Werehouse Brings Trio of Indie Rock
Werehouse brings trio of indie rock
It’s a warm, sticky night in downtown Winston-Salem and Austin Pfeiffer stands on stage performing a sound check for his headlining performance with Goodnight Man. He wears a vintage blue Mickey Mouse ringer tee and a military style hat as he belts out vocals like this were an actual performance. Tonight is a bittersweet night for Pfeiffer. While this is the first performance for Goodnight Man in nearly a year, it will be the last until Sept. 4 and the last with drummer Joe Russell. The members of Goodnight Man all share a house and Russell also acts as Pfeiffer’s manager at Mellow Mushroom. Due to the close quarters, Pfeiffer and Russell decided that in order to preserve the band’s music and their friendship, the two should no longer be in a band together. While the band does not like to identify itself as a Christian band, Pfeiffer notes that a lot of their music and lyrics are inspired by spirituality. “We like to call it church protest music,” Pfeiffer said. “We all met playing music in church together and felt that a lot of ‘church music’ is kind of contrived so we wanted to do something different.” Goodnight Man shares the night with the Jonathan McCarthy Band and Jew(s) and Catholic(s). The crowd consists mainly of indie college students sipping on PBR and family members of the bands identified by black-andwhite checkered wristbands. Jonathan McCarthy takes the stage first. He usually performs solo or with a duo but tonight he enjoys playing with the full band. His sound is a mixture of electronic tracks and tones emanating from his Macbook and alternative rock. McCarthy’s lyrics are pretty basic and to the point, focusing on his wife, daughter and other icons of love. He encourages some participation but elicits little more than head bobs or toe taps from the morose crowd. The set wraps up with a track titled “Farewell,” a song he wrote to memorialize friends he left behind in a move. He has also played the song at funerals. Jew(s) and Catholic(s) pounce the stage next and are filled with an undeniable energy. The duo consists of Eddie Garcia on guitar and vocals and Alanna Meltzer on upright bass. The set is plagued with sound difficulties and the frustration shows. It is questionable whether the poor quality of the set is purely due to bad sound management at the venue or if the band was just having an off night, but the music posted on the Jew(s) and Catholic(s) MySpace page is much clearer and pleasant than the demonstration represented on this night. It should probably also be known that I am not much of an indie rock fan. While I am not crazy about the sound I cannot deny that I am charmed and drawn to Garcia’s energy on stage. He jerks and bounces to the music in true rock-star fashion and leaves the stage dripping with sweat and gasping for air. I do appreciate a musician who works hard for their audience. Goodnight Man steps up a little after 11 p.m. and a crowd of about 30 people surrounds the stage prompting the biggest crowd reaction I’ve seen all night. This band covers all the musical bases, incorporating mandolin, violin, tambourine, tom drum used by the Pfeiffer, xylophone and computer tracks alongside the usual guitar, bass and drums. Pfeiffer has changed outfits since his sound check and now a pinstripe vest and black tie, paired with skintight black jeans and a white belt. He seems to feel every emotion living in his lyrics and his performance is passionate and powerful. Guitarist Philip Pledger is a gifted musician and guides the band through each song. His previous set with Jonathan McCarthy seems to have little effect on his energy for Goodnight Man. An obvious chemistry exists between Pledger and Pfeiffer. Bass player Brian Johnson also returns with Goodnight Man after the McCarthy set and seems a little more energetic than his first appearance.
Each song has a different sound and it is hard to shove the band into specific genre. One second you’ll be reminiscing on the early days of Radiohead and the next you’re lost in a retro-rockabilly country sound.
As the band wraps up its set a little after midnight they play the only slow-tempo song of the night and inspire one teenaged audience member to sit down next to me and write out a song. As each band member walks off stage anxious crowd members and friends rush up to let them know how awesome they are and how great the set was. They graciously listen and hug each fan. “Music is a very selfish business,” Pfeiffer said. “But we want our music to be contributing and not just asking people to come see us.”
Jonathan McCarthy opens the show at the Werehouse on July 10 with guest guitarist Philip Pledger. (photo by Keith T. Barber)