Post Turkey Power Riffs
The day after Thanksgiving is usually a good day to get out of the house and hang with non family folk, and after the luxury of sleeping in, I managed to mosey out to Club Garibaldi to see a band I've been meaning to catch for quite some time -- Two and A Half Stars. Full disclosure: one of them (or is Trevor Hyde the half?) is a family friend, and I do mean family. Our kids hang out.
There were three bands on the bill and I only caught the last song from the first band, Sing The Lake, so I can't really judge them. However, it sounded like (in the shadow of pop God Tommy Keene's untimely passing) the theme for this evening was "bands who haven't completely eschewed their love for power pop." Sing the Lake's last song was pure power pop, the next band was a little harder, and the wrap up went off center.
The first band I caught a full set from, Fuzee, has been around for quite some time, and this was embarrassingly the first time I'd heard them. I read later they proudly claim Keene a an influence and that was definitely evident in the finely crafted melodies and structure that each song had. But this was no jangle pop band: singer/ guitarist Joe Newmann saw to that with hard edged guitar runs that would have sounded just as at home in any combo from the Smithereens to Van Halen. That they get hard edged at times make the the kind of band that are not pure power pop (and that's not a bad thing, much as I love good power pop.). What puts them in the pop category is really catchy hooks, whether or not they're "hard" or "dark" isn't the issue. You could say that about Tommy Keene himself, about whom, like I said, I was thinking during their set before I confirmed on their FB that he was a major influence.
I wasn't sure what to expect from Two and a Half Stars, but I suspected I'd like it: both Trevor and his wife Phyl have sharp and often ironic, off-center senses of humor (so do their kids!), and so do all our mutual friends, so I was ready for anything. But what I got was this great combination of the aforementioned power pop (albeit a much smaller dose), some hard edged rock, and a dash or two of late 70s early 80s post punk with social commentary (think "what if the Gang of Four were Americans but before the Talking Heads got funky"). OK, I give up trying to describe them, except for the fact that I'm gonna call them on the fact that their first song felt like a riff on the Who's "So Sad About Us." (Hyde admitted to me later that his bass crib note for that song was "Entwistle.")
They had a digital slide show going on that helped us understand their lyrics and added to the overall WTF-ness of their set. The woman who was operating it seemed frustrated that it didn't work perfectly (I wonder if the magnetic field generated by the stage monitor that was right next to the laptop computer had anything to do with it), but when they went into a song with the chorus "Screw It" (which at times showed an animation of indeed a screw being driven into a board) they made clear with images and words that these guys did not exactly campaign for the current president. (And, yes, "coincidentally" about four people got up and walked out. WhatEVER.)
Lead singer John Newcomb pulls off twisted guitar riffs and sings about everything from world affairs to the Bay View Prius Lady. Drummer Lynn Winter drives it all with understated and likely unappreciated licks -- she's no showoff but her drumming is tasty. But just when I was starting to figure them out, they'd shift musical gears and throw me off. I like that in a band. Definitely on the "must see again" list.