COMUSIC – Local Bands Worth Checking Out

So, the summer is over in all but the actual autumn equinox sense. School is back in and people are adjusting to a long routine of studying, work, et al. However, life is about more than just the work we have to do to survive. With that in mind I would like to talk about some bands you may not have heard of. They’re mentioned here in no particular order other than the first bands or artists that came to mind. They’re also the ti of the iceberg in terms of local music in Columbia, So whether you’ve just moved here for school or other reasons or have been around for a while but really busy and haven’t paid attention to what has been going on here musically, here are a few local bands worth checking out.

BATTLEMENT

Battlement

 

I hadn’t heard this band until I saw them play live recently and became a believer. This young trio delivers vintage style thrash metal with tight, relatively complex songs and a hint of prog mixed in. What emerges are songs that draw upon the roots of thrash while adding enough of a twist to show the potential they have ahead of them. More intricate guitar leads than gimmicks or tuned down crunch, While Columbia has never beenexactly known as a hotspot for metal, Battlement is a band that may change that.

GRAN MAL

Gran Mal

Ben and Nate of Gran Mal

 

What if you’re in the mood for some vintage style punk? Well, check out Gran Mal. this trio tears down the aural gauntlet with straightahead punk and hardcore that goes for the throat with medium fast beats and raw to the point,power chord guitar work. These guys know their genre and deliver no frills and in your face with a mix of sonic roughness and visceral energy that you don’t hear a lot these days. Gran Mal is the latest link in the chain of hardcore punk reamining true to its roots while trying to mark their own niche within it.

NOISE ORDINANCE

Noise Ordinance

Noise Ordinance live – May 2012

 

This is a very young band (as in they’ve only played a literal handful of shows) but these kids lay down a blend of vintage punk with occasional ska and reggae overtone that shows a lot of potential.  Yeah, they wear their influences on their sometimes tattered sleeves but they draw from old HC as much as new punk and raw a rawness that some readers will find refreshing.

 

As I said earlier, this is far from a complete list of local bands to check out.  It’s the tip of the tip of the iceberg.  In addition, just because I recommend a band doesn’t mean you’ll agree with me.  Regardless of what you think of the bands I recommend here I do feel you should take some time and check out the local music scene here in Columbia.  Yes, it may take some effort but you may also find some artists that surprise you.

 

COMUSIC REVIEW- Trio Kablammo, Missouri Weather and the Wait 5 @ Artrageous Friday

As I type this we are suffering under the weight of one of the worst droughts in years (if not decades) Several weeks of nearly constant 100° plus days has created a stifling heat that has gotten people on edge and made people not want to go outside anywhere unless absolutely necessary. However, since cabin fever can drive people up the walls, sometimes you have to brave the heat and get away. For me it was after doing some errands Friday night and the realization that I needed to have a night out that led me to finally fulfill a promise and see a band I’ve been meaning to for a while but had been unable to in the past.

 

Missouri Weather and the Wait 5 laying it down

Missouri Weather and the Wait 5 laying it down

I arrived at the back of Artrageous gallery in downtown Columbia shortly after Artrageous Friday’s house band Missouri Weather and the Wait 5 started playing. This local quintet provided a sonic backdrop of classic sounding rock drawing from a mix of jazz and blues elements with a fair element of improvisation and some hints of heavy metal at points. Built around Anna’s vocals and acoustic guitar work, the songs have a lilting quality where lush organ and piano percolate to evoke vibes that are part jam band but one may also hear touchstones of classic rock ranging from Van Morrison and Atlanta Rhythm Section in their sound. This band is still fairly young but standing at a crossroads between class rock/jam band style roots and melding more modern sounds within it. This band is slowly building a following in the region and looks to be growing into a promising live act.

 

TK

Trio Kablammo taking things somewhere unexpected – as expected.

I didn’t know Trio Kablammo would be playing tonight until I found out just after Missouri Weather began playing, making this a welcome surprise. The band rose to the challenge to deliver a set of their trademark jam/country rock complete with their trademark skewed sense of humor. Filtering jazz chords and thumb picked lead guitar with a tight rhythm section, the trio came up with a set that was relatively breezy, slightly snarky, and a respite from the sweltering heat outside. While Trio Kablammo was unexpected, they added a feel to the event hat complimented the night.
Eventually, I went out into the night. Between Ana Popovic playing Summerfest on 9th St and a couple of club shows, this was a quasi-sleepy night in Columbia. However, sometimes when you seek things out on a hot somewhat sleepy night, what you might may surprise you.

COMUSIC PREVIEW – May Live Music Preview (Part One)

COMUSIC PREVIEW – May Live Music Preview (Part One)

  AUTHOR’S NOTE: Due to time constraints (i.e.: me being way busier than I’d like) this will be a two part post.  My apologies in advance for this.

May is always a strange month for Columbia. Spring is in full effect with fairly warm days and relatively cool nights; providing a sign that summer is just around the corner. However, with three colleges in town, May is also the end of Spring Semester and the time when the student population dwindles by varying degrees due to finals week and other plans making the town a bit smaller in t e process.

But what if you’re not a student and just live in Como? What if you’re a student who’s staying over the summer either for summer school or due to a job? If you’re one of these people (or if you’re a student looking for something to check out before finals and/or your lease ends and you have to head on out of town), here are a few shows that you might be interested in this May.

9th Street Summerfest with Primus on 9th St – outside the Blue Note. (Thursday May 3rd)

While the summerfest shows have become a sign of nice weather and summer in Columbia, this kickoff is unexpected. Fans of peculiar song topics and massive funk meets jam band bass will likely fill 9th St for this show. I know most of you know about this show but I realized I had to put it here just to kick things off (and to avoid any comments if I forgot about it).

Mutilation Rites, Gran Mal, Creaturezoid, Gay Uncle @ Cafe Berlin (Thursday May 3rd)

So what’s going down on the 3rd if you’re not into Primus, can’t afford to see them, or just need a fix of something heavier.  This show should fill that void.  Mutilation Rites  will lay down some metal along with the HC of Gran Mal, local metallers Creaturezoid, and the grind/powerviolence of Gay Uncle.  This will be hard and intense at times but something the metal fans amongst you may be curious about.

No Coast Final Countdown Day One @ The Berlin Theater (Friday May 4th)

If you’re into rap/hip hop than this rap battle fest should be of interest.  With rappers from places ranging from St. Louis to Atlanta involved this will be something far removed from the cliche and a must see for the hip hop fan seeking out something different.

Portland Cello Project, Emily Wells @ Mojo’s (Wednesday May 9th)

I know what you’re thinking: cello music? Really? Hear me out. Portland Cello Project is taking the instrument into unexpected territory, playing music you wouldn’t normally hear on the instrument. A revolving crew of performers, over the years they’ve played with Peter Yarrow, Thao, and The Dandy Warhols and have a repertoire that ranges from Beethoven to Pantera and Kanye West (yes, you read that right). While I have little clue what they’ll do @ Mojo’s, I can safely say it will be interesting.

Hooten Hallers @ The Blue Note (Saturday May 12th)

This local duo has gotten a lot of media hype lately (even placing number two on Paste’s Ten Bands From Missouri You Should Know) and there’s a reason – they’re that good. Their raw stripped to the core bluesy rock has earned a fairly solid local following, The past year has found them busy touring so this homecoming of sorts is a chance to see them in the habitat they’re best suited for: the concert stage.

Cabin Sessions, Jowlz @ Mojo’s (Friday May 19th)

The local songwriters collective makes a rare live appearance @ Mojo’s the weekend before Memorial Day weekend.  With a sound that can go from folk and roots music to indie pop, this octet manages to put on an interesting show.  This may be our last chance to see Cabin Sessions for a while with band member busy with other projects so if you’re a fan of theirs (or just curious) check this show out if you’re able to do so.

That’s it for now.  Keep on the lookout for part two of this post shortly.  Hope you found something on this list you might want to check out.

COMUSIC REVIEW – The Hanukkah Jones Band – “Turn Your Head and Scoff” EP

     One thing that seems to be common when I type these reviews is the state of local music. While musicians in this town are playing a wide variety of music they face a wall of indifference from people so convinced that there’s nothing good that comes out of Columbia that they never even bother to check out any local artists to see whether they might be wrong or not. Thankfully not everyone in this town is like that; thus creating a community that, while underground in many ways, has a lot to offer not live in terms of live shows but on disc as well. One disc that piqued my interest lately was the second CD from The Hanukkah Jones Band.

On their latest disc Jon Heller and company offer up six songs that blend power pop hooks with some punk and hard rock attitude. It kicks off with “Hey Padme,” a tale of a dead relationship within a discussion of Star Wars prequels that seems obtuse lyrically but is carried by raw chords and a tasty guitar solo. Along the way, the songs are rockin’ tales regarding introspection, dying, love, life et al delivered with tight rhythms and saturated guitar tones. All the while, Heller’s lyrics carry a mix between pop culture and intellectual thoughts, creating songs that stand apart in many ways from run of the mill pop-punk or indie rock.

There are a number of changes since HJB’s debut CD Rodent Rage both in lineup (Heller is the only member who played on both discs) and soundwise. A slightly slicker production actually highlights the songs and helps the guitar tones stand out in the mix. However, the sonic changes aren’t so much a change in direction as a progression in the band’s aural vision, moving it forward in the process.

The Hanukkah Jones Band aren’t the hipster flavor of the month. However, if you want some melodic straight from the heart rock that’s melodic but also makes you think at times, their new disc is definitely one you should check out,

COMUSIC REVIEW – Coward, Jack Buck, The Spit @ Mojo’s

Mid January brought the first Friday the 13th of 2012. The city: Columbia, MO. The weather is cold and the area is recovering from a winter storm that, while normal in past years, seems in anomaly in an abnormally dry winter. Like this one has been so far. The semester is starting up at the area colleges. Thus, though not everyone has come back yet, there is an energy that has people coming out to see live music. Tonight, we look at this show at Mojo’s.

The Spit

The Spit kicking out the jams to start the evening.

New local band The Spit was opening the show tonight. This new band (this was their fifth show) set things into motion via a melodic, rough around the edges take on punk rock with buzzsaw guitars and songs that are direct and to the point. This quintet takes a high energy approach in these odes to life, communication, and death that comes through in the music and grabs your attention in the process. At only six songs, they focused on delivering the goods and gave the crowd a hard punk appetizer for the rest of the night. While the music of The Spit isn’t for everybody, people wanting a little roughness and honesty in their punk will do well to see them play live.

 

Jack Buck rocking the place.

I’d heard about Jack Buck through word of mouth and little bits of information gleaned online, but still hadn’t heard them yet, so this would be a surprise. After a false start/setup, the band returned shortly thereafter and took things into a somewhat different aural direction. This St. Louis quartet plays noise leaning metal built on effect tweaked guitars, the occasional sample, and spiderwebs of notes that weave through their songs. Hard, sometimes noisy, but with hints of atmospherics, they walk a fine line between metal, indie, and even some prog rock as the tension within often builds into moments of feedback and collision without losing the elements of melody in their sound. While Jack Buck’s sound does have similarities to some modern metal, their use of it as a jumping off point helps create heavy, ambient rock that sometimes knows more than it lets on. Need to check out their single.

 

Coward

Coward takes the crowd somewhere completely different.

I admit it had been a number of years since I’d last seen Coward play live so I was wondering what to expect. This quartet laid down an all instrumental set that was part dual drummer filled and keyboard driven tunes that almost border on jazz funk, part a guitar shred fueled fusion of hard rock, indie, and jazz that even could get close to progressive rock as much as anything metal related. It was an interesting match sonically as the subdued melded with harder more fiery pieces in a way that didn’t clash as much as some people might think. In the past I’d had a hard time trying to figure Coward out, but I now realize that their fusion of different musical styles makes them almost as a jazz band as they explore both rock and soul textures, though even this is somewhat of a misnomer. This was the tightest I’d ever seen them and they have piqued my curiosity towards any future plans they have.

Then it was over. As people slowly ventured out into the cold and light snow covered ground, plans were made and people bought merch. In a few days the semester would start at Mizzou and things would adjust back to a sense of quasi-normal – at least normal for Como. After a slow month in December, it was good to see some action going down in this town.

COMUSIC REVIEW – Jack Grelle, The Weeping Wildas, Graham MIles & Tommy Stallings @ Cafe Berlin 12/1/2011

I admit that December is traditionally a slow month for Columbia. The colder weather and longer nights tends to get people leaning more towards a hibernation mode than usual. In addition, the end of fall semester and preparations for finals creates a situation where shows become a bit scarce (for obvious reasons). However, along with the cold and a vibe that’s somehow simultaneously hectic and somewhat sleepy, there are things that surprise you. In my case, I was walking downtown on December 1st when I came across a flyer for this show at Cafe Berlin that I wasn’t aware of.

L to R: Tommy Stallings and Graham Miles

Strangely enough I end up missing opener Lizzie Wright due to running late at one of the very rare shows that started on time. I did make it about halfway through Graham Miles and Tommy Stallings’ set. With each alternative between acoustic guitar and bass (upright for Stallings, washtub for Miles) depending on the song, the duo played a collection of folk, blues and country songs that involved singalong choruses at times and delivered earnestly and true to their music’s roots. While they did struggle with the lack of a PA, the duo managed to overcome that and put on a straight ahead honest show that fans of roots and mountain music might enjoy.

Weeping WIldas

Local duo Weeping WIldas came up next with a homecoming show to almost wrap up their latest tour. Their songs are old timey mountain music that seems to be almost mined out of a mountaintop. Using just acoustic guitar, banjo and fiddle, their performance evoked a vibe that reminds one of country cabin front porches in these tales of life, love, and problems that come across like it’s 1901 as much as it does today. I’d never seen the duo before (though I had seen both Sam and Laura play in other bands and projects) so this proved to be a very interesting set.

Eventually it was time for Jack Grelle to take the stage and play a solo set. Somewhat more known in Columbia for his duties in local punk bands Task Force (as one of the two lead vocalsits) and Bookmobile (on drums), Grelle offereed up a set of pure unplugged country that told of trains, life, problems with the law, and the like with a honesty too often watered down in country music. Mostly solo, he told stories within the songs, taking the role of a balladeer of sorts along the way. Near the end, the Weeping Wildas joined him for several songs that took the set to a more mountain music/hillbilly feel. It wasn’t slick or commercial sounding, but there’s an honesty to whatever music Jack Grelle undertakes that has made him one of this town’s more interesting musicians along the way.

Jack Grelle with Laura of Weeping Wildas

Thus ends a show that came almost as a surprise. The nice weather of the day had turned to a winter night as people headed out into the cold. The next couple of weeks would be hectic for a lot of people at the show but for a few hours anyway, they had a release from their stress. It was one of those nights that proves again that sometimes the more interesting things in Columbia can happen when people are often too distracted to pay attention.

Comusic Review: Cave, Running, Jerusalem and the Starbaskets, Hott Lunch @ Mojo’s

First my apologies for taking so long to get this review up. Last weekend was very busy for me and I didn’t have a lot of time near a computer to put up reviews. While for many people in Columbia last weekend was memorable for Mizzou squashing Texas like a bug (17-5) for music fans it was likely they may have been among the packed crowd at the November 13th show at Mojo’s to see Cave.

Hott Lunch kicking out the jams....

First to play was locals Hott Lunch, who have been getting a bit of word of mouth from the underground. Expanding to a quartet, the band have brought a more psychedelic and hard rock leaning to their music with hard driving guitar hooks, a fair amount of garage rock organ and a lot of hooks. To put it mildly, these guys deliver one of the best rock shows in town. Unfortunately short (a necessarily thing with a four band bill), the band kicked out the jams in about six songs to reveal one of this town’s better bands. It’s been interesting to see Hott Lunch evolve and I’m curious to where their muse will lead them next.

Jeremy of Jerusalem and the Starbaskets

Jerusalem and the Starbaskets came up next and took things in a direction that’s similar, yet markedly different. As when I saw them in St. Louis last month, they still have the trio format.  Musically, they continue to create a melodic sound where vintage acid fried country rock meets noise laden alt rock, walking a thin line between punk, indie, and folk in the process.  This band has always followed its own muse, sometimes too freaky for melodic crowds, sometimes too melodic for freak folk fans.  However, its that unique vision that creates such interesting music and makes every show they do one worth checking out.

Had no clue what Running would be like only to find myself picking my jaw off the floor.  These guys unleashed some pure hardcore punk with hints of noise woven in.  Loud, fast, and in your face, each song came off like a grenade, coming off like a missing link between mid period Black Flag and No Means No.  Ferocious and uncompromising, Running is one of those bands that was like nothing else on the bill yet fit perfectly somehow.  Wish they’d come through here more often.

Running - may not grow on trees but they take the corwd by surprise.

A short time after Running left the stage the crowd grew thick adn slightly restless waiting for Cave to come up and play.  THe formerly local quartet was ready to decimate, diving into a set of mainly instrumental space rock built on drones and repetition with some near Kraut rock influences thrown into the aural mix.  Along the way, the band filtered in influences ranging from pschedelic rock to jazz-funk to pure space music.  Within their lengthy compositions the crowd reaches a slightly hypnotic feel, dancing along as the drones and chords build simemringly to a cresecndo.  While Cave have moved somewhat away from their local noise punk origins, the abdn has honed its hooks into a sonic machine that slowly lures the listener in until they succumb.  Their live shows are something that requires witnessing to truly understand what they’re about.

Three quareters of Cave getting into a locaked aural groove.

Once the show was over and people slowly began to filter out towards parties or whatever, a couple thoughts crossed my mind.  First, this had to be the largest crowd I’d ever seen for a Cavge show in the yearsw I’ve seen them.  Also, three quarters of the band either are or were local (running being the sole exception) though I wonder if anyone knew Cave came from here originally given this city’s antipathy towards local music way too much of the time.  Also, this turned out to be one of those nights that call to mind what Columbia can be (and has had glimpses of in the past).  This was going to be the start of a busy weekend for me  but one where the live shows kept my interest and made me wonder what was ahead as well as think of new ideas to create on my own.  This was an interesting night.

 

CoMusic Review – Roots N Blues N Bar B Q Festival Day Two

AUTHOR”S/POSTER’S NOTE: My apologies for the delay between posting the review of the first night of the festival and this post. It had been a busy week and I wasn’t fully able to get this done until now. Also, due to the reach of this day in particular the review will be in two parts out of necessity.

After catching a brief snippet of Sam Bush’s set over at Peace Park, I realized it was time to walk over to Flat Branch Park and the Community Stage to see Cabin Sessions play a fairly rare live show. The local collective of songwriters did an acoustic set that ranged from introspective indie pop to folk and country and back, all while maintaining some kind of group identity. Fresh off their latest recording session the previous week, the band played mostly old chestnuts but did offer up a new song or two along the way. It was a fairly breezy affair that stretched some of the roots and blues definition while remaining more true to the intent of both than some acts.

 

The Cabin Sessions at Flat Branch Park

Unfortunately, on the way back to the main stage, festival favorites the Music Makers Review were still setting up and not playing yet.so I wasn’t able to see thir set. However, after getting some dinner I did make it to Peace Park in time for Dale Watson to play. Backed by the Lonestars on fiddle and pedal steel as well as The Texas Two on upright bass and drums, Watson gave the crowd some pure honky tonk country in a uniquely Tejas manner. Twangy songs about drinking, women and the state of country music is Watson’s bread and butter and he delivered to a largely appreciative crowd. This was my first time seeing him and he didn’t disappoint. At a time when country music seems increasingly to be pop with a dobro or a fiddle, it’s always good to hear what real country sounds like.

 

Dale Watson

And now here’s the rash decision of the night. Robert Cray Band was playing the main stage while Los Lobos was playing the stage at Peace Park. Wanting to see both but knowing there was no perfect solution, I decided to see the first five songs of RCB (mainly cause it was supposed to start about 15 minutes earlier). While I couldn’t see the whole thing, Cray and his band laid down some take no prisoners electric blues with plenty of guitar and organ interplay and songs about betrayal, loss, love, and the like. If circumstances were different I would’ve stayed but when two really good bands are at a festival like this sometimes you have to see a bit of both. Will definitely have to see a whole set from Robert Cray sometime in the future.

Robert Cray Band in action

Made it over to Peace Park partway through Los Lobos’ set with Sam Bush was sitting in on violin for much of it. At the time I arrived, they were doing several Latin flavored numbers. However, the band’s diversity was on fire tonight as they played everything from moody ballads to uptempo rockers to even a covers of Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and were joined by a member of the Music Makers Review for “Sweet Home Chicago.” It was one of those nights with a packed crowd at Peace Park, making it hard to move even though the music almost makes you do so. While the night was somewhat strange, the fact that a festival like this meant a collaboration few would expect (I know I didn’t) made it worthwhile.

 

Los Lobos with special guest Sam Bush

While getting a quick snack, I heard a bit of Fitz and the Tantrums playing on the main stage. While the song was catchy and fun, given a choice between that or Taj Mahal on the Peace Park stage meant the latter would be the obvious choice.

The Taj Mahal Trio kicked things into gear with a set of classic blues that wasn’t afraid to take the occasional chance.  Fueled by Mahal’s great guitar and banjo work, the trio delivered a journey to blues at its most primal using both electric and acoustic guitars to deliver the vibe throughout.  The crowd response was explosive as the set wore on.  In some ways this was a winding down of sorts, using Mahal’s knowledge of the genre and his history to bring the day’s events to a close.  Needless to say threre was something here that brought things to a close in a real sense.

Then it was all over.  As we walked to either our cars or our next plans it was clear that today had been a busy, somewhat expansive day of food and music.  As for me personally, spending much of the past 12 hours on my feet left me bushed but I did get to chefck out some acts I hdan’t seen before, even if only for a brief moment or two in some cases, and saw some artists I hadn’t seen live in a long time.  It was a long weekend but one that was eventful.