Live Picks: 09.20.2012 – 09.26.2012

09.20: Babes + Prom Date + Benjamin Booker – The Big Top

09.21: Big Rock Candy Mountain + Bantam Foxes – Circle Bar

Since they first bust on the local scene with their 2009 debut EP Hey Kid, the New Orleans music community has rarely agreed about anything the way we’ve agreed about Big Rock Candy Mountain. Rising from the ashes of nearly a half-dozen bands spanning nearly every sub-genre of the city’s storied but then-still-nascent independent scene, BRCM’s hyper-modern perversion of classic alternative tropes made them early and obvious torch-bearers of local rock’s next iteration.  As a band’s band with an inspiring and wide appeal, they have remained in every noteworthy discussion and on every short list worth its salt, even as their most recent studio gestation period resulted in a lengthy stretch of live inactivity.

Nevertheless, whenever we hear from Big Rock Candy Mountain, they easily demonstrate why they have been held in such universally high-esteem.  A high-powered mix of dazzling synth work, face-melting guitar solos and a brain crushing rhythm section explode in a live setting as a barrage of space-age freakouts and ethereal prog-pop interludes, offering something about as close to the platonic ideal of “awesome local indie band” as you are likely to find for miles.

But the sparse live schedule hasn’t been for naught: when lead man Michael Girardot was not on the road with emerging national superstars The Revivalists or in the studio with greatest band in the universe Rotary Downs, the Big Rock gentlemen have been writing and recording their own full length album.  They storm back to the stage on Friday with a complete set of new songs in the can and an extra long set to both debut them all and dig into their canon of old favorites. Local rock and roll trio Bantam Foxes open.

09.22: Sun Hotel + Habitat + Young Jesus + Native America – 3712 Upperline

09.23: Caddywhompus + Sun Dog + All People – The Big Top

09.24: Eternal Summers + Bleeding Rainbow – Circle Bar

09.25: Mac DeMarco + Michael Girardot’s Macrofuns + Julie Odell  – Circle Bar

09.26: G-Eazy + Hoodie Allen – House Of Blues

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

Preview // Cafe Carnival: 02.16.2012 – 02.20.2012

In the last six months, no local venue has made a larger effort to break into a higher echelon of rock club status than hidden-in-plain-sight Garden District standby Cafe Prytania.  More frequent, consistent and eclectic booking in the back half of 2011 slowly but surely elevated the humble establishment from occasional Loyola-band hotspot to a dependable destination to catch up-and-coming local, regional and even nationally touring talent.

The only downside to Cafe P’s rising profile was the unfortunate way the larger, more frenzied crowds brought the shortcomings of the bar’s unusual layout into sharper focus, as a raised stage/dance floor area flanked by awkwardly placed half partitions limited the comfortable viewing area in the otherwise huge space to what felt like only a few dozen square feet. But a much-needed facelift has removed most of the unnatural boundaries keeping the performance area from the rest of the room, and continued improvements to the sound system and lighting set-up are further signs Cafe Prytania is getting very serious about its place in the New Orleans live music pantheon.

And this year’s Cafe Carnival, the bar’s annual string of post-Mardi Gras parade concerts, appears to have gotten an upgrade as well, with a ripper of a lineup  complementing Cafe P’s prime location with what could easily turn into a non-stop five-day party.  A Thursday night funk-fest with Flow Tribe and Naughty Professor sets the stage for the centerpiece of weekend, Chinquapin Records‘ Mardi Gras Chindig. The two-night event that puts local indie-rock institutions Sun Hotel, Caddywhompus and Big Rock Candy Mountain along side heetseeking newcomers Donovan Wolfington will also feature a fresh-from-the-studio Vox And The Hound and serve as one of the last chances to catch the force of nature that is Country Club.  The Revivalists will pack the place out on Sunday night and the now-Grammy Award Winning Rebirth Brass Band headlines on Lundi Gras.

02.16: Flow Tribe + Naughty Professor + Saltwater Grass

02.17: Sun Hotel + Country Club + Vox And The Hound

02.18: Caddywhompus + Big Rock Candy Mountain + Young Mammals + Donovan Wolfington

02.19: The Revivalists + Star & Micey + The Blue Party

02.20: Rebirth Brass Band + Mississippi Rail Co. + Coyotes

Big Rock Candy Mountain: 11.02.2011

Although they’ve been off of the local live circuit for a few months, it should be no surprise to anyone that the members of Big Rock Candy Mountain have had no trouble picking up where they left off. Michael Girardot is a constantly-working artist, splitting time between his front man duties for BRCM and keyboard work with both the Revivalists and greatest band in the universe Rotary Downs, while drummer Paul Thibodeaux – a classically trained jazz musician – regularly collaborates with everyone from Bionica’s Sasha Masakowski to Why Are We Building Such A Big Ship’s Aurora Nealand to Cliff Hines.

To be perfectly clear, BRCM as an entity has been far from stagnant: in their time away from the stage spent prepping the release of their sophomore album, all four members of this freak-out prog pop outfit have slickly refined their running chemistry while somehow losing nothing in the way of the wanton live energy and virtuosic swagger that are their trademark. And at the Parish on November 2, sharing a bill with fellow New Orleanians Sun Hotel and Georgian art rockers Dead Confederate, Big Rock Candy Mountain managed to handily steal the show.

Guitarist Andrew Hartsock provided a jazz-infused foundation for nearly every measure of music while bassist Stephen MacDonald managed to keep a tight, heady rhythm through some ultra-complex basslines; and as Thibodeaux dexterously toyed around on what appeared to be an endless drumroll, Big Rock Candy Mountain’s unique meld of Emerson Lake & Palmer-esque contemporary progression and loopy, barroom rock n’ roll operated as a perfect underpinning for Michael Giradot’s electrifying front man persona – at once disarming and intimidating, antiquated and refreshing.

Though it’s never anything less than a thrill to see four of the most talented musicians in the city take the stage and rock harder than anyone in a ninety mile radius, what’s more amazing is how much carefree fun they seem to have doing it: their propensity for trading in gratuitously heavy sounds at times starkly belies the ease with which they morph those sounds into outright party music, as if their deft performance art is one big “made ya look”-style put on. Whatever the case, it’s easy to understand why more than a few local musicians call Big Rock Candy Mountain their favorite band.

Live Picks: 10.20.2011 – 10.26.2011

10.20: Beats Antique – Tipitina’s French Quarter

10.21: Blue Party – Republic

10.22: Helmet+ Star and Dagger + Sunrise Sunset – One Eyed Jacks

10.23: Cliff Hines Presents Radiohead Tribute – One Eyed Jacks

At this point it should be pretty obvious that the primary driving force behind the young classically-schooled guitar mega-talent known as Cliff Hines is a ceaseless desire to test not only the limits of his own musical faculties, but those of every musician around him. As the mastermind behind last year’s faithfully executed David Bowie Tribute and this past spring’s very ambitious Prince Tribute, he has successfully one-upped himself with each farfetched concept he’s hatched by managing to always bring along a slew of other local jazz and indie rock musicians for costumed-out, multi-member revolving door lineups that add a singular charm to each song they perform.

This Sunday at One Eyed Jacks, Mr. Hines plans to take it up several notches for a Holloween-themed tribute to the inimitable Radiohead, a painstaking endeavor that – if done right – could be the most terrifying thing you witness all year outside of seeing the real deal. This time he’s working with about fifteen fresh faces including members of Caddywhompus, High In One Eye, Bionica, Big History, New Grass Country Club, Vox & the Hound, Sun Hotel, Big Rock Candy Mountain and Glasgow for what should be one of the most interesting, eye opening and – depending on whether you wear a costume – fun concert experiences of 2011.

Video: Cliff Hines Presents: Radiohead Tribute Promo

MP3: Radiohead: “Subterranean Homesick Alien”

10.25: Loma Prieta + Thou – The Mushroom

10.26: Zola Jesus + Anika + Xanopticon – Siberia

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