Live Review: Box Elders; Saddle Creek signs MBAR; BLAHA talent contest tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 5:47 pm August 10, 2009

The Box Elders tore it up at their CD release show at The Waiting Room Friday night. Though we didn’t get any green-foam-drooling, the crowd of around 200 (I’d hoped for a sell-out, and I’m sure they did, too) did get a scorching two-song encore. Opening band The Goodnight Loving was OK, but too many of their songs sounded the same (and their set was too long).

Saturday night I swung by The Saddle Creek Bar for a late-night drink(s) and saw The Pilots and Lawrence band American Lowlife. The Pilots played mainstream FM rock, while American Lowlife was trying for punk but relied too much on the same chord progressions and rhythms as Blink/Green Day, which is a shame because they could do more with it if they wanted to. They had one song with a vocal line that reminded me of Chavez. I mentioned this to the band afterward and of course they’d never heard of Chavez (but said they’d check it out). Total audience size at The Saddle Creek Bar, not including the help, was around five. BTW, I’d gone there to see Akita-Ken, who I’d been told played a good set at least week’s OEA showcase, but the band didn’t show up — they didn’t cancel, they just didn’t show up.

* * *

Altsounds.com reported yesterday (here) that Saddle Creek Records has signed Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson and will be releasing his new album, Summer of Fear, Oct. 20. MBAR has worked with a couple guys in Grizzly Bear and TV on the Radio.

I’ve never heard of MBAR. Looks like there was a rather large swell of press about him last summer, including an item in SPIN and this Q&A in Gothamist that included this quote about his homeless stint:

Q: Are there any nights you remember distinctly from that time in your life? A: This album is not about being homeless in New York. Maybe if we’re having a beer sometime we can bullshit about our past and tell drug stories but the repeated discussion of them in relation to talking about my music is beginning to bore me. I HAVE DONE A SHIT TON OF DRUGS AND I USED TO SLEEP OUTSIDE SOMETIMES. I ATE FOOD OUT OF THE GARBAGE AND SAVED FOUND CHANGE TO BUY MALT LIQOUR. IF YOU DON’T ALREADY HATE THIS STORY YOU WILL SOON. Oh the unshakeable stench of cliché that surrounds me.

Poor MBAR. I have to agree with him, his background is sad and cliché, and there are those who will assume that the experience permeates his songs, whether it does or not. He better get used to being asked about it because us poor, lazy music journalists — dying to find some kind of hook to write around — are going to ask about it one way or another. I like how Gothamist broached the topic. It reminds me of a comment I read somewhere from a musician who had a different kind of pre-fame hardship: “Yeah, I lived in my car for a year, in fact I was parked right behind Jewel.”

Check out some of MBAR’s music on his Myspace page. Sounds like something that belongs on Saddle Creek. So how did this all come about? Saddle Creek’s Robb Nansel e-mailed me just now to say, “Jeff Tafolla (who works at Saddle Creek) came across him online. We all really liked his music and he was looking for a label. Jeff and I met him and his manager at SXSW earlier this year.” So yet another SXSW success story.

Creek appears to be on a signing binge these days. It’s like they’re throwing a handful of spaghetti at the wall and seeing which piece sticks. Hopefully it’ll turn into a big, sticky pasta puck.

* * *

Tonight is another “talent competition”-type audition for the poorly named MAHA festival. This time it’s Little Brazil, Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship, Anniversaire and (last-minute addition) Conchance battling for a chance to play on the festival’s second stage. The show is at The Waiting Room at 8 and is free of charge.

Two of the four will be chosen via ballot. I told members of one of the bands that they should form a union and tell the BLAHA organizers that it’s all or nothing — take all four bands or take none. They all have moved beyond the “battle of the bands” point in their careers a long time ago. I wonder if any of these bands will be getting paid for performing tonight. I wonder if they’ll get paid for performing at the BLAHA Festival or if they should “just feel lucky” that they’ve been given a chance to play in front of what organizers believe will be a large crowd.

I’m also trying to figure out who’s actually behind this event. The BLAHA folks issued a press release a couple days ago announcing that Jes Winter Band received the most ballots during the OEA Summer Showcase, and will be performing at the fest. But it also said that “Another local band, It’s True, will appear after a collaborative effort between YFC, MAHA’s organizing committee, and 1% Productions earned them an invitation to play.”

Don’t get me wrong, I dig It’s True, but what exactly is “a collaborative effort” supposed to mean? That they got together and just decided? That would be a refreshing alternative to this endless stream of talent contests.

By the way, if you Google “YFC” the first search results you’ll get back is Youth For Christ, which this ain’t. Instead, YFC stands for “Your Festival Committee.” You guys may want to rethink that TLA (Three Letter Acronym).

Anyway, you can find out more about the BLAHA Festival here. On the bill are a couple of Harrah’s Casino-type bands including Big Head Todd and the Monsters, G. Love and Special Sauce and Dashboard Confessional. Guess they couldn’t get The Spin Doctors or Crash Test Dummies.

There actually are a couple good bands on the bill — Appleseed Cast and Army Navy, two bands that I’d rather see perform at TWR or Slowdown. The bad news is that they’ll be playing at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. respectively. No one will be there yet, so the organizers will feel justified in saying, “See, no one’s here. Good thing we scheduled them early.” And they’ll be right, because no one who wants to see Big Head Todd knows or cares for Appleseed Cast.

The fest takes place at the Lewis & Clark Riverfront Landing on Aug. 29. Tickets are $30.

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