Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Five Bands | Two Shows | Higher Ground & Positive Pie | Jul 21st

It's not too often that you get to hit five indie bands in one night in Vermont. However, the stars aligned last Friday night and I was able to catch Phantom Buffalo, The Jazz Guys and Danielson at Higher Ground before heading back to Montpelier to catch the second sets from both Ryan Power & the Prons and The Cush at Positive Pie.

That makes for a lot to get through. So, let's get going.

jds, a friend of jds and I got there about a half hour before Phantom Buffalo hit the stage. The place was pretty empty at that point. Ultimately, there were about 50-75 people there which was less than I was expecting since it was a Friday night and The Jazz Guys were on the bill who I've seen pull in two-three times that many people at Club Metronome.

The nice thing was that Higher Ground was playing Bedhead's Transaction de Novo and The New Year's The End is Near over the house PA. It's cool to hear some great albums coming over a big sound system.

The Jazz Guys had a fun promotion going before the show also. If you colored in one of the show posters, they'd give you a DVD they had put together of the movies from their website. So, we grabbed some beers & markers and started coloring. I think they are planning on putting them up on their site at some point but I don't see them up there yet. Mine sucked but it was something to do before the show.

Plus, it was cool to finally meet Herb, Max and Martin from TJG. Nice guys. Too bad Bobby Domino wasn't in the house though.

I was only familiar with a few of Phantom Buffalo's songs before the show. However, it's always a sign of a good band when you enjoy their set despite not being familiar with their songs. They just have an intersting yet accessible sound. Their songs tend to have a poppy base to them but then they add in a bunch of subtle sounds that absorb your attention.

A lot of those subtle sounds came from the guy on the right. Whether he was playing the accordian or guitar, he would play odd little sounds and notes in a pattern that fell in line with the beat of the tunes. The guy seems inactive for large stretches during the show but they wouldn't be as good of a band without him. A good example is the little twangy bit he plays on "A Hilly Town".

By the way, what was up with the floods on the bass player? Is that a new hipster fashion style? I haven't seen floods like that since Frankie Dipasquale hit a growth spurt in second grade.

One other amusing thing to note about their performance is that they forgot their CDs. Their CDs are tough to find on line. No emusic. No iTunes. No Insound. Import only from Amazon. No CD Baby. And their site seems to be down. So, I was hoping to pick up their LP Shishimumu and EP at the show. No dice. They left all of their CDs back in Portland. Thankfully, Nick at Higher Ground went up to his office and burned a few copies for them to sell at the merch table. That's such a good example of how stuff happens in northern New England. Regardless, I was able to get both discs for $6. A great deal.

Next up was The Jazz Guys. They blew through their 45 minute set with their usual zeal. Because the crowd was small for the size of the room, the show lack some energy but I don't think it was their fault. They were having a good time but the crowd was kind of stiff and sober. Perhaps their rapport with the crowd works better when the show starts later and the fans are sauced.

Regardless, they sounded good and even played a few new songs called “Girl from Across the Ocean”, “Mortal Orange” and “Stuart.” I liked the new stuff; particularly the last tune.

Next up was Danielson. I was interested in seeing them since I had seen so many blogs raving about them and their new album lately. I didn't like what I had heard from them but I thought I was just missing something that would reveal itself in concert.

Nope. They stink. Daniel Smith's voice is like nails on a chalkboard. Completely grating. The only thing I can surmise is that all of the rave reviews has been an example of "blogosphere group-think". The lady in the band was at least attractive to look at and the police uniforms were kind of amusing. However, that wasn't enough to keep us there for more than a few songs. None of us were enjoying Danielson, so we decided to head back to Montpelier and try to catch the end of the show at Positive Pie.

We got back to Montpelier sometime after midnight. jds and his friend were wiped. So, they headed home and I went over to Positive Pie to find some friends and catch what was left of Ryan Power & the Prons and The Cush.

By the time I got there, Ryan Power & the Prons were about 2/3 through their second set and there was about 25 people left. Quick question: What exactly is the band's name? Is it The Prons, just Ryan Power or Ryan Power & the Prons? I know it used to be Ryan Power Trio but since the name change, I've seen/heard it a few different ways.

Regardless, they sounded good. Despite having had them recommended to me a long time ago, this was my first time hearing them and I was pleasantly surprised. Mid to down tempo indie pop. I liked the singer's vocals; particularly after hearing Danielson's. I hope to catch a full set of them one of these days.

I guess both bands played two sets and switched back and forth. So, sometime around 12:40, The Cush took the stage again. I had heard good things about The Cush also yet had not actually heard them. So, I was glad to catch part of their set. The odd thing is that, in tying the entire evening together, The Cush are originally from Dallas and are friends with the Peter Schmidt of The New Year which Higher Ground started the night with four hours earlier.

The best way to describe The Cush is to compare them to Low. Very quiet down tempo stuff with keys, bass and drums. The difference is that Low has a much warmer sound which is hard for any band to replicate. In general, The Cush weren't doing it for me. However, my ass was dragging. It was 1 a.m. and I had to be up in a few hours with the kids. So, I wasn't in the best mind frame to enjoy their sound. Hopefully, I'll get another chance to catch them when I'm feeling better.

Overall, any night you get to hear five bands (for $10) in Vermont while hanging with friends is a great night.

Check out jds' photos of the Higher Ground shows on his flickr account.

Phantom Buffalo | A Hilly Town
Phantom Buffalo | Anywhere With Oxygen

Ryan Power & the Prons | Heat Sleep


Anonymous said...

Just as I found Danielson's Ships easily forgettable among my other CDs, I'm sure I'll find them just as forgettable among the many bands on the bill at the Pitchfork Festival this weekend.


Flatlander said...

Have a great time at Pitchfork (in spite of Danielson). That lineup is fantastic. If you feel like posting pictures and/or a review, let me know and I'll put them up.

casey said...

I think the bit about the "sauced" JG fans is funny, but kinda true.

Danielson = a lot of what I dislike about today's indie scene.

PS: The Cush can get loud, too.

Anonymous said...

sorry to get all correction-y on you, but for the sake of clarity and accuracy The Cush folks are friends of Peter Schmidt of The New Year, Peter Schmidt & His Gentlemen Scholars, The Legendary Crystal Chandelier, and many other worthwhile musical endeavors. They might also be friends with the Kadanes, I can't imagine why they wouldn't be, as they all seemed like good people, but I simply don't know one way or the other.

Flatlander said...

Thanks for the clarification. I know you explained it to me but I botched it. Thanks for the tip-in.

K. said...

always thought Danielson sucked. Never got the appeal. Anyways you got me going and I posted on some of the indie acts i think are overhyped....I am sure there is going to be some backlash!