Monday, June 2, 2014

Now Hear This

After keeping it in the neighborhood all day long, I did the same tonight.

It wasn't a tough call. There was a terrific show at Gallery 5 and on my walk over, I saw the sloppy remains of Broad Appetit being dismantled, plastic soda and water bottles still littering the street.

No surprise, it always takes a few days to recover from the influx of visitors to the 'hood, people who forget that this is a place where people actually live, not just festival central.

At Gallery 5, I said hello to a few musicians I knew before heading inside for the show to begin.

The inimitable Dave Watkins was first up, wooing people away from their conversations and phones to watch him work magic on his electric dulcitar.

They really had no choice once he kicked into the second song, a punch to the gut that was far harder than usual and screamed far closer to Half Bascule, his Appalachian folk/spaghetti western/metal project.

A Mogwai cover wasn't far behind as I savored Dave's take on post rock and a band I know he loves.

The enthusiastic applause at the end of his set came from both people like me who've had the pleasure of watching him for years as well as those who were seeing him for the first time tonight, marveling at how one man can make so much sound.

Next came Blanks, in their first appearance playing out and fronted by Jessica Blanks, whom I've seen play violin and keyboards many times in the past as part of Zac Hyricak and the Jungle Beat.

They were four women - cello, violin/synth and two guitars - and a guy on drums, with his drum kit decorated with garlands of roses.

Jessica had told me outside that she'd be playing guitar, something I'd never seen her do, and that she was nervous. I recognized the other guitarist from the band Spandrel, purveyors of classic '70s-sounding rock and it was she who took charge, saying to the crowd, "Guys, don't stand back there. It's dark!" and pulling us closer to the stage.

She and Jessica sang together, their voices blending beautifully on Jessica's songs as they worked through their set.

We soon learned that Jack the drummer won't graduate high school until next week. "So are you saying he's barely legal?" a girl called from the audience. And if he is, then what?

Wait, wait, don't tell me.

Their chamber pop rock sound was fascinating for the amalgamation of cello and violin with synths, drum and guitar and I'm looking forward to future shows as they get more comfortable with each other and the material.

I thought they showed extraordinary promise for a first outing.

Brooklyn's Cal Folger Day took the stage next, starting by playing guitar and singing. "I'm going to begin with a song about crockery called "Butterfingers," she deadpanned.

Her voice was a revelation, part Joni Mitchell, part Regina Spektor and her lyrics both quirky and confessional.

When she couldn't remember the opening line to a song, she shrugged and said, "And the name of the song is "Stupid!" It didn't matter, she went on to play "Having a Boyfriend Ain't the Christian Thing to Do" with her tongue firmly in cheek (I think).

As a heathen, frankly it doesn't matter to me whether it is or isn't.

Eventually the "Stupid" lyrics came back to her and she played it for us, including the brilliant lyric, "If only you were stupid, then this would be easy." Ain't it the truth?

After a while, she moved over to the keyboard saying she was a fan of the DelMarVa area and the word itself before singing a song about Lewes, Delaware, a place her family has a home.

Her voice was amazing, whether on a song about where you want your body buried or about having a teenage crush on the man whose kids you babysit.

When she finished, she let us know she had music for sale along with an illustrated housekeeping manual. You know, that last bit of information didn't even come as a surprise, unique as she came across.

To close out the evening was Nevin Kight, the name of Kevin Night's music project. He's a guitarist with Wild Nothing, which means I may already have seen him when I saw Wild Nothing play Strange Matter two summers ago on a blazingly hot August night.

He's in town recording an album and he'd assembled a group of local musicians including Jessica and one of the guys from Spandrel, among others, to play with him tonight so we were looking at two guitarists, a bassist, a violinist and two drummers.

Seems they'd begun at 12:30 last night and practiced for three hours and now we were going to see how that worked out.

As they kicked into "Affirmation" off that upcoming record, one of the drummers grabbed a tambourine in one hand and a grapefruit in the other and perched on top of an amp, looming over Kevin.

As he took a bite from the fruit, he jumped down, sat on the stage and peeled it before taking off into the audience to distribute sections to some of us.

I'd have to say it's the first time I've been handed grapefruit at a show.

"We're going to do a Chris Isaak cover," Kevin said, "but all the songs on that album are great, not just "Wicked Game."

I thought they nailed the cover, even if not everyone knew exactly when the song was supposed to end. As Kevin pointed out, considering the band wasn't even a day old, they were doing a damn fine job.

Saying he had dreamed the song, Kevin announced "Serf Under the Table," which grew into a psychedelic wall of guitar and drum sound I was hoping would never end. My wish is that it will sound that big on the album.

"Work It Out" and "Changeling" were almost as good and you could see the musicians getting more comfortable with each song.

Kevin said his new album was being recorded in Nashville and Richmond and I found it appropriate to hear us in the company of music city.

The band left the stage except for Jessica and Kevin and they closed with "Angels and Birds," which would have been the slow dance of the evening if this had been a dance.

But it wasn't a dance, it was just a grand neighborhood show to close out Sunday. For the most part, a fun day.

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