5/20 – Chicago, IL @ Gman Tavern
5/21 – St Louis, MO @ Off Broadway
5/22 – Louisville, KY @ Haymarket Whiskey Bar
So one thing we like over here at Ninebullets is learning about the other side of the equation, and seeing what’s going on with the artists who make the music we love. Todd Farrell Jr., a singer/songwriter whose endeavors have been covered here at 9b before, recently joined fan-favorite band Two Cow Garage as an additional guitarist. We asked Todd to share with us what it was like being a newly minted member of one of his favorite bands.
May 13, 2015
Young Valley is the perfect example of why you always show up for the opener. Headed to my number who-knows Lucero show, I got to the venue (Brewsky’s in Hattiesburg, Mississippi) a few minutes after ate, and heard the band through the walls: there was a classic country guitar-walking beat, someone name-dropped Jesus Christ, and I heard the words ‘Holy Ghost’ in the chorus…this did not sound like your standard Lucero opening band. Tuning his guitar and with his eyes on his shoes, lead singer Zach Lovett reminded the audience with some sincerity to, “Say your prayers, folks.” I will admit that I started to get a little nervous.
The band started in on their next song, though, and I was blown away. Zach Lovett sings about Heaven and Hell with equal ease, alternating the goofy hip-shakes of a youth pastor as he strums his acoustic guitar with the stomping and howling of a disgraced revival preacher. His twin brother Dylan is on lead guitar and seemed at first to follow the Brian Venable model of shredder, equal parts skill, subdued nature, and beard. But Dylan writes and sings several of his own songs as well, and though his voice doesn’t have his brother’s power it possesses a sweet tone and earnestness that is just as striking.
Young Valley kept the attention of the boys from Lucero for the entirety of their set, and at the end of the show Ben Nichols used his pulpit to espouse their virtures: “We already bought three copies of their CD…y’all already own our shit. Go buy their shit! They’re the best opening band I’ve seen in a long time.” [Author’s Note: I bought the record because they were badass, not because Ben Nichols told me to]
Listening to the record, No Filter, on the long drive back to Louisiana was an absolute treat. The band has roots in a lot of older music, when the lines between rock’n’roll, country, and blues were much thinner. These boys are from Jackson, Mississippi and proud of it. But this is by no means a genre record: it dances from the Bakersfield sound of “The Way It Has To Be” to the much more modern vibe of “The Fly” with ease. Each of the Lovett brothers has their vocal prowess and songwriting talent on display over these thirteen tracks, and the band can stay tightly together or cut loose with the best of them. It has everything you could want from a debut album: pedal steel, piano, sad acoustic numbers, stomp-worthy rock and roll, heartache, and the Devil.
This is the time to start listening to a band, when you can watch them grow, cheer them on, and have a beer with them after the show. If No Filter is any indication, the sky is the limit for Young Valley.
For those of you that don’t know, JKutchma‘s new record, Blue Highways, is one 40 minute long track encompassing nine songs. It also cuts off abruptly at the end, in the middle of a chorus. All of this is by design, as you would expect from a canny veteran like Kutchma. I got the chance to talk to him about the record last week here in New Orleans, and immediately relayed the conversation to the Ninebullets writing staff before the Miller High Life washed it all away. With Jason’s permission, here’s the method behind the madness of Blue Highways:
First off, the length. The 40 minute run time of the record is designed to evoke the 40 minutes surrounding a sunrise or sunset, from the time the sky begins to change until it regains its uniformity. Much like myself, it seems, Kutchma endeavors to begin road trips before everything is fixed in place. Even if the actual rising or setting only takes 3 minutes, the change from day to night takes much longer, and that kind of transformation is what he wanted to capture.
Then there’s the single track nature of the album. Releasing the record as a single track is something Kutchma had been wrestling with since its conception. When he was debating whether or not to release the record in two versions (one 40 minutes long and one track, one divided into tracks), he heard a conversation on a music podcast he respects a lot. They were talking about an artist they’d seen at SXSW: this artist (Le Butcherettes) was so hard to find now, that to buy a record you couldn’t go to iTunes or Amazon…you had to actually go to their website. That was when Kutchma decided, in his own words, “Fuck everyone in the universe. I’m doing what I want.” If people think going to a website is so difficult, if they need art handed to them on a silver platter, they don’t deserve it.
Later, a blog asked him for individual tracks to promote the album. He weighed the idea of releasing singles, and asked his wife Beth (seen at the Holiday Hangout playing bass for Red Collar in pearls) about it. She told him, “If you want to do that just because it’s what’s done, then it’s not your artistic vision. You’re only doing it because it’s what people want, and that’s not who you are.” That sound advice settled the matter for him. If you like a song on this record, but don’t like it enough to open up garage band or audacity and select and save the track as a new mp3 yourself…you probably don’t like it as much as you think you do.
And that is the summation I can give you of my conversation with the indescribably cool JKutchma and his stellar wife Beth.
Ninebullets has a review of Blue Highways coming down the pipeline, but in the meantime you can pick it up in digital form from his Bandcamp, or nab a fancy version of the release from the Last Chance Records Store.
This year’s celebration of Last Chance Records head honcho Travis Hill’s birthday, like every year, was also a celebration of life in general. The pins given out in the VIP package summed up the 2014 that so many of us had: ‘Hard Work And Plenty Of It’. I’m sure by now most of you who read this site have been inundated with Holiday Hangout 2014 tweets, photographs, or drunken text messages, and now that the event is over may be breathing a sigh of relief. But not so fast; I still have a few things to say.
The Holiday Hangout is much more than a simple concert, or mere festival: it’s a rock and roll family reunion. This year four 9bullets writers (Charles, RSV, Scott, and myself) gathered with dozens of our closest friends and sang our hearts out to our favorite bands. Those are the things you may have picked of from the never-ending Instagram updates from Little Rock that got less frequent and blurrier as the night, and weekend, went on. I want to tell you about a few things you may not have been able to perceive from over the internet. There may be some friends I made or artists who played that I don’t mention, and for that I apologize. I think every Holiday Hangout might require a novella (and spare liver) to cover adequately, but I have the time and space I have. What follows are the key moments, observations, and musings from my White Water Tavern nights this December:
So there you have it, my take on this year’s Holiday Hangout. Thanks to everyone at the White Water who made it happen, everyone who played, everyone who went and sang and shouted and danced and swore and shook. All we have to do to get to the next one is make it through another year.
Here’s a video of Micah Schnabel, Brent Best, David Murphy, Todd Farrell, Joey Kneiser, Ben Nichols, John Moreland, Travis Hill, and Shane Sweeney playing “Like A Rolling Stone”. If you have to skip past the first three minutes of laughter and terrible jokes because Shane forgot to plug his guitar in, that’s what you have to do. But I don’t recommend it.
Did you have any favorite moments this Holiday Hangout, or questions about the shows? Leave a comment and let’s talk! Or hit us up on Twitter, @Real9Bullets!
Man, if you don’t know who Arliss Nancy is yet (are yet?) then you haven’t been reading this blog for very long. Consider this your education.
Arliss Nancy is five dudes from Ft. Collins, CO. They had an out of nowhere classic with Simple Machines, toured forever on it, and finally came out last year with Wild American Runners. Both album are littered with classics, and were labeled Essential Listening by the fine folks here at Ninebullets.
If you haven’t seen Arliss Nancy live, you’re missing out. Not only because the tightness of their musicianship and vocals have to be heard to be believed, but also because they’re some of the most radical dudes trying to make this music thing happen. I was fortunate enough to spend time with them when they were out here in Los Angeles, and was struck again by how friendly and genuine each of them are. Being a touring band is difficult and thankless, and more bands than any of us could name have fallen apart because they couldn’t handle spending 24 hours a day seven days a week in a passenger van with the same dudes for weeks on end. Much like their music, the friendship of this motley crew has no explanation as to how it’s so good…but the proof, as they say, is in the huevos rancheros.
Go see a show. Tell your friends in other cities to go see shows. Buy a t-shirt (they have like 16 designs or something). Say hi, give a sweaty smelly dude a hug, and tell him how well he played and make up for the shitty 6 hour drive between two dive bars.
It’s not so much that I only go to see really great songwriters where hardly no one is in the audience, it’s more that I only write Rock Reports about such evenings.
Last night I ventured down to Surfside 7 because John Moreland was coming through town. I am a recent convert but I’m already fully committed. Baptized and everything. Holy Ghost fire and whatnot. It was a Wednesday night and I don’t know if John Moreland has been to Ft. Collins before, so I wasn’t expecting much of a crowd and I was right.
Surfside 7 is the kind of bar people wander into but not many seemed to wander in by accident, but that mattered not because when it was Moreland’s turn to play he sat on a barstool, strapped on a guitar and sang the truth. Oh good lord, it was amazing. On several song John plays the guitar with his thumb and pointer finger, it’s a casually mesmerizing style that must take a lot of practice and touch. It’s something to see, is the point I’m trying to make. And because there were only a dozen folks in the bar I could see it just fine.
As well as Moreland plays and as well as he sings the beauty of his art is the songs he creates. I believe the third song he played he introduced as being written last week. Who knows if that means it’s been cooking in the oven for several months and was just finished last week or if it had all come together so recently, but the song was amazing. Every song he played in the roughly 50 minute set was amazing. Well worth the $3 cover charge.
I’ve been fortunate to hear Moreland’s upcoming album and it is a really barn burner (due out in June) and most of the songs on the album were played last night. For me the highlight of the set came early when he played “Nobody Gives A Damn About Songs Anymore.” It is a beautiful song about the art of songwriting and the devaluing it’s always facing. But as the statement sounds negative, I believe it has the opposite affect on us (readers of 9B and lovers of quality music). We must, no matter our numbers, support and love the art that moves us. Songs Matter is a phrase that’s been on my mind a lot the last month and it holds true for all of Moreland catalog.
After the set I only geeked out a little. For High Life bottles isn’t that much, but I did shake John’s hand three times while buying a record.
Two somewhat related points:
1. Cory and Kyle from Arliss Nancy both played really great, brief acoustic sets to open the night. AN has really grown on me in the last year or so.
2. While I was seeing John Moreland in Colorado, AutopsyIV was seeing Joe Pug in Florida and my friends in Mississippi were catching American Aquarium. Not a bad Wednesday night. We may not be large numbers but we are everywhere.
If you’ve read Nine Bullets at all in the last year or so there’s no doubt you’ve heard the name McDougall. He’s a favorite of several of the writers, myself included, yet because he lives in the Pacific Northwest the chances to see him live are few and far between. Or nonexistent.
Last night I drove 65 miles south to Denver because McDougall was passing through on his way to SXSW. I had never heard of the bar and didn’t know the area but he was playing first and it was only six dollars and I didn’t have anything else to do so I made that drive.
There was a photo we posted on the site a while back and it also made the rounds on facebook and twitter. It showed a band playing their guts out to one guy standing in front of them. Well that’s exactly what happened last night. I heard McDougall playing when I reached the door, I payed the cover and walked in. The place was empty, and when I say empty I mean there was a bartender and four or so guys sitting in booths opposite of the stage area. I later learned they were the other band. I got a beer and straight to the stage.
Shortly after I reached the stage McDougall finished the song he was playing. I clapped and the other band clapped. I said, “I’m just going to stand here if you don’t mind.” McDougall said he didn’t mind. And that’s how things went for the next half hour or so. McDougall fucking played the shit out of his guitar, bass drum, high hat and banjo and it was awesome. Not a single song he played was on his album A Few Towns More, but it didn’t matter because everything he played was great and I was rocking as much as I rock.
After he finished I introduced myself and mentioned that I wrote for Ninebullets. We talked a bit and McDougall seemed like a good dude and didn’t really seem to mind that I was the only one listening.
Here’s the thing. I don’t think anyone in the Ninebullets office has talked about it but I think to several of us McDougall is a kind of a mythical musician. I think part of it is that his record is so ridiculously good yet next to no one outside of the Pacific Northwest knows he exists. His singing and playing is captivating and all of his songs are about travel or optimistic restlessness, almost like he might just move on to somewhere else and never be seen from again. Or that he might not even exist at all. Now I’ve seen the guy and talked to him and I’m still not convinced he does exist.
Here are the remainder of McDougall’s tour dates. If he’s hitting your neck of the woods go be his Bobby.
Thu, 07 Mar – Denver, CO – Quixote’s
Fri, 08 Mar – Colorado Springs, CO – Front Range Barbeque
Sat, 09 Mar – Amarillo, TX – The 806 coffee + lounge
Tue, 12 Mar – Austin, TX – Firehouse Hostel and Lounge
Wed, 13 Mar – Austin, TX – The Grackle
Wed, 13 Mar – Austin, TX – Firehouse Hostel and Lounge
Fri, 15 Mar – Austin, TX – Frontier Bar
Tue, 19 Mar – Tucson, AZ – The Sculpture Resource Center
Fri, 22 Mar – Long Beach, 98631 – The Pickled Fish @ Adrift Hotel
Sun, 24 Mar – Astoria, OR – Fort George Brewery
I’d say the general reaction I got from people when I announced I was going to see Flobots was 50 percent “Who?” and 50 percent “The Handlebar dudes?” Yes, the dudes responsible for 2008 hit single “Handlebars” dropped into Orpheum in support of their third and most recent release, The Circle in the Square, and I was very interested in how they’d sound four years after releasing that infuriatingly catchy track.
Local prog-hip hop band Samurai Shotgun hit the stage first and impressed the hell out of me. I know lead singer Mateo Prince Henley from the Ybor clubs he’s worked at, and I had no idea he had this in him. When I commented to my friend that one of their songs reminded me of a raw, urban RHCP, he summed it up succinctly with his response: “Yeah, but ten times better, though.”
Next on stage was Minnesota’s insanely surprising Astronautalis. When a pretty blonde boy in a cornflower blue button-down and khakis strode onto the stage to help set up, I assumed he was an intern. Then the lights went down, and he started sing-rhyming over reverb-drenched guitar and cymbals-crashing beats, and I thought, Whoa. Dude’s got flow. The crowd was definitely digging the mix of hip hop and rock, and didn’t hesitate to move closer to the stage at his invitation. He kept brushing his blonde curls away from his face as he bounced from foot to foot and crouched down to make eye contact with the crowd. He referred to himself as a “substitute (teacher) looking motherfucker,” to those of us who weren’t familiar with him before his set started, addressing the whole judging-a-book-by-its-cover thing (which I was guilty of), and then asked for requests on subjects to freestyle on. The two spontaneous freestyle raps that followed touched on the Higgs boson particle, Mitt Romney, the movie Airplane!, Deerwood Country Club in Jacksonville, Stan Lee, and roller derby. Dude is good.
Closing out the night, Flobots entered to a pretty big crowd that clearly knew there was more to the sextet than bike tricks. The first thing I noticed wasn’t the guitarist or bassist, it wasn’t the pair of charismatic rappers who front the band, and it wasn’t the burly guy on drums. It was definitely band’s lone female, Mackenzie Gault, standing stage left with her electric viola. Instrumental touches like this are what make Flobots’ mix of hip hop and rock so special. The energy was high from the moment they opened the set with “Stand Up,” and it didn’t even waver when things got a little rocky.
Midway through the set, it became clear that vocalist Brer Rabbit was having issues with his mic, so without skipping a beat, partner Johnny 5 abandoned the setlist and launched into the rarely performed “By the Time You Get This Message” while the tech guy tried to sort things out. The energy held steady all throughout, and pretty much the only time the two vocalists weren’t bounding around the stage was when Johnny got down on one knee to play melodica. The crowd was on board 100 percent by the time they reached “Handlebars,” and were rewarded with a high-octane performance that didn’t feel like they’d already played it a zillion times. The evening ended with a slow and beautiful rendition of “Rise” along with a huge thanks to the crowd.
As we were on our way out of the venue, a few of my friends remarked that they liked the openers better than Flobots. I’ll admit, it was a pretty close race for me as well. But there are definitely worse things than having to decide which one of the three bands you just heard was the best. All I can say for certain is that I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for future Samurai Shogun shows, and if you’re in Tampa, you should, too. You can catch the rest of the shots from the show here.
I am nothing, if not a rabid Dr Dog fan. Ever since seeing them at Lollapalooza a few years back I have made a point of seeing them every time they come around, so I was crushed when the Tampa Bay Area wasn’t part of the tour announcement following the release of their last album, Shame, Shame. In fact, I summed up my review of that album with the following, “This one goes on my personal essential listening list, and if these guys come anywhere near you, don’t walk, run to the show…and tell them to get their asses back to Tampa.” That said, you can only imagine my glee when I got the announcement that they were doing a second leg of the tour and they would be playing The State Theater on Record Store Day.
Opening for Dr Dog was a band out of Asheville, NC called Floating Action. I had never heard them before, but I liked them pretty much instantly. The first thing their sound evoked for me of was Band of Horses and maybe a little Fleet Foxes, mainly because of their harmonies and twanginess. Looked into the band post-show, it turns out that their last album, Desert Etiquette, was actually produced by Band of Horses’ bassist, Bill Reynolds. I will definitely be picking this up. Seeming not to notice that they weren’t in the mountains any more, lead singer Seth Kauffman was wearing both a stocking cap and a blazer in the 80+ degree heat. I was already pretty darn warm in my t-shirt and shorts, but by the fourth song I, along with much of the the almost capacity crowd, was dancing and clapping (and sweating) along. Highest praise of all may be that members of Dr Dog kept coming out from beside the stage to watch the performance.
As I settled closer to the stage in preparation for the main act, a friend of mine asked about what she was going to see when Dr Dog took to the stage, if it was going to just be a couple guys. If you’ve seen this band before, you know why I couldn’t help but smile at this. Dr Dog has 5 members, 6 on this tour, and they filled the whole stage even before they start dancing. You can tell these guys genuinely love what they do. They transform a simple concert into an all out experience, playing every single song as if it was the last song of the final encore. This also happened to be the last show of the tour, but you’d think it was the first with all the energy they still somehow had. Even the more low key songs are played to the fullest, like when Frank McElroy’s rhythm guitar set the mood for an achingly slow and heavy rendition of “Someday” and when they put on a sweat-drenched rendition of “The Beach” that fucking killed me. I am, in fact, dead now.
I had the chance to chat with the newest band member, drummer Teach (Eric Slick), after the show and he made my night even greater when he said they’re already ready to work on their next album, which is apparently going to be produced by Dangermouse (Gnarls Barkley, Gorillaz). I can’t wait to hear what a more edgy Dr Dog sounds like and, even more exciting, I can’t wait for the next tour.
Check out more pix from the show by the Drunk Camera Guy