Here's folk/rock singer-songwriter Shawn James of Fayetteville and his band The Shapeshifters doing a barn-burning cover of John Legend's "Who Did That to You" from the "Django Unchained" soundtrack during a recent appearance at UA's KUAF. The cover has blown up in a big way online, with the video getting almost 35,000 hits since it was posted on Friday and landing briefly on the front page of Reddit.com. Give it a listen and you'll hear why.
So we finally made it to Valley of the Vapors on the fourth night. (Hey, we work, and it's a drive...) The venue was great — plenty of space, a real stage with wrap-around curtains (tightens sound, keeps those waves from bouncing around), great techie stuff (lights, sound) — just all around kudos. The crowd was mixed (it's all-ages, with armbands for beer) and there was a healthy mosh pit for half the show.
We got there at 8 p.m., so we came in on the second band, the Svetlanas — a punky thrash rock foursome from Italy that pretends to be from Russia. (All their songs are about the KGB and occasionally, there's a Russian word tossed in, compliments of the half-Russian singer.) Their sound is reminiscent of early '80s hardcore, still influenced by the rolling lines and snakey, swaggering rhythms of '70s rock 'n' roll. Their performance was conceptual and theatrical, with a large dose of the magic coming from the gnarly, animated female vocalist. She destroyed the gap between audience and band, jumping into the mosh pit and later offering up her mic during a cover of The Runaways hit "Cherry Bomb." Think Wendy O. and the Plasmatics with less flash and props.
Last night Pearl and the Beard played Stickyz, to a tiny but appreciative audience. (The crowd was, I suspect, diverted down the street, where Justin Townes Earle played the Rev Room.)
Pearl and the Beard is a Brooklyn-based trio, celebrating intimacy, nerd-dom and quirky, downscaled chamber-pop. They wear glasses and clashing patterns and sometimes, a six-armed, rainbow-striped sweater. I think they’re going for irony, but can an unmistakably earnest effort be ironic? I don't know, but I do know that they’re perfect.
They’re Radiohead, Fleet Foxes (among a slew of other hipster freak-folk revivalists), Florence and the Machine, high school band geeks, conservatory bad-asses and that guitar-strumming camp counselor you had a crush on, all rolled into one. In addition to being well versed in everything from madrigal compositions to southern spirituals, they’re pitch-perfect three-part harmonies, conspiratorial lyrics and body parts (hands, feet, vocal cords) wielded as serious instruments. They’re gentle and dreamy, rollicking and suggestive, and aurally drenching (check out their Daytrotter session).
So last night, in a bar in a city that I’m just beginning to know, I stood dripping the nostalgia of lush New England summers and fiery Brooklyn autumns, my toes rooted in the heavy soil of Mississippi winters. (Other people, I’m sure, melted into different puddles.)
Pearl and the Beard is: Emily Price on cello, Jeremy Styles on guitar and Jocelyn Mackenzie on drums.
Price holds a master’s in cello performance from Carnegie Mellon University. Though the wooden box onstage never changed, she only played the cello part of the time. Other times, she played upright bass or an over-sized fiddle. And sometimes she just soulfully manned a spaceship through a meteor shower.
Mackenzie played a precise snare and tom-tom combo, alongside a kazoo and toy xylophone. Her kit is simple, but her rhythms were snappy and smart. Styles’s guitar parts are folky and pretty and probably, he is the earnest-est of the earnest.
The whole outfit is orchestral, gushy, gorgeous and reaching. And people are getting it. Nearly everyone there bought merch. I managed to snag the very last Killing the Darlings EP (the display copy!), which means that for the remaining two weeks of their tour, no one can buy any records. It’s only after the show that those pitiful folks in other towns will realize how tragic their loss.
More pics and video after the jump.
So since our news and politics podcast is going OK (by which I mean people I don't know have told me they listen), Times Entertainment editor Robert Bell and I have decided to take the podcast plunge into the world of pop culture with, of course, an Arkansas focus. We're calling it Ear Candy, and likely from our second show going forward, we'll record and release on Wednesdays.
This week, we talk about the Oxford American's imminent move to the old Juanita's space and whether indie rock has become our generation's adult alternative. And I endorse the movie "Bellflower" and Robert thumbs-up the band War on Drugs.
Links to things we talked about on the jump.
Also, I called the OA non-profit the Oxford American Literacy Project when it is, in fact (of course) the Oxford American Literary Project.
1. Go to YouTube
2. Look up a bluesman (we suggest Sonny Boy Williamson II.)
3. Click the new "closed captioning" box
4. Turn on "transcribe audio"
5. Cover your desk chair with a puppy pad.
And we didn't think this video of SBWII doing "Keep It to Yourself" could get any better.
It turns the song into postmodern psychosis one minute...
meantime view the wrong
if you've got
what is the elmo
and i'm linda wertheimer
and a Michael Inscoe poem the next...
she didn't she was
the the war
i don't know
no i don't know
yeah and i don't know that
Doubtless, this insane shit would have been the most rational stuff Sonny Boy would have ever said.
This, guys, deserves a rally cry. And I can't think of anything better anthem for just the occasion than this awesomely shambolic take of "The Great Disaster, Circa 1929" by Justin Carr & Ghost Co. from early 2008.
Because an October dance party is a completely different beast from its June/July comrades. Get off the computer and go get started!
(Video by Mike Poe)
Saturday night, even the steeliest of regular show-goers were crammed towards the front of the stage,dancing and singing—nope— screaming along for the entirety of Ho-Hum's set. Me, especially, included.
Luckily, local filmmaker Levi Agee took his camera in the middle of the ruckus to catch the band running through one of their best tracks. (Just jump the bar to the 0:52 mark.)
Speaking of best tracks, the set list was a buff, tough machine: "I'm-A-Waking Up," "'Til the Cows Come Home," "Diamonds on Your Birthday," "Handheld," "Exit Strategy."
Also, as far as the night of reunited bands go, we just learned the fun isn't up yet. The reunited Big Boss Line is continuing the party at a last-minute show at White Water Tavern tonight with Brother Andy and His Big Damn Mouth, 10 p.m.-ish.
Vino's week continues on Ear Candy with a clip from Green Day's 1991 show. It's their cover of "Knowledge" by Operation Ivy, which appeared on their "1,039/Smoothed Out Happy Hours" EP, released just weeks earlier.
So wrap your head around this—one of the guys who jumps up on stage is a teenaged Jason White (Chino Horde, Step by Step, The Big Cats, tons of others) who, as you know, now joins Green Day on stage every night.
This week, Ear Candy is highlighting live performances from Vino's to mark their upcoming 20th anniversary.
We're kicking it off with this footage of "Kiss the Bottle" from the legendary (eh, locally, at least) Jawbreaker gig from 1993.
Lucero fans may recognize this one as the shining cover from the band's debut, "The Attic Tapes." And hey—the Hear Ya blog has mp3s of Ben & Co.'s interpretation of the song.
Here's Pharaoh Sanders—joined by David Sanborn, fellow saxophonist and host of the late, great "Night Moves"—performing the title track from his 1971 album, "Thembi." It's one of the most melodic and accessible pieces in the free-jazz god's oeuvre.
Sadly, it's an abbreviated take, but, still, it's a great piece from the Little Rock native.
When will one of these Kid Cudi skateboard rappers get their mitts on this song, already?
Here's a gorgeous,
Levon-led Levon-helmed (see what happened there?) cover of the Bruce Springsteen classic.
This is me standing corrected for never checking out "Jericho," The Band's 1993 reunion album. Fellow bull-heads, join me in a communal facepalm.
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