Live Review: Ceremony, Tony Molina, Gramps, Mint Wad Willy; Sun-less Trio tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:45 pm July 13, 2015
Ceremony at The Sweatshop Gallery, July 11, 2015.

Ceremony at The Sweatshop Gallery, July 11, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

They don’t call it The Sweatshop Gallery for nothing. Saturday night’s show in the converted garage behind Sweatshop’s art gallery in Benson was easily the most uncomfortable concert experience in memory. If you thought it was hot outside Saturday, you should have stepped foot into that concrete stink oven Saturday night. I felt like a chicken in a rotisserie or a hippie in Southwestern sweat lodge. Within minutes after stepping inside the bunker sweat dripped off my elbows and ran down my legs in salty streams. My shirt, my shorts were drenched, stuck in a layer of warm moisture against my skin, sweat broiling off my forehead and into my eyes. Stifling, suffocating. It was awful, but it was worth it.

Ceremony is a West Coast band that made their nut playing what has been described as “power violence” music, which is a form of hardcore punk. What made them stand out may have been their guitar work or frontman Ross Farrar’s vocal approach, which was a bit more “arty” than the usual hardcore screaming. Anyway, the band started as a hardcore act in ’05. Then slowly eased off and became more post-punk-ish after their album Rohnert Park came out in 2011. Then they signed with Matador and turned their back on hardcore altogether with the release of the somewhat boring Zoo in 2012.

Now comes The L-Shaped Man, which was released earlier this year on Matador and sounds like an Interpol/Joy Division tribute album. Farrar’s vocals went completely Ian Curtis/Paul Banks on top of music that feels like it was developed in a Joy Division/New Order sound incubator. Pitchfork hated it. I love it because I love that style of music, though at times the record is so derivative it’s chuckle-inducing.

How many of the 70 or so kids jammed into Sweatshop were there to see the old hardcore Ceremony vs. the new post-punk version, I do not know, though it didn’t matter when they launched into their Joy Division-fueled set opener that got the sweat-slick crowd jumping. In the heat and darkness, Farrar was in his element saying before he started that the gig already was the best show he’d played in Omaha, and telling the crowd to step right up, which they did. The band fed off the heat and energy, and the set boiled with a goth-dance-punk intensity that Bauhaus would appreciate.

While there were plenty of Factory Records moments during the set, the band — and Farrar — did something wholly unique live, pulling in abstract elements from their past to create a new sound that melded post-punk with something much darker. The crowd loved it and the room became a pit, with youth hanging from the rafters. If Ceremony could tap into this hybrid sound/energy not heard on their album, they’d be onto something that is entirely their own.

Tony Molina at Sweatshop Gallery, July 11, 2015.

Tony Molina at Sweatshop Gallery, July 11, 2015.

It was a varied night of music at ol’ Sweatshop. North Bay punk band Creative Adult was among the openers playing a heavy, rhythmic punk that was brittle and fun. Then came Tony Molina, another Bay-area guy I’d never heard of but who was nothing less than amazing playing pure power-pop influenced by ’70s icon bands like Thin Lizzy and Cheap Trick, but with more than a nod to J Mascis and Teenage Fanclub. Molina and a second guitarist weaved intricate harmonies that were Thin Lizzy taken to an extreme backed by a solid rhythm section on songs that rarely lasted more than two minutes. As badly as I wanted to get outside for some relief I couldn’t get myself to miss any of it. Utterly exhausting and exhilarating.

Yes, this will be in my top-10 (maybe top 5?) favorite shows of ’15, despite losing at least five pounds in water weight.

Gramps at Barley Street Tavern, July 11, 2015.

Gramps at Barley Street Tavern, July 11, 2015.

Between sets I slipped into the Barley Street for Rolling Rock and AC and to catch Gramps, the new-ish band fronted by Django Greenblatt-Seay of Love Drunk Studio fame. A solid four-piece, Gramps’ style of indie sounds influenced by the local scene, specifically acts like Little Brazil and Criteria, but every song has a twist, whether it’s a unique guitar solo or an unfamiliar time sequence. Django and Co. play with a no-shit attitude that says “come along for the ride if, if you want to.”

Another local act seen for the first time this weekend was Mint Wad Willy. Here’s a band I’ve never made an effort to see because of their name. Mint Wad Willy? Sounds like a cover band or a white-guy blues band. Well I wasn’t going to miss them Saturday morning because they played at The Indie 5K/10K run, which benefitted Benson/Ames, and I must say I dug what I heard. Their style wasn’t straight-up rock as much as mainstream garage a la The Black Keys, though something about their sound also reminded me of heavier Big Star or even Silkworm with some Creedance thrown in. That sounds like a mess, but I can’t put my finger on a key influence.

By the way, the band’s name is an old-school reference to a Mary Jane cigarette (a mint-wad willy). And also BTW, I won my age bracket in the 5K (which isn’t so impressive when you realize I was the only one entered).

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Sun-less Trio is a new project that features Mike Saklar (No Blood Orphan, Ritual Device), Marc Phillips (Carsinogents) and Cricket Kirk (Paper Owls). They’re playing tonight at Pageturners Lounge with A Great Disturbance. 9 p.m. and FREE. Great way to start your week…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Titus Andronicus, Ceremony; Who is Gordon?; Criteria, Domestica Saturday…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:01 pm November 23, 2012
Ceremony at Sokol Underground, Nov. 21, 2012.

Ceremony at Sokol Underground, Nov. 21, 2012.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I’m guessing by the size of the crowd that in the battle between Tilly and Titus, Tilly won. One of my music cohorts blamed indie slacker girlfriends for the poor turnout at Sokol Underground Friday night — maybe 75 tops for a band that packed The Waiting Room the last time they came through. His contention was that the girlfriends insisted on going to Tilly and the Wall at The Slowdown rather than Titus Andronicus at Sokol — girls’ music versus guys’ music — and that the girls will always win that argument. What a goddamn sexist thing to say, Chris! There were a few girls in the crowd at Titus, but something tells me there were a heckuva lot more at Tilly. Sometimes stereotypes are right on.

A little after 10 the warm-up band, Ceremony, took the stage and began playing their brand of post hardcore hardcore music to a tiny mob in front of the stage intent on moshing even if no one else wanted to. Three or four guys bounced around before eventually giving up and maintaining a metal-esque headbob routine. The S.F. four-piece isn’t a hardcore band, at least not anymore, not like they were before they signed with Matador Records. Still, their brutal post-punk sound crossed into hardcore territory during more intense moments or when frontman Ross Farrar introduced a song as “an old one.”

Their more recent streamlined sound is compared to early Wire, some have called it an homage. I wouldn’t go that far for, among other reasons, how much they lean on their guitars. On their new record, they remind me more of Bad Religion than any proto-post-harcore band. I would argue that they’re better live because they’re willing to blur the lines between the old and new as much as they want to, the yelling sounds more genuine.

Titus Andronicus at Sokol Underground, Nov. 21, 2012.

Titus Andronicus at Sokol Underground, Nov. 21, 2012.

We had a bet going on how long Titus would play. The consensus was an hour and 15 minutes. They went about a half our over that (with no encore). Patrick Stickles and company came on in a matter-of-fact fashion and barreled through a set that included the best off the new album (including “Tried to Quit Smoking” “My Eating Disorder” and “Titus Andronicus Vs. The Absurd Universe (3rd Round KO),” and a handful of the classics from the past couple of albums, including “A More Perfect Union,” “Titus Andronicus Forever” and “No Future Part Three: Escape from No Future” with the rousing chorus “You will always be a loser.” Big, anthemic fun without the nasty filler.

Before I left a member of one of the opening bands, called Gordon (the band’s name, not the guy’s name), gave me a copy of their six-song demo EP, I guess they were just handing them out. After listening to it this morning, I’m sorry I got to the show late.

Pretty fantastic stuff, especially opening track “No Masters, No War,” a soulless, dark little counter-argument to the neon-colored youth-freedom anthems that Tilly was singing just a few miles away to a much cuter audience, an audience who would blanch at lines like “And there were piss stains on the carpet / Where I laid my head and slept / There was a memory that I lost / Couldn’t remember when I woke up.” Ew, gross! There is something bracing and honest about a chorus that goes “It was love / It was death / There were no masters / There was no war.”

That goes right into a straight-up indie pop number called “I Don’t Mind” whose guitar lines and rhythms owe a lot to The Cure and Dinosaur Jr., with scratch vocals that are a direct nod to J. Mascis. Short and sweet.

Track three, “Down Goes Red” is a buzzsaw guitar and a droll mumble and a shout chorus of “Bang, Bang, Bang / Goes my gun.” Kind of an RFTC vibe, minus the candy coating. The last few songs are cleaned up garage songs that rock. The whole thing’s good and at times borders on brilliant.

On these recordings (according to the lyrics sheet included in the unlabeled heavy-black plastic CD case) Gordon is Austin Mayer, guitar/vox; Nick Sortino, drums/vox; Josh French, bass/vox, and Aaron Parker, guitar/vox. I don’t know anything about these guys, other than that French is in Snake Island, and that Mayer and Parker are in a project called Scratch Howl.

Don’t know where you can find a copy of these recordings, but they’re worth finding.  The note scratched on the lyrics sheet next to the recording credits says “We suck, we know.” Do you?

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Looking at the sched, it’s going to be a quiet Friday night EXCEPT at The Barley Street Tavern, where Lincoln DIY punk legend Jim Jacobi and the Crap Detectors take the stage with The Shidiots and Never Trust the Living (Rob Rutar, Troy Garrison, Chad Roles and Dave Carnaby). Look, this is the only thing of substance going on tonight, you have no excuses. $5, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow night is the long-awaited (annual) return of Criteria. And when I say return, I mean with new material. Sayeth Criteria frontman Stephen Pedersen “Criteria is writing new material (for the first time in 6 years).  Should be 3 or 4 new ones for the show. I am excited to perform them live.” Oh, and we’re excited to hear them, Steve. Opening is Landing on the Moon and Lincoln post-punk strategists Ideal Cleaners. $8, 9 p.m. Expect a crowd.

Just down the street, Lincoln anthem rockers Domestica take the stage with The Lupines (Frontman John Ziegler, Mike Friedman (ex-Movies, member of Simon Joyner and the Fallen Men), Mike Tulis (Monroes, Fullblown, Sons of ___, The Third Men),  Javid Dabestani (Ghost Runners, among others)). $5, 9 p.m.

Have a good weekend…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i