Nathan Brand's Posts
|I'm a volunteer music writer for KDHX.|
Concert review: Nick Waterhouse (with Allah-Lahs) brings down the house at Plush, Friday, September 28
The towering glass double doors at Plush which separate the music venue from the restaurant offered an entrance to a time machine. Everything appeared to be normal, but as the canned sounds of classic R&B and rock ‘n’ roll poured from the speakers above, a gradual, hypnotic wash began to fall over all within earshot.
As Los Angeles-based Allah-Lahs began to take their positions beneath the blue and gold stage lights, the entire transportation was still easing into full effect. The four skinny, denim-clad members of the group launched into their set with a vibe invoking the spirit of mid-career Tom Petty.
After a few lazy strums, the vocals kicked in. The band seemed to be an alter-incarnation of Petty himself. Allah-Lahs demonstrated a loyal discipleship to this familiar and beloved sound. Single-noted riffs reverberating amidst slow strums of the guitar backed by easy sounding surf-influenced rhythms loosened the grooving joints of the crowd. Anticipation grew as Waterhouse could be spotted roaming throughout the audience.
In contrast to the laid-back fashion of Allah-Lahs, Nick Waterhouse stepped on stage along with his band, the Tarots, commanding applause and attention. The stage was quickly flooded as the band burst into non-album track, “Money.” This alluring sonic time warp drew in those mingling around the room. Faces in the crowd glowed blue as smiles spread in adoration of the group’s timeless talent.
Moving directly into “Say I Wanna Know,” the crowd began to sing along as audience members began syncing with their dancing partners. As Waterhouse wailed on his sunburst, hollow-bodied electric guitar, the sounds traveling through the curly white instrument cable reached the amps with enough soulful swagger to incite a riot a little over a half century ago.
The sound of Waterhouse and his crew is most aptly explained by their debut record’s title, “Time’s All Gone.” Rock, swing, blues, soul: This is one act whose genius translates equally well to music lovers of all stripes. Though he bears a resemblance to Buddy Holly physically, perhaps the closest musical comparison would be Elvis. However, this is what Elvis may have sounded like if he overcame his impulsive gluttony and returned with a focused fury (and a bad ass saxophonist) to reeducate the souls of rock ‘n’ roll.
Concert review: Los Campesinos! and Yellow Ostrich shake, rattle and indie rock at Plush, Saturday, June 16
Heavy drumbeats pulsated from the outside walls of Plush as early-bird fans filled the restaurant lobby. Standing beneath a chandelier of transparent leaves glowing pink and purple, they glimpsed the final moments of Yellow Ostrich’s soundcheck.
When the double glass doors were finally opened, the eager fans rushed the stage as others found comfortable seating along the lower perimeter or in the wrap around balcony above.
The stage glowed a peaceful blue as the dimly-lit crowd welcomed Yellow Ostrich to its first show in St. Louis. Front man Alex Schaaf stood tall and thin with shaggy hair swept across his forehead and a guitar across his waist. To his left sat drummer Michael Tapper and to his right stood multi-instrumentalist Jon Natchez. Ambient noise and pounding drums introduced the band as they looped the opening vocal hook of “Whale.”
Though the crowd appeared largely unfamiliar with the band’s material, the trio’s melodic meandering between breezy afro-beat surf tones and crunchy blasts of chaos garnered big cheers as the audience loosened up. Masterfully looping and layering vocals and a variety of effects, Schaaf and company carried the crowd ever higher as they played on with minimal talking between songs.
The sounds of the set were as if Phoenix met Manchester Orchestra in the eye of a storm. Standing still, everything was soft, easy and melodic, but the band’s slightest step in any direction could send tunes into a whirlwind of heavy feedback and bleeding aggressive drum breaks. Three-part harmony and a blasting horn and guitar continued as spot-on vocals highlighted the band’s final song.
A majority of the comfortable seating along the walls was now vacant as the crowd, astounded by Yellow Ostrich, anticipated the arrival of Los Campesinos!. The stage was completely unlit as sweet guitar melodies washed over the crowd before the band entered, adding a strong drumbeat and synth tones. After all seven members were on stage; lead-singer Gareth David blasted the audience with emotional vocals straight out of the gate. His demeanor was sharply contrasted by the lazy swagger of his sister Kim on keys and vocals to his left.
Concert review: The Polyphonic Spree (with New Fumes and Sweet Lee Morrow) raise all voices at the Duck Room, Friday, May 11
Down the stairs and past the bar, a screen on the Duck Room stage displayed a jerky psychedelic image resembling a collage of contorted faces.
The disco ball spun slowly in the foreground as the stage was prepared for New Fumes to perform. Leaving his position behind the merchandise table, a tall, thin, man humbly approached the stage and looped a guitar over his shoulder as he crouched behind. He carried the unassuming air of a roadie, but this was the sole member of New Fumes, a psychedelic rock and dance act on Tim DeLaughter’s Good Records label from Dallas.
“Hi, I’m Daniel,” he began, placing a goat mask atop his head. “I have a pretty brief set so if you don’t like my music don’t worry, it will be over soon.” As he began with a trippy swirl of electronic chaos he smoothly launched into a psychedelic rendition of the Star Wars theme. With equally trippy video playing on the background screen the crowd roared with approval. Continuing to paint his tapestry of electronic psychedelia, New Fumes gained the respect of many attendees who applauded as he left the stage just as humbly as he had entered.
The second performer, Sweet Lee Morrow, took the stage also as a lone member act. However, the shy and quiet nature of the previous performer was contrasted by a much more vocal and confident display of folk and pop-rock piano and guitar tunes. Moving from behind his keyboard, he kneeled as he took hold of his guitar. Placing the headstock on his finger, he offered the crowd a bonus balancing act before submitting a final set of gracious jams.
As the crowd prepared for what they hoped would be an extraordinarily uplifting time with the Polyphonic Spree a red curtain was stretched across the front of the stage. A Vaudeville-sounding tune sprinkled out from the speakers as the spotlighted disco ball spun and sent sparkled light squares across the room.
Scissors punctured the curtain from behind. The shape of a heart was cut out as the piano began to play softly. Blasting into a full-band chorus, lead singer, Tim DeLaughter, cut the curtain in half, revealing a crew of 13 people playing and singing in white robes. A single red heart adorned each robe as a symbol of the group’s message.
Horns blared over dual percussion. Keys and a cello added to the mix with four females lending vocal support to DeLaughter. By the end of the first song the band was conducting an audience-aided sing-along. Throughout the evening some sang the lyrics like gospel while others simply stood and smiled. And of course, Beatle Bob was there rocking away in the front row.
The band set included the hits “Hold Me Now” and “Light and Day,” but also offered up a smoothly transitioned set of lesser-known crowd pleasers like “Soldier Girl.” One of the major highlights of the evening was the band’s rousing cover of the Who’s “Pinball Wizard.” The band danced and grooved as DeLaughter led the show, grabbing the rafters as he leaned toward the crowd.
Following a triumphant, horn-focused finale the band took a short break before returning to gracious cheers. Playing another three songs, the Spree’s symphony entertained the packed house as they true their hands to the ceiling in celebration. As the end of the last song approached, the crowd chanted with the harmonies of the band, “All in good time, raise our voices.”
The band members slowly left the stage in pairs until all that remained was DeLaughter with his hand on the rafters extending his microphone to the choir in the crowd. Bowing in appreciation DeLaughter waved as he followed his crew exiting the stage.
Event review: KDHX fans and DJs share love, music and chaos at Midwest Mayhem at the City Museum, Thursday, May 10
While walking towards the entrance one could glimpse the familiar school bus extending over the street as the mantis praying from above seemed to bless the mayhem ahead.
The night began with the sounds of Bob Reuter’s Alley Ghost welcoming patrons at the first floor Whale Stage (Reuter is host of Bob’s Scratchy Records on Friday afternoons on 88.1 KDHX). The crowd continued to grow throughout the evening as attendees wandered and climbed through four floors of entertainment including an excellent variety of live music, indoor and outdoor playgrounds, spin sessions by DJs, burlesque performers and even an in-house vintage clothing shop featuring its own side stage.
Like KDHX, the City Museum is ever evolving. Areas under construction at last year’s event were now open to exploration as renovations were being done on new sections. The evening was highlighted by musical acts ranging from traditional folk and country to modern rock and electronica.
Opening on the second floor, synth-pop group Née provided dance tunes beneath white icicle lights hanging from the ceiling. Meanwhile, the third floor was washed over by the folk and country blend of the Five and Dimers. On the other side of the building, burlesque performers entertained a packed house with three sets that included a grand finale male performer.
As the night continued, featured drinks by New Belgium and Sailor Jerry ensured a well-lubricated evening. Javier Mendoza was second to take the Whale Stage; the St. Louis veteran offered up a selection of singer-songwriter rock tunes attracting familiar fans and passers by who were simply following their ears.
Up again on the third floor, the Lawn Chair Brigade was present and in full effect as they marched around, snap-folding their chairs and providing a welcomed pre-show for the KDHX Blues Band (which included long-time 88.1 KDHX DJs Papa Ray, Art Dwyer, Ron Edwards and Michael McHenry). The crowd continued to expand as the band wielded wildly entertaining harmonica solos over lively and tight blues jams, attracting a wide variety of listeners.
Concert review: A packed Pageant swoons for the Head and the Heart (with Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives), Sunday, March 25
The Head and the Heart brought an abundance of sing-along sunshine from Seattle to St. Louis on Sunday night at the Pageant. Joyful attendees stomped, clapped and swayed along to the sweet folk-rock and harmonies offered throughout the evening.
Opening act for this KDHX-welcomed night, Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives gave an emotional and psychedelic display of their own breed of folk-rock, progressing through a variety of musical influences. As frontman Drew Grow entered alone, his droopy, blue cabby hat shading his face, he took his position at center stage surrounded by four guitars. Grabbing an acoustic, he began strumming and singing a simple folk song and was soon joined by band members taking their respective positions and offering supporting harmonies to the modest introduction.
With all four members now on stage, the band launched into a passionate rock jam reminiscent of Langhorne Slim. Midway through their set, Drew Grow and company were joined on stage by the Head and The Heart’s co-frontmen, Jon Russell and Josiah Johnson, adding a tambourine and maraca to the mix. Aggressively wandering through rockabilly, folk and psychedelia, the raw vibes, powerful harmonies and ambient explorations gained quick approval as the crowd in the pit grew denser. The band concluded with a full-throttle jam before inviting members from their fellow touring acts to join them on stage for a final gospel tune laden with tambourines, shakers and vocal harmonies.
Roadies and band members alike set up equipment and stage décor preparing for the evening’s main event. As the room swelled with anticipation the crowd danced along to M83 playing through the speakers before the band entered to My Morning Jacket’s “Wordless Chorus.” The crowd cheered and continued to dance as the band took to their positions. Russell stood at center stage with an acoustic guitar on one side and an electric on the other. Johnson to his left held his acoustic, while Charity Rose Thielen stood behind a wildflower-wound microphone stand with her violin. Drums, bass and piano were all situated in the background; this was to be the most still the band would be for the rest of the evening.
Beginning in correlation with their sole album to date, drumsticks tapped the intro of “Cats and Dogs” as vocals and guitars joined. As the bass line kicked in, the lights strung between Chinese lantern globes overhead glowed warmly. Continuing in line with the album, the band moved directly into “Couer d’Alene,” as fans cheered and sang along. The dim Chinese lanterns took over stage brightening again as the piano introduced the third song of the album, “Ghosts.”
Following the soft piano outro, Russell announced the first of a handful of new songs for the evening. After the audience showed their appreciation, the band continued to direct the choir of the crowd through more of their album hits. The layers of harmonies soared beautifully throughout the building as the band drew energy from the audience and danced about the stage.
Concert review: Railroad Earth and the Pernikoff Brothers bring a summer festival vibe to the Pageant, Friday, January 27
Under the increasingly-crowded shade tree of a small hill, the 80-degree weather and cool breeze perfectly matched the sounds drifting from the side speakers. Such was the scene of my introduction to Railroad Earth four years ago.
But even in the chills of January, the inside of the Pageant last night felt nearly as perfect as that summer dreamscape. Railroad Earth is a band whose name is clearly justified by its sound. Forward moving and steady, the band uses traditional folk instruments to have a pleasant musical conversation.
Local act the Pernikoff Brothers were first to take the stage. Bringing funky acoustic sounds in the style of Dave Matthews Band, the trio invited attendees to leave their worries at the door for the sake of a good time. The group also hinted at traits reminiscent of another, more southern, set of rock ‘n’ roll brothers. Yes, that’s right: Kings of Leon echoes expanded just as the crowd did throughout the set. However, it would take more than passing pigeon problems to send these guys packing. Their three-part harmonies were perfect and the crowd was wowed as bassist Rick Pernikoff blew an outstanding harmonica solo as he steadied an intricate and funky bass line.
By the time Railroad Earth took the stage the crowd had doubled in size and the familiar smell of cigarettes and beer had been washed over by a patchouli tidal wave. All six members of the band were miked and calmly took their positions as they waved to the crowd. Beginning with a smooth bass line and spacey mandolin tones the band eased into the night with a deep breath that would later be released in a shout.
Everything began to work together. The sights, sounds and smells meandering throughout the building removed the weights of the week and freed shoulders to sway along. From the view at the back of the bar, the crowd in the packed pit looked like coconuts floating on gentle ocean waves. These waves kept in motion with the music as the band transitioned from song to song and offered up both older favorites and more recent tunes throughout their two-part set.
Concert review: tUnE-yArDs’ eclectic mix brings warmth to a rainy night at Off Broadway, Tuesday, November 8
Walking in, slightly damp, to the smooth swaying sounds of Pat Jordache, the constantly expanding crowd at Off Broadway was welcomed in oddly lazy anticipation. The Morrissey-esque vocals and ’80s indie synthesizer laid a near perfect foundation for tUnE-YarDs. Perfect, like the site of the Manhattan Project.
Shoulder to shoulder, all eyes gazed at the familiar red curtain. A lone woman in a purple dress subtly steps on the stage in the manner of a second opener. However, this was no forgettable solo act. This was Merrill Garbus, the soul of tUnE-yArDs.
With her trademark asymmetrical haircut and silver face paint, her unwavering confidence beamed over the dimly lit crowd as she began with a series of hums, scats, growls and yelps looped over simple yet powerful drums. The remaining three bandmates progressively accompanied her on stage as she sang her patriotic query “My Country.” Bass and dual saxophones further lent to the magically musical chaos.
The siren wailed. Bring the drums. Bring the bass. Add the horns. The crowd checks over their grooving shoulders with stunned smiles as fan favorite “Gangsta” was delivered as the second song. Many bands would be all downhill after playing such a hit so early. Not so tonight.
More cheers flooded the room as Garbus picked up her ukulele. Black tape covered the sound hole and fresh strings curled over the headstock like a muted goldilocks. A fresh rendition of “Es So” gave way to the tambourine and kick drum intro of “Doorstep.” As Garbus’s more traditional signing abilities were highlighted, the crowd sang and bounced along to the flying and fluid tunes.
Concert review: Yuck (with Porcelain Raft) dazzles with indie noise-rock at the Firebird, Tuesday, October 4
The pre-show rock tunes were pulsing from the ceiling speakers. The sparse crowd sat mingling among the booths at the Firebird and barely noticed as Mauro Remiddi, the lone member of opening act Porcelain Raft, meandered to his microphone.
As the heavy delay and reverb-drenched sounds of his baby-blue guitar filled the space, the layered ambience caused a certain hush to fall about the room. Now intrigued, the congregation stood at almost religious attention as the vocals began to soar in a manner recalling the emotive groans and angelic range of a young Thom Yorke.
As if the calm before the storm, the airy vibe of the set opener was followed by a thundering bass beat launched forth from the drum machine to his right. “Could you all please be quiet,” joked Remiddi between songs, continuing to stare down the mic stand. “I’m trying to tune.” And aside from the crowd’s much appreciative applause, the room obliged. On the last song Remiddi finally raised his attention, but only to stare intently at the back wall as he sang the closing chant of “Tip of Your Tongue” before graciously slinking off the stage.
The canned music played on throughout the venue as the crowd began to mingle again. The members of Yuck hurried in through the main entrance loaded with bags of food and disappeared to their room. A piece of white fabric was hung in back of the stage that read “YUcK” in black brushed lettering. The Y was drawn like a chicken foot with its toes pointed straight up to the sky.
Arriving on a darkened stage, the band took their positions and let the feedback frenzy begin. The multi-colored stage lights started to glow as the group initiated a saturated noise-rock intro that transitioned into their hit “Holing Out.”
Lead vocalist and guitarist Daniel Blumberg, with his thin build and curly hair, looked like a young Dylan in denim as he strummed his SG and lazily delivered the lyrics from stage right. In the middle stood bassist Mariko Doi, swaying from side to side as her eyes remained hidden behind her long black bangs, occasionally offering up sweet backing vocals. Max Bloom was helming the chaotically-orchestrated lead guitar work on stage left via a unique Fender Jazzmaster. With electric tape over the guitar’s switches and a High Life atop his Orange amp head he also lent vocal support to the group.