Preview: A few show options for next week

After looking at the Iowa City venues’ calendars for next week, it looks like there are a few shows worth mentioning:

– THE SLEEPWALKERS, Twins (Yacht Club, Thursday 7/10, $5, 19+).  Two power-pop bands take the stage.  Judging from the online tunes I tracked down tonight, one is more influenced by ’70s power-pop like Badfinger and Thin Lizzy, while the other takes their cues from later ’80s power-pop music like The Replacements.  If you like any of those bands, you’ll probably enjoy this show.

– WEEDEATER, aseethe, In the Mouth of Radness, O’enos (Blue Moose, Thursday 7/10, $10, 19+).  If you’re into more hardcore music, this is the show for you. You may hear some drop-D (or possibly even drop-C) tunage, vocal grunting, dramatic pauses, sudden time changes, etc.

– SAPWOODS, Midwest, The Ashe Brothers (The Mill, Friday 7/11, $8, 19+).  The Sapwoods headline a show next Friday.  I’m not sure who / what “Midwest” is (very difficult to find them via internet search).  The Ashe Brothers play a mix of folk, jam and psychedelia.

Of the three, I’ll probably attend (and eventually write about) the show at the Yacht Club.  I haven’t seen Twins perform yet (although I had seen Teddy Boys — one of their earlier incarnations — perform at least once), The Sleepwalkers should be fun, the basement atmosphere of the Yacht Club is appealing, the show shouldn’t go on too long (just two bands) and the price is right.

I was initially excited about the Weedeater show, but I discovered they’re a band from North Carolina and not the sludge/rap band from Storm Lake, regrouping to play “Slacker” again (too bad).  I’d hang out at The Sapwoods show but I’ll be out of town that night.


REVIEW: The Sapwoods – Peaks and Valleys

Peaks and Valleys
Independent release, 2014

I’m late in getting a review out for The Sapwoods’ new album, Peaks and Valleys.  I’ve listened to it more than a few times since their CD release show earlier this month.

The band’s previous album (Electric Glow, 2012), featured a different rhythm section.  I’ve seen the group perform four times this year and I immediately noticed the slower tempos found on some of the CD tracks when compared to their faster live performances.  I imagine this may be partly due to a new, young rhythm section experiencing their first encounters with recording sessions, and gradually gaining more experience and confidence as they go along.  There seem to be a few small rhythm mistakes in the early tracks, and possibly a loose snare on some tracks, but the new members play well overall.  Derrick Cook is a high-energy drummer who’s a lot of fun to watch at the live shows, and the CD fortunately features a lot of his great fills.  Brian Speer keeps things pretty simple on the bass…for now.  Miranda Peyton is the band’s new secret weapon, adding her backing vocals as well as some fitting keyboard tones.

Original members Justin Swafford (lead vocals, guitar, songwriter) and David Suchan (lead guitar) both make great guitar sounds throughout the album, and Justin’s singing is strong and enjoyable.  The group’s Bandcamp site includes the lyrics to all tracks, which is helpful to people like me who are terrible at deciphering lyrics.

The CD starts out with “Relax, Be Real, Be Yourself”, which is an energetic, catchy rocker.  “Let Go” has a fun House of Large Sizes riff-rock thing going on.  The closing track, “Steady on the Breaks”, has some great guitar sounds at the end (the song grew on me).

Album highlights “Serve You Right” and “The Offer” provide different extremes of alt-country (the band once again does this genre very well).  Another standout track, “Perdition”, is The Sapwoods’ version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”…it’s a beautiful soundscape while it lasts.  I also enjoy the dirty rock riffs found in the second-to-last track, “Same Old Reeling”.

Even the songs that didn’t win me over have some enjoyable elements (Peyton’s keyboards in “Drifters”, the dual guitar solo in “Two Wounded Soldiers” and Suchan’s countrified lead guitar work in “Back to You”).  There’s a good amount of diversity within the album to keep you listening.

I encourage you to check out Peaks and Valleys (here!) and go hear The Sapwoods live when they come to play in your town.

My first trip to Public Space One

THE SAPWOODS w/ Dylan Sires and Neighbors: 6/12/2014 @ Public Space One (Iowa City, IA)

The Sapwoods (who I’ve written about a couple of times already, and plan to write about again soon) held an album release show at Public Space One in Iowa City, located downtown next to the United Methodist Church (and at least part of the building containing Public Space One seems to be under the church’s ownership).  The music performance area has a nice stage and a PA system appropriate for the space (loud but not overpowering).  The sale of alcohol is prohibited there (possibly a combined result of all the liquor license red tape and the UMC’s stance on alcohol), but The Sapwoods came prepared by offering complimentary chips, cookies and soda!

Dylan Sires and Neighbors (from Waterloo, IA) served as the opening band. I’ve heard and read a lot of positive comments about the group but I don’t believe I had ever heard them (live or recorded) until this past Thursday night.  Despite the band’s performance starting over an hour late, which had negative ramifications (shortened sets by both bands, rushed sound setup), I have to say the band otherwise is really worthy of the hype.

What do they sound like?  Some of the songs have a bouncy feel, accenting on the beat. If I had to compare them to another group, I’d say they sound a bit like the mid to late ’60s work of The Kinks.  Dylan plays a 6-string Rickenbacker through a Fender tube amp (was it a Blues DeVille?), and the resulting tone is excellent.  The bassist is a tall guy who plays some good lines and provides decent backing vocals.  Both the bassist and drummer play to complement the songs, rather than take them over, and the two communicate well on stage with each other.

What impressed me most about this group was their song arrangements.  The songwriting is decent (mostly standard major and minor chords), but any bands wanting to learn how to keep the listener’s attention by way of arrangements would do well to study this group. I can’t think of an Iowa band from the past twenty years who’s done it better.  A song introduced as “Standing in Line” started out average, but then went into so many variations that drew you in and kept your attention as it went on (I especially liked the part in three).  I strongly recommend checking out Dylan Sires and Neighbors’ live show if you get the chance.

Again, I’ll write more about The Sapwoods soon.

Tonight’s show

Tonight local group The Sapwoods is having a CD release show at Public Space One (120 N Dubuque St) in Iowa City.  Opening is Waterloo band Dylan Sires and Neighbors.  $5 cover.

No Shows

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.

Lose a Turn

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.

IC Noise goes to a pop-punk show

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 – Day One

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.

IC Music Scene Showcase

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).

Taking the week off / Cloud Nothings tonight!

There didn’t seem to be a whole lot of rock shows going on this week, but there is one taking place tonight that I’d highly recommend: Cloud Nothings (with Protomartyr and John June Year — the latter is a band based out of Clinton, IA) at Gabe’s (19+, $12-$15, show starts at 8:30 PM).

I’ll unfortunately be out of town tonight, but I do enjoy Cloud Nothings’ music.  Their previous album, “Attack on Memory”, had sounds and energy reminiscent of Nirvana’s “In Utero” (probably as a result of Steve Albini producing both of them), and I like the tracks I’ve heard off their new release, “Here and Nowhere Else”.  Should be a good one tonight.