The Gentleman Loser

Thoughts and Musings of a Loser

Old FakeLast weekend spent a lot of time at The Frequency watching some good acts including Cemetery Improvement Society, The Revolving Doors, Old Fake, Child Bite and Sally Grundy.

This was the first time that I got a chance to see Cemetery Improvement Society since they became a two band act. The last time I had saw them is when I was the opening act for one of their shows at The Annex, and I was (due to post show celebratories) incredibly inebriated, and only remembered how much I enjoyed the show but no details, except that the dude played the guitar like he was fighting with it. This time around, I enjoyed them, but I suspect for a very different reason. The effect of a second mind (new member Russell Paul) in the mix has resulted in something slightly different, but more solid, and the balance between rock and techno has been tipped (paradoxically, and probably for the best) a bit more toward the rock direction. I suggest you check out THIS LINK to The Isthmus to listen to the track “Sixth Severance” to get an idea of what I mean.

They have  a CD out called “Lonely Dog Island” and it runs the gamut of bleeps and bloops, guitar wankery (the good kind), and irreverent pokes at pop music.  Live, they performed a pastache’ of pop songs that seemed like an adaptation of their CD track “Drunk Up The Jams”.  This wouldn’t be a first for CIS, as the previous release, an acetate CD EP called “You Are Lucky”, contained a cover of Pat Benatar’s song “Love is a Battlefield” that was at once perverse and catchy.  I look forward to seeing them again at the MAMA’s Afterparty.

Child Bite 1

In the two nights of music that I had taken in, I had also seen The Revolving Doors and Old Fake. Both bands were enjoyable. However, and this is not meant to be a diss, I don’t remember much about them at this time (this article is, after all, written several weeks after the fact).

What I do remember, above all, is the band Child Bite. I had no idea what was in store for me with this band, and I still don’t know exactly what to call their music. It’s almost metal, but still good old fashioned rock, but with the energetic intensity of punk music without the trashy trappings. For possibly the first half of their set, I wasn’t especially reeled in, and made a few trips to the bar.  They were maybe a little bit too metal (not in that fortunately dead NuMetal sort of way, but in something more akin to simply really hard rock) or maybe their long scary beards distracted me.  However, after a little while they got the audience, and myself quite wound up.

At one point of the show, I was busy shooting photos of the lead singer and I looked up from my camera to see that the guitarist had disappeared.

Child Bite 3

Scanning over the room, I found him, with his wireless guitar, rocking out in the face of the guy who stamps your hands when you pay cover. On his way back, he was kind enough to tap me on the shoulder and pose on one of the bar stools (the photo is below). Their set ended with the lead singer climbing up and around the amps and rather dramatically falling off them, onto the floor, out of the sight of the crowd. Great fun.

The last band was Sally Grundy. Seeing that I had already made the acquaintance of this band via their bass player, I was long overdue to hear them perform. First off, the stage set up and the way the band presents themselves is very well tailored. The sodium flare of an old TV set flickers away in the background, while what sounds like a 70′s era hygiene instructional plays on an old record player.

Sally Grundy 2

The disembodied legs of a mannequin seal the deal. Musically, they seem reminiscent of early Nirvana, blended with a little bit of Sonic Youth which surprised me because I had listened to an audio tape demo (such a great, and sorely missed format) that they had produced of some of their songs and found it to have a very different quality entirely, something of a similar era, but altogether different.  The show was entertaining, slightly sleazy, and perhaps a little dreary.

They have an EP out, and it’s four tracks are dutifully performed.  It’s a pretty decent little record, probably good for listening to while smoking cigarettes on a porch during a rain storm, probably good to listen to while fucking as well.  Short EP aside, this band has an extensive repertoire of songs to choose from when playing live.

The live show itself was pretty standard (though since this show, I have seen them at smaller venues such as The Wisco, and they get ROWDY) and perhaps a little tame.  My only complaint was that the show itself seemed a little sloppy.

Sally Grundy 1

The stopping to restring the guitar, while affording the audience time to get another beer, or listen to the record player, was perhaps a bit much.  But hey, it’s a bar, it’s a show, and maybe it all was pre-planned in a ploy to make us all go “What the Fuck” right before dropping a sonic brick on our heads.

A nice long weekend.  Lots of shows, and a thirst for more.  Lots of Ale Asylum’s fantastic Ambergeddon (The Frequency has it on tap!).  All and all, I went to work the next morning paying for it, but not regretting one bit.

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img237-795035Last Saturday, May 9th, I went to see Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s at The Orpheum Stagedoor. I had first discovered the band a little over a year ago when I saw their video for “Quiet as a Mouse” on a DVD sampler. I loved the video and immediately went to the video store and bought the CD, every song was a gem. Quiet, emotional folk-tinged music.

Starting out their live show were some newer songs. If they are any indication, you can expect their next CD to be a less quiet affair. Electric guitar seems to have been heavily added to the mix even in the performances of tracks from “The Dust of Retreat.”

Did I mention that this was a big band? It really is. We are talking about an 8-piece band with two guitarist’s, two bassists, two drummers (okay, one plays drums, the other bangs on a wide assortment of things while performing other strange rites), a violinist/lap steal guitarist, a keyboardist and a brass player. Stealing the show, for me at least, were Hubert Glover (the brass player) and Casey Tennis (the aforementioned jack-of-all-trade’s percussionist). Not only does the brass give the band a sound that is often looked over by today’s bands, but Glover’s collection of instruments lent a distinct visual flair to the performance. Mr. Tennis…well he seems like a strange, squirrelly fellow. He had some sort of design written on his face, and the strange bravado the went into each often overexaggerated swing of the mallet or shake of the…shaker commanded attention. Did I mention that the entire band came on stage wearing animal mask’s, with Richard Edwards (the singer and guitarist) dressed as an expeditionist (not exhibitionist)? They did, but it didn’t take long for the masks (including Glover’s cigarette-enhanced white tiger mask) to come off. It was then that I took note that the memebers of this band looked nothing like I had envisioned them to. I expected some sort of well dressed band with trendy haircuts, instead I was pleasantly surprised to see a group of gangly fellows (and one lady) with the half-strung-out look of a grunge band.

There was a good blend of new and old material, jumping back and forth between the two in a bi-polar spree. At the end of the show, Edwards simply got up onto the mic with an acoustic guitar and kept on doing songs as much of the rest of the band quietly took apart and put away the stage. Tennis would occasionally shake a cymbal or something to the beat of the music as he packed away his playpen of toys, occasionally joining Edwards. One of the last songs played was a tribute cover of “He’s on drugs again” by LonPaul, a fellow musician and friend that had died a few days prior. Footage of the song is viewable on the YouTube clip below.

Some bands are better live. Some bands are worse. In the case of Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s, they are a completely different animal altogether.

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French-Kicks-746788French Kicks take the stage and the crowd rushes to the front to…stand there and look too cool. Fear not, however, later in the show, with an adjustment of his belt and a sway of his hips, Matt Stinchcomb turns the crowd all the way up to listliss swaying and half-hearted swing dancing. To the right of me, Ryan attempts to break the mold with a brief burst of The Roboto.

Their music is conducive to this behavior, it’s the sonic equivalent to Quaaludes. Matt alternates between guitar, and running over to the left side of the stage to play keyboards. The guitar buzzes into the type of haze one associates with Sonic Youth. however, out of the haze, the bass player chimes in precisely accented notes that cut through like church bells.

Vocals seem to be a mash-up of The Appleseed Cast and M83 with the enunciation of The Twighlight Singers, though their world-weary, raspy voice is replaced by youthful energy.

The music follows the indie post-Radiohead stuff most of the time, but occasionally takes a dive to some more classical styles that almost seem reminiscent of the 1950′s. The vaguely retro-stylings suit the band well and leave the listener with a non-specific nostalgia. The feeling that we can remember when there was a better time, when things were okay, if only we can concentrate hard enough.

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So if any of you know me, you probably know that I am a big fan of nine inch nails. Like, obsessive fan, as in I used to have a scrapbook full of nine inch nails stuff…and only threw it away last year.

So Trent has been doing everything humanly possible to say to the world “Hey! Look what you can do when you are not on a label!” He releases the multi-tracks for his entire last album and creates a website where people can post remixes of nine inch nails music (okay, he was technically still with Interscope for that). He works with poet/rapper Saul Williams and they release their collaborative work for free on the internet, ala Radiohead. Then they release a nice big fat two disc instrumental CD called Ghosts with no advertising or fanfare, just a $5 download (or free download of about 1/4 of the songs) with options for getting assorted limited edition physical versions. And what the hell, while he’s at it, he releases it under a Creative Commonslicense, which all-but plainly states that we are all intended to experiment with this music as much as he and the other musicians did while creating it.

Now he goes one step further into the world of film. He wants fans to shoot videos for all of the songs on the album and is working with YouTube to sort through them, pick the exceptional ones, and do “something” with them.

I should really be excited about this shouldn’t I? I mean here is a band that I have loved for the last decade and a half being mixed with amateur/indie (seriously, those two words are interchangeable, but one sounds more respectable) filmmaking which I have done one way or another for almost as long and is currently something I obsess over almost as much. However, I remember always wanting to remix nine inch nails and wishing for multitracks, but now that I have them, all I did was one crappy remix of The Hand That Feeds. It seems like the same thing may happen here.

Regardless, I still think it is a great idea, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out. What he is doing here is quite similar to what we are doing with Wis-Kino and the Kino movement in general. The important subtext is in this part of Trent’s announcement:

“This isn’t a contest and you don’t win elaborate prizes – it’s meant to be an experiment in collaboration and a chance for us to interact beyond the typical one-way artist-to-fan relationship”

The heart of the Kino movement has been collaboration over competition. This is what sets it apart from things like The 48-Hour Film Project, which may have similarity to our 48-hour film challenges but is competitive, as well as other independent cinema which has become a matter of style and attitude over substance. It seems like what is being set up here will develop into a real collaborative dynamic between fans that can draw off of their individual creative talents.

I have seen in the recent years, that the general direction nine inch nails has been going in has been one that involves active participation of the fans to create a collaborative reality. Look at last year’s ARG promotion for Year Zero, while it was most certainly an ad campaign, I watch from the message boards and saw people forming constructive (and sometimes destructive) social advocacy, others worked on a number of collaborative art projects involving the theme of activism that predominated the ARG. The ARG itself required the collective detective work of all the participants.

All the tech geeks around me know (and lament) the term “Web 2.0″ (or it’s sexy counterpart Porn 2 point oh yeah), hell, your viewing it right now. It seems as though Mr. Reznor is as much a futurist as a good musician, because he and only a small number of other musicians seem to be paving the way to move those concepts into an industry that is desperately trying to find relevance in today’s culture. Today’s (and yesterday’s and the day before’s) music industry sucks (well, to be more precise, the major labels suck), but maybe we can elevate it into a more personal, enlightened experience. Because let’s face it, ain’t nobody ever been excited about “The Music Industry” outside of stuffy white men who are lining their pockets because of it, let’s see if we can’t all start to benifit in some way from it now.

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