Thursday, June 21, 2012

Currente calamo: NXNE 2012 (Friday)

NXNE 2012 (Friday, June 15, 2012)

While these shows are fresh in my mind I want to get some quick notes down. I'm a nerd for not wanting to throw my full reviews out of sequence, so there'll be a fuller accounting of the night by and by that'll include even more details and recordings.

Midnite: Andre Williams & The Sadies @ The Horseshoe Tavern

After spending all afternoon at the most-excellent 159 Manning BBQ, it seemed mildly strange to consider that I was starting my proper "day" at NXNE at midnite. By that point of the day, there's a certain temptation to just go home and sleep, but this was one of the sets that I had definitely been planning to go out of my way to catch during the festival.

Unsurprisingly, the 'Shoe was rammed as I made my way in, but I did manage to find a tiny bit of room along the wall at about the back of the dancefloor.

In proper soul revue fashion, The Sadies emerged first and began to lay down a groove, grabbing the audience's attention before Andre Williams — Mr. Rhythm himself — took the stage in his dashing red satin suit. At 75, the genial Williams seemed to be out to establish that he was still, as one of his songs puts it, "Agile, Mobile and Hostile".

It was definitely a treat to see him — and, in a festival filled to overflowing with the new and young, to see a senior citizen command a room like this. Williams was spirited, and the Sadies were as whip-snap sharp as always. That said, at a more objective level, I was struck by how much this show reminded me of the the last time Williams was in town. Except for that increased vitality on Williams' part, this was pretty much an abbreviated version of the same show. It was a little surprising, given how Williams and The Sadies had just dropped the new Night and Day collaboration, that none of that material made its way into the setlist.

Part of that was surely down to having to work within the confines of the festival grid. As it turned out, it took a few songs for things to really feel like they were cooking, and by then, the band were a good way through their allotted time. There was enough that Williams still managed to squeeze a costume change in, but as he departed the stage after a rollicking run through "Car With the Star", it really felt like this could have kept going.

One assumes that there's a fairly significant non-festival-going crowd that would be into this, so we might hope to see a full show from this pairing yet to come.

Listen to a track from this set here.

1 a.m.: Reigning Sound @ The Horseshoe Tavern

Being just warmed up by the point the timeslot was over would be a problem for Reigning Sound as well, although they dealt with it by just chugging onward. That would be a popular choice with the crowd — after Andre Williams' set ended, the Horseshoe emptied out a bit — just enough that it had gone from being "crammed" to "full". And though I couldn't say that I was familiar with Greg Cartwright's Memphis soul-garage project, there was clearly a strong and vocal contingent on hand to whom this was a big deal. That's probably be because although the band has been an on-and-off-concern for over a decade, it had been in quiet mode lately, and obviously too-long away for the enthusiasts to bear.

The five-piece quickly established a rock-solid groove, nimble and capable of lashing out. On top of that came Cartwright's gravelly vocals, which had a slight taste of Faces-era Rod Stewart. I knew that he had also produced The Deadly Snakes, and played alongside them for awhile to boot (leading to some lingering fondness that he expressed for Toronto) and that was also evident in the band's lean toughness.

It's always an interesting experience to be a neophyte in the midst of a crowd of devoted fans, with joyful roars of recognition coming for song after song. I was able to dig all of them in greater or smaller proportion, although admittedly, after about a half-hour, I was starting to get antsy, feeling worn-down from the long day. The band had started at about quarter after, and was still going strong at the top of the hour — creating some unhappiness, I'm sure, for anyone who had shown up for the next band. I thought about ducking into somewhere or other nearby to catch a 2 a.m. set, but I really needed some fresh air and ended up just hiking up to the Silver Dollar.

Listen to a track from this set here.

3 a.m.: the Disraelis @ The Silver Dollar Room

My timing being thrown off, I arrived to catch the last couple songs by UN (whether that's meant as an abbreviation à la the United Nations or an emphatic, all-caps french definite article I don't know). The slightly-goofy synthpop was a bit perpendicular to what I'd been seeing on the night but wasn't unwelcome — as something random to encounter during the festival I feel like I coulda done far worse.

That was tangential, however, to my late-night plans to catch a set from Optical Sounds O.G.'s The Disraelis. This was a band that I adored in their previous incarnation, their alchemy arising from the "delicious tension between Colin Bowers' crystalline guitar lines and Cameron Ingles' opaque murmurs, a collision between heightened rationality and bleary oblivion." Bowers has since taken his guitar sound to The Holiday Crowd, and after a fallow period, Ingles has reconvened a new trio with his bass backed by Calvin Brown and Richie Gibson (both formerly of The Hoa Hoa's and now with B-17). This gives the music a different cast and it's to their credit that instead of trying to replicate Bowers' sound, Gibson is playing to his own strengths, as paisley and psychedelic as the shirt he was wearing.

There were sparks — actual, literal ones — when I first saw this new lineup a couple months ago, but there was still a bit of a tentative feeling of transition. I was quite pleased to see that things felt a bit more settled in now, and the set — dominated by new songs — did a good job of showing where The Disraelis are headed. With a more muscular attack from drums and guitar, Ingles is pushing his vocals a little more, and there was a bit less space for his bass up front, but the heavier sound meant that the new material felt less like a hangover and more the the aftermath — or precipice of — a bad trip, a sentiment sealed with the set-ending blistering attack on the 13th Floor Elevators/Spacemen 3's "Rollercoaster". Well come on, and let it happen to you — you gotta open up your mind and let everything come through.

Listen to a track from this set here.

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