Posted in audiObelisk on August 3rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
There’s a few in this latest batch of Roadburn 2012 audio streams that I’ve really been looking forward to hearing. I stood and watched their whole set, but Mars Red Sky played a new song at the festival and I’d like to get another glimpse of what might be in store on their next album, and acts I didn’t get to see like Sir Admiral Cloudesley Shovell and Black Tusk should be fun to check out. Thanks as always to Walter, Jurgen, Marcel van de Vondervoort and the entire Roadburn crew. Hope you have as much fun as I do with these:
Posted in Reviews on July 24th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve never encountered a city I’ve wanted to live in as much as I want to live in Philadelphia. This time, as The Patient Mrs. and I sat at the bar Abbaye and I ate a cheesesteak marinated in Chimay beer with roasted garlic aioli and drank a Yards IPA from a cask, the thought seemed even less realistic — like if we tried to get a place there, Philly itself would catch on and bar my entry. A pipe dream. Among many.
We headed down early to catch YOB frontman Mike Scheidt and U.S. Christmas frontman Nate Hall at Kung Fu Necktie. The Patient Mrs. coming out for a show is a rarity, on a Sunday especially, but it being a mostly acoustic night and it being Philadelphia — for which I think it’s safe to say she at least in part shares my affection — I was able to persuade. Hall and Scheidt had been in Brooklyn the night prior, but as I was at the Brighton for Halfway to Gone, I’d been unable to attend, though I knew from reading SabbathJeff‘s review on the forum that it was an early evening. That took some of the edge off the two-hour drive to get there.
It was just the two of them on the bill, so when I got to Kung Fu Necktie a bit before 8PM, I was early. Hall would go on first, at 9, and Scheidt would follow at about 9:35. They’d be done by 10:30, because at 11PM, a DJ was coming in for a late set. I guess that kind of thing happens. The Patient Mrs. and I sat at the bar and had a couple expertly-poured Boddingtons and enjoyed the dulcet freneticism of King Crimson over the Kung Fu Necktie P.A. The course of the evening would not be nearly as restless.
I’ve made no secret through the years of not being a fan of U.S. Christmas. Some bands just don’t click for some people, and it seems like no matter how much acclaim they get or however much on paper I should be so into them they could charge me rent, I remain stern in my position. I didn’t review last year’s The Valley Path and though it’s a friend putting it out, I’ll likely skip this year’s reissue of Bad Heart Bullas well. I’m sorry, but it’s not my job to like every band, and I’d sooner paint Williamsburg with my brains out the side of my skull than go back on something I’ve written without a genuine change of heart.
That said, earlier this year when I heard Nate Hall‘s solo debut, A Great River(on Neurot; track streaming here), I appreciated its sparseness and cohesiveness of atmosphere, and found Hall‘s ability to translate U.S. Christmas‘ ambient regionalism to a singer-songwriter context both impressive conceptually and an enjoyable listen. I liked it, to be clearer. And having liked it, I was looking forward to hearing how Hall would be able to bring those songs to life on stage. He did well.
Decked out in journeyman braids and a hat that, if you told me he’d stolen it from a museum I’d both believe you and be like, “awesome,” Hall ran through several of the tracks on A Great River. At times the reverb felt too heavy on his vocals — though that’s loyal to the sound of the album as well — but the a capella “When the Stars Begin to Fall” was nothing if not a bold inclusion, and he more than pulled it off, and “A Great River” was all the more powerful for the stripped-down, acoustic-only presentation it got, Hall‘s subdued, almost mumbled vocals sounding well within their rights to be tired beyond their years. He covered Townes van Zandt and brought Scheidt on for a song before closing out, and wrapped his short time on stage as unpretentiously as he’d started it, putting his guitar back in the case with his name spraypainted on it and walking to the back of the venue to sell some merch.
Two chairs had been situated on the Kung Fu Necktie stage, and the mics were already in position — and hell, by the time Hall was done, Scheidt had already been on stage playing as well — so there was no real changeover or anything like that between sets. Nonetheless, a short break felt natural. Apparently Hammers of Misfortune and The Gates of Slumber were playing nearby with locals Wizard Eye opening, and that may have cut into the attendance some, but there were heads here and there and The Patient Mrs. went so far as to laughingly point out shortly before Scheidt went on that she wasn’t the only lady present. It was true, though I didn’t know whether to congratulate her or what.
I’m a lucky man.
Scheidt‘s solo debut, Stay Awake, was pretty close in my mind after reviewing it just last week, but he, on the other hand, seems to have already moved well beyond it. Where the prior two times I’ve seen him do sets apart from YOB (in Brooklyn and at Roadburn), he’s barely started before he’s announced his inexperience in the form, this time he sat down and said, “I’m gonna do a few different things here,” thanked the crowd and immediately opened with two finger-picked instrumentals, unrepentantly folksy, and in the case of the second — which he shouted out to the teacher who taught him the technique back in Oregon — joyful. The surprises didn’t stop there.
From the album, which came out last month, he played only two songs — “Until the End of Everything” and “Stay Awake” – and both of them he delivered with a clarity and confidence (would be hard to call it “swagger” in the context of psychedelic folk) that even two months prior simply wasn’t there. Straight-backed, he projected his vocals when he wanted to project them, or otherwise slouched, leaning on his guitar at a few points like it might be the only thing holding him up. The spoken part introducing “Until the End of Everything,” which I singled out in my review of the record, he positively nailed, and in a bit of tour camaraderie, he returned the favor paid him and brought Hall back on stage for a song as well.
That gave the show a bit of symmetry, sure, but their cover of the Rolling Stones‘ “Dead Flowers” — they nodded to Townes van Zandt‘s version, which some might recognize from the final moments of The Big Lebowski– made for a fitting and charming apex for the evening, with Scheidt‘s take on “Stay Awake” serving as the closer for his set and final affirmation of how well and how quickly he’s adapted to solo artistry. Not only did he perform the song well, or deliver the lines effectively, but he had a palpable sense of enjoyment while he did it. Heads nodded to the acoustic groove — his riffs are his riffs, after all; that’s a hard impulse to fight and everyone there seemed to decide not to fight it in unison — and he successfully conveyed the emotional dynamics at the heart of the song: Frustration, persistence, fatigue, persistence, in cycle and simultaneous.
I wished him safe travels and bought a copy of U.S. Christmas‘ Salt the Wound2012 reissue (I already had a physical copy of A Great River) and the Stay Awake CD from Hall before splitting. Sure enough, it was about 10:30. The Patient Mrs. and I were home by 12:15AM — which felt like the miracle work of a cosmos that wanted me to not be even more of a miserable bastard this entire week — and asleep no latter than I probably would’ve been anyway. Philly wins again. Philly always wins as far as I’m concerned. The show was even better than the cheesesteak, and for the evening, the company and the performance, a purer win than I’ve had in a while.