First off, there's the last couple of Chill On the Hills, the place I can drag the kids and watch bands and know they're having a good time running around. I had a good time at the second to last one, too. It was the annual (I forogot the actual term Chill organizers used, but everybody else called it) Chick Night. Headliners were the now-taken-for-granted Barrettes, who are still really really good. They retain a healthy dose of pissed off (but not quite riotgrrl, that would be old and tired) feminism with just plain good rawk. They've brought in a full-blown bass player but retained the melodica, so they have this interesting bent on some of their songs, but not necessarily having it there for the sake of it (which sometimes the presence of the cellist implied.) Don't get me wrong, I loved the cellist, but the bass player gives the Barrettes that final push over the top that makes them a rock band. And who could resist dancing along with Joey's take on Prince's Kiss, complete with her own wonderful shrieking falsetto?
The opener that night was a true grrlpunk outfit from Madison called Venus In Furs, who blew me away with strong voices backed by a kickass rhythm section. I was a bit wary given the name: was this going to be some VU wannabe outfit? Not to worry, I think they just grabbed the name because it sounded cool, and didn't realize the reference wouldn't be lost on their target market. I don't know how often they'll make the trip across I-94, but I'll try to catch them when they do. The kids even enjoyed them.
there is a Lack of Reason to
use flash at the Circle A
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
So a couple of weeks later, and I'm at the Circle A to catch the latest entry in the Pat O'Neill calvadade of bands (I miss The Grand Disaster) this one called Lack of Reason and I like them. Andy Stilin (of Resist Her Transistor.... where are they?!?!) on the drums, and Marky Lee (no, I'm going to stop spelling it Mark E. Lee, because nobody pronounces it that way anyway) is on the bass. As such, they pick up a few old Chop Top Toronados songs, throw in some psychedelia, and thrash about in time. Quite filling for the Circle A on a Friday night that I just decided, out of the clear blue sky, to venture out in, despite the fact that I had car repairs hanging over my head and thus a fairly empty walled. Afterwards, I learned they were playing a week later at Center Street Daze and I gasped, "You mean I could've seen you for FREE?" and we all laughed. Kind of. Center Street Daze, as I've said before, has pretty much taken Locust Street's place as the alt-artist festival for the East Side. Locust Street is huge and steeped in tradition, and Center Street is building their own.
And yet, I didn't even make it for the annual Art Cart race at Center Street a week later. There's football for Sammy, and grocery shopping to be done and errands to complete, and I didn't even get there in time to see much more of Lack of Reason's last couple of songs anyway. And I'm really sorry I missed the wonderful Hullmen at the Quarters stage. And I've begun to take Floor Model (who I also missed) for granted. But the fact was, I spent pretty much all my time at the Center Street festival at the Impala stage, where the next band I encountered was a new Peder Hedman outfit called Bicentennial Rub. Hedman told me beforehand that this wasn't a band where he concentrated a lot on lyrical content, and he was right. He'd found some wonderful young turk who wailed away on vocals like a hardcore thrashing punk and the very very loud band that Hedman led kept right up with him. Very obnoxiously loud, but tight and thrashy, and by that I mean heavy thrashy. Stopped and started beats, good (if not dissonant) melodic structure and despite the punk appearance and attitude, sounding very well rehearsed. Fun stuff. Spotted in the crowd coming out of the woodwork: Plasticlanders/VootWarningsites/LestWeForgetters John Frankovic (and fam), Victor Demechi (and fam, and will I everget his name spelled right?) Tommy Tiedjens, Dan Mullen, Lars Kvan, Julie Brandenburg, and a pile of other aging punkers I usually only see at places like Center and Locust street when one of the "family" is playing.
Before catching the next act, Sammy and I wandered down the street where the dunk tank was happening and he insisted on trying, several time, to sink the terry robed victim in teh dunk tank. It had to have been the fifth try for Sammy, but he finally sunk the sonafabitch, who, for this fifth try, was wearing a Paul Ryan mask. We both snicked about it.
The next act at the Impala stage turned out to be my favorite find in a while, Hearts of Stone. I was told they'd be a metal band. First couple of songs kind of let me down to the point where I decided this was as good a time as any to start waiting in line for a flush toilet. In fact the general consensus was that they started out weak, but then all of a sudden we all looked at each other and voila, they were kicking ass and taking names. I don't want to say they were emo, because that would imply a sort of Death Cab for Bon Iver lameness, but the emo came through via punchy melodies, a lead singer who would sometimes use an old pa/CB mike to filter his voice through, and a long haired drummer who would not quit. By the end of the set they'd won me, and a very enthusiastic crowd over.
Dr Chow up next. Dr Chow was Dr Chow. The fan base is there, Frank never disappoints as lead singer, the songs are all solid psychedlic garage blues, and it's almost a monthly (if not biweekly) party amongst us aging punkabilly hipsters. True to tradition, the rain rolled in toward the end of the set, but at least it was only a gentle sprinkle allowing the band to finish the set, pack up the electronics and put them safely out of the water's reach before any damage could be done.
I really need to get out more. The Danglers' John Sparrow tweeted me that next week he'll be playing with Steve Mackay at the Jazz Gallery and that it's a not-to-be-missed event. Agreed. Last time I saw Mackay blow through town it was downright magical, and the Danglers were up to the task of actually following him. I suspect they traded business cards and said "We'll have to play together sometime...." and, well, that "sometime" is next week. I'll have to figure out how to get out for this on a school night.