The Rock Report

Mar 062014


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.

Pick up their music on iTunes, or grab physical copies over at Black Numbers.

Wild American Runners

Apr 302013

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.

Songs Matter
John Moreland – Nobody Gives A Damn About Songs Anymore

Mar 072013

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.

McDougall – A Few Towns More
McDougall – 18 Days Of Rain
McDougall – 48 Reasons

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

Oct 252012

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.

Flobots – The Rose And The Thistle
Flobots – Circle In The Square

Apr 262011

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