Yes, justice — both legal and poetic — has finally started to poke its head out of the shell with Lou Pearlman now apprehended and the carcass of his ill-gotten empire thrown open for the local public to pick over via auction. But really, enough about news (boo, news!). Too much happened on our own streets last week to fuss over the particulars of what happened to a contemptible pedo-pimp on the other side of the world.
Musicians are taken to task in this space regularly, but this particular "FUCK YOU" goes to you for not supporting the community-minded but criminally under-attended Stone Soup Festival at Back Booth Saturday. Nice way to encourage the movers out there (in this case, Post, Nonsense and Pinky Ring Records) that try to be a cultural Prometheus for the scene. At least the people who did come offset the insult with heart.
What's worse, instead of the official July send-off, this ended up being the final performance by beloved local act The Heathens. Conspicuously absent was frontman Matt Butcher due to internal discord. Regardless, the other members honored their commitment to play. Well, excuse me if I break my own heart tonight but it sucks how unceremoniously this book was closed. Mainly, it's unfortunate for the Heathens' passionate fans. I spoke to one who was juggling both heartbreak and disgust.
Despite the forced make-do situation — which entailed much last-minute rearrangement to patch the hole — it was one of their best performances in many unexpected ways. With usual timekeeper Jeff Ilgenfritz filling lead duty, the drumless setup instantly turned them into a true string band, which brought an exuberant spryness to their set. The affair had a retrospective tenor and a liberal exchange of band stories, making the show feel like a campfire with friends. Fittingly, the night ended when the audience shared the stage with the players for one last song. It was truly a moment. I was the first to write about 'em and I was there at the end, and these boys came through in a disastrous circumstance with aplomb, dignity and spirit.
What's with the summer of death in the city's music scene? First, the Wynn Brothers Band, then the best punk rock act in town Fashion! Fashion! and the Image Boys and now the goddamned Heathens. There are lots of bands I'd like to see fold but definitely not laudable talents like these. Stop the bleeding … pleeease!
As vital bands died, a dead band was revived, at least for one night. The Vegas Choir Boys, best known for being fronted by Back Booth owner Aaron Wright, reunited for a show June 14. Though they did some things well, like bringing enthusiasm and intensity, they were scattershot stylistically. Then suddenly, a flying tomato came outta nowhere. Packing serious velocity, the tomato didn't hit any of the performers. But still, that shit's pretty funny (funnier even than the glitter cannons in the rafters). That's why it's called a classic.
The evening's apex was the set by Bob on Blonde, a local trio that's been rather reclusive these days. A winning intersection of '90s alt-rock and the sort of loose, spacious American rock that keeps you company, their comforting melodies were kept interesting with charged, ragged textures.
The night before at the Social, California's Ozma was unimpressive. Combining new wave and power pop is an approach that's worthless without the requisite degree of precision. All I heard was a chronic Weezer- worship without the focus, craftsmanship or perfect melodies. A rock band with rootsier leanings, Pennsylvania's Eastern Conference Champions were much better with a road-weary, slightly rural sound.
Flying above my expectations was L.A.'s The Actual, who were another case of a band misrepresented by their record. The production of their latest album, In Stitches, presents them as a too-crisp, wiry pop-punk band, which is something that tends to bring out my James Spader face lickety-split. But live, their dynamics are much more in line with a true rock band. They're still youthfully melodic and pop-leaning but with a bigger, broad-shouldered sound. Definitely.
Hotshots in the experimental rock scene, New York quartet Battles lived up to the hype with a very impressive Father's Day set at the Social. There are plenty of out-there bands doing all sorts of weird stuff that would qualify as original, but few of them can be as engagingly visceral as this. The band's mind-bending, Gordian technicality was almost always chaperoned by a rhythmic physicality. What a joke the "vibe" that jam bands love to stroke is when compared to a set like this, which struck a groove so deep it was primordial. Battles' concept may be avant-garde, but their spirit is absolutely firstname.lastname@example.org