Category Archives: punk

Putting on a Show with Heidi Gluck and The Pony Show

As of late The Replay Lounge has some act where they play ambient music every time I visit. I’m not sure why that’s the trend, but I found myself catching a band who has Michelle Bacon (locals probably know her from quite a few other bands such as The Philistines). Since I’ve enjoyed other bands she’s played in I felt I was in for a treat. I learned some stuff after the performance when I went to research the band. Based on research it seems Heidi Gluck is a multi-talent solo act who recruited musicians for her live performances. I’m presuming then the songs are written by her and will address that aspect as such. In spite of this being more of a solo work I feel Heidi’s work is both unexpected and familiar.

I applaud Heidi Gluck for tying soothing ambient aspects and gritty alternative rock with vaudeville theatrics. I can’t recall if I’ve heard that combination before and I feel it’s pulled off well. She put a lot of thought into their sound and it’s a welcome change from the typical ambient music I’ve heard at The Replay Lounge lately. The weakest point musically came from not the unique blend, but the pitfalls of being creative: at some point one’s musical influences show up in one’s own work. Unfortunately the influences stand out too much and take the foreground periodically. There were times I felt the lyrics and other parts of musical composition were so familiar, as if they came from songs I’ve heard. I couldn’t tell if that was on purpose, but it detracts from the music for me. Pairing up what I suspect is an issue with composition is while aesthetically and creatively strong, lyrically they’re weak at times. While I do enjoy metaphors comparing love to target shooting –a metaphor fleshed out the entire song – I didn’t feel the juxtaposition lyrically added anything to the music.

I’m giving them leeway in the presentation aspect with some extra points because I had a hard time actually seeing them play. From what I could hear, though, there were moments where we got to see everyone on stage interact with the audience, such as the proud announcement for Heidi (for which I envy you). These little moments help bring out a performance. I do have one thing that I feel goes into this category that is important to note. I’d like to suggest rearranging the set list for venues like The Replay Lounge. In particular, while the audience may have been gathered around, at this venue there’s a lot competing for their attention. You are dealing with televisions, pinball machines, anything that’s going on out on the patio, and sometimes more. Starting off with ambient music when the set list contains other songs that are more energetic and unique are a disservice to the performance.

I couldn’t see how the band performed, but I did see how the audience reacted. The very fact they crowded the stage to watch is great. As I said, though, there’s more to a concert than performing well. It’s not just about great music and looking cool, it’s about actually getting the audience to engage with you as well. They were somewhat engaged early on, which was evidenced by cheering and clapping. It increased more when the music got less ambient and more vivacious.

I think there’s a lot of creativity and ambition in Heidi Gluck and she will go very far. Musically my only input is to make sure the creativity is paired with meaning and authenticity so the work will blend into something deeper and unique.

 

Technique-3

Presentation-1

Audience Interaction-1

Brownie Points-0.5

Total- 5.5

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Digest #2: Holy Cow, There’s Finally a Second One Edition

Well, I’m super excited to finally have some new reviews. I’m going pretty easy on folks given I was mostly invited to review one band.  I also didn’t expect the audience to consist of mostly other bands. I really tried to sell folks on the ability to opt out of reviews, but I guess no one’s worried about a blog with an audience of spam bots and one or two passerbys.

I also want to apologize for how long it’s taking to post these reviews.  I’m sick with some sort of plague.  Instead of powering through all the reviews like some badass metal Viking, I’m writing a paragraph and sleeping the rest of the day (in between blowing my nose and chugging tea).  It will take a while.  Anywho, on with the pomposity parade!

Bike Power

Evan Marshall Ryan

Billion Headed Bastard

5 Star Disaster

Mr. and the Mrs.

Bike Power

I’ll admit I have a bias against solo acts. It takes a lot of work to carry an act as it is, and not many people can carry it as one person. Luckily Bike Power did a pretty decent job.

Bike Power is a one-man act who provides some great entertainment and social commentary. He played acoustic on this night, and I don’t know if he normally plays acoustic but it worked. Overall his simplistic compositions juxtaposed with alternative and jazz influences complimented the tongue-in-cheek and social commentary lyrical content. There were times when the rhyming scheme was too simple and predictable at time (the song “Justice” comes to mind), but given the jazz and blues influences it’s an issue easily ignored. While the musical styles did deviate from these influences from time to time it still kept its poignant sarcasm, such as in the song “Museum Song” (I think that’s what it was called, anyway. Sorry if I got it wrong). It’s for this combination of whimsical forms and lyrics alone my favorite song of the evening is “Problems Are Cool”. It’s whimsical, satirical, and a nice reminder that everyone in life has problems they need to handle.

Speaking of handling problems, Bike Power had his share. The guy managed to handle his own despite a couple of problems, all of which were no fault of his own. One was the constant mic feedback that happened almost every song. He ignored it and played through it. The other issue was a guy from another band coming on stage to perform with the guy. He ignored that too, which admittedly I would not have done. Other than one overzealous audience member it seemed like other folks really enjoyed the music too, or at least enjoyed songs like “Justice”.

The one-man act is a unique blend of several musical styles with one acoustic guitar with the satire of beatnik poet. He combines poetry and rhythm structure to provide part of his musical statement, which is entertaining in its own right. Through his music he brings insight, thoughtful social commentary, snark, and simplicity together for laughs and earworms. If you’re looking for some fun, thoughtful music with some mellow tones this fits the bill.

 Technique: 3

Presentation: 2.5

Audience Interaction: 3

Brownie Points: 0.5

Total: 9.5

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Evan Marshall Ryan

Another acoustic solo act I reviewed was Evan Marshall Ryan. He is also known under the one-man band Femali, but I’m unsure if this is one of those moments where he’s performing as the band or as himself. I’m going to assume he was performing independent of Femali and go from there.

Musically I’m not sure what to make of the guy. He really works his personality into his music. Ryan utilizes slides and swoops with his guitar to compliment his singing, as he did in “Uncognizant”. The goofy moments are paired with subtle, complex lyrics. Ryan also demonstrates his skill with his ability to learn fast. It shows with his impromptu cover of “Problems Are Cool” as one example. Evidently the man has some skill in order to do this. As well as he can utilize technique and some composition it’s apparent these skills are still developing. Sometimes the focus on quirky was too ambitious and left the music unrealized.

One major problem I have with this performance is discerning what is stylistic and what is an error. Depending on one’s perspective this could work out. Some of the musical compositions seemed problematic because of it for me, though. One song rambled for a bit, though I’m unsure if it was unintentional. I can say this style worked out for “Uncognizant” and expressed the piece well. However if my issue was only about musical composition I would have left well enough alone. There were times, such as his opening song, where he went off key. If this was intentional I feel it could have been emphasized a bit more. If singing off key was unintentional it was most likely due to the nasal tone of his singing voice. Unlike the songs themselves this is easy to remedy as a vocal technique.

Ryan’s performance is just as goofy and slightly calculated as his music. He was able to engage the audience in his goofiness at times. Everyone had a great time heckling each other and using it to the happiest and fullest. Given I’m usually uncomfortable with being pointed out as “the music critic” even at house shows this is saying a lot. I even managed to joke back with a jab at my Pitchfork-esque tone. If someone can get me to feel comfortable about being a music critic openly it’s a job well done.

Ryan shows some potential but needs to flesh out his technique and artistry. Despite this problem he manages to bring his personality into his work. It not only positively affects his musical style but it affects the audience as well. It ends up working out in his favor to where I’m sure the audience ignored the issues (if they noticed at all) I found.

Technique: 2.5

Presentation: 3

Audience Interaction: 3

Brownie Points: 0.5

Total: 9

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Billion Headed Bastard

It’s been some time since I’ve heard a hardcore band live, let alone a punk band at a house show. It was nice to have that reintroduction with Billion Headed Bastard. Even though they had some of the look of a stereotypical hardcore band they provided more than a cookie cutter performance. These guys (and gal) brought a flavor of hardcore reminiscent of the punk scene in mid-2000’s Lawrence.

The band brought an energetic presence with some fast-paced music to boot. While they weren’t purely punk elements they had enough of it for me to notice. They deviated from the genre with different rhythms and often times self-depreciating humor atypical of the genre (or maybe I’ve listened to too many hardcore bands bent on socio-political themes). They conveyed this not only in their lyrics but in their composition. There was a particular song about marriage (I didn’t catch the name) where it conveyed the way couples argued by speeding up the tempo and acting out the exchange of vows during a breakdown. There was also a song about vasectomies which seemed like it was in cut time, and that just outright amused me. My only complaint is how some of the songs were too short, but such is the way of punk music.

Their performance was also cut short, but that was through no fault of their own. There were a few hiccups through the night, but Billion Headed Bastard had the biggest hiccup. Their time short due to some—shall we say—interference from men in blue suits. Apparently the neighbors frowned upon the profanity in the lyrics and the police were called. I’m going to give the band a bit more wiggle room because of it. During that short time, though, they had fun with the audience with heckling back and forth. This worked out in the band’s favor because they had some amazing applause, or at least enough applause for me to find noteworthy.

Billion Headed Bastard delivers humor of everyday life through music. They have a raw energy tied to their stage presence when combined with their musical style makes for an interesting time. It was a shame it was cut short because I would love to have seen how they would end their set. Such is life. Maybe they can write a song about it.

Technique: 3

Presentation: 3

Audience Interaction: 3

Brownie Points: 0.5

Total: 9.5

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5 Star Disaster

When I saw 5 Star Disaster I could tell right off I was going to have another punk band to review and possibly one as great as the band before. What can I say? They had everything from the studded jackets to the patches. I was hoping for the same energy and excitement as the thought put into their outfits, some of which I got, but otherwise I felt it was a lackluster performance.

I will give 5 Star credit in that they made a strong effort to sound as true to the various subgenres of punk, even when they weren’t performing a remake. Their ability to emulate various punk styles display their wide knowledge and ability to play such. At times, though, it felt like the band was too focused artistically on emulating certain subgenres of punk to the point it resulted in a cookie-cutter style. There were other things to go with the cookie-cutter style that left a lot to be desired for me.

Where the other bands had great interaction, this band still needs work. On one hand they know how to get the crowd worked up with their music. It shows especially when the audience works itself into a moshing frenzy. I find issue with how they tried a little too hard to up da punx in their performance. One way this happened was through their need to cuss as loudly and clearly as they could since the cops were already called out due to profanity. I get it the importance of subverting authority, I’m just not impressed by this display of it. There was also the issue of hecklers. If someone heckles the crap out of a band the worst thing to do is lose one’s cool. It’s even worse to say “I’m in control” to the heckler, and 5 Star did just that. It’s bad because it gives a heckler more face time than he or she deserves, it actually disrupts the performance more, and it makes the band look as if they’ve lost total control of the situation. Try to ignore hecklers and let the fans sort them out.

These guys know a lot about punk music, but I think they try too hard to live up to their understanding of punk from a bygone time. Trying to force that image is not only contrary to the true nature of punk but a farce which leads nowhere. Once the band lets go of the idea of what they think punk should be and explore what it means to be punk for themselves it will sound more intense and original. If they combine that with their knowledge of punk music it will bring creative potential.

 Technique:2

Presentation:2

Audience Interaction:2.5

Brownie Points:0.5

Total:7

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Mr. and the Mrs.

I was invited by Mr. and the Mrs. to review their band this day, and I couldn’t pass it up after hearing them on soundcloud. In that respect there are a few biases to consider with this review. I’m sure whoever reads this will understand and make the most of it. I just hope they aren’t too mad it took me a month to post the review.

Mr. and the Mrs. lives up to their surfer theme not only in composition but in oceanic themes. One song that comes to mind is “Poseidon”, which effectively combines musical complexity with surfer and garage elements. This is juxtaposed to their oftentimes tongue-in-cheek humor such as with songs like “Pink Eye” and “Surfin’ Turd”, which are relatively simple and keep true to the surfer theme. The vocalist / guitarist brings strength with his raw singing timbre. When juxtaposed with the powerful drumming it creates a sound true to the genre influences yet adds their own style as well as technique. Though it seems musically they have everything together I did come across one problem.

There were times where it felt like something was missing and I couldn’t put my finger on it. In some cases it was a case of off tempo, such as in their rendition of the Ramones’ “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” (glad I’m not the only one who loves that song). I know at times the performance seemed a little stiff. I suspect it was nerves getting in the way, but I don’t have anything conclusive to determine why other than a few things I already noted. If it is nerves some of this can be remedied through a few stretches and the like before playing.

They found a great to carry themselves on stage otherwise. They had a pretty good energy on stage and seemed into their music. This carried over well with the audience. It built up through the set until the crowd started moshing halfway through. It’s seems it kept going but died out close to the end. I’m willing to blame some of this on people being tired.

Overall this band has lots of potential. I’m not certain why the performance seemed to be missing something this night, given the overall energy brought to the stage and how the audience enjoyed themselves. Musically they stand on their own. They’re able to present something punk yet creatively adds something to their respective genres.

 Technique: 3

Presentation: 2

Audience Interaction: 3

Brownie Points: 0.5

Total: 8.5

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Check Out This Artist: Mr. and the Mrs.

Hooray for more artists for allowing me to poke and prod!  This next band featured is Mr. and the Mrs. from Hillsdale, Kansas (don’t bother looking for the city.  It’s kind of one of those Kansas towns), though they’re usually found at shows in Lawrence right now.  Formed in 2011, this duo describes themselves as garage, trash, and punk citing influences like The Cramps, Nirvana, Television, The Ramones, and The Talking Heads.

I personally find their music full of humorous lyrics to compliment the lighthearted, amateurish feel appropriate for the genres from which they pull.  They keep it simple but at times it feels like it’s a homage to various artists and genres (though I heard the shoutout to the Replay Lounge and chuckled).  There are moments where I feel like despite the satire there’s a message.  Then I remember that I’m a music critic and like to over analyze crap.

Don’t take my word for it, though.  They have a nice catalog on soundcloud and a cool facebook page to check out.  Listen to them, like them, maybe even attend one of their shows.

https://www.facebook.com/misterandthemisses?ref=ts&fref=ts

http://mrandthemrs.bandcamp.com