Alpha Consumer cancelled their show at Gabe’s this past Tuesday. So much for that plan. And, as I suspected, I was not able to attend any of the dates of the Firecracker 500 Festival.
IC Noise will be taking a break from writing about shows this week. My tentative plan for next week is to cover a free performance by Minneapolis group Alpha Consumer on Tuesday, May 27th at Gabe’s. I’d also like to cover one night of the three-day Firecracker 500 Festival (at The Mill) but I don’t know if my schedule will allow it.
LIPSTICK HOMICIDE, w/ Shocktroopers: 5/12/2014 @ Gabe’s (Iowa City, IA)
Last night I listened to two similar-sounding bands for a free show on the bottom floor of Gabe’s: Local pop-punk trio Lipstick Homicide was the headliner, with a band called Shocktroopers (from Wyoming) opening the show. A third band was listed on the flyer (The Dead God’s Concussion), but they didn’t show up for whatever reason.
Twenty years ago, the Green Day album Dookie became a hit. I think the first song I heard from it was “Longview”, which had a really catchy bass line and lyrics that spoke to bored teenagers. Eventually I got a chance to check out the whole album, but I found it to be extremely repetitive and formulaic. I can’t remember if I even made it through the whole thing. A couple years later, there was a tear in the space-time continuum that caused some people to like both throwback ska and swing music for a limited time, but that’s another story…
Anyway, why talk about Green Day now? Judging from last night’s show, it seemed both bands were influenced by West Coast pop-punk music. Both bands’ guitarists played all power chords when they weren’t playing occasional solos. Bassists for both groups mostly stayed on the roots of the chords. And both bands used the famous I-V-VI-IV chord progression that got so much mileage back in the ’90s (featured on Green Day’s “When I Come Around”, Bush’s “Glycerine” and Blink 182’s “Dammit”) and even in the ’80s (Misfits’ “I Want Your Skull” predates them all). Last night’s bands both played their own versions of the “I-V-VI-IV” song last night.
The singer for Shocktroopers had a higher-pitched yelp to his voice that I thought was okay. There were a couple moments when the rhythm broke down, but they were mostly solid throughout.
Lipstick Homicide features two ladies (guitar, bass) and a guy (drums). The power went out on their second and third songs, which made me think of the last time this happened at a show I attended (L7 @ Hairy Mary’s in Des Moines back in 2000). A lot of their songs relied on variations of the tonic, dominant and subdominant chords. My favorite song of their set was one right before they played a cover song (not sure what it was). The bassist was a little more adventurous on this particular song, too. Other than that, I found the set to be pretty repetitive.
Pop-punk is not a musical style I really enjoy all that much, but I definitely wanted to check out Lipstick Homicide as others have been talking about this group lately…and there was no cover charge! Also: The sound system for the bottom floor of Gabe’s is decent.
P.S. (Pain & Suffering): While doing research for this article, I rediscovered Vitamin C’s 2000 song “Graduation (Friends Forever)”, which does not use the I-V-VI-IV chord structure as I had incorrectly remembered (I hadn’t heard the song in a very long time), but actually rips off Pachelbel’s famous Canon in D. I believe the sole purpose of it’s release was for the recording industry to take money from gullible upcoming high school graduates of that time period, and I submit this as a strong candidate for “worst pop song of all time”.
IOWA CITY MUSIC SCENE SHOWCASE (A LOT OF BANDS): 5/9/2014 @ Yacht Club & Gabe’s (Iowa City, IA)
Last Friday I decided to check out the first night (of two — I couldn’t make it for the second night) of an “Iowa City Music Scene Showcase” taking place at both Gabe’s and the Yacht Club. My initial plan was to spend more time at the latter, since I haven’t yet written about any shows there. I really like the atmosphere at the Yacht Club, as the performance area is in a dark but decent-sized basement with an appropriately-sized PA system (not overbearing). Many times I prefer the smaller venues and basement shows to the bigger venues. The Yacht Club also has a Galaga arcade machine (and some pinball machine) in the back.
The $7 cover allowed access at both venues, and I did get to see a lot of bands (although I didn’t stay out for the very last performances of the night), but the only group that really got my attention was an all-girl trio called Maiden Mars. They have a throwback ’90s girl-band thing going for them. The vocals and upbeat tempos are kinda Sleater-Kinney, but the guitar relies heavily on power chords (and occasional solos) that makes me think of other all-girl bands from the 90s. Maiden Mars doesn’t sound like a “riot grrl” band (Babes in Toyland, L7, Bikini Kill, 7 Year Bitch, etc.). They’re not as experimental as Helium. Maybe they’re more like Frogpond (although I haven’t heard them in a very long time)?
Although the group has a cool thing going, I worry for them as they progress and setlists inevitably get longer because things may get too repetitive for the audience. Friday’s performance clocked in at 25 minutes, which seemed just right. I also should’ve paid more attention to see if the bassist’s technique needed a little adjustment (were some of the notes early on being played a bit short / muted?). Overall, I’d recommend going to a Maiden Mars performance if you get a chance.
And now, the (eventual) complaint section: I did end up going back and forth between the Yacht Club and Gabe’s. One of the groups I heard a bit of was The Feralings, who had the instrumentation of a bluegrass band (mandolin, banjo, acoustic guitar and upright bass), but the first part of their set seemed to indicate they play originals in a folk-country style, rather than playing traditional bluegrass (nothing wrong with that). Also: This was the first time I had not been overpowered by the upstairs PA system at Gabe’s (kudos to the lady running sound there, and also for being a lady running sound for a venue in the first place — a very uncommon feat!).
Anyway, this bluegrass instrumentation-outfitted band took at least a half-hour to sound-check. The instruments were individually miked and musicians’ sound monitors needed adjustment. The guitarist (who seems to do the most picking of the bunch) took the longest amount of time, going as far as asking for EQ adjustments on the sounds coming through his monitor. I completely understand the importance for musicians to hear what they need in their monitors in order to play together and sing in tune with each other, but previous bluegrass groups I’ve seen usually get a single microphone (for all instruments AND vocals) to huddle around, with great results for both the band and the audience. Maybe the sound person should’ve required the one-mic setup (if she had the right type of mic to use and the building’s acoutiscs would cooperate), or maybe the band needs to be more open to getting closer to each other and playing acoustically instead of spreading out across a whole stage with more electronic dependence. The Feralings were decent once they started playing, but the initial setup just seemed a bit much from my perspective.
The venues Yacht Club and Gabe’s are hosting an “Iowa City Music Scene Showcase” both tonight and tomorrow night ($7 per night for access to both venues, I believe). I plan to catch some of tonight’s performances and share my experiences later.
I’ll probably spend more time over at the Yacht Club (since I haven’t featured that venue yet on the blog), but I may skip over to Gabe’s between sets. I doubt I’ll stay out for the entire night (the schedule indicates the event goes until 2 AM).