Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Something Fierce/Belville Record Release (and the LP4 Posse explained)

Well after my bitch session about Walter’s on Friday, I can say Saturday ended up going off sans incident. Though, aside from the bands themselves, I didn’t know a soul there. I was just doing my part representin’ the late-80s to mid-90’s peeps as the LP4 delegate. Now you ask how come we never see you at shows with an LP4 posse? The answer is we’re all old men. I am the guy who has to get up at 6 am every morning with my 4 year old. So, my going out has a big price the next day. Despite this I do get out occasionally to go see live local music because after a 3 year hiatus from clubs Rosa kind of encouraged me to go and see what the fuck is going on quoting Kurt Brennan’s pithy comment that “People who complain how the scene sucks now are people who never get out.” So, with a little push from Rosa, a bit over a year ago I’ve actually had my eyes opened to all the amazing bands in Houston. Since then, I’ve been going down my list of local bands I admire when we book a Linus show. Being lazy, this is just my way of seeing these bands and playing a show – killing two birds with one stone.

Now the rest of Linus can sleep late so their case is a little different. Steve is usually recording bands in his studio. Charlie, meanwhile, is in so many projects that he’s usually rehearsing for something. Rouge member Carol Kelly is even busier than Charlie with projects that cover everything from photography to music yet she actually goes out to a lot of shows – they are just mainly noise shows. Clinton meanwhile is the all American male sports guy who has even pre-empted Linus practices for Astros games. Now some may scoff at this but I say, if this allows Clinton to master his awesome Bar-B-Q skills, this is a net good for society. Flip doesn’t even live in Houston anymore which leaves Larry and what can I say but the fact that Larry lives in Pearland. That’s pretty much it - Linus are old farts. Being one of these old farts not to mention a social misfit who has to be up for morning reveille I have to really really want to go see a show to get my ass out of the house and more often than not that means local shows. I don’t know why but national acts don’t interest me very much at the moment which brings me to the matter at hand - the Something Fierce/.belvile record release at Walter’s.

The opening band Carousel Shy seemed like a kind of nice pop band. I only caught the last two songs in their set so don’t expect a review here but may I suggest a sponsorship with Birkenstock guys? Everyone, and I mean everyone, in that band was wearing sandals! I also kept wondering why this one guitarist never got up off his chair during the songs I saw. I kept thinking, as another band member handed him a guitar during an instrument change, now that is one masterfully lazy guitarist but it was later revealed that he had just had an appendicitis which was admittedly kind of disappointing.

The Dimes meanwhile seem to be getting a bit sloppy on their band look as only a few members maintained the preppie school vest uniform they’ve been known for. But the great thing about the Dimes is that the preppie school schtick is hardly necessary as they have gone from being a really good local band to a really great band since I first saw them at Super Happy Fun Land. Back then I was amused by the fact that these High School kids had a reference point of late 70s New York. Usually high school bands are too daft to have references beyond commercial radio, the current alternative bands, or fashion. Yet, The Dimes took their reference point from much earlier which I found unique and quite sophisticated. But the Dimes are not simply a facsimile, they definitely are their own thing going. The beauty is that the band’s sound has caught up to their ideas. The two things to watch in this band are the drummer Iram Guerrero (who is a monster despite his meek appearance behind the kit) and Guitarist Cley Miller ( who has some lovely sounds from his array of pedals). I spoke at length with Iram about their upcoming recording session and how I hoped that they could capture that elusive live sound. I was glad that he acknowledged that their songs on Myspace were sub-par recordings which was funny because at the last Linus rehearsal I tried to play those to the LP4 only to have to qualify it by saying “Uh, gee they sound much better live.” And you know when you say that nobody believes you. But trust me, go see them and you will also scoff at their Myspace page demos as you come to appreciate them for being the great band they are.

Belville followed with a fine set of emotional vocal driven alt-rock. Belville’s sound is a bit different that what I usually find interesting. If you could try to peg them down I’d say mix in a bit of the more earnest Paul Westerberg and Soul Asylum with some Kurt Cobain and you’d have a good idea of what they sound like. The music here is clearly driven by the vocals which occasionally cede the spotlight to touches of interesting guitar work (nice big muff there Jay). Rosa can attest that I know few words to songs and that’s because my ears are generally drawn to the instruments and, given that the emotion in this kind of music comes from the vocal performance, I tend to be drawn more to bands where the vocals are merely part of an ensemble of sounds. There are two types of Replacements fans. One believes that Paul Westerberg is a sensitive singer songwriting genius while the other realizes that Replacements were four people. The second Westerberg tossed Bob Stinson and his guitar work, it was over. It wasn’t just the songs but the ensemble and, while it was just a four piece rock band, every person has something interesting to say when you listen to the recordings. So here is my thing with Belville, they have some solid songcrafting and the record sounds gorgeous (it really does) but, to become great, every member has to have their voice contribute in a way that does more than just provide a backdrop for the vocals. Now is that just a guitarist’s bias? You bet it is! Belville aren’t stupid, this is the sound they are going for and this is the way you play it. Jay’s a smart fellow and can take my criticism forthright, process it, and tell me I am totally full of shit and I have to admire that because he is making the kind of music he wants without compromise and that’s Punk baby.

Oh wait. I can’t close my critique without the most memorable moment. I don’t know who this guy was in the front but he was really really really into Belville. I mean really and when they would play a song he’s shout “OH YEAH!”, “Roooooooock!”, or “Fuck Yeah!” while making the Dio devil sign. Now that was fine for the more rocking songs but the guy was so into it that even when a quiet and sensitive song played he would not cease and desist which was pretty hilarious. Now I ask you how come Linus doesn’t get love like this?

Something Fierce meanwhile played an amazing set of Punky Punk. Again, who was the star of the band? That’s right the drummer. How many times do I have to say it? Your band lives or dies by its drummer. Guitarists, Vocalists and everyone else ain’t shit without one bad ass drummer. Andrew is more than just the unstoppable Red Fro of comic book fame – he is a freaking beast on the kit while Nikki’s basswork and Steven’s guitarwork cut ahead of him like an army slicing its way through its opponents. The set was just a non-stop barrage of noise and sweat. What the fuck more do you want? What more do you need? It’s just the musical equivalent of being coldcocked for 40 minutes. Ouch!

One last comment before I go and that is that my pants (which has had a small tear in the back left pocket) decided to finally rip into a big-ass hole revealing to everyone my lovely red boxers. Climbing on top of a monitor to take shots has its risks and mooning a crowd people is just on of them.

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