Weird meets silly at indie show
The boys from Athens are lined up against the wall across from the bar along the hallway that opens into the big room at Two Art Chicks. It’s going to be a noisy convocation of bands from the Carolina-Georgia axis of rock.
David Specht, violinist for the Quiet Hooves, holds a freshly printed schedule for the venue-cum-gallery – which showcases its last hurrah on Nov. 23-24 before it gives way to a pizzeria – and inspects the offerings. He wears a sweatshirt, spectacles, a beard and a look of perpetual enthusiasm.
“This show’s gonna be great,” he says, jabbing his finger at the Oct. 24 date. “We vs. the Shark. They’re neighbors of mine. Where I live is a house-party place. The Hi-Rollers – Jeremy who plays drums with the Hi-Rollers – he played with them. So it’s worked out really well.”
Greensboro’s Hi-Rollers, who traffic in stroke-inducing volume, are on the bill tonight. The other hometown band is the ever more popular Marijuana Wolf, a campy spin-off of Tiger Bear Wolf. And they’ve recruited I Was Totally Destroying It, a Triangle band that – counterintuitive to its name – stakes an opposite position from the Hi-Rollers with tuneful power-pop that features occasional flourishes from the MicroKorg synthesizer courtesy of Rachel Hirsh.
Filling out the bill is Mouser, fellow travelers of the Quiet Hooves, who will journey on to New York to play the CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival. Hello Sir Records label mates Tiger Bear Wolf will join them there.
Such is the incestuous state of the Athens scene with its tentacles in Greensboro. Mouser and the Quiet Hooves share three band members, and the Quiet Hooves’ Specht lives in the house where Mouser practices.
“It’s so saturated with good music,” Specht says. “There’s nights where there’s four bands I want to see. Everybody feeds off each other. ‘Oh, I gotta go practice. I’ve got an hour to eat.'”
Quiet Hooves is fronted by a keyboard player who plays a child piano called the jaymar and sings eccentric and emotive lyrics that recall the gravel-pit operatics of Tom Waits. The band forsakes the electric guitar, leaving more room for idiosyncratic phrasing. Four out of the five band members sport moustaches and all wear sunglasses of varying styles. Their music veers from jazzy lounge songs to manic prog-rock vamps complete with air-raid siren effects.
Mouser’s music is a perfect synthesis of garage rock and free jazz, with elements of ’50s alien B-movie soundtracks and classic punk rock thrown in for good measure. A male guitar player wearing a knee skirt and long, dirty hair speaks in a scarcely discernible squeaky voice and sings in sweet phrases that don’t always use words. His guitar playing is dexterous and soulful, and it anchors a tidal surge of melody and chaos articulated by three horn players. The music runs from soothing to jarring, with the guitar and horns often playing against each other, and the rhythm section acting as deft pivot. Rarely have the players in a band ever seemed so physically integrated with their art.
In comparison, I Was Totally Destroying It sounds rather conventional. The band has a new CD out, and their enthusiasm is palpable. The interlocking parts of the drums, bass and rhythm guitar bring a pummeling effect, like a hurricane punching into the coastline from the Atlantic, and the licks of the lead guitar player skitter across the surface like mercurial spiders. Okay, so they’ve pushed a little bit beyond convention, but the vocals are poppy, sweet and powerful. Altogether it makes for a pleasant listening experience.
In contrast, I was unable to tolerate the Hi-Rollers. The instrumental duo of drummer Jeremy Fountain and guitar player Clay Davidson was so loud that my eardrums were throbbing with pain by the second song. Their music is intentionally challenging, technically demanding and in some primal way geared towards getting your rocks off. As I attended without the protection of ear plugs, I had to leave.
The crowd pleasers were clearly Marijuana Wolf. For various reasons, including their humorous but unapologetic celebration of the joys of getting high, the members play under assumed stage names. The spiritual center of the band is singer LadyBong WayneDoubter, and many of the songs appear to be crafted around kitchen conversations about LadyBong’s heady past in the 1970s and her young cohorts’ warped retrospective of those days.
The songs are mostly structured around the hazy, mellow harmonizing of LadyBong and two acoustic guitar players, MegaDeath Wayne and Stoner Howard, with bass player Bongjour Escargo and drummer 8 Doller filling out the edges.
The acoustic guitars bring to mind Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Teach Your Children” and maybe Axl Rose crooning “Patience,” sure, but the band’s rhythmic dexterity more summons the Violent Femmes, and its juxtaposition of slow stoner grooves and manic outbursts owes a debt to the Dead Milkmen.
Marijuana Wolf’s lyrics and between-song banter run together. Taken out of the context of the experience, they sound dumb, but as an artistic expression of the stoner parlance they’re hilarious.
“8 Doller and Wayne smoked their first joint out of a Post-It note with that glue,” Stoner Howard says introducing a song called “The Perfect Buzz.”
“The glue is what made it perfect,” 8 Doller says. “Any adhesive….”
To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at firstname.lastname@example.org.