Citified wins over the oldtimers

by Jordan Green

The atmosphere at Greensboro’s Flatiron is more working stiff than disaffected hipster around 8 p.m. on Friday. The men are either gray-bearded or, if clean shaven, then with coarse skin. The women, convivial and flirty. Huddled around the horseshoe bar, they’re smoking cigarettes, to a one.

“Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch (I Can’t Help Myself)” by the Four Tops, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” by Alice Cooper and “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen play on the jukebox as a lively game ensues at the pool table and as a young couple briefly waltzes to the sounds of Motown.

A couple of the men grouse in slurred voices about the role of real estate in local politics, giving the impression that they might have been edged out of a deal or two in whose spoils they initially expected to share.

There you have the setting of the local release party for the second CD by Greensboro’s Citified, a band that proudly flies the banner of “Brit/shoegaze,” and claims such decidedly non-proletarian influences as REM, Echo & the Bunnymen and the Cure.

“You want someone to either love it or hate it,” says Chris Jackson, the founder of the band and a resident of Greensboro’s College Hill neighborhood who works for a Burlington company editing audio recordings of motivational speeches. “We got one review where the guy said, “College radio will love this. Listening to it made me want to eat glass.'” He shrugs. “We should put that on our press sheet.”

The album is off to a good start. Released locally by Atlanta-based Eskimo Kiss Records, it’s already ranked No. 2 on WQFS FM at Guilford College, based on number of plays. Following the album’s national release on March 11, Jackson and band are planning a three-month promotional push across the Southeast, mainly comprised of Thursday-Saturday jaunts. The album’s title, ***The Meeting After the Meeting***, alludes to the kind of inside-circle huddle where real business is transacted after the open meeting is held for show with the rank and file. It’s a pill of betrayal and compromise the bitter men at the bar might have had to swallow on occasion.

“This time around I’ve had an easier time booking really great venues in Atlanta and Charlotte,” Jackson says. “You’re in it for the long haul. You’re not looking for overnight success. You’re growing all the time.”

The lights dim around ten after nine, and a tide of hipsters – college radio DJs, small-scale rock promoters, writers, band people, girlfriends – laps against the three sides of the bar. Many of the old-timers jealously guard their seats, and some glance appreciatively at the stage when the bands play.

Fistfight, friends of Citified’s in the indie rock scene, are playing tonight. So is Tin Star, a new band comprised of Winston-Salem singer Jamie Miyares and Joe Garrigan, who’s played drums in innumerable bands and is known to many as the organizer of Greensboro’s annual cover-band show.

As the members of Citified set up their gear following Fistfight’s set, Josh Neas, host of WQFS’ “J’s Indie-Rock Mayhem,” takes the stage to give the band a proper introduction.

“They have a new EP,” he says with genuine enthusiasm. “It’s fantastic. It’s only five dollars. Get it. You can pass it along to your grandchildren. If you’re a cheap bastard and you came in through the back door go up front and pay. I don’t want to give anything away, but I looked at their set list and it includes “Dixie Chicken.'”

Jackson casts Neas a quizzical look. This ain’t no Little Feat tribute act.

The music is a shimmering, hypnotic bath with the bass and drum interlocking in propulsive drone and Jackson’s Rickenbacker chiming tight, melodic couplets over the more gentle screen of Diego Diaz’s rhythm guitar. Jackson sings in a melancholy deadpan worn into a smooth swoon as bass player Franklin Kane adds tender vocal harmonies. A projected film plays over the wall behind drummer Eric Ussery, beginning with images of a school-bus scene that provide an ironic counterpoint to the minimalist aural landscapes conjured by the band members’ instruments.

A couple songs into the set finds two women sitting on the floor in front of the stage on either side of the hall. One aims a small digital camera while the other gazes at the band with a look of weighted sadness. Jackson’s chin is thrust forward to the microphone, caressing it with his voice.

“Where’s the after-party?” he asks after awhile.

“At your house,” replies Miyares.

“No,” Jackson says. “We didn’t clean.”

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