Live Picks: 09.06.2012 – 09.12.2012

09.06: Coyotes + Aerial Attack + Cozy – Prytania Bar

09.07: Yeasayer – Republic

09.08: Native America + Donovan Wolfington + ArchAnimals – Thermos

If I were to pick one concert line-up that accurately represents the personality and attitudinal makeup of New Orleans’ DIY Indie culture, it would have to be one that showcases three bands who seem to be philosophically conjoined at their hips if disparate in their styles of music, and it would have to take place at an unseen, untested pop-up venue – in true underground fashion. And though such concerts take place almost daily for the majority of the year, a summer of hard touring, recording and traveling by local musicians has found these events occurring relatively less often of late. Fortunately, three of the city’s most talented groups of heatseakers have gotten back on the horse for the kind of casual, off-the-beaten-path show that local live music fans have come to crave over the last couple of years.

The tandem of Donovan Wolfington and Archanimals has enjoyed both a warm introduction to New Orleans and a steadily growing level of popularity since the beginning of the summer. In addition to often being found on the playbill together locally, Donovan – a five-piece emo punk outfit – and Archanimals – a southern rock-influenced noise rock trio – recently co-headlined a regional tour, and they both spent the second half of the summer laying down tracks for their respective full-length records, due later this fall.

Meanwhile, the lore of Ross Farbe’s one-man-turned-three-man Native America project has nearly begun to precede it by now. What was once considered a side project which had he and bassist John St. Cyr’s splitting time with Sun Hotel (and which, up until Country Club’s hiatus/disbandment, had drummer Ray Micarelli doing the same) has, for a time now, been a genuinely potent entity in and of itself, with some even going so far as to declare this noise pop act the best that New Orleans has to offer. With virtually no recorded material on which to crutch themselves (a full length is perpetually imminent), Native America has made their name solely on their live performances, which tend to lean heavily on distortion and rhythmic nuance.

This Saturday night, the bands get together for an early show at new venue Thermos, which can be found on the corner of Plum and Leonidas and which might be a house or possibly a bar, maybe even a parking lot.

MP3: Native America: “Winedrunk Potluck”

MP3: Donovan Wolfington: “Spencer Green”

09.10: I Was Totally Destroying It + Faun Fables + Kara Mann – Circle Bar

Check out our New Orleans Music Calendar for a full slate of constantly updated live picks

Donovan Wolfington: 06.14.2012

Though there’s much one can often glean from seeing a young band at their first show back from their first tour, I wouldn’t have anticipated the strides Donovan Wolfington has managed to make in a mere matter of days, the band’s short tour with pals ArchAnimals taking them only as far as San Antonio. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that the golden era-harkening emo five-piece I saw at Siberia on Thursday evening is a unit markedly different than the one that has been performing in and around New Orleans for the previous six months.

A tightening of the proverbial screws is only natural when a band begins to hit its collaborative stride, and with Chris Littlejohn’s ever-condensing percussion and the increasingly art punk-tinged lead guitar work of Matthew Seferian, D-Wolf has certainly begun to arrive. But that tightening has also drastically changed the sound and feel of emo-infused indie rock that the band has made its bread and butter. Where you could once hear a group of musicians whose creative ingredients may be just a little too varied for their own broth (a penchant for dissonant noise and guttural screams and shouts that often left little room for either Savannah Saxton’s peripheral synth and keyboard offerings or the general glaze of good-natured youth that endearingly hangs on each member’s face), it’s now all there in crystal vision — Christian Baraks dances around like a goofball while hitting every bass note with precision; Saxton is a demure counterbalance but no less obviously a key presence in D-Wolf’s blithe yet intensely heavy mis-en-scene; and at this point singer Neil Berthier could hit notes at will, thought he doesn’t necessarily try, since the charm lies in how arbitrary his delivery seems.

At the very least, this is a band whose desire to maintain their reverence for a decidedly rigid set of genre standards (after all, there isn’t a whole lot that technically separates Braid from Story of the Year, but the difference between the two is mind-bogglingly vast) has begun to intersect with their real-world personal chemistry on stage. But oddly enough, as Donovan Wolfington come closer to reaching the Kinsella bros. paradigm of “good emo” (a la the high-minded Joan of Arc), they seem to be progressively growing distant from any other band with the same modus operendi. Philadelphia’s Algernon/Snowing/1994 collectivists having made “rock n’ roll as fuck” their decided emo personage, the members of D-Wolf seem bent on a different path altogether, approaching emocore from a new angle, if from any angle at all. In the same way that the beloved Ted Leo and the Pharmacists arguably exist for no other reason than to be a totally kick-ass band in the sea of superficial attention-seeking indies and hyper-serious artistes, Wolfington don’t seem overly concerned with selling themselves short stylistically: whether it’s emo, indie or punk, it’s all rock and roll, which is all that really matters if you’ve hit your live stride. Emo’s often-alienating austerity be damned, a Donovan Wolfington live show is currently nothing short of spectacular fun – a kick-ass band just when New Orleans needs one.

ArchAnimals: 06.14.2012

Before I get lost in the flight of fancy that is to follow, let me begin by saying unequivocally that ArchAnimals are currently the most underrated live band in New Orleans. In a town practically run on a collective desire to hone and perfect a particular style of music designed to embody all that is “the Big Easy”, three young men are, at this very moment, in a precarious position that finds their milieu far from “perfected”, yet more fully realized than it might ever be in the future.

Sure, New Orleans is known for its brass and ArchAnimals are a brassless indie rock band, so the rules ought to be a little different; but even in the city’s underground rock and roll community there tends to be at least a little bit of homogeneity. Many of the newest wave of young college-age musicians that have slowly begun to make themselves known in the New Orleans underground of late – the majority of which are, unsurprisingly, imported talent from Texas and Tennessee – carry with them an ostensible tinge of southern drawl. Coyotes feel like an indie-glossed Gram Parson and Pals bring back the vague nostalgia of loose jaminess, while Gold and the Rush are almost specifically a southern rock band. Yet if I were to try and delineate the arguable influences of Dennis Sager, Christian Baraks and Matthew Seferian, I’d have a difficult time making a case for any singular – or even particular – reference point from which to place the band’s sound, save for Seferian’s revelatory penchant for the staggering balance between form and dissonance originally personified by Archers of Loaf guitarist Eric Johnson.

As baldfaced a comparison as that may be, Seferian’s (and, by proxy, Johnson’s) presence in ArchAnimals gives the fit of a puzzle tailor-made for its own pieces. Until recently, the band appeared to be nothing more than Dennis Sager’s voice and guitar surrounded by any number of musicians present at whatever venue he happened to be performing. Indeed, it’s tough to nail down a solid identity when your band comprises one guitarist, or two, or sometimes three, with the occasional bass or harmonica, and your only consistencies lie in a budding songwriter and a drummer (Baraks) who’s been banging on skins for a mere matter of weeks. Yet, with the addition of lead guitarist Seferian, ArchAnimals have parlayed their already-loose live approach into something more raucous than one can reasonably describe with text. At such a risk, it’s a fairly thrilling – and deceptively simple – broth of a songwriter whose intentional lack of grace in delivery probably couldn’t find better foils than in a drummer whose talent’s infancy frees hims from the constraints of style and formal technique and a guitarist whose systematic purpose is to create noise and antagonize the edges of melody and rhythm.

For nearly a decade, indie culture has seen a rise in lo-fi music that almost perfectly coincides with the reissuing of Pavement’s entire catalog. As a result, an entire generation of contemporary musicians tends to view that band as the reigning kings of college rock (which, frankly, they are), and these musicians’ wholesale emulation of said kings is at least marginally more impressive than their even clumsier attempts to draw influence from the more obscure pockets of 90s indie and noise. In that decade I’ve listened to and analyzed pocket band Archers of Loaf (and particularly their sophomore recordVeeVee) as the kind of perfect blend of simplicity in function, complexity in execution and against-the-grain progressive art rock conceptualism that no future band would ever be capable of doing justice. But (and this really shouldn’t be much of a surprise considering how correct young New Orleans indie rock bands tend to come these days) leave it to a trio of Tulane and Loyola students in 2012 to serendipitously grasp what requires years of intellectualizing from losers like me.

Random Notes: Memorial Day Edition

With the three day weekend coming up, there is plenty of local news to sink your ear teeth into. This Memorial Day make sure to party, be safe and do something awesome like these guys.

Earl Scioneaux III, better known as The Madd Wikkid, also known as the man behind the knobs for recent recordings from Luke Winslow-King and Meschiya Lake & the Little Big Horns, is embarking on a bold and unique brass band tribute to French electronic impresarios Daft Punk. For the endeavor known as Brassft Punk, which will find him teaming up with a laundry list of the Crescent City’s most talented horn men for renditions of classics like “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” and “Around The World”, Scioneaux has already launched a Kickstarter campaign to meet his fundraising goal by June 15. More information on the project can be found here.

This week Caddywhompus front man Chris Rehm quietly began streaming his newest solo record, [i found an] Elephant Ring [and gave it to you]. The 8-song ambient/acoustic epic captures Rehm when he’s arguably most comfortable, molding minimalist low-fidelity recordings into vast and sweeping stereo-perfect aural experiences. Elephant Ring sees official release via digital download on May 29, but until then hear it at chrisrehm.org.

Donovan Wolfington and ArchAnimals, two sibling New Orleans rock bands currently vying for the title of “Hardest Working Musical Act Under Drinking Age”, have joined forces for a regional tour, firsts for both young groups. The two-week trek, which begins on June 4, will take D-Wolf and AA through every crevice in the state of Texas before passing back through New Orleans on their way to a wrap-up show with Caddywhompus in Lafayette on June 15.

 

News Briefs: Indie Label Takeover Edition

We’re half way into Jazz Fest and our city’s young talent have already outdone themselves. Here are a few quick happenings to be aware of this week in the New Orleans underground:

After breaking onto the New Orleans/Baton Rouge/Lafayette music scene just over a year ago, electro-pop outfit Royal Teeth has signed with Los Angeles-based Dangerbird Records, home to bands like Silversun Pickups, Maritime and Boots Electric.  Royal Teeth’s first order of business as signed musicians will be embarking on an extensive US tour supporting new label-mates Fitz and The Tantrums as well as The Kooks and seminal 90s nerdcore rap/rockers 2 Skinnee J’s, who are reuniting later this spring.

After becoming locally known for their short, raucous live performances (usually clocking in at no more than ten minutes) as well as their arousingly filthy 2011 demo, thrash emocore trio Choi Wolf released their debut full-length on April 18 digitally through Bandcamp.

After calling it quits earlier this spring, local Alt Country band Country Club has resurfaced with a sneak peek at their swansong LP, due in May on Chinquapin Records, in single “Stranger”. To celebrate the release of the forthcoming record, the quintet is teaming with Caddywhompus and Sun Hotel for a night of performances at 12 Bar on May 10.

Rob Landry – known to most local concertgoers as the drummer of the Rooks, All People and the aforementioned Choi Wolf (as well as the Community Records go-to percussionist) – has released his latest solo record, Little Women, under his longtime Astronomical monicker. The concept record finds Landry laying down suites of emotionally affected ambience among glitchy drum loops, mathy guitars and static synth lines.

After having truly come into their own over the last two weeks with a tireless local live schedule, upstart noisy Americana trio ArchAnimals have released “Garden”, their second track of recorded material in as many months. The somewhat subdued offering provides a balanced look at the band’s Texas-tinged vocals, loosely intense percussion and dissonant mid-90s guitar riffing.