(all photos taken on a Nikon D300 with 35mm 1.8 lens)
(all photos taken on a Nikon D300 with 35mm 1.8 lens)
White Rabbits formed in Columbia in 2004, but soon moved to Brooklyn. They quickly rose to national prominence with their debut album Fort Nightly, appearing on Letterman soon after the album was released. The group returned to Columbia last night, a few years and two more albums under their belt. Gull opened for White Rabbits. Gull is an interesting project with a major contradiction. It is a one-man band, yet has the sound and aura of a tribe. The consistently great Believer’s also opened the show.
I grew up watching Elvis impersonators croon and swagger, so when I headed to the Blue Note to see One More Round, a Johnny Cash tribute band, I had low expectations. I thought that I might see an amusing show and hear my favorite Cash tunes. One More Round had something else to offer though: Four extremely talented musicians who put on a great show from start to finish. They are returning to the Blue Note on February 11th to do it again.
One More Round consists of Bill Forness as Johnny Cash, Tara Schmittgens as June Carter, Brandon Jacoby as Luther Perkins (guitar), Matt Davis as Marshall Grant (bass), and Benet Schaeffer as W.S. Holland (drums). At their show on December 9th, they played thirty songs, a full two hours. Forness, who has a mother named June, talked with me after the show.
Did your mother like June Carter and follow her music?
She did not. But my grandmother and grandfather did. My mother did like old country, and I grew up around it. My step-grandfather was a picker, and my uncle actually lives in Nashville and was a singer/songwriter for Tree Publishing House for many, many years. He wrote songs for Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton and different people. I’ve been a singer/songwriter for 25 years and have been playing and writing songs. I started doing cover songs, doing it as a living.
At first it was an array, like four hour cover shows, just me and the guitar. But the more that I’d do Johnny Cash, the more people would come up and say, “Would you please do this one or that one?” So I started to learn more, and it was being received very, very well. Then there was a breaking point in a restaurant when a guy came up and said, “I’ve been coming to see you play for a while, but I’ve brought my girlfriend. Will you play Ring of Fire tonight?” When I started to play it, he sat her down in front of me and proposed. He said that it was the closest thing to Johnny Cash that he could get. That’s when I said, “I’m going to do this and see if I can make people happy.”
The crowd at the Blue Note was happy the night of the show. Two hard-core Cash fans, one with a large Johnny Cash tattoo on his arm, stood front and center enjoying the show and waiting for their favorite songs: Ring of Fire and Folsom Prison Blues. Seven-year-old Danny O’Toole attended the show with his father Tom, who saw Cash perform years ago in St Louis. Danny’s favorite song is Jackson, a duet that Cash did with his wife June. The band’s June was not able to make it that night. Not only did they manage without her, it turned out to be the song that brought the house down.
You pulled up an audience member to sing that song with you. Do you often do that?
That was the first time. The first time anyone has ever said “I’ll get up there and do it!” It was a blast. It was complete spontaneity.
The band plays well together, and Forness has a great stage presence. They covered all of Johnny Cash’s best known songs and threw in some trivia here and there. I learned that Cash did covers also, and One More Round played some of those: Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt, Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus, and Soundgarden’s Rusty Cage. They nailed them all, but Rusty Cage, the final song of the night, was one of the best songs that I have experienced live.
Johnny Cash himself once performed on the Blue Note stage. Owner Richard King said in an interview recently that it was his favorite show at the club.
How did it feel to play on the same stage as Johnny Cash?
I was very humbled to perform on the same stage as Johnny Cash and June Carter; that was the first stage I have performed on that they performed on. There was a moment on stage when I felt a calm wash over me, as if I was in the right place, doing the right songs, at the right time. It felt amazing!
I posed a tough question to each band member before we left: If you could only play three Johnny Cash songs for the rest of your life what would they be?
25 Minutes to Go…um…probably “Hurt”, which wasn’t his. Oh, man, there’s just so many that I really like! Probably Ring of Fire.—Bill Forness
I like to keep things peppy, so they’d probably be “Folsom Prison Blues”, “Ring of Fire”, and probably “Get Rhythm”.—Brandon Jacoby
That’s a hard question. One’s got to be “Ring of Fire”. One that we don’t do that I like: “The Ballad of Ira Hays”. My last one would be “Home of the Blues”.—Matt Davis
“Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down…Green”, “Green Grass of Home”. They’re all really heart-wrenchers. “Five Feet High and Rising”; I’ll tell you why: The thing about the chickens sleeping in the willow trees…it cracks me up every time.—Benet Schaeffer
One More Round: A Tribute to Johnny Cash. Saturday Feb. 11th, The Blue Note. Doors open at 8; Show starts at 9.
The previous week to ten days had brought about a number of changes to Columbia. Recent rains cooled the temperature down temporarily. However,it also marks the change of seasons in all but weather and name as the arrival of students to the town basically ends Summer in preparation of the new school year. As a result, August 20th became a jump start of what’s going on in terms of shows with an upsurge not all that often found during the laid back. languid summer months. With that in mind, I went over to the Blue Note to see what was going on and check out a couple of bands.
Starting things off for the evening was a rare performance from The Unfashionables. The local quartet began things on a slightly unexpected note with a semi lush song that hinted at dance music with a feel similar to Roxy Music. From there, however, the band quickly shifted into a set of uptempo rock that’s one part 90s era alternative rock, one part power pop with a sprinkling a heartland rock over the top. What emerged is a set of music that was radio friendly yet still walked the thin line between the arena and the alternative ennui the band members cut their teeth on. While some of their shows in the past have been mixed, the band utilized the size of the Blue Note’s stage to their advantage and gave off a high energy vibe with stage moves aimed for a larger stage. This was the best show I’d seen from this band who need to perform more often if they can keep this level of live show up.
Spectravox had the middle slot of the night and had a lot to live up to. Tackling songs from their two CDs,the band’s affable take on melodic pop rock owes as much to commercial new wave and stadium rock as to indie or power pop. With mildly overdriven guitars as a driving force, the band’s quirky songs came across decently enough but faltered slightly at this show in part due to the band they followed on the bill. The highlight was the few songs when frontman Sam Botts strapped on his Explorer and upped the crunch level a bit for a dual guitar melodic rock sound that added an edge the band needed. Melodic, and a bit humorous at times, Spectravox’ music walks a tightrope that is either too melodic for underground rock fans or too quirky for mainstream rock fans at times. However, the people on the floor got it and had a good time which is what matters when a band plays for the most part.
Unfortunately, due to another situation I had to check out that night, I wasn’t able to see the headlining set from local part 80s cover band Disengaged. Thus, I cannot comment on their set but hopefully will get a chance to see them somewhere down the road and check them out for myself.
As I left the Note for other parts of Columbia, I took in the warm weather and the semi chaos that’s part of life in a college town. Between the new students beginning to get their footing in a situation that cna be both exciting and frightening at the same time (we’ve all been there) and the general letting off of steam before the start of the fall semester the following Monday, there was a lot going on after a summer that was slower than some of us expected. Thus is the circle of life in a town like Columbia and the return to the feel that makes it what it is.
Of Montreal have been moving our feet and blowing our minds since 2004’s Satanic Panic in the Attic, though many often forget the band actually released 5 albums before Satanic Panic. The band rolls through town on Saturday, July 2 for a show at The Blue Note.
Expect to hear many of your favorites from Satanic Panic, The Sunlandic Twins, and Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer. All concert-goers should also prepare for the possibility of hearing a track from 2008’s dense disappointment Skeletal Lamping and this year’s weirder than weird Thecontrollersphere EP. The band’s newest album, False Preist, is a pleasant surprise. The album channels early R&B and funk, and features guest vocals by the amazing Janelle Monae and Solange Knowles. Tickets are unbelievably reasonable at $16, and are still available at the Blue Note box office or online here. Remember, you can pay cash at the Blue Note and avoid service fees.
Opening the show is Yip Deceiver, which is of Montreal member Davey Pierce’s side project. Their electronic dance-pop should be a perfect pairing for the main set. Hear two tracks from Yip Deceiver’s debut EP here.