belt it out in just the most perfectly sad and heartbreaking way. Her newest record, Tramp, was released earlier this year on Jagjaguwar, and features Aaron Dessner of The National manning the mixing board. Van Etten's folk sensibilities are honed with a sharpened edge of rock dynamics, creating introspective songs of pure splendor. Even if all the instruments and vigorous production on Trampare stripped away, the vocal tracks that remain are stunning, layered into flawless harmonies, including Van Etten's own voice and sometimes featuring guests like Beirut’s Zach Condon and Jenn Wasner from Wye Oak. It’s pure poetry on every song, and appropriate for the change in weather, as her songs make you see your breath on a cold night.

Van Etten will be leaving the audience at the Firebird astounded on Monday night, along with label mate Damien Jurado. He’s been around the indie scene since 1995, building a large discography of 11 LPs and numerous singles and EPs. Jurado has released one hell of a record this year, merging his normal folksiness with a tinge of psychedelic to form his best album yet, Maraqopa. His voice is soft and warm, strong but still somehow frail, complimenting the gorgeousness of his words that share personal and emotional details.
Make sure you get to the venue early for the set from local folk rockers Indian Blanket. They’re just hitting the local scene, and are quickly becoming the go-to support for folk-themed rock bands. Earlier this year they opened for First Aid Kit, and have been collaborating with that band of late. Indian Blanket does our city proud by bringing such a strong STL presence to an already stellar lineup.
by Jack Probst 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Starfucker, Onuinu / Tuesday, October 30 / The Blue Note, Columbia, MO

Some of Portland, OR’s best electro-pop bands ascended on The Blue Note in Columbia last night, and it was definitely worth the road trip. Starfucker, or spelled in the “safe for work” way of STRFKR, are touring to warm up for the release of a new album on Polyvinyl Records at the beginning of 2013. It’s a bit of a surprise that St. Louis was passed on this tour, as this show would have easily fit had it been held at The Luminary or Firebird, though the college town crowd in Columbia helped to fill up the venue on a Tuesday night. 
The night began with Onuinu, the moniker of Dorian Duvall, whose album Mirror Gazer was released this past September on Bladen County Records. Duvall’s music is self-described as Disco-Hop, mashing together two genres into a warbled and danceable groove that sounds like somebody melted a bunch of warped old 12 inch singles together. Onuinu is currently touring as a two-piece, with most of the backing tracks prerecorded versions from the record, over which Duvall sang while playing both guitar and synthesizers, and his hoodie-wearing friend triggered the tracks and added more synth. 
The gold in Duvall’s arsenal is his voice: soaked in reverb, his blissful tones help to humanize the retro electronics into a syrupy mix, which, with more work, could be performed as one continuous, nonstop set. Tracks like “Always Awkward,” “A Step in the Right Direction” and “ Happy House” sounded even bigger than the versions on Mirror Gazer, and would feel right at home spun by a DJ in a nightclub. The crowd was slow to catch on as they first shuffled in, but by the end of Onuinu’s set a few more costumed patrons were bobbing their heads around to the repetitive, bass-heavy beats.
Starfucker took the stage around 10:15 in front of what looked like a giant Lite Brite, which projected simplistic visuals for each song. Images of Bart Simpson, the Death Star, and Luigi from Mario Kart popped up in super pixelated form, among colorful patterns and shapes reminiscent of late-'80s Windows maze screensavers. The set began with a few early tracks from their 2008 self-titled record, including their break-out song “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second” that got the crowd into it right away. While the vocals on some Starfucker songs tend to play second fiddle to the music on their records, there were times during the show when lyrics were almost unrecognizable because of how far back mastermind Joshua Hodges' vocals were placed in the mix. It was unclear if this was intentional or a problem with the sound mix. 
Starfucker has crafted a flawless blend of electronic dance music with experimental pop sensibilities that not only makes for amazing records, but also transmits another energetic, pulsating beast in concert. There were moments so intense—brought on from the layers of up to three synthesizers, drums felt deep in the chest, and calculated measures from bass and guitars—but the most mind-blowing part of the show was the transition from an impressive version of “Julius,” the first single from last year’s Reptilians, into an incredible new track. I didn't catch the name of the song, but the main synth part was psychotic and frightening, like something on a John Carpenter soundtrack, while also maintaining a groovy bass line and playful guitars. Somehow it managed to stay both incredibly dark and funky at the same time, and was an exciting taste of what’s to come from the band next year. 
The set covered a full spectrum of all of Starfucker’s best tracks, even throwing in a crazy, super-upbeat version of “Boy Toy” from the Jupiter EP that ended in distorted chaos. After a brief break, the band got right into the encore with a crowd-pleasing “Bury Us Alive,” garnering the biggest cheer of the night—that is, until they broke into their version of Cindy Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” And the bros back by the bar were right when they shouted for “German Love” as the last song to end the night. The whole crowd sang along, and kept it up after the band popped offstage, and we all danced our way out onto the street. 
Starfucker plays like a well-oiled machine, pumping out dance hits and electro-pop perfection on every song. They may only become as huge as a name like Starfucker allows, but they are not to be missed when they play anywhere within driving distance from our town.
by Jack Probst