Live Picks: 09.13.2012 – 09.19.2012

09.13: The Tangle + Dresden + The Stairwells – Circle Bar

09.14: Baby Bee + King Rey + Sports and Leisure – Parish @ House of Blues

09.15: Today The Moon, Tomorrow The Sun + Coyotes + Alexis and The Samurai – Circle Bar

09.16: Jack Donovan + Chris Rehm + Andrew Landry – Mudlark Theater

There has never been anything secret about our love for Breezy’s, the coffee-shop turned apartment turned multipurpose art space that spent the summer of 2011 as the undisputed king of New Orleans DIY live music venues.  Under the tutelage of talent buyer/promoter Mike Twillman and owner Micah Burns (and with the help of a constantly expanding motley crew of supporters) a deceptively unassuming Freret-area home with a legendary bohemian past felt like the nexus of the city’s burgeoning independent rock explosion, even if only for a brief moment in time.

The building’s crumbling walls and ceiling seemed to be held together by the heavily patinated concert posters, newspaper clippings and photographs that covered them, which gave the venue a strangely imprecise aura that beautifully juxtaposed the fresh and exciting programming it hosted.  And whether you credit its easy-going proprietors, the eager young crowds it attracted or diverse music scene it served, Breezy’s grew into an under-the-radar institution unlike many others that came before it or have come since.  It seemed exclusive without being exclusionary, underground but also accessible, and outsider without an overt preoccupation with being edgy.

But even after just one visit to the mystical funhouse at the corner of Soniat and LaSalle, anyone would have guessed the days of Breezy’s original spot were numbered. It was just too good, with a mission too pure to exist in a city as corrupt and morally bankrupt as ours. (Also, almost every aspect of the enterprise was probably completely illegal.) So while it only took six months for the powers that be to shutter Breezy’s first incarnation, the quintessentiality of the concept of Breezy’s became apparent almost immediately. After a short but notable stint in a Pigeontown backyard, Twillman and Burns have taken a broad leap towards sustainability by moving Breezy’s underground spirit into a legitimate commercial space: Breezy’s on Freret, in the heart of the revitalized Freret corridor and just blocks from where it all started, is due to open in a matter of weeks.

This Sunday’s afternoon matinee at Mudlark Theater – a cherished DIY institution in its own right – is part of a final push to bring Breezy’s on Freret up to full speed in time for the jam-packed fall concert season.  While donations will be accepted at the door, the event’s main goal is to raise awareness of the team’s Kickstarter campaign, which (if successful) will allow the new rock club to open with a professional grade soundsystem in place. Music will be provided by the Breezy’s mainstays of Chinquapin Records and will feature stripped down sets from Habitat‘s Jack Donovan, High In One Eye‘s Andrew Landy and Caddywhompus‘ Chris Rehm plus a promised host of special guests.

09.17: Black Taxi + Aerial Attack – One Eyed Jacks

09.18: Beach House + Dustin Wong – Tipitina’s

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

High In One Eye: Memory Hoarders

Hi-Fi Octopi, 2012

“Don’t you think it might be a little too messy to actually enjoy?” asked a car ride acquaintance of mine recently after hearing Memory Hoarders, the newest release by New Orleans noise punk duo High In One Eye. I suppose on some level she was right to at least bring it up: Andrew Landry and Evan Cvitanovic aren’t exactly in the business of pleasing ears, certainly not those of the casual listener; with unrecognizably muffled vocals and every guitar effect piped through a Line 6 amp, HIOE exists almost purely to make noise. But I’ll give my friend credit for how she framed her assessment, even if unintentional. She wasn’t talking about noise; she was talking about messiness, which is a different animal altogether.

Is High in One Eye messy? Does she even know what “messy” means when talking about punk rock?  Though I wanted her to love the record as much as I’d come to, I really had no good way of winning her over. So, I asked the only question I could, knowing full-well how stupefied it would leave her: “Have you ever heard Whippersnapper?”

The only reason that question or the band in that question – a defunct Lagwagon/NOFX clone from the late 90s and early aughts – is relevant to the enjoyment of High In One Eye in any way is that in 2002, Whippersnapper made a swansong record, Appearances Wear Thin, in which drummer Pat Kerr abandoned his traditionally tight, jaw-dropping pop punk techniques in favor of some strange, badly recorded and drunkenly executed arena rock drum work. For years I hated (not just hated, openly shit-talked) that record specifically because Kerr always annoyingly seemed to be just a little out of step with the rest of the band or, at his best, would shift tempos so freely that not even singer Andy Munn knew exactly where to place his vocals. It wasn’t until four or so years after the fact that Kerr’s work on that record became one of my favorite drum offerings of all time, by which point I had realized that he wasn’t out of his element but quite the opposite: in the same way that avant-garde guitarists have been toying with negative space for decades, Kerr was subtly stealing the record with negative rhythm, creating anomalous underlayed drum melodies totally independent of the musical subject matter being sung and strummed, but no less accessible or addictive. After all, listeners instinctively know where a punk beat would otherwise go, so why not leave it up to their imagination?

Whippersnapper’s drummer was certainly neither the first nor the last person to so wantonly engage in such experimental frolic. But without that little tidbit of crude perspective enforcing my understanding of modern punk drumming (I’m sure that weird Dave Holland shit from Judas Priest’s Screaming for Vengeance can offer something similar), I – like my friend who complains of High In One Eye’s apparent messiness – would probably have no clue as to why Evan Cvitanovic and Andrew Landry might in fact be one of the tightest, most lock-stepped creative units making music in New Orleans.

Granted, there was a particular time in the last couple of years – when contemporaries Caddywhompus were beginning to subtly veer from their experimental roots and craft encapsulated pop – that High In One Eye certainly began to appear messy in comparison. It’s no secret that Cvitanovic and Landry enjoy the weirder side of things, and – like the aforementioned ‘Whompus – theirs is an interesting deconstruction of pop music, albeit to much vaster and stranger extremes. The not-so-subtle secret at this point, however, is that through six years of exercises in abrasive dissonance, as well as nine releases of varying length and stylistic origin, the duo has slowly but surely begun to flirt with, of all things, “accessibility”. Not surprisingly, Memory Hoarders is the closest High In One Eye have yet come to crafting traditional breeds of punk and rock and roll. So, if “messy” was ever a valid adjective to describe High In One Eye, I’m sorry friend in the car, but this record is the furthest thing from it.

Not to get too carried away, the record is certainly every bit the “experimental post-mathrock death pop” that it purports to be. But with Chinquapin Records’ in-house recording guru Ross Farbe at the helm, High In One Eye seems to have found the coherent personality they’ve been lacking for far too long. At times the marriage is an odd one. “Weep” and “Indifference”, songs that would probably otherwise thrive on their rough recorded edges with screeching cymbals that drill holes in listeners’ eardrums and strings that exist solely in the low and high end, take on a different life under the blanket of Farbe’s production: instead of jagged edges, he creates pillowy low fidelity textures that often resemble an aural blur rather than a blast. In other places, the soft, demure edges aren’t simply interesting or striking but absolutely revelatory. The spacy, low-key single “Clausula” allows Landry’s doubled guitar to breathe while, for possibly the first time in High In One Eye’s existence, you can almost hear what he is singing. And on closer “G-Deny”, Farbe manages to highlight Cvitanovic’s penchant for creating the kinds of rhythms that not only set the beat but seem to exist as separate melodies in their own right.

The most striking detail of Memory Hoarders, however, is its uniformity. From that uniformity High In One Eye manages to avoid the demoishness that plagues the majority of their recorded work, regardless of production value. Above all else, there is a sense that this is less the end product of directionless experimentation than a calculated attempt to derive a collective musical character from their library up to this point. And in that regard the record is a stunning success. As a genuine representation of the band outside of their semi-legendary live show, I’d be compelled to hand a copy of Memory Hoarders to an uninitiated listener before sending her anywhere near High In One Eye’s back catalog.

Photoset // See You In Mexico + Dominique LeJeune + The Rooks + High In One Eye: 02.24.2012

See You In Mexico + Dominique LeJeune + The Rooks + High In One Eye performing at the Community Records practice space on February 24, 2012

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Live Picks: 02.23.2012 – 02.29.2012

02.23: Andy D – The Saint

02.24: See You In Mexico + Dominique LeJeune + The Rooks + High In One Eye – 3613 Chestnut

Yeah, of course punk is dead; it’s always dead. It died when a heroin-adled MC5 didn’t break, and again the year Blondie got rich off “Heart of Glass”, and again the day Nirvana signed to Geffen and again when Green Day tried to make their own Tommy. If there’s one lasting truth to punk’s entire story, it’s that it is always dying. For it to even truly exist in the first place, an artist needs a perfect storm of abrasiveness, energy and appeal – a nebulous form of bottled lightning that, almost by design, can’t last as long as it takes for someone else to find it again.

Yet that has never deterred Greg Rodrigue from living, breathing, pursuing and playing with the ethos that seems to perpetually outlast all who attempt to embody it. Business owner, Community Records founder and champion of all things DIY, he has spent the better part of his last half-decade helping to rebuild a New Orleans punk scene that, almost as fleetingly as punk itself, seems to constantly ebb and flow in and out of minor popularity among the city’s bored and alienated youth. Infrastructurally, Rodrigue has been largely successful thus far, and as a result the area has seen a rejuvenation of authentically reverent punk.

So it should be no surprise that the Rooks, even as a side project, are one of the most riveting bands in the city. De rigueur in their militant positivity and their desire to ignite short explosions of punk rock, bassist Rodrigue, Marathon/Choi Wolf drummer Rob Landry and Lollies guitarist Brian Pretus are pure life together on stage, though not necessarily in the old lightning in a bottle punk hackney: as a unit, the Rooks’ periphery presence is a conscious avoidance of the need to push superficial musical boundaries and instead the result of their need to affranchise a city – both as an avatar of the record collective whose existence the band’s members individually bolster and as a manifestation of the work it requires.

True to unconventional form, the band can be found hosting a house show on Friday to welcome a new addition to the New Orleans DIY community, A Billion Ernies singer and guitarist Ryan Leavelle and his wife Kassandra, who are moving to New Orleans all the way from Seattle, WA. Joining the Rooks will be local experimental punk duo High in One Eye and singer/songwriter/G-Eazy collaborator Dominique LeJeune, as well as Leavelle’s solo project See You In Mexico.

MP3: The Rooks: “Rat Pellet”

02.25: Royal Teeth + King Rey + Vox And The Hound – House Of Blues

02.28: Eternal Decay + Serpentis + Legions of Hoar Frost – Siberia

02.29: The Legendary Shack Shakers + The Dirt Daubers – One Eyed Jacks

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

Habitat: 01.21.2012

A good bit of natural uncertainty seems to surround new local trio Habitat, who for a time only played intermittently between each member’s full-time band schedule and who have yet to formally record even one original song for public consumption. Through most interpretations, the band is nothing more than a side project: guitarist Andrew Landry and drummer Evan Cvitanovich, better known as noise punk duo High In One Eye, have noticeably been lending their talents as near-bit players in acts like Glish and the now-defunct Country Club. However, with Country Club’s recent break-up freeing up the creative juices of singer and guitarist Jack Donovan, Habitat – for now – appears to be a growing priority among these three musicians. And with a couple of recent Saturday amblings through the eyes and ears avid New Orleans showgoers under their belts, Habitat has already managed to be one of the most thrilling live bands in the entire city.

With a deceptively schizophrenic meld of melody and dissonance executed to near perfection with the anchorage of Cvitanovich’s highly-intricate,  jawd-dropping timekeeping ability, Donovan’s and Landry’s guitars play off one another like a musical oil and water mixture that’s been attempted in the past but never performed this smoothly and kinetically; avoiding the predilection to come off sounding disjointed or overly abstract, Habitat’s marriage of ostensibly disparate styles (often hazily resembling Lightning Bolt if they coyly misdirected listeners with a mathematical jaunt through little suites of Lawn Boy-era Phish) manages to be both infectious and compelling. In one set Donovan, Landry and Cvitanovich seamlessly wove together mathrock, post rock, Americana, noise, punk, modal jazz and acid rock – a fusion that, though often disorienting, was aptly tempered by an easily-discernible, intrinsic rhythm that forced a sea of heads at the Howlin’ Wolf Den to bob, nod and bang without care for the space around them.

With no indication of when they plan to formally record or whether they even plan to perform regularly, Habitat’s forward trajectory is still largely tentative. But after Saturday night’s Howlin’ Wolf performance, a dynamic follow-up to their show-stealing set at the Art House just a week prior, their already rabid following can’t help but be convinced of the band’s promise. For surprising emphasis, Revivalists guitarist Zack Feinberg made a point during his own band’s set to shed a light on the trio’s “mindblowing” live show, endorsing the sudden rumblings of acknowledgment that have been making their way through the music community. The future aside, it’s clear that Habitat’s place in the local consciousness is already deep-rooted.