Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In-store / Gig: Action Makes

Action Makes

Sonic Boom Records/The Silver Dollar. Friday, December 10, 2010.

As garage rock aggravators with as much Stones-y mojo in their DNA as Stooge-y coiled aggression, Action Makes are a natural fit for the local Optical Sounds label. And with the label issuing their long-gestating debut album, the band was ready to celebrate. In fact, they had a double-shot lined up, with an evening in-store appearance in the basement at Sonic Boom as an appetizer for their main set later on at The Silver Dollar.

Not the sorts to play a mellow, stripped-down set for their in-store appearance, the band brought a more concise version of their regular set, leading off with "Buddies", one of the album's best tracks. It's a good attention-grabber, designed to slash like a set of jaws to the throat, with an attacking bassline from the above-replacement level Andrew Stoeten1 and stabs of harmonica from vocalist Clint Rodgerson. And even if the band was not quite at their most feral — Action Makes seem to thrive on dark bars and late nights, getting energy from a rowdy crowd — it was rather interesting to see them in this environment. Here, there wasn't that kind of atmosphere to draw on, so it took a few songs for them to get worked up. The band played a couple non-album cuts before the bracing "Let Them Go", where it felt like they were getting up to full speed. To the good, though, if this wasn't as bracingly electric as I've seen the band before, it might have featured the most sonic clarity I'd ever hear 'em playing with.

By the time they hit "Berlin", it felt like a poke in the eye with a near-sighted hurricane. That energy ended the twenty-five minute, seven-song burst on a good note of anticipation for the night's main set.

Listen to a track from this set here.

With the taste of that on my tongue, I had to hustle down the street to another gig, so sadly I'd missed The Two Koreas and Owl Farm who'd started things up at The Silver Dollar. But in a sweet bit of timing, I stepped in to the sweaty room just as the band were getting ready to start their set. It was pretty full, but not uncomfortably cramped as the band led off again with "Buddies". And this time, there was no need to warm up — it felt pretty electric from the get-go.

A few songs later, after "No Matter", there was a birthday celebration for Silver Dollar booker Dan Burke, who got a rendition of "Happy Birthday" and was called up on state to blow out the candles on a cake. Not surprising that the band would make this fond gesture, as Burke has put Action Makes — exemplars of the sort of no-bullshit, high-octane rock'n'roll that Burke champions — on his stages many times.

From there, the band tore into the heart of the set, with album highlights "Berlin" and "Let Them Go". Then a couple non-album tracks, the raging "I Get Up" and "Little White Rooster", which led with a bit of a new wave edge thanks to Jay Lemak's keybs. It was also a little bit rougher than some of the others, lurching over the finish line, with Rodgerson commenting, "that was not supposed to end that way," as drummer Ryan Rothwell had to catch his breath and fix a kickdrum that kept coming loose. The set ended with the entertainingly profane "Pleasant Hymn Pt. II" (what happens at the cemetery stays at the cemetery), a frequent closer that the band can stretch out into a frenzified rave-up, pulling the song home just before the cables get forcefully torn loose and the drum kit gets knocked over.2

Listen to a track from this set here.

1 When not rock'n'rolling, Stoeten also muses on baseball at Drunk Jays Fans, which is much more smartly analytical and well-written than the name might at first indicate.

2 Date and venue aren't set yet, but Action Makes will be playing NXNE, so in a sea of questionable buzz-bands and sanitized mediocrity, keep them in your plans as a corrective tonic to restore your faith in rock'n'roll.

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