Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The closest a person like me will ever come to doing drugs....

Roughly two weeks ago now, I spent a few days in the ever amazing city of San Francisco. Beyond hanging out in record stores and cafes, I was eager to find some way to fill my evenings there. You'd never guess how helpful the people at Aquarius Records actually are. I asked what might be going on over the weekend, and instead of getting an off the cuff answer, I found myself as co-pilot in a Scotland Yard worthy hunt. After scoping across several papers and websites, the tall kindly gentleman stopped dead in his tracks,"Have you ever seen Caroliner?" he queried. Sadly my answer was going to be 'no.' "Well, they're virtually unheard of outside of SF, but they've been around forever." "It's a crazy show with costumes and costumes that merge with instruments, and more." Needless to say, that settled it for me.

What I was fortunate enough to stumble into that painfully windy Saturday night was a noise show in a multi-disciplinary artspace's gallery. If you happen to be in the Mission area in San Francisco, it might be worth your while to see what the Lab has going on.

While the opening three performers were very much enjoyable, it was the giant mystery looming behind the sheet draped over a large protrusion from the back wall that I was anxiously awaiting.

And sure enough, that time came. Down went the veil, and out popped the most surreal, dayglo portal to another world that I had ever seen. The closest I can come to describing it is, acid on acid. Instead, you should really just see for yourself:

Caroliner performing at The Lab in San Francisco from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Finding information on Caroliner can prove to be just as disorienting. While both the wikipedia entry and the myspace page tell a lose story of Caroliner being a tribute to a singing bull from the 1800's, there is little factual or helpful explanation, (though I did not scour the latter very hard).

Actually, the most enlightening bits of information came from a conversation happening behind me during the show. Somewhere out there is a video of the brainchild behind Caroliner performing the project solo, in the early eighties. This same, unnamed wunderkind, is, at this point, in his early forties, has no job, and basically lives to work on the band. (It was speculated that, in light of this, he probably lives like a cockroach. But that was just speculation.....). Most interesting of all was that the cowboy attired couple manning the merch were non other than his parents.

I spoke to his father afterward to see what, obviously, handmade record I should get. He said he couldn't tell them apart. I asked which one sounded most like the set, and his surprising reply was,"Tonight? Aw that was real tame; I've seen 'em do much crazier stuff than that." My mind was left to only imagine.

It might not justify a cross country trip, but Caroliner is certainly a group to go out of your way to get "far out" with. And while San Francisco is far from DC, it's not nearly as far as Europe. (Sonic Circuits, I'm looking at you........)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pretty Ok? I don't think so

This is a bit late. And while I hate to post back to back, I have yet to upload my Sonic Circuits footage, and that Caroliner vid from SF (Don't worry, you will know...).

Regardless, roughly two weeks ago I was fortunate enough to take in a more than splended evening at the Cat on a Thursday of all things.

Not only was it a night with some of my favorite people, but the bands were not too shabby either.

Kicking the whole celebration off were bay area, pop-punk (near) veterans Onion Flavored Rings, who, might I add, were the most known and respected group on this bill. With tendrils slithering in and out of the wide ocean of the punk scene for over a decade, it only made sense in certain contexts to have them open the show. None-the-less, they did so with a slightly sour cotton candy bravado. With a teaspoon of awkward disgruntledness sewing the set together, Onion Flavored Rings excellently knocked out a whole wall's worth of spazzy pop anthems.
And the punx went wild...........

Onion Flavored Rings playing at the Black Cat #2 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Taking the baton and running with it, Ingid came bursting onto the stage with the crushing force of a little math, a little prog, a dash of Providence and a whole easter basket of rock. Sadly, you may not have heard of them if you weren't below the underground or an Indigenous American tracker. Climbing out of the ashes of Mass Movement of the Moth, this dynamic duo have soared to much higher places. Seeing them perform is still as likely as winning the lottery, but they both bring the same amount of joy. Here they are in their natural habitat.

Ingrid playing at the Black Cat in DC from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

My reference for Screaming Females is not flashy clubs, popular music blogs, or bad, self impressed, internet radio, rather my connection comes from sweaty basements, punk shows, and the DIY community. So their current status is still a very odd reality for me. But, I'll give them two things: they have always been nice to me when we've interacted, and when they rock, they rock hard (I held my tongue on " a hurricane...".) And this was no exception at the Cat. The crowd, obviously, had grown in size and pressure, but fortunately the enthusiasm had grown as well (only by a touch). Coming out with a sawed-off sized bang, the Screaming Females erupted in a way that said, "I'm doing this because I enjoy it, but I'm glad you seem into it as well...."

Screaming Females playing at the Black Cat Vid#1 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Once they had the crowed even more firmly on their side, they took them on a pre-Ralph Nader ride, only slowing down a bit for a few of the newer tunes.

Screaming Females playing at the Black Cat vid#2 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

I am constantly amazed by Marissa's voice, off the charts guitar skills, and far-beyond over-the-top stage presence. If you've ever met her, you'll quickly realize that the stage is where she is able to truly express herself. Which is not to say that Mike and Jarrett are any sort of backing band; in fact, the whole group operates as one
intertwined machine. Though the crowd (I'd place myself in this camp) expressed a sentiment to hear some of their older tunes, they still managed to take a little more paint off of the walls and put a few more cracks in the ceiling.

All in all, it was one of those rare nights where everything was perfect, and it was only so because everyone brought their A game to the table.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Burnin’ up the Second Rome

Last week, the eclectic purveyors of Type 1 music, the Cornel West Theory, finally had the launch of their first record proper, on one of the best local labels going right now, Sockets Records. Not only was it a packed house, (and with only one group on the bill, none the less), but both parties were honored to have Dr. West himself present. Not able to simply stay in the crowd, he was also participating in the festivities.

After Timothy Hicks, the “official” spokesperson of the Cornel West Theory, took a moment to explain the creation of the ensemble, Dr. West gave their introduction.
The very minute he stepped into the light, an electric crackle filled the room, and expanded like a massive Tesla Coil as the night went on:

the Cornel West Theory record release show Vid#1 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

The atmosphere the group creates, from the sincerity of their political message, to their passionate theatrical performances, to their audience participation, instantly mobilizes the attendees creating a very magnetically charismatic environment. All of which is embodied in Dr. West, who, midway through the set, (after being dragged onto the stage to break down some dance moves like a twenty-five year old James Brown, for which, not being able to capture on film, I will never forgive myself), took the stage to poetically send out some of his beliefs while the group acted as his backing band. It was the most powerful peak of the night, and the entire room unified under the blanket of his words:

the Cornel West Theory record release show vid#2 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

The Cornel West Theory, in keeping with its collective style flow, lets many people get involved in telling the story. A number of pieces read like group spoken word, only pulled off with engaging success, and most certainly entwining itself with the music. These tracks have a family feel where everyone grabs the mic to participate:

The Cornel West Theory record release show vid#3 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

All in all, it was one of the most successful record release show I’ve seen in a long time. I spoke with vocalist and the provider of the electronic spine for the group, John Wesley Moon, afterwards and he said the group was taking its time to figure out the next step. They will be planning a tour for the Second Rome album, but they’re waiting to see the initial reaction. From there, they’ll decide where the band is at, and how to push it to the next level. If the rest of it goes anything like this night, I’m sure they will have no trouble at all.