Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Calvin Johnson Tape Release Show at the Vera Project

I steered a fascinating show at the Vera Project in August. It was billed as the Calvin Johnson Tape Release show, supporting a cassette tape release of songs by a variety of bands, all of which had originally been release on cassette. It took me a surprising amount of thought to get my head around that!

There were 11 bands playing, so they used two stages - the mainstage and a lobby stage. Each band played for 15 minutes, then the next band would start almost immediately on the other stage, while the first band moved equipment off the old stage and the follow up band then set up to be ready to go in another 15 minutes. It was easier to watch than it is to explain!

The first band up was KMVP - like most of the artists at this show, I hadn't heard her before. Her patter was amusing and she was fun to listen to.
Almost before you got used to listening, she was done and it was back into the main auditorium for Baby Islands - 15 minute sets are pretty short! Baby Islands had a nice sound and a more traditional guitar, bass and drums line up. Soothing voice and an easy rhythm, comfortable song. I like the feeling, even though it was new to me it felt familiar and the little touches like the guitar ringing around 1:55 in are very nice.

Calvin Johnson was fun, his first song was about a phone ringing but I wasn't able to get there in time to record it. I got him giving credit to some of the other bands and then playing his second song. His last song was a Hive Dwellers tune done a capella that I wish I had recorded. It used all sorts of derogatory terms and turned them on their head, making it a call to inclusiveness, very powerful!

Next up was Happy Noose As the name implies, they had a somehwat harder sound with a traditional power trio lineup - bass, guitar and drums, and quite a bit more distortion on the guitar. I managed to get two songs by them: Good punchy bass and driving rhythm, nice stuff.

With this many acts so close together, and with a last minute cancellation, there's always some risk that I'll end up mistaking the bands for each other. If I got one of the bands wrong, feel free to let me know!
Next up is Shana Cleveland and the Sandcastles, at least that's who I think it is, but it doesn't match the list/order of bands that I saw before the show. Nice sound, larger band than most that night with a cello and a woodwind.
Another short fifteen minute set and we were off to the main auditorium to see the Shivas. The Shivas were the only band I'd actually seen before, so I already new I liked them. Upbeat power trio, good sound and good songs, very nice. I managed to get two songs and I really like the upbeat uptempo song with interesting dual vocals in this one: Due to lousy camera work you can;t see the drummer much until around 1:00 in, then you can finally tell that she's doing the high end second part of the vocals.

Next up was Skill Meadow, who used a sequenced or taped rhythm section and sang and played keys.Another nice performance, good full sound for a solo performance, nice use of the electronic options.

This show had quite a bit of variety, and speaking of variety, the next performance by Mom was almost indescribable: She used tapes of assorted songs and sang with quite a bit of vocal effects - you petty much had to be there to get the whole effect. The video gets petty dim when she leaves the stage, but I enjoyed the little bit from "Monkey's Uncle" - I'm old enough to actually remember watching the Disney movie with Annette Funicello singing the title track shortly after it first came out in the sixties.

Next up (I hope, and I apologize if I have it wrong!) is Laura Leif & APB: I like the vocal approach, she has a good voice and the occasional backing vocals add nicely. The dual strings - guitar and ukelele, I think - also sound nice. I got a second song, not sure what the title is, could be Monkey Face, or Time to Move On, or something about strawberries; based on the intro it's new and inspired by strawberries, and it's a very nice song.They changed one instrument to a drum for this song.

Next up on the same lobby stage was Broken Water, I got a little bit from a song on video:
...and then a longer bit here, nice heavy sound, quite full for a power trio:

The Hysterics had the last slot and they were just arrriving as Broken Water was wrapping up. They played a short punk set, and they set up on the floor of the venue, rather than the stage.I like the approach, it brought the audience right in around the band and got more energy going. I also liked the lead vocalist's comment: "Less cameras, more dancing!"
Unfortunately, playing on the floor meant the stage lights didn't hit the band so the video is pretty dim, but I don't think the band cared - or if anything, they probably preferred it that way. I honored their request and turned off the camera after that and just bounced around and enjoyed myself.
Quite an amazing range of bands and sounds for one evening, definitely a whole lot of fun!

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