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Event Reviews

Riverboat Gamblers

Riverboat Gamblers

with Fake Problems, The Attack

The Social, Orlando, Fl • April 10, 2009

On Easter eve, Riverboat Gamblers fulfilled the promise of their name and rocked an actual riverboat as it cruised down the St. John’s River out of Jacksonville. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there. I did, however, catch their land gig the day before, when they woke Orlando up early to play a matinee show at The Social.

Riverboat Gamblers

Jen Cray
Riverboat Gamblers

The Attack, Orlando’s answer to Sick of it All, fought their way through an opening set that no one was there to see. They took the stage at 5:15 pm on a Friday — not the most prime of time slots, “Welcome to our rehearsal,” Charlie, the comically frustrated vocalist, quipped to a sprinkling of audience members seated at the bar. It’s a sad thing to watch a good band lose heat onstage due to lack of fans to flame the fire, but The Attack trudged through — going over their allotted 30 minutes for a blistering cover of The Explosion’s “No Revolution.”

The Attack

Jen Cray
The Attack

Thank the weekend gods that by the time Fake Problems squeezed onto the narrow stage, the worker bees of O-town had clocked out and put their party boots on — The Social was beginning to come alive.

More folksy than Against Me, less Springsteen-influenced than The Gaslight Anthem, Naples’ Fake Problems call to mind both of those current talents with a bit of Cold War Kids thrown in for good measure. Six people onstage — including a cellist (who grabs a mandolin for one song) and a trumpet player — distinguish this young band from the punk bands they’re usually on the road with before they even play a note. The music, complete with the wildly entertaining cowbell, further blurred the genre lines — falling knee deep in the amiguous river of cowpunk. The two seemingly opposing music worlds are held in check by vocalist Chris Farren, whose grainy Tom Gabel meets Al Barr vocals sound stronger and less strained in person than on record. A drinking band, by all accounts, what began as a good set slowly became a fantastic one as the beers kept rolling out.

Fake Problems

Jen Cray
Fake Problems

I would go out of my way to see Fake Problems play again, and I had already raced out of the house early in time to catch The Attack’s set. Riverboat Gamblers are a horse of a different color. For them I would, and have on many occasions, rearrange my entire schedule in order to not miss a second of their show. They are that good. Even with only about 75 other bodies in the room this Texas band operated on full throttle.

With barely a breath in between songs, Gumby-esque front man Mike Wiebe plowed through an hour-plus set that found him — per usual — on the audience floor as often as onstage. To be more specific, he was everywhere from inside of a trash can to seated on a bar stool — all without missing a lyric or note. While Wiebe is the wiry focal point of the band, the remaining men onstage keep the music fluid and the big choruses soaring.

Wiebe gets trashed

Jen Cray
Wiebe gets trashed

Guitarist Fadi El-Assad nearly burst a vein in his neck while singing through background vocals, guitarist Ian MacDougall quietly drenched himself in sweat at the far corner of the stage, Rob Marchant left his black framed glasses backstage before blindly plucking his way through a torrent of addictive low-lying bass parts, and drummer Eric Green effortlessly ground the beat with the power of a jackhammer. For a band that has seen numerous member changes over their twelve year span, it would appear they have nailed down their core lineup.

Songs off their most recent Volcom release Underneath the Owl inspired a handful of crowd members to sing along as earnestly as their road-worn classics like “True Crime,” “Don’t Bury Me…I’m Still Not Dead,” and “Ice Water,” and the band was tickled pink by the new material’s ability to catch on so quickly. During the new wave influenced “Robots May Break Your Heart,” a change of pace for the otherwise punk ‘n’ roll band, Wiebe busted out a little robot dance before slinging some more hard earned sweat into the upturned faces down front. “Pilgrims in an Unholy Land,” fraught with an old ska riff and Clash-era flair, is a slower groove for the band but surely on its way to being a set staple, as are the traditional 3 chord bursts “DissDissDissKissKissKiss” and “A Choppy, Yet Sincere Apology.”

Riverboat Gamblers

Jen Cray
Riverboat Gamblers

They closed out the breathless set with “The Art of Getting Fucked,” during which Wiebe brought a mic stand down onto the floor and fans gathered around to sing along with the “G-A-M-B-L-E-R” chorus. Leaving the floor soaked in the aftermath of a good, solid rock show, the band dashed from the stage, packed up their gear and headed northbound for a tour that will take them well into the summer time — when they join up with Rancid and Rise Against.

To see more photos of this show, and others, go to www.jencray.com.

Riverboat Gamblers: www.theriverboatgamblers.com • Fake Problems: www.fakeproblems.com • The Attack: www.myspace.com/attackmusic

Categories
Event Reviews

The Fabulous Wailers & The Ventures – 50th Anniversary Concert

The Fabulous Wailers & The Ventures – 50th Anniversary Concert

Seattle, WA • April 10, 2009

A group of young men from Tacoma started to play music after school, and before they knew it, performed on American Bandstand in Philadelphia. After extracting the R&B elements from the early rock they heard on the radio, the Fabulous Wailers added an original, slightly muddy seasoning. Some would later call this “garage rock” or the “The Northwest Sound,” a sonic signature that could still be heard decades later among the rosters of Sub Pop and other indie labels. The Wailers’ dominance of the local club scene at the turn of the ’60s was so overwhelming, it inspired a legion of other young musicians — including Jimi Hendrix — to attempt to do likewise. The Fabulous Wailers’ story is indeed the stuff of big screen bios — but their tale has inexplicably never been filmed.

The Wailers

Steve Stav
The Wailers

Across town, a couple of masonry workers learned to play pawnshop guitars after the the 5 o’clock whistle blew. Soon, they diagrammed the future of guitar bands with “Walk, Don’t Run.” With a great deal of motivation, a bit of luck, some help from a business-savvy mother and the addition of two veteran musicians, the Ventures conquered the world in six short years. In doing so, the students-turned-masters literally taught at least one generation of guitarists how to play.

Roughly 50 years later, the two groups met on neutral ground — Seattle’s historic Moore Theater — for what decades ago might have been a battle of the bands. This night, however, was for celebrating. While most of their contemporaries sat around thumbing through their royalty and Social Security checks, the Wailers and the Ventures released a new, joint CD that day — Two Car Garage — and a joint world tour has been strongly hinted at.

First into the ring were the Wailers, who wasted no time in getting bodies moving. With vocalist/pianist Kent Morrill at the helm, the band electrified the hall with a set that included some of the most influential songs in rock history — “Road Runner,” “Tall Cool One,” “Mashi,” and “Dirty Robber.” Morrill’s voice — a Northwest gem unto itself — is still powerful; with eyes closed during their wild classic, “Out of Our Tree,” one would have thought they were back at the old Spanish Castle.

The Wailers

Steve Stav
The Wailers

John Hanford did a solid job filling in for the late, legendary Rich Dangel (originator of the “Louie, Louie” riff), but his axe was overwhelmed by the enormous wall of sound created by Morrill, organist Pat Hughes and sax giant Neil Rush. Drummer Ricky Lynn Johnson (also of the re-formed Sonics) provided a lot of vitality to the set with his punk-approaching style, a counterpoint to Morrill’s soulful pipes. Bassist/rock visionary Buck Ormsby lurked in the shadows, only coming to the front for his hilarious half of the vocal intro of “Isabella.”

The Wailers only slowed for for “It’s You Alone,” a ballad that accompanied a slideshow tribute to their fallen bandmates — beginning with the wildly popular singer “Rockin” Robin Roberts, who was killed in a car crash in 1967. A classy gesture that left few dry eyes among their early fans.

During the first recess, the younger hipsters in the cheap seats came down to mix with the older folks in the lobby. It was if a Death Cab For Cutie audience, looking for an afterparty, accidentally crashed an AARP conference. A true representation of The Ventures’ and Wailers’ far-reaching legacies; a sight to behold. Those tardy in getting back to their seats missed another sight: Alec Baldwin congratulating the bands. On the video screen, the actor and an eclectic slew of celebrities — Joe Perry, Agent Orange, Billy Bob Thornton, John Fogerty, the Naked Cowboy, the Presidents’ Dave Dederer, Mudhoney’s Mark Arm and others offered their thanks and tributes.

The Ventures

Steve Stav
The Ventures

Then the Ventures got down to business. Fresh off the plane from an L.A. studio and their umpteenth recording session, the band jumped into the number that put them on the map. Barely pausing, they shifted up to the rousing “Journey to the Stars” — one of several tracks they would play from their mind-boggling 1964 classic, The Ventures in Space. The combo then slowed the pace a bit with the gorgeous Bob Spalding number, “Blue Dawn,” before continuing with a 21-song set that proved to be their most inspired in recent memory.

With longtime collaborator Spalding having replaced retired-from-the-road founding member Bob Bogle, the band has had a seamless transition, and they brought their A-plus game for this special occasion. With Don Wilson’s furiously churning rhythm chords ringing on his left, guitar-god-among-men Nokie Edwards took center stage.

The Ventures

Steve Stav
The Ventures

Perched on a stool, this true country gentleman — sort of a hybrid of Andres Segovia and Chet Atkins — injected some western picking into some surf numbers, and some classical licks into pop epics. “Slaughter On Tenth Avenue,” “Apache,” “Penetration,” “Diamond Head”… a guitar fan’s ultimate buffet. Washington State Lt. Governor Brad Owen joined them on sax for “Surf Rider,” and another fan and friend, Yes drummer Alan White, provided timpani for “Hawaii 5-0.”

Another drummer, the Ventures’ Leon Taylor, stole the show, and quite possibly the entire night. With a video montage of his legendary father, Mel Taylor, and himself playing behind him, Leon took his dad’s famous, minutes-long solo in “Caravan” to another level — and made it is own. For the uninitiated, this Ventures tradition features the bassist and drummer working in tandem, tapping out the song’s rhythm on the strings. However, the finale of tonight’s solo, a fiery bass/tom/snare crescendo — was even more awe-inspiring than usual; the sheer power of it might have left Alan White blinking.

Steve Stav

The two groups then joined side-by-side for an obligatory jam of songs from Two Car Garage. They didn’t get their footing until about halfway through “Needles and Pins,” but with Wilson and Morrill singing in tandem, the old Los Bravos hit “Black is Black” came off pretty nicely. The night came to a close with — what else — “Louie, Louie.”

Afterwards, the audience staggered out into the lobby in search of an autograph from their old and new heroes. It was a very sentimental evening, mostly for the fans; the Ventures and the Wailers made it clear that they’re still working for tomorrow.

The Ventures and The Wailers: www.twocargaragemusic.com

Categories
Event Reviews

Sebadoh

Sebadoh

The Bent Moustache

Orlando, Fl • April 10, 2007

As if it wasn’t enough that Lou Barlow made amends with J Mascis and has been touring with Dinosaur Jr. this past year, the multi tasking musician has outdone himself and given the fans what they’ve been begging for. For the first time in 14 years the original lineup of indie rock’s underrated heroes, Sebadoh, have once again found themselves on the highways of America. Joined by Eric Gaffney and Jason Lowenstein (the lineup that gave us the best Sebadoh albums: III, Bubble & Scrape) Barlow strolled into a soldout room in Orlando and reminded us all of their greatness.

The Bent Moustache

Jen Cray
The Bent Moustache

The Bent Moustache, an indie inspired garage band from The Netherlands, served as a proper warmup for the night. The trio were obviously influenced not only by the headliners, but by that whole early indie era (Sonic Youth, The Fall). While the crowd of barflies may not have moved down close to the stage (except for a young group of enthusiastic teens who danced spastically in unabashed euphoria), it was not in dismissal but rather the preservation of energy. The aging crowd may have grown up thrashing about to every act on the bill, but whom now like to sip a cold beverage and save it all up for the band they paid to see.

Sebadoh- Eric Gaffney

Jen Cray
Sebadoh- Eric Gaffney

When Sebadoh find their way onto the stage it is with the same casual air that they have always carried themselves. They have done more for the genre of lo-fi indie rock than the bands that get most of the credit (Pavement, Guided By Voices, to name two), and have done so by allowing each of its members to contribute equally to the songwriting. What this means is that one song may be a straight-up shoegazing unrequited love song with Lou taking the vocals, the next tune will have Jason swapping drums for bass and screaming his bloody head off, and then Eric will take a turn on guitar and toss out a melodic punk song. They are several bands rolled into one and this is what makes them so great.

I had seen the 1997 incarnation of the band (with Bob Fay in place of Gaffney)- which was fantastic- but did not compare to seeing this renunited core lineup. As they plowed through song after song (many clock in well under 2 minutes, so you can imagine how many tunes they are able to cram into an evening’s set!), they swapped instruments and chatted with each other and the crowd. The always shy Barlow was especially chatty and festive this evening, asking an audience member to bring him up a double shot of whiskey.

Sebadoh- Lou Barlow

Jen Cray
Sebadoh- Lou Barlow

Classic III era songs like “Scars, Four Eyes,” “Violet Execution,” and “Truly Great Thing” were mixed into a set that touched upon the early years on up to the perfect pop of “Rebound” (the band’s catchiest, most radio friendly song by far) off of 1994’s Bakesale. While the energetic songs were jacked up with the energy of in-person performance, the mellower tunes- of which include some of their best work- were a bit muddled. Blame it on the balance of sound, or the fact that the band were feeling a little too energetic to slow things down to the proper pace that these songs called for, I can’t say and I’m not dwelling on it. I got too see Lou, Eric, and Jason tearing it up on my hometown stage and I got too chat with them before the show. I have absolutely nothing to complain about!

To see more photos of this show, and others, go to www.jencray.com