Flannels and Beards and Bears – oh my! No this isn’t a lumberjack version of The Wizard of Oz it was the scene of a brisk Wednesday night at downtown Norfolk’s beloved music spot, The Norva. Three bands with varied sensibilities but a shared desire to “bring it” on an otherwise chilly school night. And with so many varied genres and sub-classifications you’d think this was a homework assignment. I’ll try not to be too academic.
Opening the show was flannel-laden trio Bear Crossing. A band of local boys hailing from Chesapeake with their spirited take on their self-proclaimed style of “progressive crowd rock”. Strutting around the stage lead singer/guitarist Jason Eure mixed equal parts Jeremy Enigk (Sunny Day Real Estate) with a screaming Sebastian Bach. While some of the facial gestures and body thrusts verged on the realm of cheese-ball the band has a true passion for what they do and aren’t afraid to ham it up if it gets the crowd going. Music wise there are a few fun anthems full of “ooohhs” and driving riffs but they will need a few more well-crafted songs to reach the other side.
Second to the stage was the charismatic Tim Kasher, the frontman of indie rock band Cursive and The Good Life. Kasher is originally from Nebraska (a life long friend of Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst) and his midwest angst sensibilities shine thru in his passionate style of simple rock meets heartache and bitterness. Playing as a solo act (with a few backup musicians) his arsenal of tunes mostly supported his first solo album The Game of Monogamy, released last October. Reportedly Kasher left Los Angeles and went north to the frozen valley of Whitefish, Montana, nestled next to Big Mountain and Glacier National Park to write and record this album. Playing almost every song off it the show was a lush and varied indictment on all things lovey-dovey. Classy lines like “I want to have sex with all my ex-girlfriends” feel surprisingly credible when accompanied by elegant strings, a melodica and trumpet. Kasher seemed to enjoy himself and put on a good show. It was certainly the most varied act of the night and while some of his lines were cliche and best kept in his personal journal the crowed seemed to love every minute of it.
Minus The Bear is a difficult band to classify. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen as the merits of pigeon-holing a band’s sound into simple, adjective-filled terminology has always been a polarizing topic. Regardless of how you feel about sun-genres, MTB’s style of meticulous yet accessible math rock is both unique and respectable in a time where most bands just want to get on the radio. There’s a level of craftsmanship in this Seattle-based quintet that you truly have to see live to appreciate. A bulk of the band’s sound is comprised of catchy melodies, finger-tap guitar riffs and unexpected time changes which leaves you guessing as to where the songs are headed. In case you’ve never seen Dave Knudson’s finger-tap technique (aka fingerstyle) it’s when the guitarist creates countermelodies by using his right hand to tap a treble melody and his left hand to play a bass accompaniment. It’s kind of strange but sounds pretty cool. And that’s a perfect metaphor for Minus The Bear. I’m not 100% sure what was going on at all times but it was interesting and gave many of their songs a sense of controlled chaos both beautiful and complex at the same time.
The band opened with a bang playing “Secret County” a funky rocker with some heavy guitar work that set the pace immediately. Lead Singer Jake Snider’s mellow vocals offer a steady calm throughout the periods of musical chaos. The band then scattered throughout their four albums. As you go through the setlist, some songs read off like a bad translation of some Japanese game shows: “Thanks for the Killer Game of Crisco Twister” is one of the best examples of guitarist Dave Knudson’s prickly finger-tap technique and the line “our girls are looking so good” reminds you that pretty much every Minus The Bear song is about hooking up with chicks. “Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!” is a crowd favorite and the band played it perfectly. “My Time” the latest single and first song off their new album has a heavy electronic influence and for my money it didn’t quite work. Things got a little too “dancey” out there and the song seemed more like a Flaming Lips parody than a serious rock tune. After a while some of the songs start to meld together if you aren’t a loyal MTB enthusiast but the band’s energy and skill was never compromised. These guys are bringing something new to the table and while it might not be appealing to everyone it is a solid effort to change up the game. I find it somewhat humorous that for such a cerebral-style of rock n roll so many of their songs are about getting laid but then that’s rock n roll for you.
Memphis and 53rd
Thanks for the Killer Game of Crisco Twister
Into the Mirror
Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!
Hold Me Down
The Game Needed Me
I’m Totally Not Down With Rob’s Alien
Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse
Photos: Dave Watson
One of the premiere bands in modern hard rock, Coheed and Cambria has been called a lot of things.
“21st century successors to Rush and Led Zeppelin.”
“The toughest band in most emo kids’ music collection.”
“That metal act with a singer who sounds like a chick.”
Yes, NYC-based Coheed and Cambria are many things to many people but one thing they are not is weak. No matter which shade of the “black rainbow’ spectrum you find yourself in we can all agree that these guys aren’t phoning it in. Taking the stage to 1500 screaming chants of “Coheed! Coheed!”, these sci-fi rockers kicked off the night with what had to have been a 7 or 8 minute version of their epic song “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3.” The crowd shouted along to the lines “Man your battle stations!” as the fist-pumping crowd prepared themselves for battle.
As you may or may not know, Coheed and Cambria’s entire discography equates to a five-part fictional sci-fi saga, and each of the concept albums focus on chapters in the overall story. It’s Star Wars meets Pink Floyd’s, The Wall. Their latest album, Year of the Black Rainbow, released earlier this year, is a prequel to the band’s on-going space lore, also know as The Amory Wars.
Claudio Sanchez, the Tasmanian devil guitar-shredding ball of hair and high-key vocals is the main writer and creator of the whole Amory Wars saga and driving force of the band. His passion and focus started from a jealousy over the bands during his father’s era of music (Zeppelin, Queen, Thin Lizzy). Coheed is an attempt at righting the wrongs of an otherwise “weakness” in modern rock.
While lead singer/guitarist Claudio Sanchez is certainly the star of the C&C experience, the rest of the band members manage to shine in their own way. Bassist Mic Todd’s nasty pluckin’ and slappin’ laid the driving groundwork for such intergalactic war songs as the opener “In Keeping Secrets…” and “Welcome Home”. Drummer Chris Pennie’s booming thunder would make even Zeppelin drumming-legend, John Bonham proud. For a catalog so full of “battle cries” and “war chants” you need someone not afraid to lay down a bass drum/snare combo every now and then. The band has a knack for building up the energy with well-crafted intricate guitar work before crashing it all down in true arena-rock style. Guitar-wise, it should come as no shock that Guitar World Magazine ranked the band’s third album, Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness at # 69 on their list of the greatest 100 guitar albums of all time. These guys no how to play. Lead singer Claudio Sanchez and guitarist Travis Stever split duties between lead and rhythm but both employ a nasty mixture of tight “Van-Halen-esque” shredding, palm muted breaks, prickly pull-offs and epic solos. They don’t gloss over the guitar with heavy distortion either, as so many other hard rock bands do these days.
The band played several crowd favorites like “Three Evils” and “Delirium Trigger” with perfect precision. The crowd knew every word and at times Claudio would even let them sing the chorus with unbridled enthusiasm. C&C sprinkled in new tunes like the “personal” song “When Skeletons Live” and the band’s latest single “Here We Are Juggernaut” which is currently playing all over vevo.com.
Mixing elements of metal, new-wave, classic rock and pop, Coheed and Cambria has managed to create a unique spot for themselves. They maintain the metal street cred due to their guitar-heavy ballads but are open-minded enough to mix pop-inspired melodies throughout many of their songs. Almost half of their tunes incorporate some form of “Oh! Oh! Oh!” sing-along or Bono-like crooning, which you either love or hate. Some would argue that they aren’t diverse enough to share the Zeppelin or Queen comparisons, and that may be true, but being fair, how many bands are?
Coheed and Cambria is a band with serious music chops and definite potential. The real question is can they push the creative envelope outside the realms of space alien storytelling? I for one think they have it in them but the true test will be what happens when the sci-fi saga ends and Claudio and friends have to write songs about real life? If they want to play the venues that their arena-rock truly belongs in, they are going to have to shake things up in the near future. In the meantime however, they will keep on rocking with intimate and dynamic shows like this. Their music might not connect with everyone but clearly when it does, you find yourself being absorbed into the extensive sci-fi rock mythos known simply as, Coheed and Cambria.
In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
Ten Speed (Of God’s Blood And Burial)
Here We Are Juggernaut
Pearl of the Stars
Three Evils (Embodied In Love And Shadow)
When Skeletons Live
The Willing Well I: Fuel for the Feeding End
No World For Tomorrow
Photos: Dave Watson
It’s a rare treat when you get to see two great bands on the same night who perfectly complement one another. One band, new to the scene with an old-school, upbeat sound reminiscent of the 50′s/60′s pop era and an established rock band with a darker complex style at a turning point in their career. A true yin and yang of rock n roll, two bands from New York City made it happen.
The Postelles put in a solid, high energy opener, playing to the early arrivals as though playing in a packed house party. Lead singer Dan Balk was on point with the “ohs”, “ooows” and “awws” making sure to capture the old-timey simplicity that echos through their head-boppin’ tunes. Lead guitarist, David Dargahi snuck in perfect solo after perfect solo reminding us of a time when solos could be quick and to the point instead of drawn out epic sagas. With only a nine-song set, The Postelles put on a lively 45-minute show that had even the most cynical of hipsters bopping along. Some songs like “White Night” and “123 Stop” stood out above the more basic, albeit fun, pop melodies like “Hey Little Sister” and “Stella”. However, if the point of music is to make you want to dance, then these guys can check that off their list. Clearly the Postelles are destined for great things so long as the keep the crowds jumping up and down to their vintage sensibilities and contagious melodies. (For more Postelles photos and our interview with lead singer, Daniel Balk click here.)
Something must have rubbed off from the joy and youthful fire shown by opening act, The Postelles, because Interpol’s energetic performance was on point for a band with such a dark catalog. It was quite a treat from the last time I saw them a few years back, when two “thank you”s and a “good night” were the only words uttered by lead singer Paul Banks in between his edgy baritone vocals. Not this time, as eerie songs like “NYC” and “Take You On A Cruise” were propped up with genuine enthusiasm by the band. “Say Hello To the Angels” stood out as a microcosm for the their ability to turn prickly, momentum-building songs into an all-out ruckus of a good time. Interpol has mastered the art of playing top-notch rock that playfully skirts above a pool of danger lurking beneath. Crowd favorites like “Evil”, “Slow Hands” and finale “Obstacle 1″ did just that. There’s something uber-creepy about Banks’ robotic voice at times but you’re still willing to get in his car and take a ride.
The band had a great rapport with the crowd and made sure to express their appreciation and love for the fans countless times. It was also nice to get a shout-out when Banks declared The Norva to be “one of their favorites”. Something you like to hear when your local club suffers from being a tad too far off the beaten 1-95 path. Dancing around the stage, guitarist Daniel Kessler, did much of the heavy lifting with an endless sea of gushing rhythmic guitar on such tracks like “The Heinrich Maneuver” and new single “Lights”. After a performance like this it’s hard not to include Kessler in conversations about the top guitarists emerging from the past decade.
I am not sure if any of this upbeat Interpol can be tied to the recent departure of the band’s longtime bassist, Carlos Dengler, who was reported to have had a growing dissatisfaction with the band over the past few years. Or maybe it’s a case of simply growing up. The band’s fourth album, self-titled as Interpol, is set to be released this September and songs like “Barricade” show a far less ominous feel than earlier works. I personally think “Lights” is the superior new track but both have me stoked on the new release. Because if there’s one way to get people excited about your new album, it’s by putting in the work where it counts, on the road.
Say Hello To The Angels
The Heinrich Maneuver
Take You On A Cruise
Not Even Jail
Stella Was A Diver And She Was Always Down
The Smashing Pumpkins, one of the most successful and frenzied bands of the 1990′s took center stage the other night in front of a passionate crowd of 30-somethings, all hoping to relive the glory of their youth. Strange that such dark and heavy songs, rich with gothic overtones and creepy whining, reminds us of carefree days but that’s the way it is. The Pumpkins were one of the best bands during the rise of “alternative rock” and managed to unite heavy psychedelic techniques of the 60′s and 70′s with the growing angst and displaced attitudes of 90′s grunge. The band released several ambitious albums before breaking up in 2000 after a string of personal issues and fleeting record sales. Sadly, once you crack the pumpkin, you can’t piece it back together.
While the marquis outside did indeed read “Smashing Pumpkins”, the band playing for two hours inside could more accurately be described as simply, The Billy Corgan Show. Standing front in center with a silly grin and his Nosferatu dome, the 43 year old Chicago-native surrounded himself with a passionate drummer, a short-skirted hottie on bass, and a talented under-utilized guitarist of Asian descent. Sound familiar? Let it be known however, the Pumpkins-reincarnate know how to play. Each band member put in a solid performance and Mike Byrne’s tight and pounding drums were so strong he at one point broke his kick drum. Corgan’s hired guns are a talented bunch and did the Pumpkins catalog justice. There is no doubt in my mind that Billy Corgan is in the Top 20 of American guitarists and his distortion heavy riffs have inspired more recent breakout bands like The Silversun Pickups. But if the story of The Smashing Pumpkins is anything, it’s a tragedy.
The band opened with “Astral Planes”, one of the five songs released off their free 44-song/11 EP box set called Teargarden by Kaleidyscope which is being released in portions across the next year or so. With the excitement at an all time high, it seemed like a good time to sneak in an otherwise so-so tune. The song played much better live than in the scope of their website but it was clearly a sign of things to come. The band followed that up with “Ava Adore” a track off their disappointing fourth album Adore. Corgan and friends then played lesser known tracks off older albums (“Hummer”) and more electronica obscurities like “Eye” but seemed to resent playing fan favorites “Today”, “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and “Tonight, Tonight.” At one point Corgan even scolded a fan for not knowing the lyrics to one of the songs off Zeitgeist. The sad truth was that no one did. The crowd soon became divided with those who wanted a more immediate return on their $50 investment and those just along for the ride.
Then there was the encore. After a satisfying and energetic “Tonight, Tonight” the band cleared the stage and we all prepared for the band’s best. They soon emerged to play “Freak”, they’re newest release and one of their better songs of the past 15 years. But just when you thought everything was going to be okay, Billy Corgan erupted into a 20 minute distortion heavy mess of self-gratifying guitar bends and plucks known as “Gossamer”. It’s a Zeitgeist throwaway that the band only plays live. It was a bombastic and absurd way to end the show and even guitarist Jeff Schroeder seemed to look over in boredom at Corgan’s ridiculous antics. Like Marty McFly’s “much more enjoyable” Johnny B. Good solo in “Back To The Future”, it left the entire audience stunned. But not in a good way. When everyone was dying to hear “1979″, “33″ or “Zero”, Corgan instead chose to give us a drawn out and excruciatingly lame farewell. I appreciate the desire to channel a Jimi Hendrix-like finale Billy, but rule #1 in any live performance – know your audience.
All in all I will continue to hold fond memories of The Smashing Pumpkins. “Zero” will always be one of my favorite songs and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness will always be one of my favorite albums. I still think Billy Corgan is a tremendous guitar player and a talented song-writer. But alas, that was 15 years ago and along with the other three founding members, the appeal and mystique of The Smashing Pumpkins has floated away. If three-quarters of the band is gone and the lead singer doesn’t want to play the songs that made him rich and famous, it might be time to change the band name. The pumpkins are officially smashed.
01 – Astral Planes
02 – Ava Adore
03 – Hummer
04 – As Rome Burns
05 – Song For A Son
06 – Today
07 – Bleeding The Orchid
08 – Eye
09 – Stand Inside Your Love
10 – Bullet With Butterfly Wings
11 – United States
12 – Widow Wake My Mind
13 – Perfect
14 – Cherub Rock
15 – Disarm
16 – Stumbleine
17 – Owata
18 – Tarantula
19 – Tonight, Tonight
20 – Freak
21 – Gossamer [20:34]
In an effort to mix things up here at MOR we present a play-by-play analysis “text style” of French rock band Phoenix’s recent energy-filled concert in downtown Norfolk, VA. To give you a true sense of what the show was like we are posting a “slightly edited” recap of a text correspondence which took place during the concert between two 30-something concert goers located at very different spots in the club. While the conversation has been somewhat tweaked, it is inspired by true and actual events.
Long Distance Call
Love Like A Sunset
Run Run Run
Everything is Everything
Playground Love (Below is an ’09 acoustic version of this Air cover.)
If I Ever Feel Better
“Let There Be Rock,” Patterson Hood shouted about halfway through the band’s encore – and rock there was; plenty of it. Armed with a killer opening act, ten years worth of awesome songs, a great new album and a couple bottles of Jack Daniels, the Drive By Truckers brought their “Rock Show” to Norfolk, VA last night.
Alt-country rockers Langhorne Slim got things started with a great set of upbeat folky tunes that got the crowd going early. They set em up, and the Drive By Truckers knocked em down – and they knocked em down good. From start to finish, the band was on point, and the crowd couldn’t have been more all about it.
Songs from the band’s latest release The Big To Do were front and center, complete with a huge circus themed background from album cover artist Wes Freed draping behind the stage. The new songs were a perfect compliment to the band’s already stellar live show. The opener “After the Scene Dies”, “Fourth Night of my Drinking”, “Birthday Boy”, “Get Downtown”, and Shonna Tucker’s “It’s Gonna Be” jumped off the new album and onto the stage without missing a beat. Old favorites “Marry Me”, “Three Dimes Down”, “Lookout Mountain” and “Let There Be Rock”, deeper cuts “Girls Who Smoke” and “Life In The Factory”, and cover songs “Everybody Needs Love” and “Adam Raised a Cain” rounded out the other highlights of the evening. When it was all said and done, the band played 25 songs, and didn’t call it quits til after midnight.
It is so refreshing to see a band with not only a great songbook, but also so much musical talent. Having one guy that can play a killer lead guitar is one thing, but the Truckers have three. Patterson Hood, John Neff, and Mike Cooley each took turns on lead guitar, each earning their share of the night’s highlight real. The rest of the band was on fire too, turning in a precise, high energy performance. They weren’t in their own world, instead stepping to the front of the stage on almost every song, inviting the crowd to rock right along with them. The band was all smiles, and their good-time personality was evident throughout, bringing the crowd more and more into the performance as the show went along.
As a Virginia guy, I have seen my share of really good shows at The Norva, but I can say with confidence that this was the best. If there is a band with a better live show then the Drive By Truckers, sign me up, I’ll be the first in line to check them out.
Want to Hear the Show? The Truckers have an extremely fan-friendly recording policy, and the show is available for free download here.
After the Scene Dies
This Effing Job
Girls Who Smoke
Daddy Needs a Drink
Ghost to Most
Great Car Dealer War
72 (This Highway’s Mean)
Sandwiches For the Road
Everybody Needs Love (Eddie Hinton Cover)
Women WIthout Whiskey
Drag the Lake Charlie
(It’s Gonna Be) I Told You So
Fourth Night of My Drinking
Three Dimes Down
Life In The Factory
Shut Up and Get on the Plane
Let There Be Rock
Hell No I Ain’t Happy
Adam Raised a Cain (Bruce Springsteen Cover)
The Get Up Kids have been out of the spotlight since 2005, so the announcement that they would be playing a full reunion tour came as a surprise. Everything seemed so final, the farewell show played in their hometown of Kansas City, the release of the “Live at the Granada” CD showcasing their last show, and the beginning side projects by 3 different members of the band(Matt in the New Amsterdams, Jim in Blackpool Lights, and Rob in Spoon). Seemingly everyone had move on, and yet there we were watching the Get Up Kids rock a live show at the Norva in Norfolk Virginia on November 4th.
I’ve seen the Get Up Kids several times live and they have an uncanny way of getting the crowd pumped from the first to the last song and this reunion show as no exception. They always sound great live, bring a ridiculous amount of energy to the stage and play the songs they know the audience wants to hear. They opened most of their reunion shows with the fan favorite “I’m a Loner Dottie a Rebel,” and before they finished the first line “Come tomorrow I’ll be….” the crowd in Norfolk was shaking their fists and reciting “….on my way back home.” For all we knew it could have been 4 years ago except for the fact that there were only about half the amount of people shaking their fists.
So, with that seamless segway, here comes the bad news, they didn’t come close to selling out the Norva, which only holds about 1500 people and the fans that were there seemed much less enthused about this recent tour. Maybe they have been gone too long, maybe they were just never popular enough to begin with, but with 2 brand new songs on the set list, it looks like The Get Up Kids are interested in a resurgence. The first song they debuted, “Your Petty Pretty Things” is a nice return to the sound that almost made them famous, reminding me of the uptempo catchy tunes found on their near perfect album “Something to Write Home About.” Yet the second song, “Keith Case,” which seemed to me a failed experiment with funky bass lines just simply fell flat and never really went anywhere.
All this being said, I still think The Get Up Kids have a great live sound and some good music to write. So, if you’re a fan of music in the indie/emo/pop punk variety keep your eyes peeled and your ear to the ground, because The Get Up Kids might not be done yet.