Live Picks: 09.27.2012 – 10.03.2012

09.27: The Soft Pack + Heavy Hawaii + KG Accidental – One Eyed Jacks

09.28: Rotary Downs + King Rey – Prytania Bar

09.29: Glish + The Beams + Native America + L.F. Knighton – Circle Bar

On some oblique level, the Beams may be the purest example in New Orleans of what it means to be a band. Though boasting, through its members, a pedigree that links it to several of the most well-known and meaningful local rock acts of the last fifteen years, this bristly four-piece power pop act seems to perpetually exist as a fringe presence or a phantom of indie rock past. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing: the less time the Beams spend striving for relevancy in a culture that demands overt self-promotion and subtle competition, the more opportunities they find to offer opening support for the young artists who are actively seeking mainstream acclaim, and thus act as a model of hard work and passion where there would otherwise be none.

At their core the Beams are – simply put – an always pleasant, often loud, occasionally mind-blowing concoction of jangled guitars, heartbreak melodies and charmingly unrefined vocal harmonies. Yet there is always something even more unique about this act bubbling just below its forthright surface. Indeed, most Beams live shows tend to carry with them elements of both isolationism and confederation. Almost as often as the band can be found doing one-off afternoon bar shows and record store appearances completely by themselves, they can be found comfortably on a bill next to literally any band in the city that uses a guitar.

This Saturday night is no exception, as the Beams stop into Circle Bar to lend a hand to space rock shoegazers Glish, who will be celebrating the release of their second EP, Come Down. Fuzzcore act Native America and Mobile, Alabama-based rock and roll band L.F. Knighton also perform.

09.30: Heat Dust + Donovan Wolfington + Isidro

10.01: King Louie’s Missing Monuments + Cyclops + White Mystery – Circle Bar

10.03: Dinosaur Jr. + Shearwater – Tipitina’s

Live Picks: 04.19.2012 – 04.25.2012

04.19: Arrah & The Ferns + Little Maker + ArchAnimals – Circle Bar

04.20: Sun Hotel – Ampersand

04.21: The Tontons + Major Major Major + The Beams – Circle Bar

In it’s fifth incarnation as the Gulf South’s can’t-miss punk event of the year, the Community Records Block Party is a shining paradigm of how to go homegrow a DIY culture without losing any of the ethic associated with it. Though having taken the “all day long” formula to its logical peak last year with a stacked indoor-outdoor lineup and a phenomenal headlining set by ska/punk/prog legends the Rx Bandits, the subtle evolvements to be seen this year are less the result of an obligatory urge to expand than they are a manifestation of the growing numbers of artists both in front and behind the scenes who aspire to what Community Records has already achieved and who simply want to contribute. Consequently, this year’s pre- and post-Block Party festivities only serve to further highlight the depths of New Orleans’ underground rock and punk community. And though it’s hard to spotlight only one – what, with the Breezys boys opening their doors up to the likes of Informant and the Switchers on Friday afternoon, Sun Hotel playing a pool party at Ampersand later that night and the Big Top (the scene of the whole event) hosting punk shows on Sunday and Monday right when you think it’s all said and done – Chinquapin Records‘ Block Party After Party will be, if you can muster the physical energy, the must-see show of the weekend aside from the obvious 12-hour festival around which the entire weekend is based.

It can be strangely enthralling, the experience of seeing and hearing Houston’s the Tontons, a band brimming with talent but operating with no particular angle of contemporariness (unless of course being a barefaced amalgam of its members’ influences is an “angle”). Though this might put them at odds with the hyper-modern approach to making music that characterizes much of the artistry in their hometown, a live performance from this quartet is often simply an exercise in interesting (though not necessarily groundbreaking) songwriting and perfection in execution: a high register, R&B-informed voice in songstress Asli Omar; dynamic multi-genre guitar work – ranging from jazz to shoegaze to calypso to indie – from Adam Martinez; and a robust, airtight rhythm section composed of Adam’s brother Justin on drums and Tom Nguyen on bass.

The Tontons haven’t been through down in about eight months, not since their planned appearance at Chinquapin Records’ first Chindig was cancelled due to weather and scheduling conflicts. However, they’ve picked the perfect weekend to reemerge in the New Orleans underground. Immediately following Block Party (which, while we’re on the topic, features another Houstonian, prodigious earache rapper B L A C K I E), the Tontons will headline a late night aftershow at the Circle Bar along side local power pop four-piece the Beams and Austin-based psychedelic punk act Major Major Major.

MP3: The Tontons: “Leon”

Mp3: Major Major Major: “Peace Love Darkness”

04.22: Small Bones + Reagabomb + Mea Cupla – The Big Top

04.23: Loma Prieta + Choi Wolf + Donovan Wolfington + High in One Eye – The Big Top

04.24: Bob Log III + Mr. Free and The Satellite Freakouts + King Louie’s One Man Band – Siberia

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

The Love Language + Big Blue Marble + The Beams: 04.10.2011

Though it was immediately obvious that there was no lack of talent on the bill at the Hi-Ho Lounge on April 10, how was anyone really to know that a Sunday night concert in Bywater following an extended weekend of French Quarter Fest revelry could have been this good?

Local newcomers the Beams seem to be getting exponentially tighter and more energetic with every performance while New Orleans rock veterans Big Blue Marble – primed for a formal launch of their latest record, The Big Blue Marbleis in the middle of a triumphant reemergence in the scene. North Carolina’s The Love Language had been on their way to Coachella and an opening slot Arcade Fire in Santa Fe, using every performance as an exercise in testing the newly-formed touring band’s live boundaries.

Nevertheless, in this day and age – and after this particular weekend of wall-to-wall musical performances scattered throughout New Orleans’ downtown area – it is always hard to predict what kind of crowd will show up on any given night.  Thankfully, when the Beams took the stage the Hi-Ho was already beginning to take in a respectable group of friends and interested parties, and Big Blue Marble received mountainous applause from the growing crowd, a mix of die hard fans and curious passersby.

As soon as Big Blue Marble completed an astounding set that spanned all three of their studio albums, the Love Language promptly began carrying equipment out of the back and setting up on the floor in front of the stage. While the move was not unprecedented, it was certainly unexpected considering the singer-songwriter vibe for which I prepared myself.  It was also perfect for what turned out to be a raucous, sweat-soaked barroom scream-along, the dense audience in front of the band joined by thirty-or-so impromptu dancers who found their way to the underutilized stage and stayed there for the remainder of the show.

With singer Stuart McLamb splitting audience face time between the two solidly-defined crowds, keyboardist Missy Thangs frequently left her post to frantically dance on the bar with tambourine in hand, creating a spectacle that left concertgoers thoroughly jaw-dropped between songs. After an equally spontaneous encore that involved a micless McLamb – joined by his brother Jordan on a pared-down percussion setup – screaming at the top of his lungs, nearly everyone in attendance needed to step outside for a breather, where “Holy shit” became the most commonly-spoken phrase of the evening.

I’ve heard at least a dozen people heap praise upon this band in the few days since the Love Language’s memorable weekend in New Orleans (which, in addition to the Hi-Ho show itself, included a Megafaun-recommended stop at Matassa’s and an afternoon at French Quarter Fest), including those who didn’t make the show and expressed their disappointment in missing a band that is surely “going places”.

And while statements like that are as plentiful and innocuous as the plethora of never-was bands that fail to live up to such expectations, the Love Language seem hellbent on being anything but “innocuous”.  McLamb and Co. treated the evening’s enthusiastic crowd to a reputation-building performance, the exploits of which tend to travel by word-of-mouth throughout the country.

Truth is, this was the first time the Love Language approached a show in this manner. With the exception of house shows that lack formal stages, McLamb claims they’ve never set up on the floor before, choosing to do so on this particular evening simply because he found the stage at Hi-Ho a bit too tall for his liking. Nevertheless, it’s an openness to this type of spontaneity that can define a band and keep people interested for a long time. Austin’s …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead stopped trashing their equipment nearly ten years ago, but their reputation for bringing live shows to a destructive conclusion still to this day precedes them.  This could very well have been one of those shows for the Love Language, the lore of which will follow them to the very end.

photo courtesy of Dave Woodard

Live Picks: 04.07.2011 – 04.13.2011

04.07The Pains of Being Pure at Heart + Twin Shadow – One Eyed Jacks

04.08: Jean Eric – Republic

04.09: Anal Cunt + Flesh Parade + Vulkodlak + Fat Stupid Ugly People – Siberia

04.10: The Love Language + Big Blue Marble + The Beams – Hi-Ho Lounge

And here I thought Cave In’s Stephen Brodsky was the only guy doing this kind of stuff; but as it turns out I’m sorely mistaken. Stuart Lamb – the brains behind the Raleigh, NC-based band the Love Language – began working with semi-low-end/semi-high-end recording techniques a couple of years ago during a serious breakup-driven drug and alcohol dropout. The result was a self-titled album that can only be described as “mid-fi” (a term adopted by the aforementioned Brodsky) of the highest order: thick, buzzing, tonal guitars and haunting piano keys set to a backdrop of eclectic percussion, all in meticulously-channeled stereo.

However, 4-track experimentation was only the first step in Stuart Lamb’s quest to get things back on track. In late 2010, he entered a proper studio to record his Merge Records debut, Libraries, which finds the Love Language moving away from the one-man-band approach towards a sprawling field of washed out vocals, sparkling guitar strings, distant organs and synthesized violins. However, while different in texture, his songwriting style remains as intimate as ever, with vague – yet confessional – references to love, hate, failure, and redemption.

And to support Libraries, Lamb has put together a proper touring band and will be making a stop in New Orleans at the Hi-Ho Lounge. Opening will be locals Big Blue Marble – who have just released an amazing album of their own – and the Beams.

04.11: Defect Defect + Nervous Juvenile + Adults – Nowe Miasto

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