Thursday, October 27, 2016

Shellac, Shannon Wright, Ghost Camp, Frontyards, and Lunch Ladies, 10/21-10/23/16

Shellac by Ken Geiger

Broken Pipes and Steve Albini

by Ken Geiger

Ghost Camp, Frontyards, Lunch Ladies at Paradise: Lost, 10/21/16

Without any plans on Friday night, I realized that I was in New Brunswick and there is always a show to attend. So, after a few scrolls through various event invites, I noticed that Lunch Ladies would be playing at Paradise: Lost with Ghost Camp and Philadelphia natives Frontyards. I knew about Lunch Ladies' music and had heard good things about the latter two bands, so my Friday night plans were settled then and there.

First band I caught for the night was Lunch Ladies. I remember seeing these guys starting out early on and skipping out on them, because they simply were not in my musical spectrum of interest at the time. But seeing them now, I could tell their evolution to a full-on shoegaze / dream pop type band has been paying off for them. They sounded tighter as a unit, the songs are pretty catchy now; and I hope that the album they have been working on for some time drops soon. It's the curiosity over how they will be able to contain their reverb-soaked sound within the confines of a studio that draws me to that. I recommend checking them out if they roll into your area for a show.

The next time I ventured back down to the confines of the Paradise Lost basement, Frontyards were on.  All I can really say is that this is a band you just have to see live in order to kind of understand what they are all about. Sure, they had some moments where they messed up whatever song they were playing. Yes, the audience was crashing into them at some points (and even broke one of the water pipes, too). But these guys reveled in that crazy environment with the upbeat nature of their music. Perfection is not everything in a live setting, and Frontyards showed that sometimes the most fun you can have at a performance is when things do not go according to plan.

Frontyards by Ken Geiger
After that pipe broke, I did not think the show could possibly carry on. But the owners made sure to give Ghost Camp the performance they were promised. And the band made every second count. Growing up a kid that was raised on new wave by his father made me appreciate that influence that Ghost Camp brings into their music. It fits in with the tinges of jangly pop and shoegaze they add into the mix. Does this sound make up the “witch-punk” genre of which Ghost Camp claims to be a member?  Who the hell knows honestly?  I am listening to their new album Great Lakes as I type this out in hopes of figuring out the answer. Maybe that's a question they can answer sometime. For now, I will label it as "good music."

Shellac and Shannon Wright at The Bell House, 10/23

After spending Saturday inside, I spent my Sunday going into New York City to see Shellac and Shannon Wright at the Bell House. Shellac had sold out two shows at this venue, and the fact that they even let one of them be 18+ was a blessing for a young fan like myself to witness. When I made it to the area of the venue I was greeted by a familiar face in Killer Waves bassist / Halicarnassus mastermind, Joe Manginelli, waiting, like me, for doors to open.  It's always great to have friends at shows, especially if it is in a bit of a sketchy area like Bell House is (They make NYC tour buses here. I'm convinced this area was just the birthplace of all the scum in the city.).

First act of the night was Shannon Wright, who at first appeared to be the polar opposite of the type of music Shellac does. Her songs were intricate in structure. She made some busy work of her guitar with a great finger picking style and had a much more melodic singing voice than Steve Albini or Bob Weston usually have. As the set went on though, I realized that they had a lot more in common than I originally conceived. Her chord choices were very interesting; and often, at times, quirky, almost reminding me of some Primus bass slapping (which can be a little hard to believe, I know). Her stage presence also was nothing extravagant, just straightforward. It was all about the music for Shannon, and in that sense, I can tell why Shellac picked her to open. She definitely made a few new fans with that set.

Shannon Wright by Ken Geiger
Then came the moment many of us were waiting for: Chicago's own Shellac. Although Albini and Weston are more known for their vast producing work, Shellac is nothing to sleep on. These guys have not played in quite a few years, but their precision in tackling their material is second to none. The fact that they never counted in for any of the songs is extremely impressive. Along with the music, though, there are several parts of a Shellac show to marvel at that I must touch upon as well.

First of all, is Steve Albini and Bob Weston's gear. Aside from the fact that they play very rare aluminum guitars from Travis Bean, they also managed to build their own custom amps. Those are just as essential to their sound as the guitars and songwriting. Those things are LOUD. Warning to anyone who wants to see this band live: You should stand center stage by the drums, or you will only hear Albini or Weston playing. The amps are THAT commanding. Along with the impressive gear though, is also the humor the band injects to their shows. Whether it was Q&As with the audience (I was lucky enough to ask Steve about discussing beef jerky with Neurosis), Steve talking to his "roommate" Jesus about hummus, or drummer Todd Trainer infamously yelling out "hard rock and pussy," the band knew how to keep the the audience laughing in between their manic tunes. I do not know if I expected to be riddled with laughter that much by the end of that show. I guess that’s another reason why Shellac has garnered such a great reputation over the years.

Shellac have a few more shows on the East Coast before they go back into hiding for God knows how long, so I suggest going to see before them before it's too late. Who knows the next time we will be blessed with great music AND great comedy of this caliber?

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