Monday, January 25, 2010
i don’t remember the first time i saw mother whale. i remember missing them at one of paul macleod’s sonic lullaby festivals, and being pissed about it. i’m pretty sure i’d missed them a couple more times before finally catching them at what i believe was the first curare. i remember little about that night, but after seeing the best noise band in the state i was hard pressed to forget it. noise bands are fickle things, but function the same as any other artist: some are walking egos demanding attention (aware of it or not), some are following formulas too much, while others are too scattered or intimidated to be cohesive. mother whale was none of these things. mother whale were two perfectly complimentary personalities feeding off each other, and putting every ounce of themselves into it.
on stage is a table, with quite the array of pedals, mixers, wires, and a laptop. on one side: adam pierce, with slight muscular build, usually wearing jeans and a t shirt, who is friendly and outgoing, but carries a healthy dose of cynicism with him. the other: jesse hoffman, skinny and sharply dressed, quiet and shy, serious and sweet. on stage they would alternate between moments of contemplation, turning a knob or re-looping a sample, and then ferocious attack, like the time when adam pushed the headstock of his guitar into the floor, bending the neck, and let go, sending it flying into his amp. or when jesse was on his knees, his guitar bared before him, teeth clenched around a talk box and writhing furiously. watching them sucked you into the place their music created, be it densely layered, reserved, shrill, strange, pretty, or provocative, these were the sounds of worlds being born and worlds being razed, conjured before you by two alchemists of aural realms.
after playing in al scheurman’s short lived backing band, jesse and adam hooked up with richie wohlfeil, who provided the drums for said outfit, and began working with more traditional song structures. they stripped down their equipment, with adam on guitar and jesse playing his moog synthesizer; odd as it may seem on paper, it sounded stunning. it was like a giant pulsating, amorphous caterpillar had metamorphosized into a huge psychedelic winged butterfly, equally terrifying and gorgeous. unfortunately, at this grand turning point in their career, jesse had to step away from performing due to some personal health issues (he is doing ok, i assure you all!). for now, their future is uncertain, although adam and richie have begun playing as a two piece known as the meadowlarks, and adam still has his solo project ‘black seal.’ jesse is steadily playing his acoustic and banjo, refining his solo material, under the moniker ‘food for owls’. one can only hope they will have the opportunity to deliver on the promise and potential they were only beginning to reach, especially after having traversed so far.
so, not all of these bands are quite finished, but this chapter of their lives are, just as mine was when red china took a hiatus back in may. time is short, and flies fast; these things and people and what they do are all temporary. there will be a time i and you and everyone else who has ever been or will be will be gone, but the fact they existed means they will never cease to be, even if it was all part of a process of self-destruction in order for something to come next. these are three examples of what life can be for anyone, good bad and otherwise. maybe it’s a little greener on the other side of the grass, but anybody looking in on me could say the same thing. we’re just here to challenge, entertain, and inspire each other, and i hope everyone who got this far will take it all with a grain of salt and keep challenging themselves to be themselves, and never stop moving. you will never be disappointed in where you end up.
thanks for reading this far extended writing, and thanks to the far far far too many people i could list that deserve just as much credit as anybody i’ve mentioned already. you’re all an inspiration & i’m glad to have you as part of my perceived world.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
another time in my wanderings about the city, i headed down to corktown to see the afore mentioned heroes and villains, who were one of 4 bands on this particular bill. i didn’t recognize the name of any of the others. when i was sitting down at a table waiting for the show to begin, who shows up but brandon moss, telling me his cousin, samantha, is playing in one of the bands, rootbear. they leave their cupcake stand (yes, they made cupcakes & i remember them being delicious) take the stage, and proceed to play some of the most ferocious, simple, sloppy, heartfelt, naive, and wise beyond their years songs i have ever heard in my life, and topped it off with a magical version of ‘brand new key.’ this was everything that pop music should be. yeah that’s hackneyed, but what isn’t in pop? it’s what moves you that counts.
rootbear at it’s core is keith bedore and sammy lewis, a wild rock and roll heart throb in the body of a mild mannered bookish english major and a quiet, shy young artist spending her free time drawing and crafting. originally on drums was one brad lyons, a friend and fellow music afficionado, who provided a ferocious beat for the band. he later moved on to his own musical pursuits (he’s also a fantastic guitar player who’s performed with forget and clicks and pops, and has his own recording project named eyes and ears), but not before playing a outstanding set at the second curare festival; quite a send off. sam took up the sticks and played with only a tom, snare, and tambourine while belting it out with her amazing voice, something along the lines of cat power with the range and delivery of dusty springfield. keith on the other hand, would stomp, jump and rip up the guitar, drawling his vocals the way a southern troubadour sings of women and booze and the trouble they bring. all that is, of course, when they weren’t howling about the minor tragedies that come with maturity. half the fun was keith and sam’s interplay; she’d snarl at him for being too crazy and loose, and he would respond with a roll of the eyes and sarcastic retort; then the awkward pause, and finally a count for the next song. for a moment, you’d wonder if they were going to break up the band right in front of you!
in the end, their differences drove them apart for good. after resurfacing in 2009 from their last split (and playing some of the best shows in their short career), they couldn’t bridge the different approaches each had to music. they played their last show at the belmont to a close group of friends, and headed off into the sunset, each taking a different direction. sam returned to crafting full time (in-between the day job of course), and keith has been schooling it up. each has dabbled around often with various musical endeavors. who knows if they’ll ever play together again? personally speaking, i’d give anything for it. until then i have their one and only cassette to sing along to at full volume.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
it’s the end of one year, and the beginning of another, and the end of the first decade past the year 2000, and the beginning of the next. now is the time for list upon list from anybody and everybody to laud the music that moved them, left them speechless, blew their mind and turned them on in general. yours truly, am no different, so here’s my take on the practice. but first, a brief prologue:
10 years ago i was 18, fresh out of high school as the saying goes, and no clue as to what i was going to do with myself. all i knew was that i loved music, and needed to know more of it, and be more involved with it. i worked at a record store, hosted a college radio show, saw a ton of shows, bought a ton of cds, read biographies, read all manner and quality of magazines, spent hours on the allmusic website, and in general gulped down anything musical i could. 5 years ago i started playing with the one and only red china, and met and played with all sorts of awesome folks. this year, my three favorite local bands ceased to be for one reason or another, this is a tribute to them, the best of the past decade for me.
having a myspace for a band leads you to getting numerous messages from other groups of varying quality asking about shows. most of them, suck. one evening before practice, all the members of red china were huddled around the ‘puter checking out this weird band that was tight and repetitive that asked us to play with them at the lager house. being of a mind to never turn down any show, at that point in time, we took it. we didn’t know what to think about the name though, wildcatting. anyways, we played the show (with the also amazing heroes and villains), and became fast friends. countless more shows were played, everybody in detroit fell in love with them, they released a cd, everybody else in detroit fell in love with them, etc.
i could easily write a book about the fun i’ve had with wildcatting, and half of it would be praise for their mind melting performances. seriously, these guys were pure energy; each song had the tightest riffs that they would rail into your skull until it blew apart into free-form glee, and back again. and it wouldn’t be the same thing twice, ever. brandon moss kills it on drums, always. fucking period. watching him is like watching ten acrobats juggling rabid tigers on ecstasy. on dueling guitars were scotty iulianelli, laying down riff after riff, and ben audette, with leads that danced around them. both would twirl around and flail away, stopping only to mess with their pedals and lay into those. then there’s nick jones, the most understated part of the equation. he quietly drinks a beer and holds the whole thing together while puffing on a cig (until he hits the distortion pedal). of course he can rip it up on the bass as much as anyone else in the band, he’s just the cool cucumber in the patch. the best part is they are a bunch of sweethearts, strait-up dudes with nothing but smiles and positivity.
brandon eventually brought in his friend marc paffi (both having played together in bear vs. shark) to try adding some keys and mess around with vocals. things gelled, and the new band became ‘bars of gold.’ it’s a logical extension of wildcatting, all that energy focused into tightly wound songs that explode into huge choruses, whilst marc climbs onto anything he can and confronts everyone in the audience. it’s a new religion for young and old. their album is getting ready for release in the next couple of months; meanwhile brandon and his family have relocated to virginia, due to the poor state of michigan’s economy. he vows to return though, and will be back visiting and playing as often as he can.
Friday, January 22, 2010
I stumbled across this the other day. I believe it’s from The Talking Head’s acclaimed live concert film "Stop Making Sense." The reason I share it is because, as the guy on YouTube who uploaded it says, it's probably better than the studio version. The backing vocals are terrif, the backgrounds are awesome, and young David Byrne's dancing is so infectious. Best moment comes at 4:25 when he begins dancing with the lamp shade. Watch it!
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
NME's website isn't letting me embed, so use the above link.