Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Gig: Sports

Sports (Pow Wows)

The Horseshoe Tavern. Tuesday, June 7, 2011.

Out for the Tuesday night free show at the 'Shoe to catch a band that I hadn't seen in a good while. The decision to head down was helped by the fact that they were preceded by Pow Wows, who I knew to be a raucous fun live band. Not necessarily a sonically precise one, mind you, as hinted at with this revealing soundcheck banter to the sound tech: "Can we just get destroyed with reverb? Let's get wet!"

Playing a fairly similar setlist to the previous time I had seen 'em, the band were mostly tackling songs that would soon emerge on their Nightmare Soda album. Alongside all that reverb, the band brought a rangy and at times wilfully sloppy attack to their garage rock howlers. The lyrics were not especially clear by design but the underlying intent was not at all obscure, with numerous odes to the sort of impulses best invoked in the anthemic set-closer "Seeing Black".

They managed to efficiently crank out ten joltin' songs in their half hour, despite — or because of? — the fact that they looked a little wobbly on their feet. "They were not at all drunk," a friend commented afterward with a I-mean-the-opposite shake of the head. That doesn't mean they weren't pretty good — just good in a way that implies slurred speech rather than clear elocution.1

Listen to a track from this set here.

At one level, it's hard to believe that Sports was the same band that I'd seen a couple years previously. It's well befitting that they had, in fact, since then stripped away "The Band" from the end of their name, a symbolic act that pointed to how they were now a leaner, more rock-oriented machine under vocalist/guitarist Nathan Rekker's leadership.

There's still some points of intersect with the before-times, like "Warn Me", which was presented on the previous incarnation's EP. But live, it now sounded like it had several layers stripped off, and gave the impression it was based on hazy memories of Them's "Gloria" instead of, say, a New Pornographers song as the 2009 recording hints at. Some of the additional guitar presence came from a woodshedding Pete Carmichael (ex-Diableros, at this point beginning to assemble his Whirly Birds), who had taken on sideman duties.

With some likeable guitar textures, there was a good sound here as the band presented mostly material from their then-new album. Even with the more rock-forward positioning, there was still a balancing-off between the more aggressive and nimble material, with, say, "Castlots" (another holdover from the EP) leaning more toward the latter. For me, I liked it best more when they eased back on the subtlety and just rocked, even in a more restrained way, like in a new, then-untitled song (it had a refrain of "you and me and the devil make three"). And best of all was closer "Slacking Scholar", where it all came into focus, with crunch and hooks in equal measure — this is one that can really get stuck in your head.2

I'd previously posted something from the band's new album here, and now you can also check out the new sound of an older song here.

1 The band has more recently undergone some lineup changes, but they're still keeping busy. They'll be co-headlining a show at the Silver Dollar with Meanwood on Thursday, August 3, 2012.

2 Sports also has an upcoming gig at the Silver Dollar, playing with Persian Rugs on August 25, 2012, which sounds like a promising Saturday night.

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