Live Review: Bear Country, Capgun Coup; The Sydney online…

Category: Blog — @ 6:08 pm June 15, 2009

Is Bear Country the best band to emerge from the Slumber Party Records’ roster? Judging from last Friday night’s show at The Waiting Room, the answer is an obvious “yes.”

That Friday night show was a veritable Slumber Party showcase. Darren Keen opened with a solo performance (which I missed) and was followed by Conchance, an MC that doesn’t have an actual line placement on the Slumber Party artists page, but seems to be tacitly affiliated with the label. I’m a tough critic when it comes to hip-hop, and a large percentage of white-guy rappers fall either into the Eminem or Beastie Boys category to me. Conchance seems to be in the former group, but even though he had his share of miss-starts on stage, he sounded better than the last time I saw him a year or so ago at Slowdown. There was nothing groundbreaking going on — it was the usual shtick we’ve seen before. At times he crowded his lyrics a tad much, but still sounded better than, say, Rig 1. He saved the best for last, performing a song with three instrumentalists (instead of his prerecorded track). To me, anytime you use live instruments you’re going to sound better, and he certainly did.

Up next was the evening’s biggest draw, Capgun Coup. Sam Martin and Co. always bring their fans along for the ride. The basic set-up this time included two guys singing into telephone handsets while Martin fronted the songs with a normal mic. Seems like a couple years ago that Capgun was a keyboard-heavy indie spazz rock outfit. These days Martin has stepped from behind the keyboard, exclusively wearing a guitar, and the change is for the better. No one shows jaded disinterest better than Martin, standing behind a mic as if he’s played his 10,000th show, wearing an “Oh-it’s-you-again” smirk while he flatly yells lines that eventually devolve into literal “blah-blah-blahs.” As a whole, Capgun (who’s on Team Love these days) has changed into an indie garage band in a similar vein as Titus Andronicus, though not nearly as coherent or straight forward except on a few instrumental-only songs that were the highlight of their set. Martin capped off his portion of the night with a song he introduced as “the punchline to the joke,” a shredded, spazzy garage rock song that eroded into anarchy and screaming, with Martin casually knocking over mic stands while the rest of the band squirmed. “I guess no one got the joke,” Martin said afterward. “I don’t see anyone laughing.” Ah, but with the kind of kid-frenzy that Capgun seems to generate, it’ll be Martin laughing… all the way to the bank (yuk-yuk).

About a third of the crowd left after Capgun, which is too bad for them because they missed the best performance of the night. If you’re a regular Lazy-i reader, you’ve rarely seen a word about Bear Country in this blog, not because I hadn’t seen the band over the years — I have. I just never cared for their safe, standard take on C&W. It was too formal and too strained and too boring. But that was a year ago. Something’s happened to Bear Country, something remarkable.

A band that ebbs and flows throughout their set, at its largest Bear Country is a six-piece that includes guitars, keyboards, drums, bass, the occasional fiddle and three vocalists — two guys and a girl — who look like they fell to the stage from a time machine circa 1968. Ah, but their music is distinctly modern — the comparisons run the gamut from early Mazzy Star to Centro-matic to The Silos — this isn’t in any way traditional C&W, more like “alt country” thanks to the underlying twang. Quiet songs grow into bigger-than-life jams and then fall back down again — a far cry than the band I saw a year or so ago. Who knows the reason behind their transformation — maybe it’s just the nature of getting older and wiser. I’m told they have a new album in the can, waiting to be released. If I was Saddle Creek, I’d buy them away from Slumber Party before Merge does. Yeah, they’re that good.

Saturday night, after pizza at the Pizza Shoppe, we wandered down to the Benson Days street event and were told it would cost $5 for a wrist band. The guy in front of us asked what he got for the five bucks. “Well, you get a wrist band that allows you to buy drinks. The $5 is actually a donation.” That guy turned around and left, and so did we. Maybe they should have just given people wrist bands and asked for a $5 donation. Or charged $5 admission. We headed to the Sydney, where we discovered that they were also having a show that night.

Looks like all this talk about only having “the occasional show” at The Sydney is quickly headed out the window. The bar recently launched a website — thesydneybenson.com — that includes an “Upcoming Shows” section. They’ve even made their “stage” platform bigger since that Little Brazil show a few weeks ago. At $5 a show, expect them to feature mostly local acts, which is a good thing. Opening on Saturday night was Jake Bellows, who played a sweet solo set with an electric guitar. Next up was Landing on the Moon, and to prove the new stage’s adequacy, all five members of the band fit nicely (and played nicely, too).

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