Shovels & Rope is a husband and wife duo out of Charleston, South Carolina. After catching their act at Shaky Knees Fest in the Old 4th Ward I was eager to get to see them again. Unfortunately that meant missing Public Enemy, but Shovels & Rope was beyond worth it. Their gritty brand of folk has flares of Southern Gothic with songs about getting away with murder and voyeurism. The husband/wife vibe adds to the act tremendously, as Trent leans in to sing in Carey Ann's mic and she seductively pulls his Ray Ban's off his face. For both Shaky Knees and Hangout the couple huddled up in the middle of the festival's biggest stage with nothing but a couple guitars, keyboard, and snare-bass-hi-hat kit. Their close proximity masked the true environment with a permeating intimacy that made it feel more like a small club somewhere in Charleston than a huge outdoor stage.
Lineup is certainly key; a show is ALWAYS more fun when you know the words to the songs, but for me, a festival can be a great place to meet some new people and jam out to some new music that will inevitably disappoint when I look it up on Spotify the next day. So really, the key ingredients for me are simple: when possible, the location is pretty much paradise, and a comfortable place to sleep never hurts after 12 straight hours on your feet.
For these reasons, this is Charlie Oliver reporting live from my hotel room (Friday, May 17) in Gulf Shores, Alabama at Hangout Music Fest.
As good a show as you were going to find in the city two weekends ago was not in a typical venue. Instead, Olympia, Wash.'s Broken Water (Hardly Art), and locals Wymyns Prysyn and Dasher, forged an all-out assault at Capsule on May 11. While many were there to see the touring band, which backed up its hype with a solid set, the locals definitely held their own.
There was plenty to cover, but here are some cherry-picked highlights.
They pull this off not only because they're great musicians individually, but also because they learned the craft together. All alums of Chicago Joe's Rock n' Blues Camp, the members of the Solar Bears have been playing under various band names and roster switch-ups since they were in grade school - more than 15 years ago.
Thursday night that became apparent as singer and guitarist Jordan Gonzalez seamlessly hit a riff while drummer Zack Falls took a few extra swigs off his beer, and bassist Hart did the obligatory funky chicken head-bob as he swooped underneath with a bass line.
Later in the set, the Bears invited Dan Miller of Mission South to the stage for a rendition of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" that would have made Jimi Hendrix proud, not only for the styling, but also for the flawless incorporation of Miller's vibe into the group's sound.
Before starting the song Jordan leaned in to the mic and said in a silky smooth voice, "Guys, if you want to grab a special lady to dance with, now would be a good time..."
The room paired off in a matter of seconds, almost like it was choreographed. Despite being one of the only people not pressed close, grinding to the music, by the end of the song even I felt a little pregnant.
Carnivores opened, as they deservedly are the go-to local band for this type of show, especially when the Coathangers are on the road. Since some of the Carnivores' best songs mix surf rock with effects-pedal pop, their dance-worthy set would have set the stage well for Bleached, had something from completely out of left field not been wedged in between the opener and the headliner.
It wouldn't be absurd to say that Hunters' set was like seeing Patti Smith front Hole. Tall, slender, and pink-haired, lead singer Isabel Almeida began her band's set with her arms raised to the sky. If I didn't know any better, I'd assume she was channeling whatever gave her the will and energy to be a complete ball of energy for the entire set, as she was constantly on the floor, in the air, or among the audience for a solid half-hour. Musically, the Brooklyn band's guitarist, Derek Watson, led an assault that was a noisy nod to the '90s without being overly derivative.
Closing out the night was Bleached. In Mika Miko, Jennifer Clavin was a charismatic performer much like Almeida, leaping around the stage and screaming into a telephone-turned-microphone. Now with a guitar in hand, and her sister Jessie by her side, punk performance has taken a back seat to more serious songwriting aspirations. The Clavin sisters' growing canon of songs was as effective live as they are on the Ride Your Heart LP and three earlier 7-inches. What's most exciting for Bleached fans, though, is knowing that the girls are just now cutting their teeth as songwriters. If they are all-in with this band, as most interviews project, future songs might be even catchier.
On Saturday night, Mereba performed songs at Emory University's McDonough Field to a loosely congregated crowd of 50. The Atlanta singer/songwriter was dwarfed by the size of the stage, let alone the campus. However, before students began to emerge from their residential halls to head out for the evening, Mereba helped turn the recreational field into an intimate setting.
Since the mid-1980s, spouses and A-Bones bandmates Billy Miller and Miriam Linna have served as pop and rock archivists through Norton Records, preserving garage and rockabilly's past while releasing records by current acts as well. One of the younger bands they've taken under their wings within the last few years is the Gaye Blades, featuring Jared Swilley from Black Lips, multi-instrumentalist John Kang, resident go-to drummer Mike Beavers, and the "Bearded Gentleman" Jesse Smith. Swilley and Smith are seasoned performers who work well together as a songwriting and Rickenbacker-slinging duo, backed by a solid rhythm section. While many bands today borrow a lot from '60s pop, the Gaye Blades never stray from that sound or bury doo-wop songs under a wall of noise like so many of their peers. Though they are local, any chance to see them should not be passed up, as the Gaye Blades for years have been a band that rarely plays out, partly due to Black Lips' busy tour schedule. Seeing the band open for veteran acts that have a similar sound shows how the timelessness of early rock overcomes generation gaps.
The show was booked by Scavenger of Death Records, continuing a working partnership between Atlanta and Orlando punks: Scavenger of Death co-owner Ryan Bell has recorded Golden Pelicans in the past, and the Orlando band's drummer, Rich Evans, released the most recent G.G. King 7-inch last year on his Total Punk imprint.
Since Barreracudas and Dino's Boys were co-headlining a stacked bill at the Star Bar that same night, the show started early. Sharps opened, and the former Siamese Twins' energetic, slightly discordant sound set the tone for the night. Up next was Predator, a local trio that, coming off a long hiatus, seems more focused than ever. Their bevy of awesome new material paired with each member's place in recent Atlanta punk history has them carrying the torch in 2013 for what you could call the Rob's House era of local underground rock music. That is not to say that Predator's act is old hat, as the band's sound fits well with new blood like Manic while still evoking fond memories for those who were around to see Frantic and Beat Beat Beat.
Golden Pelicans headlined with a set of no-frills, no-gimmicks=needed punk rock. The Orlando scene vets feature former members of the Slippery Slopes, including frontman Erik Grincewicz and Evans, who also runs Florida's Dying Records. Grincewicz was as charismatic a rock and roll singer and performer as anyone the audience saw Saturday night, which is saying something since most went to the Star Bar afterwards to see Adrian Barrera front the Barreracudas and Danny Song and Chase Tail split vocal duties for Dino's Boys.
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