Here’s a recap of the past weekend, starting at The Barley Street Tavern Friday night.
The best part about opening duo Love of Everything: Their songs were short, and no, that’s not a shot at them. I actually enjoyed their simple tunes with simple choruses played by the simple duo of vocalist/guitarist Bobby Burg and wife/drummer Elisse. Burg gave their sound depth using an effects pedal that allows guitarists to record samples of a guitar line or phrase and play it back repeatedly, allowing for another guitar line (and another) and so on. This worked best on “I Love All You Guys,” a song where Burg seemed to be playing random feedback squawks, until those squawks started to repeat themselves as part of the song — small, sharp shocks of sound that pushed through the guitar and vocals at strangely opportune times. And before you got tired of the whole thing, the song quickly ended.
The Barley Street’s small room packed up (but not claustrophobic-ly so) for Our Fox, who could be the next best thing on Saddle Creek Records (if Creek would take them) — and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they did, with personnel that includes frontman Ryan Fox (The Good Life) and second guitarist Jake Bellows. On the most basic level, their music fits the slacker/indie-rock category but with an intensity of early Crazy Horse (Stephen Malkmus and Crazy Horse?). Fox has one of those shaky, unstable croons that sounds like a less-nasal version of Simon Joyner. Actually, he probably has more in common with someone like Malkmus vocally, and that shakiness is less apparent on the few demo recordings on their Myspace page. I thought the first few songs sounded like Good Life out-takes, and I could have imagined Tim Kasher singing them (with great aplomb). I like their music better when they leave Kasherville and head toward Foxland, where the citizens aren’t afraid to let it all hang out on songs that aren’t afraid to go on and on and blissfully on. This is a band that could create the indie equivalent of “Cowgirl in the Sand” or “Down by the River” — long, drawn-out jams that you never want to end thanks to Bellows’ and Fox’s clever, inventive and sometimes raw guitar work backed by a solid rhythm section.
Saturday night was a Saddle Creek Records reunion showcase with the return of both Ladyfinger and Criteria at The Waiting Room. Though not a sell-out, the place was appropriately packed. Ladyfinger played first (after opener Masses’ set). It was the first time I’ve seen the new line-up with Dan Brennan on bass replacing Ethan Jones, and Megan Morgan (Landing on the Moon) on backing vocals (on about half the songs). Ladyfinger is a different band with Brennan, both style- and performance-wise. You cannot ignore him on stage; he gets locked in and doesn’t let go. It’s fun to see that level of pure enthusiasm from a band that’s pretty much known for just standing around on stage and playing. Their performance was the usual dead-on excursion into serious mind-fuck rock; too bad the sound mix was so bad. From where I stood almost dead center and 20 feet from the stage, everything was flat, without dynamics. Some guitar lines got lost in the fog along with the vocals (especially Morgan’s, who only rarely broke through the surface).
The sound mix problems continued with Criteria. The usual soaring guitars and vocals — the highlight of any Criteria performance — seemed buried in the rumble. A number of soundmen in the audience gave me their arm-chair quarterback diagnosis, telling me that there wasn’t enough being driven through “the mains.” All’s I know is that Aaron Druery’s guitar was tough to make out at times, and A.J. Mogis’ microphone might as well have been unplugged. Despite that, you couldn’t tell that this band hadn’t been on a stage in almost two years. It all sounded tight, including Stephen Pedersen’s high-flyin’ vocals that still have that pop. They all looked like they were having the time of their lives, and so did an audience that greeted old favorites with raised fists. The band also rolled out some new material that, to me, was a departure from the usual militant rattle-and-hum toward something more, well, groovy — there was something slightly vintage about the new riffs. I’m not sure what it’s about, but I liked it. Too bad we probably won’t be seeing these guys again until 2012.
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I know it’s already 7 p.m. but I figure I might as well give you this late reminder about the MAHA showcase tonight at Slowdown. The four bands vying for a slot on the MAHA Festival’s small stage are Betsy Wells, Dim Light, Flight Metaphor, and Noah’s Ark Was A Spaceship. Voting will take place during the show, and the whole thing is free, so you don’t have anything to lose. It also starts early — 8 p.m.
Also playing tonight over at O’Leaver’s are Street Lethal (covering The Ramones), Stoned at Heart and Flamboyant Gods. $5, 9 p.m.