First of all, I’d like to go on record as saying that I really like the new Blvd. While it may not be a return to the glory days of the B-Side or the old Fat Tuesdays, it is a great addition to the Spokane music scene. It’s also a damn sight better than the old Blvd, which was basically a lame dive bar that just happened to have bands most weekends.
The new Blvd is a fairly nice, professional, all-ages venue in the old B-Side building (230 W Riverside). It’s got good acoustics and professional, friendly staff. It’s also got a good sound system, and a clear floor that runs right up to the stage. The show last Monday was a fairly low-key affair. The turn out was decent, though hardly the sold out crowd I was expecting.
The opener, a local folk artist named Karli Fairbanks (MySpace, web site), was a pleasant surprise. Her guitar work was much better than most folk artists. It clean and strong, with unique melodic voicing and worked well with her singing. Her vocals were also excellent, if stylistically unoriginal (she used the soft, light-vibrato voice that’s been used by so many female folk artists that it’s hard to recall who first pioneered it). All in all, I’d be very inclined to see her again. If you’re a Spokane folk-fan, definitely make an effort to get out and see her.
The next act was a country artist named Willy Mason (MySpace). How he managed to fly under my radar for so long is unclear to me, but I was very impressed with his set. He’s got a much more classic, folk-influenced voice than most modern country artists. Put a drum kit and some synthesizers behind him and some Pitchfork twerp would be claiming that “he’s no Jeff Tweedy”. Which is fair insofar that he does sound much more like a stripped down Uncle Tupelo than he does a stripped down Toby Keith.
A. A. Bondy (MySpace) and his band were, of course, phenomenal. The trio included Bondy, a drummer/slide guitar player, and a bassist/keyboardist. They were professional almost to a fault (other than thanking the crowd for applause, they didn’t seem interested in interacting with the audience.) They played a solid set of material taken from both of Bondy’s albums. They played with a great deal of energy, and played enough with the form of the songs that they seemed both fresh and familiar at the same time. Highlights of the set included great versions of “O The Vampyre” and “A Slow Parade”. The only tunes they didn’t play that I wished they had were “How Will You Meet Your End”, “American Hearts”, and Bondy’s cover of “John the Revelator.”
The show was truly an excellent one. A great venue hosting some amazing talent. The openers were amazing, and I will be definitely purchasing their albums as soon as I can lay my hot little hands on them. Bondy continues to impress and I look forward both to seeing him in concert again and to whatever new music he turns out next.
Unknown openers for a major act are, almost by definition, a hit-or-miss prospect. Which is one of the reasons why it can be such an exhilarating experience to encounter a band you’ve never heard before that totally rocks your socks off. The Flogging Molly last week at the Knitting Factory had in store two such bands.
The first, a Motown band from LA called Fitz and the Tantrums (MySpace), takes everything I like about Motown (the energy, the vocal dynamism, the groovy bass lines) and replaces everything else with polished, energetic pop sensibilities. They are highly recommended for anyone who likes funk, fusion, Motown, etc. Hit the link to their MySpace above to sample some of the awesome.
Next up were an groovy ska combo called Hepcat. (MySpace – Be sure to check out their version of “Dance Wit’ Me”). Apparently they’re fairly well known in LA and in the ska scene, but this was my first exposure to them. They were well-coordinated, talented, and charming. They were also very high energy, managing to get a fair portion of the crowd jumping around and dancing. They certainly weren’t doing anything revolutionary with the genre, but when the genre is one that’s as effortlessly enjoyable as ska, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They’re truly masters of form. They know what they do, and they do it amazingly well.
So after a couple topnotch openers, Flogging Molly took the stage. And, continuing the momentum of the evening, they certainly did not disappoint. They played a good mix of newer and older material, focusing mostly on their punkier, more high-energy stuff.
Highlights of their set included “What’s Left of the Flag”, “Drunken Lullabies” and “Lightning Storm” which they dedicated to Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer, and Ronnie Drew. I was also a big fan of their live rendition of “If I Ever Leave This World Alive”, which lead to a giant round of cheesy swaying-and-shoulder-hugging camaraderie in the audience.
Definitely an awesome show. Easily one of the best I’ve been too in ages, and probably a strong candidate for my top 10 of all time. The combination of two brilliant and unexpected openers and a headliner who know their audience and are professional and talented to boot made for a truly epic show. Aside from a few audience members being complete twats*a good time was had by all.
*Seriously guys, shoving people who don’t want to be in the pit into it isn’t funny, clever, cool, badass, etc. It just flat makes you an immature jackass.
Well, it’s no secret that I’m a huge A. A. Bondy fan. So I was pretty stoked to hear that he’s got a new record coming out on September 1st. The album’s called When the Devil’s Loose, and it includes a few tracks that have been floating around as bootlegs from awhile now, including “O The Vampyre” and “The Mightiest of Guns”.
Here’s Bondy performing the album’s title track live at the Cellar Door in Visalia, CA: