News from the front lines
Listening to ERIN MCKEOWN play The Basement last Thursday, we felt like disheveled housewives in a supermarket shopping spree racing from item to item, trying to grab as much as we could before time ran out. “Play ‘Blackbirds,’ ” we cried. “Now play ‘Slung-Lo.’ Now ‘White City’—oh, oh, play them all!” McKeown moved from one tune to the other, taking requests and explaining the inspiration behind the songs—an ill-fated make-out session at 19, French lyrics she had to learn phonetically, an interpretation of something she read in The New Yorker—as her enraptured audience clapped and sang and whistled along. With only a guitar and the occasional backup from drummer ALLISON MILLER, McKeown opted for simplicity, letting each note stand on its own. Her latest album, Sing You Sinners, contains covers of songs from the 1930s and ’40s, and then one oddball: “Melody,” a song from 1917 that WWI soldiers sang in the trenches to remind them of better times back home. We stood in the packed venue, sipping our beer and trying to imagine ourselves on the front lines, McKeown’s clear voice floating through the air as napalm bombs fall from the sky. Oh, if only our great-grandfathers could see us now!
Indie rockers finally come together without irony
STEVE LEE’s record release show last Wednesday at Mercy Lounge felt a bit like a children’s birthday party—complete with balloons and a healthy dose of glee. Opening up for Lee and Co. was a quartet of singer-songwriters doing the in-the-round thing. In front of each guitar-wielding young man was a balloon bearing his likeness—or, at least a close approximation. Bedroom-pop mastermind KYLE ANDREWS, whose balloon had glasses just like he does, was making his first local appearance since moving back from Philadelphia. (Andrews plays his first headlining gig since his triumphant return on Feb. 16 at The Basement.) Eventually, Lee took the stage with quite the impressive entourage: GABE DIXON on piano, Andrews on banjitar, guitar, drums, bass, keyboard, pedal steel and tambourine. He opened with “Good Morning” and “Wake Up,” the first two tracks on the reason for this celebration: the debut of What Did You Do Today Stephen Scott Lee?, a wonderful collection of indie-pop kids songs. Immediately, the energy in the room swelled and uncontrollable smiles broke out on faces throughout the club. Lee’s buoyant, whimsical tunes are just so gosh-darn fun, pure and childlike. Throughout the performance, a myriad of local musicians who contributed to the record made cameos, including DAN BURNS and AARON WINTERS. We’ll stop here and make special note of singer-songwriter JEREMY LISTER, who made a brief appearance—man, that dude can whistle! Andrew Bird better watch his back. The evening closed with “The Unicorn & The Horse,” a gem about ill-fated intra-species love that Lee is saving for his next album. Well, no, that’s not quite right, it wasn’t really over until Lee leapt off the stage, took his very own rotund, plastic likeness and pressed it between his palms until it burst—it was totally rock ’n’ roll.
All growed up
Last Saturday, MIKE GRIMES, GEOFF DONOVAN and the crew over at The Basement celebrated their second year of control over the cozy venue on Eighth Avenue. Our guess: it wouldn’t have mattered who was on the bill—most people in the packed crowd seemed to have come as well-wishers, and the festive atmosphere was palpable. With seven bands on the bill, it seemed inevitable that things would run a bit late. Though we arrived earlier, by the time we made it through the crunch in the front room, ALTERED STATESMAN were preparing to take the stage to deliver their lilting, countrified soul. Though not necessarily the best band to maintain this easily distracted, Saturday-night crowd’s attention, frontman and songwriter STEVE POULTON and his band continue to impress. Next up was the rarely-seen-outside-the-Springwater sextet LONE OFFICIAL (whose sophomore album Tuckassee Take is out on Honest Jon’s Records in the U.K.). Frontman MATT BUTTON’s dissonant, pastoral tales always manage to take us by surprise with their quiet power. By the time the band exited stage right, it was well past the stroke of midnight and our carriage was beginning to look more and more like a pumpkin, so we stole away into the night. Happy Birthday Basement! (Has anyone seen our shoe?)
Grasscore? Punkgrass? Tobacco-core?
This Monday, The End will host New London, Conn.’s CAN KICKERS (playing with CHRIS SCRUGGS and our favorite far-out, esoteric country-punk band THE COUNTER CLOCKWISE). The Can Kickers play bluegrass on speed, or punk on moonshine and chewing tobacco—we can’t decide which—but they do it with a level of passion and fervor that borders on criminal. Drummer DOUG SCHAEFER is a tight, flailing beast who makes it impossible not to tap your feet. This bill is an example of what “alt-country” really has the potential to be, or the magic that can happen when you take a genre with a set of rules and expectations and run it though a blender. ($5)
Send your favorite Basement memories, updates on the Falls City Angels/Bang Bang Bang feud and your guesses on who will be the next Nashville band to sign on the dotted line (congrats, De Novo Dahl!) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
well fuck you anon! Go and Catch fire!
The guitar is a custom made Gretsch he used on the Raconteurs tours...sweet. I couldn't…
I knew him before the beard.
Sometimes I think snowman69 makes good points. But I think he's way off the mark…