27 October 2011

A Kitsch Dork Update

As you may have noticed, or more likely, haven't noticed, posting has come to a standstill here at Kitsch Dork. Pitchfork came down on me hard for the name likeness so I had to lay low. No, that's not it, I just lost interest for a bit. Feeling a bit more inspired now I just started writing for the much more successful blog Tympanogram. My first post, a review of Gillian Welch in Ithaca, just posted today. Check it out, and check out everything over there, they do a great job. I'll be keeping most of my writing over there, but perhaps will post here once in a while for certain shows. You can also keep up with my musical adventures over on twitter, I'm @lifftwit over there.

10 March 2011

And To Think That I Saw It On Gregory Street

Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

The South Wedge neighborhood of Rochester had a full plate of unrelated music events happening last Saturday night.

My evening started off at the German House. There was a benefit for Scotty Shojan, the guy behind ScottyPaluza. The benefit started early and ended late, but I got there just in time to see the one band I was there to see, the John Payton Project. Payton is an ex-drummer for soon-to-be-no-more local worldbeat group Buddhahood. His new band is smaller in personnel but heavier in sound. A 5-piece consisting of guitar, bass, sax/flute, percussion and drums they played original song-based rock with a heavy reggae influence. The music had a solid foundation in it's high quality bass and drums core and everything over the top was just gravy.

From there I took a treacherous grueling eighth of a mile hike through the cold wind and rain over to Tango Cafe where Steve Piper, guitarist from Watkins and the Rapiers, was just getting ready to start his set. From the big stage and hippie crowd to the comfy cafe and elderly crowd. Piper proved to be a world class guitar player, singer/songwriter, storyteller, banterer, and joke teller. Just a delightful and perfect coffee house set. I was tipped off to this show mere hours before so it was an unexpected but welcome surprise.

Then back down the street to close out the evening downstairs from the German House at the Keg.
Hinkley started soon after I arrived with Rochester music everyman Dennis Mariano on keys and guitar. Now is as good time as any to throw in a bit also about Thunder Body, the new reggae band formed from ex-Geurrilla Panda Dub Squad members along with Dennis. They finished up a residency at Dubland Underground last month of which I caught a little of their last show before they went on a small tour. Really enjoyed what I heard and looking forward to checking them out again. Back to Hinkley though, also loved what I heard from them. Very much reminded of Death Cab with some Wilco thrown in listening to their set. Slow to materialize subtle melodies rooted in the poppier side of Americana. Not particularly catchy, more absorbing.

Next up was Boston/Brooklyn band Tallahassee, another in a ever longer line of rough indie country rockers. But can there ever really be enough? And is there any other band that has two guitarists varying more in height than these guys? And is there any other band covering Paula Abdul's "Straight Up"? They did their best to stand apart from other bands of their ilk, and when it really comes down to it, it's all about the songs. They had good ones and played them well, enjoyable set.

Finally, it was another opportunity to enjoy Auld Lang Syne before they head out on a tour of the South and Midwest. Unfortunately they were piano-less, but fortunately they played an entire (or nearly so) set of new tunes and they all sounded fantastic. More of the same dark, brooding and lengthy laments. Wouldn't have minded a couple of their staples or perfect covers thrown in to enrich the set, but it was great to hear something different and get to see new songs as they develop.

Rochester continues to prove itself a treasure trove of great local music. What's even better, it doesn't go unappreciated, these bands get great support at their shows.

And that is a story that no one can beat,
When I say that I saw it on Gregory Street.

(Happy Birthday to Dr. Seuss!)

04 March 2011

Avett Brothers @ Smith Opera House

A pretty straightforward way to turn your regular superfans into rabid superfans is to be sure and mix it up night after night. That's the only way I can explain the Avett Brothers' maniacal fanbase. I mean sure they are a great band, write great songs, and put on great live shows, but so do a lot of bands, and they aren't blessed with the fans that the Avetts are blessed with. I don't know why, but I continue to be mystified by this. When we headed out a few hours before doors opened for an early dinner and drinks and there were already a good 30 people standing out in the sub-freezing temperatures waiting to get in I was a little surprised. As a person who owns most of their albums, follow them on twitter and facebook, and have seen them live 4 times, it's a little odd knowing that I hardly even register as a casual Avett Brothers fan.

The last time I caught a non-festival Avett show was two summers ago at Water Street. It was barely even half full and tickets were a reasonable 20 or so dollars. This time they were playing the more sizable Smith Opera House in Geneva, easily sold it out, and were charging twice as much. Impressive.

The show wasn't any better or worse. Tough to think they could put on a bad show, not sure any combination of their songs would be disappointing and they're not taking any bold risks that might fall flat. Quality songs and their raucously energetic live re-imaginations is a (seemingly) simple formula for success. Still, as I looked around the room during the show, I felt like I was on the outside looking in. Oh, that's the lyric we cheer for? Sing along to this part? Hands in the air now?

And like I said earlier, what keeps em coming back is the simple fact that the set list varies every night. Bands like Wilco and My Morning Jacket put on fairly incredible live shows, though they won't really mix it up from show to show for a whole tour, maybe even a whole year or more. The Avett Brothers throw in songs spanning their career, and don't shy away from that rare unrecorded nugget that some fan who's seen 100 shows has never seen. I don't think I will ever be able to fully appreciate the nuances of their live experience, but I enjoyed it all the same.

I was equally excited for the opener Jessica Lea Mayfield who has eluded me a couple of times. Unfortunately she continued this trend when she canceled last minute to appear on Letterman the next night. Lame excuse! Her brother's band, David Mayfield Parade, performed in her stead. I had been made aware of Avett fans general dislike for Jessica prior to the show and there was an audible relief when the announcement was made. I'm not sure I have ever seen a crowd take to a relatively unknown (I think?) opener so quickly and so exuberantly before. Also unusual for an opener, because the show was GA they were playing to a full house for their whole set. They had the crowd up and dancing midway into the hour long set and practically calling for an encore by the end. David's mannerisms, humor, and appearance all reminded me a bit of both Zach Galiafanakis and Reverend Peyton. They played a blend of old time country, folksy pop, and all out rock. Personally I thought they were pretty good, but nothing worth seeking out, but I think the majority of the crowd felt much differently. Very well-received set.

If you want to know what the "real" fans thought (and see the set list), check it out here: