Monday, May 25, 2009

Gig: MV & EE / Woods / $100

MV & EE / Woods / $100

Over the Top Festival. Whippersnapper Gallery. Friday, May 22, 2009.

For night two of Over the Top, decided to take in this show at the Whippersnapper, which meant breaking my self-imposed limitation of seeing only bands new to me. But for $100, I'm willing to make an exception. Billed as a duo show with Ian and Simone, we were instead treated to a hybrid, with four acoustic numbers, including some singalong action on "Not For Me" before the band joined in for the rest of the set. A new bass player (Jeff Pierce?) in tow, he handled himself quite admirably, getting thrown a little bit only on "Blaze of Glory". All told, this was a tidy and tasty set — ten songs in thirty-five minutes — with especially fine readings of "14th Floor"1 and the always hurtingly lovely "Nothing's Alright".

Knowing nothing about Brooklyn’s Woods, I quickly became interested as they set up. Not only was the drummer setting a beat up old bass with two strings across his kit, but out of a flight case emerged a particularly lovely effects rack with a row of pedals across the top, and on the bottom two cassette decks with a crossfader between them:

During the set, G. Lucas Crane sat on the floor in front of it and played it in a manner not unlike a DJ, but with cassettes instead of turntables. The tape players had no covers, so finger pressure on the heads acted to warp the sounds. He also added backing vox, sung through an old pair of headphones slung over his face. The tapes were just one further destabilizing element to Woods' sound, which could be be broadly described as "queasy psychedelia", little trails of sound squiggling off behind them like jetstreams. After getting their sound correct, the band launched into a number that sounded like a surf record deconstructed by Brian Eno with high falsetto vox. And so it went from there, the band using all of these elements fairly creatively, playing a half dozen songs over their set, a couple of which contained extended instrumental freaks-outs. Definitely exciting to be exposed to this live first, just to see how the sound was being manipulated. When the set closed, I grabbed a copy of their newest alb from the merch table. A highlight.

A track from this set is posted here.

A fair number of the crowd left after Woods' set, leaving lots of elbow room for MV & EE. Thems in the know started to sit down and settle in as the band set up, the stage suddenly filled with a plethora of effects pedals. The relaxed posture was certainly the way to take in opening selection "I Got Caves in There", which ambled its way along for about ten minutes, a relaxed groove. The band rolled with Matt Valentine's and Willie Lane's dual guitars plus Erica Elder on lap steel and what I'm seeing listed online as "cocola firebird", which looked like a styleized four-string mandolin. The rhythm section had a local connection, with Doc Dunn on drums and Mike Smith on bass.2

After the first track, the tempo picked up some, and began to rock out a little more. By "Hammer", the band had had hit a good groove, playing like a drowsy, narcotised Crazy Horse. Very good stuff. The slack-paced jams were apparently not everyone's idea of fun, as after about a half hour, the crowd, thin to start with, had withered in half, to maybe fifteen people or so. Whether it was because of the sparse group in front of them, or just that they were into their thing, the band seemed to play more for themselves, segueing from one song straight into the next. There were some excellent moments, and some less so — at times, the bandmembers seemed to get caught up in their own excursions and wandered a bit out of sync with each other, and in a few places, the guits wandered into widdly-widdly jamminess of the G------- D--- type. But the less appealing sections were generally redeemed by something more interesting. The band gave the impression that they could keep this up all night, given the chance, and by set's end the sound guy was starting to look agitated, heading up to the side of the stage to indicate to Erica that maybe five minutes more or so would be enough. It might be better suited to listening while collapsed in a beanbag chair in the basement, or, say, by a campfire, looking up at a starry sky and getting, y'know, cosmic, but I enjoyed this, generally speaking.

1 With that and "14th Floor" already written, $100 should come up with one more and have a 14 Trilogy. Or, possibly, a dozen more and — presto! — instant concept album.

2 Who I'd seen playing last weekend with Steamboat.

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