Feb 022010

A. A. Bondy @ the Blvd., 2010.1.25

Concerts, Reviews Comments Off on A. A. Bondy @ the Blvd., 2010.1.25

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.

May 072009

First, let me say that, while it’s sad that the old Blvd building has been torn down (they tore it down to put up a parking lot, cue the “oooooh bop bop bop bop”s), I’m quite pleased with the new Blvd.  First of all, it’s in the old B-Side.  Which, while not as awesome as having the old B-Side back, means that a great venue building is now back in the hands of people who know how to run and manage rock shows.

It’s got great acoustics, and a nice stage set up, with a surprisingly sizeable pit/dance floor area.  The stage is a little on the low side and doesn’t provide very easy access for the band.  (The only ways to access are from the back alley or climbing up over the monitors from the floor.)  All in all, though, a surprisingly awesome bar venue.

I got there about a half hour after the show was supposed to start, so of course I had time to wade through the crowd and grab a beer before the first act even took the stage.  The opener was a fairly talented local blues artist whose name I didn’t catch.  He had a pretty good slide guitar touch and passible picking skills.  His music sometimes wrote checks his voice couldn’t cash, however, and so tunes that were meant to be soulful sometimes wound up as off key and warbly.

Unfortunately he also brought a couple of truefans who spent his whole set being loud, foul-mouthed, obnoxious dickheads.

After his set, there was about a half hour lapse before the Red Elvises took the stage.  During soundcheck they seemed a bit perturbed by the size of the venue and seemed to have a few communication issues with the sound guy.  They must have gotten them sorted out, however, since the mixing and acoustics were fantastic right from the off.

Which is a good thing, because it actually managed to do justice to some really impressive musicianship from the band.  It’s been a LONG time since I’ve seen that many truly gifted musicians on one stage.  The two-man horn section wailed.  The keyboardist played her synth like it was a lover.  Both guitarists/vocalists were impressive in both their roles.  (The second guitarist was an especially nice surprise.  I knew what to expect from frontman Igor Yuzov, but the tour guitarist not only shredded, but sang lead on a few tunes with a dusky, agile blues voice that totally blew me away.)

And then there was the drummer and the bassist.  Those two dudes seriously must have been created in a lab somewhere.  They were technically flawless and musically brilliant.  Their solos were easily among the best I’ve ever seen at a live show.

The band played two full sets and an encore, covering a sizeable swath of their discography.  Especially awesome were their renditions of “Juliet”, “Boogie on the Beech” (both of which had the whole crowd screaming along with the chorus), and “Me and My Baby”.

The band’s stage presence and demeanor throughout were awesome.  They were energetic and dynamic and obviously enjoyed playing for the audience.  They danced, clapped, bantered, and solicited audience interaction for the entire 2-ish hours they were on the stage.

Simply put, the show was amazing.  If you ever get a chance to see the Red Elvises, definitely do so.  They’re about as energetic, talented, and charming a band as I’ve seen in ages.  They have plenty of dates scheduled for through the end of this year, so if they’ll be in your area, they’re well worth seeing.