Concert review: Kasey Anderson and the Honkies (with Miles of Wire and the Dive Poets) cast a wide rock ‘n’ roll net at Off Broadway, Monday, July 30

Kasey Anderson at Off Broadway. St. Louis. July 30, 2012.

Kasey Anderson at Off Broadway. Photo by Roy Kasten.

Rock ‘n’ roll, in its many forms, remains the quintessential melting pot of music. Musicians from all different genres have given color to the various incarnations over the years. At the heart of the genre is still a blend of country and blues that gives rock ‘n’ roll its very soul.

At Off Broadway on Monday night and playing a rare performance, St. Louis-based quartet Miles of Wire took the stage about 8:15 p.m. for an enjoyable set of original material that was firmly rooted in alt-country, but grabbed undertones from indie rock.

Discussing the band with others around the room, I learned that Miles of Wire hasn’t played out much in the past five or six years. After hearing the 30-minute set, I surmised that if the Replacements and the Minutemen colored the country of Uncle Tupelo, then Pavement and Superchunk meant the same to this group.

Next on the bill were the Dive Poets. Their 45-minute set showed why they are one of the most solid original bands working in the St. Louis scene. The sextet played an upbeat set of roots rock that meshed nicely between both bands.

The lead guitar work of Karl Eggers and the keys of Christian Schaeffer color the strong harmonies provided by rhythm guitarist Eric Sargent and Anna Drexelius, who also shines on viola, while bassist Jeff York and drummer Renato Durante hold down the bottom end. Their sound allows all those who like any form of rock ‘n’ roll to join in and dance or just tap a foot in time.

Kasey Anderson and the Honkies returned to St. Louis just over seven weeks after playing a solid opening performance for night three of Twangfest 16. In the interim period they have supported the Counting Crows — who recorded Anderson’s “Like Teenage Gravity” for their new covers record “Underwater Sunshine” — on their summer tour.

Last night, instead of playing the opening slot, Anderson and the Honkies — Andrew McKeag on lead guitar, Mike Musburger on drums, Ty Bailie on keys and Will Moore on bass — were the headliner and seemed quite at ease with the slot. The band played a laid-back, easy-going set of both original and cover songs. Anderson talked and cracked wise a bit more than he did back in June.

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Concert review: Girl in a Coma crashes into the Firebird with Tex-Mex rock ‘n’ soul in tow, Sunday, July 29

Dustin Winter

Where were all the ladies and lady lovers of St. Louis on Sunday night? Because they should have been at the Firebird rocking out to badass San Antonio trio Girl in a Coma.

The garagey outfit plays punk-tinged soul tunes for none other than badass Joan Jett’s Blackhearts record label. Behind asymmetrical bangs and tattooed biceps were heartfelt songs of longing — or lust, according to lead vocalist/guitarist and all-around firecracker Nina Diaz. We learned some Spanish (“gracias” means “thank you”; “Ven Cerca,” a gorgeous song about the aforementioned longing and lust, translates as “come close to me”). We danced. We worshipped at the altar of the power chord. We were treated to material from the girls’ latest release, “Exits and All the Rest,” and smaller helpings from “Both Before I’m Gone” (“Consider”) and “Adventures in Coverland” (“Come On, Let’s Go”).

If you have ever wondered how much noise a triplet of barely-drinking-aged women can make with a short stack of amplifiers, the answer is: plenty. My eardrums are still humming from Jenn Alva’s rockabilly-inflected bass lines and Nina’s impressive pipes, which ricochet from a smoky croon to all-out, heart-shattering wails in a matter of seconds.

It was impossible not to engage in any one of the following during this show, including but not limited to: pogoing, fist pumping, over-the-head hand clapping, side-to-side swaying, head banging, generalized shimmying and shaking. Feedback from Nina’s guitar had barely faded when her sister Phanie, holding steady on the drums, crashed into the next punk ballad, song after song. The rhythm and raw energy, coupled with Nina’s unholy roar, conjured up memories of early, “Arkansas Heat”-era Gossip. By turns riot grrl and serenaded blues, Girl in a Coma is a band to see live, despite its no-frills stage presence.

It’s no surprise that the the band has built up a loyal — some might say feverish — fan base during its several trips to St. Louis. After a tight 45-minute set (no encore? Really?), the bandmates hung around their merch table, graciously signing CDs and posing for photograph after photograph with what appeared to be every single person in attendance.

Clutching t-shirts and posters, fans stumbled out of the Firebird with punk rock flowing through their bloodstreams. Viva girls and guitars!

Concert review and set list: Fang Island (with Zechs Marquise and Florestan) sinks its teeth into Off Broadway, Sunday, July 29

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Fang Island offered St. Louis a night of soaring, guitar riff-based tunes, with an exuberance and power-rock sensibility that made for a night of friendly fun.

Fang Island’s set consisted mainly of tracks from the recently released “Major” with some old favorites thrown in. First, about “Major”: It relies too much on prior tropes and tired pop sensibilities, rendering the sound less impressive than 2010′s self-titled debut. Fang Island achieved better results on its previous album with the same constituent parts: rattling drums, insane guitar riffs and catchy almost stadium chanting. Though bright, catchy and optimistic, “Major” feels slightly under thought.

But lack of invention on the record does not mean live failure. No, Fang Island’s live show is one that impresses, and its St. Louis set at Off Broadway was no different.

Openers Florestan, from St. Louis, played sunny, West-Coast math rock that featured a tip of the hat to Minus the Bear with subdued bass elements complete with delayed guitars and syncopated drums. When the vocals arrived, they were dreamy, silken and a little under driven. I enjoyed the epic nature of “One Summer” and the Sunny Day Real Estate conjuring of “A Little More Time.” I’m excited to see where Florestan goes with their introverted, chemical-haze sound.

Also residing on the Sargent House label, Zechs Marquise inhabits the same world as Fang Island. The band’s sound consists of colorful, instrumental jam-outs and guitar-fueled head-rushes similar to Ratatat. “Getting Paid” was an grand number with a creepy organ effect applied to Marcel Rodriguez’s synthesizer. Marcos Smith’s studied guitar play suggested a stealthy action hero taking down crooks.

“Static Lovers” opened with a noise bed of guitar and synthesizer reminiscent of the score from a Kubrick movie and then deployed a manic jam with fuzzed guitar and starry organ elements. The band’s sense of humor showed through on “Mega Slap,” with fat, distorted bass moves and ironic synthesizer strings dabbled over top. The song evaporated into a jangly, wah-wah space ride with twinkly guitar stutter.

Fang Island opened with “Careful Crossers” from their 2010 self-titled debut. The song was a playful trip with a ringing guitar build and etherial synthesizer. The effect pulled in the scant audience. “Life Coach” suffered from a technical audio flub which flustered the small crowd and the band, but Fang Island stayed on track. “Seek It Out” featured heavy guitar punches and the positive, get-up-and-go lyric, “I want to seek out the angle. I better start now.”

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Album review: Matisyahu remains a true ‘Spark Seeker’

Matisyahu
“Spark Seeker”
Fallen Sparks Records

Reggae artist Matisyahu has made a name for himself through speaking on a platform of positivity and personal change. His uplifting message shines through on “Spark Seeker.”

When he first caught mainstream attention in 2004 with the single “King Without a Crown” he wore a yarmulke and waxed poetic over reggae rhythms and his own beatboxing skills. Since then, Matisyahu has gone through some personal and musical rebirth. Where there was a yarmulke is short blond hair. And on “Spirit Seeker” he explores electronic music and mixes it with his lyrical storytelling and percussive vocal technique.

The album starts off with “Crossroads,” a track that rings like an opening piece of a musical epic poem or a primer of some sort. Where before the tone of many of Matisyahu’s songs was inspiring from beginning to end, “Crossroads” is a substantial song of determination and conviction. It picks up and carries the momentum that might fade out with the more lightly-optimistic tones of other tracks on “Spirit Seeker,” such as “Sunshine.”

The first few seconds sound like a low Hebrew warble that could be heard in the streets of Israel. Coupled with a sprinkling of traditional instrumentation and sounds, Matisyahu declares that “I’ve been searching for my bite/They say I inspire but I’m still looking for my fire.” It’s clear on “Crossroads” that though his music may be inspirational to listeners, Matisyahu works to also inspire himself through his songs.

Matisyahu cannot be pigeonholed, especially when it comes to “Tel Aviv’n.” With a heavy hand on the synthesizers, Matisyahu’s vocals merge with the electronic beats and melody as he sings “I’m feeling easy/The ocean brings me/Carrying me, I’m Tel Aviv’n/And now I’m seeing and I’m believing/Because these streets got melody in them.”

The song has a distinctly groovy feel and carefree attitude; it’s not hard to imagine “Tel Aviv’n” oozing out of the speakers in discotheques and clubs lining the streets referred to in the song. It’s no coincidence that part of “Spark Seeker” was recorded in Israel, as well as Los Angeles. “Tel Aviv’n,” especially, captures an urban-noir atmosphere.

For seasoned listeners that fancy Matisyahu’s reggae music “I Believe in Love” is the quintessence of that sound on “Spark Seeker.” Anchored by a slow, rocksteady beat, the softly-frazzled, bouncy guitar work and Matisyahu’s echoed voice, “I Believe in Love” is a sweet slow space on “Spark Seeker” that allows listeners to take a break from the more heavy, electronic tracks.

“Spark Seeker” doesn’t lack any opportunities for Matisyahu to show just how well he can make music, regardless of its genre. The album’s production locales parallel some of the music influences, and while there are elements of Matisyahu’s previous work, the album doesn’t feel remotely recycled or repetitive as far as creativity goes. Rather, the album simply attests to Matisyahu’s impressive ability to explore different musical landscapes.

Concert review: Exter vs. Kimock (with 3 Kings) leaves Pop’s Blue Moon reeling, Friday, July 27

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The night began with local act 3 Kings taking a trip through the land of funk and blues with a few surprise stops along the journey.

Although technically 3 Kings could be tagged as a cover band, there were no real note-for-note covers. Their set at Pop’s Blue Moon was full of interpretations of the source material, easily recognizable but not soulless recreations.

The few songs that were mostly note-for-note still had some attention-grabbing, unexpected twists like the effect-laden bass solo during the Meters’ classic “Cissy Strut” or the “that isn’t Billy Gibbons but it fits” stripped-down guitar solo during their version of ZZ Top’s “Cheap Sunglasses.” I especially enjoyed their vocal harmonizing during “People Say” and a fantastic reworking of the Lennon/McCartney track “Don’t Let Me Down.”

About halfway through the set the guys snuck in part of an original piece that they have been working on. If that snippet shows the path they are taking, they’d better get some Speed Stick now because the real deal is going to be funkier than an armpit after gym class.

Shortly after 3 Kings departed the stage, Trevor Exter and John Kimock, also known as Read more

All Aboard for Fun Times: St. Louis show highlights for 7/27-7/29

All Aboard for Fun Times Train

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I can’t provide details at this time, but I can say that anyone who’s a fan of power-pop/pop-rock should keep Friday, August 24 free — there’s gonna be one helluva probably-never-happen-again show…

I (finally) made my first visit to Plush this week. It’s an attractive space, and very spacious, but the big capacity seems a bit misleading; I’d think that a lot of folks would have to be in spots with a diminished, if not non-existent, view of the stage for a show with more than 300 or so attending.

I had a good time — and some tasty food.

Here’s your weekend:

Friday, July 27

The country, rock and more grab bag that is Box of Nerves performs at the Maya Café (2726 Sutton) at 8. I don’t believe there’s a cover or age limit (although minors will have to be adult-accompanied). Smoke-free.

Gold Motel / Jon Walker / We Should Leave This Tree
Firebird 2706 Olive 8 door/8:30 start $10 (+3 20-under) Smoke-free

Breezy, catchy pop fom Chicago’s GM.

A mellow blend of folk, pop and rock from fellow Second City resident JW (ex-Panic at the Disco!).

I’m not familiar with Belleville’s WSLTT.

Saturday, July 28

The Union Electric / Middle Class Fashion / Pretty Little Empire / Red Squad
Off Broadway 3509 Lemp 7:30 door/8 start $10 (+3 under 21) Smoke-free  

Tonight is an album release (included with the admission fee) show for TUE, who offer fuzzed-out folk-rock with thoughtful lyrics.

Cassie Kohler interviewed them for the RFT.

Christian Schaeffer provides a review of the album for the Homespun pick.

MCF offer catchy, piano-centric pop with tasty vocals.

Folk-rock sounds that run from mellow to manic from PLE.

I haven’t witnessed RS.

The Blind Eyes / Glossary / Beth Bombara
Blueberry Hill Duck Room 6504 Delmar 8 door/9 start $7 (21+ only) Smoke-free

Soulful, jangly pop from TBE, who may be off the scene for a while; drummer Matt Picker is about to become a daddy (congrats!), and they’re working on a new album.

Murfreesboro, TN’s G play rootsy stuff that ranges from mellow country-folk to full-on twangy rock.

BB ranges from quiet folk to smart pop with her songs – not sure if she’s solo or playing with a band.

Sunday, July 29

Magic City / The Sour Notes / Spectator / Golden Curls
Lemmons 5800 Gravois 6:30 start $5 Smoke-free

Powerful rock with a dark vibe from the fabulous MC.

Tuneful pop-rock with a punk-ish edge from Austin’s TSN.

S offer lush pop soundscapes that are earning lots of enthusiastic fans.

I’m not familiar with GC.

Another show is scheduled to start at 10, so this should wrap early enough for folks heading to work Monday morning.

Your humble servant,

Dick Caveat

Concert review: Buckethead (with (it!)) shreds 2720 Cherokee on Thursday, July 26

Buckethead at 2720 Cherokee. Photo by Brad Blackburn.

The night at 2720 Cherokee began with local dance-rock duo (it!) who brought a dual drum groove machine to the stage, immediately busting into a song about themselves and their ability to move the masses’ asses.

Consisting of Joel Kern on guitar, drums, and vocals and Andrew Bohler on drums and vocals, (it!) puts on a show that has to be seen to be believed. Imagine an alternate reality where Daft Punk used drums and guitars to create catchy dance tracks instead of synths and computers and you’ll have a good idea of (it!) in action.

The duo’s vocals matched the tunes well, with Bohler’s screams channeling Black Francis at his highest intensity. They played for about 45 minutes straight, drums in lock step the entire time. Although I personally find dance music too repetitive, (it!) put on a damn good show and kept the crowd’s energy high. If you like to shake your groove thing, this St. Louis band may be right up your alley.

After a few minutes of audio recorded from a game of Galaga, Buckethead hit the stage clad in black except for his KFC bucket helmet and white theatre mask covering his face. He proceeded to pick up his Les Paul and give a clinic on metal guitar virtuosity. Buckethead (aka Brian Patrick Carroll) is one of those guys who make shredding look as simple as can be, both wowing and pissing off the guitarists in the crowd at the same time. When he wasn’t playing insanely fast solo runs or poking out blazing, two-handed tapping bits, he was blasting out some of the crunchiest guitar riffs this side of a bucket of extra crispy.

Between songs Buckethead was either trading gifts with his fans, showing off his sweet nunchuck skills, or doing the robot. At one point he was even doing the robot while playing, looking like a member of hell’s version of the Rock-A-Fire Express. Musically the show was fantastic, with only a drum machine and Buckethead himself flailing away at the fretboard. It’s not easy to play fast and flawlessly, but he makes it look like a walk in the park.

Solo heavy guitar music is one of those things that you have to really enjoy to get anything out of it, whether you appreciate it from a technical standpoint or not. Judging from the crowd’s reaction during the show and after, Buckethead’s fans were as appreciative of him as he was of them.

Album review: The Gaslight Anthem burns on with ‘Handwritten’

The Gaslight Anthem
“Handwritten”
Mercury

“Handwritten” is the Gaslight Anthem’s first release with Mercury Records after leaving SideOneDummy last year. Recorded in Nashville, “Handwritten” is stylistically closer to “The ’59 Sound” than its more recent, largely midtempo release “American Slang,” and a few times derivative of their 2008 debut “Sink or Swim.”

“Sink or Swim” and sometimes “The ’59 Sound” tend to get called punk because they’re speedy, guitar-driven songs filled with uncomplicated chord changes and the kind of punch that can hit you square in the gut. The thing is, the Gaslight Anthem has just as much ability to bypass the gut and go straight for the feelies, and this, at least to me, is more pop than punk, although I readily admit to deferring to the Supreme Court’s method of definition: I can’t define punk, but I know it when I hear it. With that said, the Gaslight Anthem is not punk. But then, at least in today’s context, neither are the Ramones.

The Gaslight Anthem is an American rock ‘n’ roll band, one whose songs are true to form and country. It’s a band equally comfortable as bombastic headliners and balladeers. It’s also a songwriter’s band, and Brian Fallon — lead vocalist, also guitar — writes as tribute to the essential components of the style.

Fallon knows well that place is evocative, and he writes with a strong sense of it. In addition to “Mullholland Drive” and “Biloxi Parish” on “Handwritten” are the career-long references to Fallon’s home state of New Jersey, a place that exports primarily chemicals and musicians and informs the latter so well in terms of lyrics.

While we’re on the subject, what is it about Jersey boys and their cars, that regional peculiarity that causes them to sexualize the lines, surfaces and anthropomorphic qualities of engines? It’s a disposition the Gaslight Anthem shares in older songs like “Old White Lincoln” and “The Backseat” as well as “Here Comes My Man” on “Handwritten,” and makes their albums so unplaceable as any other country’s sons. There’s such devotion there that it makes me wonder if these lyrics, Alex Rosamilia’s guitar, and the solid, on-the-floor drums of Benny Horowitz are conscious Americana or just an unbridled case of Id.

Anyone raised on the worship of American rock ‘n’ roll can be forgiven the occasional ounce of cheese, which is why Fallon should be allowed to spread it on a little thick at times. This red-blooded pathos is heavy on songs like “Mae,” wherein Fallon addresses a girl as “with your Bette Davis eyes and your mama’s party dress” and describes himself as “with my faded jeans and faraway eyes.” There’s a difference between pandering and romanticism, though, and Fallon at least seems sincere. Even the most dreamboat lyrics and addictive choral hooks (“oh sha la la, oh sha la la / listen honey here comes my man” in “Here Comes My Man”) are performed genuinely, and most importantly, the man can write the hell out of an earworm.

“Handwritten” doesn’t quite escape being overwrought, though. “Keepsake” probably soothes some psychological wounds, and I’m probably a cynical bastard, but the attempt to come to terms with a mostly absentee father is out of place on this album. Likewise, “Too Much Blood” is a misstep, the churning bass riff and Fallon’s gurgling vocals in the verses sounding less like the Gaslight Anthem and more like the Gaslight Anthem momentarily possessed by a hair metal band.

Full of anthems and sentiment, why “Handwritten” wasn’t released on the 4th of July is beyond me, but at least the month is right, and if you’re interested in doing yourself a Jersey-sized favor, you’ll keep it on deck for an end-of-the-summer road trip.

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