Rotary Downs + Caddywhompus: 10.29.2011

Camaraderie between a mature rock band and a younger noise duo may seem unlikely in this fast paced and cliquish era of alternative music, but Rotary Downs – local champions of unkillable working man’s indie rock – and Caddywhompus – constantly breaking new experimental ground  – have recently forged such a platonic relationship, one that bridges the gap between the old and new guard in the New Orleans underground.  That both bands are in the midst of writing and recording new material and, as a result, have been performing with an obscene amount of live perfection recently only makes the pairing more exciting (and the fact that both bands are not enjoying massive nationwide acclaim more confounding).

The extreme regularity with which noise-pop extraordinaires Caddywhompus outdo themselves on-stage does little to make each occurrence less dazzling.  This evening – in the cypress-wrapped space at d.b.a., with the crowd of costumed revelers aglow thanks to an intentionally decadent light show – Sean Hart and Chris Rehm once again raised the bar on what fans of this virtuosic band-to-watch can expect in a live setting.  As exciting as their shows marked with busted strings and toppled over kick drums can be, even more stunning was this evening’s nearly flawless set in Frenchman Street’s most sonically-pristine music venue. With Rehm’s nimble guitar-and-pedal-work creating a nuanced wall of sound and Hart’s rapid-fire yet surgical drumming accentuating the mathed-out beatitude lurking beneath every one of the team’s compositions, songs old and new (including a suite of freshly written, unreleased material) bounded into the ether with an urgency and clarity that was both massively astonishing to, and not altogether unexpected by, anyone with even baseline knowledge of Caddywhompus’ skill and talent.

In one of their most impressive appearances to date, Caddywhompus set the perfect stage for greatest band in the universe Rotary Downs, whose headlining shows have become increasingly balls-to-the-wall rock n’ roll staring contests in which the members of the band seem determined to outlast even their most fervent supporters.  Borrowing from the jam band tradition of playing no less than two full sets of music in a night, the 4th annual Halloween ramble lasted until nearly 4AM as the group supplemented the darkly powerful and addictive tracks off 2010’s Cracked Maps & Blue Reports with huge swaths of their 2007 psychedelic-pop breakthrough, Chained to The Chariot (including an elusive live version of the Phish-esque instumental-in-four-movements “Ma Lion Races Ruin”).

But Rotary Downs shows aren’t noteworthy simply because they are lengthy.  Bassist Jason Rhein and drummer Zack Smith were practically knee-deep in groove before the show even started, and in the acoustically warm confines of d.b.a, Chris Columbo’s dexterous slide guitar jumped to the front of the mix, which – along with the addition of fill-in-bassist-cum-multi-instrumentalist Alex Smith – notably added a extra level of stunning depth to Katrina-exile classic “Feast In Squalor” and similarly standout Chariot cut “Body Of An Outlaw”.  Combined with lead singer James Marler’s fascinating vocal range and Michael Giradot’s keyboard alchemy, Rotary Downs were alternately hypnotizing and invigorating all night (when not managing to be both at the same time), unleashing a performance that suggests a band as endlessly adroit as Rotary Downs requires two enormous sets to even begin to show their depth of their musical fluency.


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