Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Archaic Interest/Sonic Graffiti/Concord America/Gunther Doug
Friday, December 19th 2014
The Fuzz Factory, Gulfport, FL 

Originally published at Zero Warning 

Do you like bands with two words in their names?  Then read on.

Gunther Doug are originally from Sarasota, but now call Nashville home.  From the outset their modern take on cow-punk is captivating, with definite similarities to the likes of the Meat Puppets II album, and vocal and volume changes akin to La Dispute or Listener.  Country post-hardcore, perhaps?  Singer-guitarist Devin wails and shreds through your typical country stories (church, killing your friends, etc), and also your less typical.  "This song is about getting lost in a cave," advice to be careful when combining weed with spelunking.  "This next song is an instrumental song about turtles. Go turtles."  That one featured some lovely second wave emo strumming.   The rocking chair in The Fuzz Factory is being very appropriately used in front of me, but rest assured, even when Gunther Doug play their last number and describe it as Nashville country, it's still fast and punky.  I'm not sure if they did it, but their track "Christmas Song" makes a good addition to your non-shit holiday playlist.  

This is the second-to-last "Happy Holidays" tour date Gunther Doug have with their management company rostermates, Concord America.  Similar in energy and essence to the former band but with a Southern punk rock 'n' roll sound, Concord America are 3 loud guys from Atlanta, piloting a set full of dual vocals and dueling photographers.  Guitarist and lead vocalist Ben Presley violently jerks his head from side-to-side as the band play through songs from their recent Suns Out Guns Out EP, such as "Vanilla Bastard" and "So Gay."  The latter is reminiscent of The Hives' better garage punk moments (and is just as vaguely apolitical, for better or worse).  While they might bear little resemblance to Jets to Brazil, Concord America are often as big and fast as the Concorde supersonic jet (well, until it was retired in 2003) and as big as America (well, until it implodes under its' own imperial hubris where we might also consider 2003 a turning point).  They're going on tour again in the latter half of January, through a range of different states, and you can see those, as well as the "So Gay" music video, here.

The crowd has built steadily up to high numbers as Sonic Graffiti's singer Drew begins with a pleasant solo piece.  Once the full group takes up instruments, the night of band names that appear on the surface at least to be inconsequential comes to an end, as the blender of blues, funk, punk and more that Sonic Graffiti produces is a fair audio equivalent to wild flashes of colour on a blank canvas wall.  The erratic way Drew moves as he plays also fits despite the fact that he tells us he is sick, with every mammoth song coming, justifiably, with a guitar swing-and-stab ending.  New tune "Fuck the Police, Fuck the Jesus Freaks" is unveiled just in time for both the protests against racist cop violence and all those annoying as shit "Keep Christ in Christmas" car magnets.  Do you think there's going to be a breather between songs?  Sonic Graffiti fear any significant breather is the touch of death: "NOBODYLEAVEWE'REGONNAPLAYMORESONGSIPROMISE," an insistence which causes everybody to absolutely not leave.  "Get up for Another Breakdown" is what they choose to close with, an apropos title because I wish that I could get things done as well as a guy who plays guitar with his teeth when he's been ill all week. 

I have to confess that for a while I had been confusing Sonic Graffiti with the fellow local band that follows them here, though there's next-to-no musical basis for it.  Archaic Interest are up quick but their swaying beach music is relaxed.  The first three acts featured three dudes each, and as great as they were, thank god these lot changed things up, with five members, one of whom is female (punchy double-worded titles are one thing, but jesus).  The vocals are hidden low among the psychedelic surf, as if My Bloody Valentine were spending time in a place with a tonne more sun than Dublin.  In spite of not remembering who exactly was who I do remember seeing Archaic Interest at Don't Stop 2013 and being very impressed.  Whether its that the rest of the bill here was so hard rocking or that their fairly short set became a tad repetitive I couldn't say, but it just wasn't the peak of the night.  Maybe next time.

It turns out The Fuzz Factory snuck another gig in before the end of the year after this one that I didn't even know about.  Learning this saddened me, as I can't remember the last time I felt a pull to go to gigs simply because of the venue -- which can only say positive things about The Factory and its new location.  There's nothing fuzzy about it: supporting this space during 2015 will not be something you regret.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Broken Things/UFO Sex Scene/Luxury Mane/Golden Coastal Grizzlies
Friday, 28th November 2014
The Fuzz Factory, Gulfport, FL

Originally published at Zero Warning

When you pay others to entertain you, are you partaking in the consumer mindset that is driven to its furthest extreme on the dark date known as Black Friday?  Even if the entertainers are interesting, independent musicians, playing in a socially conscious local venue and the door price is merely a suggested donation, could you be accused of taking the indirect route of work and payment to get kicks that you could have provided yourself on a ukulele from the local anarchist free shop?  Or is that an absurd interpretation of Buying Nothing, promoting atomisation over community just because our alternative circles still exist within a world of employment and cash that we shouldn’t feel sheepish about having no choice but to interact with?

There is plenty of time for this kind of contemplation on the big questions whilst waiting for the first band to eventually start playing, whoever they might be: not a single act this evening performs at the point that the flyer would have you assume.  At 9:45, Golden Coastal Grizzlies (GCG) from Lakeland get things going with their combination of surf and no-name/garage rock.  The song that seems to best showcase their particular combo is new one “Vineyards,” which could have been taken off a Pebbles compilation.  Aside from musing, another activity I take part in while waiting for my entertainment that I damn well paid for and DEMAND IMMEDIATELY as a customer, was drawing a David Bowie lighting bolt on the self-portraited face of a local photographer.  GCG guitarist and singer Danny has a similar bolt on his strap, even though the music his band is playing is too pleasant to warrant such a climatological outburst.  I initially think that they sound a bit like Morrissey with spangley guitars, but I realise that is utterly wrong when it suddenly strikes me (like lightning or a grizzly attack) that Danny sounds very similar to Tim Wheeler from Ash.  In a show of anti-bravado that is almost too adorable for words, some of his last utterances of their very good set are “I want to get off stage now.”

Luxury Mane provide more hairily-named, spangly surf-themed Fuzzness.  It’s a pleasure to see artists with such warm sounds on this beautifully, horribly cold dark night.  Their new album Gold Standard is certainly appropriate in terms of capturing the colour of their music.  Up till now I’ve been getting something of a 90s vibe from this event, whether it’s the Weezer clothing around me or thoughts of Britpop groups, but about halfway through Luxury Mane I am struck again by a vocalist comparison that excites me: Billy’s voice bears a resemblance to Bernard Sumner of New Order.  That this man is decidedly associated with the 80s is no bad thing, though it does seem to fit with a crack made about retirement homes and missing the bingo and cream corn.  Even though I barely remember the 1980s, I feel as though I’m the one who needs to be in the retirement home, eyeing the venues’ chairs and comfy couches as the end of Luxury Mane’s show lulls me.  I am at this point torn as to whether to blame the lateness of the proceedings or my day spent consumer-pushing for rent money.

The next band seem to agree that it’s late, rushing to get set up.  It might also turn out that UFO Sex Scene are just enthusiastic to play, as their performance shimmers in a manner that is quite different to the shimmer of the previous two acts.  Keyboard player, singer and “soundscapist” Vanessa sets the tone when she comes on as what I at first think is the yellow Teletubby (Laa-Laa), but then learn is actually the green one (Dipsy).  For whatever reason the days when a costume like this would remind me of a fuckwit university student are over, and I’m as intrigued as I am by the colourful hand-bells sitting at the edge of the stage.  As the band gets into its Melt Banana-with-some-melody set, Dipsy is shed, I start to warm up for the first time all evening and shed the weight of my four Thanksgiving meals, and the bells are handed out to the nearest crowd members who then make as much noise as if they’re trapped in a garden shed.  After one song the bells are spontaneously returned and a surprising (but maybe not so surprising) pit breaks out.  There’s moments of post-punk and the drummer Caleb looks like he’s having a friggin’ religious experience.  If this sounds chaotic, it is, but without the problem of “glut,” where an acts’ overabundance of influences form a horrendous stew of nothing.  UFO Sex Scene are fascinating but during the moment I feel both encouraged and disheartened that I don’t have a clue how to describe this.  I am a fake fake journalist.

If there’s a final image at the end of Black Friday, it’s one of destruction: old possessions, human bodies and spirits, living planets.  So Broken Things coming on when it’s all over after midnight is perfect, and I denounce the former mild irritation I had as a supposedly scorned consumer earlier in the evening.  While tuning up it’s said that they “could do Avail covers all night,” and as I just wrote, I have grown as a person and am no longer equating time with money and value, so am fine with staying here all night.  Broken Things are — in this particular unrepeatable snowflake instance of here and now — loud, distorted and deafening, and that’s apparently with one guitar player absent.  They play melodic punk with understated vocals (think Leatherface, or fellow melodic St. Pete indie punks Dead Sound).  Problem is, at first it’s overly understated.  The mic is fixed just in time for a special song about a recently passed friend of theirs named LeRoi DuVal.  Even if amplified music is decided too throughputty for any potential Ecotopia, the positive relationships between people will undoubtedly prove useful and essential for a society doing better than eating itself and its young.  The Broken Things EP Four Songs came out in October and can be found on their bandcamp.