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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What to Do Tonight: Dr. Dog

Posted By on Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 8:30 AM

Dr. Dog get ready for their meeting with Nurse Cat
  • Dr. Dog get ready for their meeting with Nurse Cat

Let’s get this out of the way. Dr. Dog is an awful name for a band — somewhere between Hoobastank and the Goo Goo Dolls on the Awful Band Name list. But the group itself — five guys from Philadelphia who’ve been playing together since 1999 — is one of the most adventurous of the past decade.

Over the course of five albums, starting with 2002’s Toothbrush, they’ve mined a sort of ’60s-influenced indie-rock that started out low-fi but has since grown into full, kaleidoscopic Brian Wilson-style productions. Their latest album, Shame, Shame (which was released earlier this year), is their biggest and most consistent — a collection of baroque pop songs that sounds like it dropped in from a 40-year-old acid party.

Until recently, Dr. Dog have been mostly an insular band. Singer-bassist Toby Leaman and singer-guitarist Scott McMicken rounded up the group, wrote the songs, and recorded the albums in their home studio. But they wanted to try something different on Shame, Shame. So they hired Rob Schnapf (who’s worked with Beck and Elliott Smith) to produce, and they went to New York to record.

They’re happy with the way Shame, Shame turned out. But Leaman says they probably won’t be making an album like this again any time soon. “We thought we’d go away and make this record and it would be awesome,” he says. “But that’s never the way we worked, and it turned out none of us really liked working like that.”

Schnapf certainly adds new textures to songs like “Shadow People” and the title track. And the layers of sounds running through the album are more disciplined this time out. The setup is one Dr. Dog are used to, since they usually head into the studio with every voice and instrument mapped out. But there were problems with this new structure, starting with Schnapf’s perfectionism. “We thought it would be easier than it was,” says Leaman. “We tried the best we could, going in head first.”

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Concert Review: Lubriphonic at Beachland Tavern

Posted By on Mon, Oct 18, 2010 at 2:12 PM

Swinging for the cheap seats
  • Swinging for the cheap seats

The bluesy, soulful, and funky Lubriphonic brought the heart and soul of Chicago to the Beachland Tavern last night. The band that is usually a septet was rolling as a sextet and didn’t miss a beat — even though it was missing a horn. Still, the group had no problem filling the stage of the tiny tavern.

The band formed after guitarist Giles Corey and drummer Rick King recruited some of the best blues, funk, and rock musicians in Chicago. Over the years, they played alongside legendary artists like Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, and Otis Rush before they became a traveling funky dance party.

Since most of the Beachland's audience was next door listening to Carlos Jones, there weren't too many in attendance for Lubriphonic at first. But by the end of the night, the floor was packed people slow dancing, break dancing, and free soul twirling. I think I even saw someone doing the worm.

Much of the jams the group belted out were from its latest album, The Gig Is On. They started it out slow with “No Blues,” but the slower jams were few and far between, as Lubriphonic progressed into a mix that included some James Brown hits. (The band sounds like it has some roots in New Orleans brass groups, but their approach is more Chi-Town soul.)

Songs like the new “Under the Line” and the fast-paced “Punk” were funky, and a jazzed-up cover of “Soul Man” featured singer Giles Corey belting out a howl that would have made Howlin’ Wolf proud. —Reed Hazen

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Concert Review: SF Jazz Collective at Nighttown

Posted By on Mon, Oct 18, 2010 at 10:50 AM

So big, they barely fit in the same picture
  • So big, they barely fit in the same picture

It was a tight fit, as the eight-piece SF Jazz Collective squeezed into the confines of Nighttown for two packed sets at Nighttown Saturday evening.

The ensemble formed in 2004 by the West Coast jazz organization SF Jazz has changed lineups over the past few years, but the current configuration might just be the most interesting yet.

Each year the band pays homage to a different jazz legend with fresh new arrangements from that artist’s book, along with adding to the repertoire via new pieces from each band member. This time out the focus was on Horace Silver — Blue Note icon and hard bop raconteur.

The late show got underway with Silver’s “Cape Verdean Blues,” a Latinesque number reworked so that the already syncopated melody became even more jagged. Vibist Stefon Harris wasted no time getting down to business with his incendiary solo, followed closely by up and coming trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire who was equally inspired.

Once the head returned, the offbeat rhythms made way for some tasty interactions with drummer Eric Harland. Another Horace piece, “Lonely Woman” followed in a Miguel Zenon arrangement that faintly hinted at the original line. Trombone man Luis Bonila stepped up the tempo with a lightning fast display of some serious chops. Stefon Harris's “The Devil and the Details” sported some cool chord changes and a rollicking groove, plus surefire statements from pianist Ed Simon and tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, who moved to the beat in a steady motion almost suggesting an animated Jack-in-the Box.

Two lengthy pieces served as the second half of the show, namely Ed Simon's “Collective Presence” and drummer Eric Harland's “Harlandia.” While the former served as a tone poem, the latter pulled out all the stops with a frenetic line of a regal nature, almost befitting the title. Harris, in one of his best solos of the night, managed to squeeze in a quote of “Mona Lisa” as he leaped up and down his instrument with lightning speed.

Harland's own muse is one of complementing the whole in a highly musical fashion and he certainly put it all together for this one.

Not surprisingly, the crowd clamored for an encore which came via a Mark Tuner arrangement of Horace Silver's “Peace.” One could barely detect the original melody, but had to marvel at the precision of the four-man horn section. All in all, it would prove to be a brief, but potent set of forward-looking jazz. —C. Andrew Hovan

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Concert Review: Kim Richey at the Beachland Ballroom

Posted By on Mon, Oct 18, 2010 at 9:23 AM

Rocked the Beachland -- relatively speaking, of course
  • Rocked the Beachland — relatively speaking, of course

Kim Richey entranced a packed and seated audience at the Beachland Ballroom Saturday night with a set that's hard to describe without fear of evoking images of lesser music.

She's a singer-songwriter roaming between Americana, country, and mellow rock— all highly tread musical forms lately, often to great effect but also too frequently susceptible to posturing or saccharine over-sentimentality.

Luckily, from the moment the charmingly unassuming Richey walked onstage it was clear we were going to be spared any nonsense. Her obvious talent is matched by her tasteful restraint.

Armed with just an acoustic guitar, a keyboardist, and a one-man rhythm section, she delivered rousing, full-bodied performances of a diverse but clearly related batch of songs.

Highlights included the dreamy midnight winter walk travelogue "Careful How You Go" and the regretful but still upbeat "Wreck Your Wheels," the title track from her new album.

Another show-stopper was Richey's sultry, jazzy late-show take on 2002's "Reel Me In," for which the already spare drum kit was covered in what looked like a pile of moving blankets, giving the percussion a haunting, heartbeat sound that perfectly conveyed what was at stake in the song's lyrics.

When it all ended too soon, Richey was rewarded with one of the more legitimate and seemingly unplanned encore callbacks in recent memory, politely interrupting the Beachland's farewell instructions with a lovely solo acoustic number. —Matthew Wilkening

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Concert Review: HIgh on Fire at the Grog Shop

Posted By on Mon, Oct 18, 2010 at 9:07 AM

High on Fire, and probably a few other things
  • High on Fire, and probably a few other things

High on Fire descended upon a packed Grog Shop Friday night on top of a diverse three-band hard-rock bill and staked a powerful claim to the heavy metal throne with an hour-long display of brutally intelligent music.

Singer and guitarist extraordinaire Matt Pike is finally starting to show some signs of wear and tear on his face after about two decades of nonstop touring. So maybe he's not literally immortal. We watched him effortlessly switch from the slower, spacier stoner-rock of the recent Sleep reunion to High on Fire's relentless heavy metal in the space of just a few weeks. So we'd have to say he's probably at least a demi-god.

Pike, drummer Des Kensel and bassist Jeff Matz delivered a set of complex, uptempo epic tracks largely pulled from their latest album, Snakes for the Divine. Also, this was the best sound mix I've ever heard from them. The newfound clarity revealed the deep grooves in music that sometimes gets muddy and relies on fans' memories in concert.

The audience ate it up, letting all their work-week frustrations out without beating each other up too badly.

Torche opened up with a set of really intelligent brain-rock that's easy to respect but lacks some sort of gut-level charisma. —Matthew Wilkening

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

What to Do Tonight: Paste Magazine Tour With Jason Isbell

Posted By on Sun, Oct 17, 2010 at 8:00 AM

Brother Trucker Isbell
  • Brother Trucker Isbell

Since the Paste Magazine Tour was announced a few months ago, the actual magazine folded. But its name is still attached to this cross-country show headlined by former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell. His band the 400 Unit gives his southern rock a crackly spin with twangy guitars and jangling keyboards. The Alabama native split from the Truckers in 2007, but he still writes the kind of rock anthems that hurtle through a room. He’s joined on tour by Langhorne Slim, a Brooklyn singer-songwriter who brings his own southern spin to indie music. His songs bounce restlessly from one guitar-fueled stomper to another. The most intimate music on the road show comes from Oregon’s Mimicking Birds, a trio that toils in contemplative reflection and beautifully twisted atmospherics. Understated vocals brush on top of looped acoustic guitars in nearly every song. The Sweet Hereafter’s Jesse Sykes and Phil Wandscher round out the lineup with a set of tunes filled with spacious organ and haunting voices. The magazine may be gone, but the Paste name lives on with these artists — all of whom were championed in its pages during its brief, prominent run. Paste Magazine Tour, with Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Langhorne Slim, Jesse Sykes & Phil Wandscher, and Mimicking Birds, plays the Grog Shop at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $15, $13 in advance. —Danielle Sills

Going to the show? Let us know what you think of it in the comments.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

What to Do Tonight: High on Fire/Torche

Posted By on Fri, Oct 15, 2010 at 8:00 AM

Is that a gang sign the one High on Fire dude is throwing low?
  • Is that a gang sign the one High on Fire dude is throwing low?

It’s a great week to be a fan of forward-thinking metal in Cleveland. An unofficial and seemingly unplanned festival of distorted delights hits our city, starting with Brooklyn-born retro-thrashers Early Man rolling into Peabody’s on Thursday. Five days later, the Sword stop by House of Blues to show why shifting down a gear on their new album just might make them the new kings of hard rock. In between is this very cool and diverse pairing of metal’s new guard, featuring Torche, a Miami band that may be the most miscategorized group to ever wear the “stoner rock” tag. They actually play an up-tempo brand of smart progressive music that would be just at home sharing a bill with Yeasayer as with their tour’s headliners High on Fire. That band’s already legendary frontman Matt Pike may be the natural successor to Lemmy Kilmister’s “soul of heavy metal” crown. But that laurel undersells the musicality, diversity, and ferocity of Pike’s songwriting, singing, and, especially, riff-generating abilities. The man is truly a force of nature, and all self-respecting fans of metal owe it to themselves to see Pike and his nearly equally awesome High on Fire bandmates. High on Fire, with Torche and Kylesea, play the Grog Shop at 8 p.m. Tickets: $15, $14 in advance. —Matthew Wilkening

Going to the show? Let us know what you think of it in the comments.

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