Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Transition Storm": Johnny Headband at Smalls + "Lively Guests at (a) House Party (of sorts)": The High Strung at the Berkley Front

(Smile Derek, you're on Deep Cutz)


Scattered glimpses...
Both of the documented shows - Johnny Headband's show at Small's (with Office and the Pop Project) and The High Strung's CD Release show at the Berkley Front (Friday, with Matt Jones & The Wrong Numbers) were very well-attended, with a lot of love and excitement pulsing through the room. For The High Strung - it was to celebrate the release of their fifth major record--one produced with David Newfeld--and the acknowledgement that their live shows are often tight...and, since they're on the road often, local appearances are sporadic.

This being singer/guitarist Josh Malerman's birthday, also, meant that there was a lot of Early Time Kentucky Whisky circulating through the crowd like bad, brutal acid - sending many, particularly Josh, on unprecedented tears of bracing, perceived invincibility - brought about by the swirl of drunken joy.

Not as invicible as the crowd thought they were - as apparently a fight broke out a dozen or so feet from the stage. I didn't see it, nor remember it, since I was perched to the side taking a few of these shots...(with Mr. Mike Milo snapping most)... The devil whisky may have lead to a uncharacteristically loose, or zany performance from the characteristically consummate live band, but, considering the birthday and album release, it is more than forgiven : )

I got to Small's about 10pm, thinking I was early, but the populace had already reached "decent" levels in number. Office tore through a fine set, featuring their new line up, with Kip Donlan on bass, Jackie Phillips on drums and Jeremy Freer - singer, pianst and dabbler from other bands such as eponymous soul/pop band Freer and newest baroque-pop-leaning The Juliets, joining on guitar and back up vocals. The central figure, Scott Masson, son of Michigan, remains - whose works from the past 3 or 4 albums were interpretted through more of a rough-hewn shred than the previous Chicago line up - which was heavy on the glitzy, the pretty, the stylistic, -whereas an older song on this night, "So Cruel" recalled something closer to grimier post-hardcore trip - but still catchy as all hell.

The Pop Project brought their usual devestations -in palpable on-stage chemsitry, tightness of presentation, and word, the harmonies. A few new songs came through - I was too fried to remember the titles revealed to me by singer/guitarist Dave Lawson, but it strutted like funk, with the atmospherics of a more jazzier pop.

Johnny Headband strode out to a warm and welcoming crowd. That they hadn't played since last September, and, only one other time in 2008 since...set a mix of celebration and gladness for the future (which holds an forthcoming EP release, and another show...) and nostalgia...I mean, damn...when that funky, buzzy guitar shimmy and hip-shaking beat of "Tell You" dropped, the aura of the room grinned, it was just like old times. At points, bassist/singer Keith lunged himself around the stage, not entirely reckless, but focused, cat-like, as though he knew where he'd land, but still with the boisterousness of releasing long pent up energy. Singer/keyboardist Chad went to town on his instrument with some intracte, coiling melodies gushing out from the synth on some of the newer songs (to which we'll all learn the names soon enough) - and that endearing/fearlessness-mixed-with-what-looks-like-shyness that Chad pulls off in his embrace of the crowd with his singing style, has only sharpened. Now with a full-time guitarist in Pan!c, drummer RGS is freed up to go nuts on the skins. I was just trying to describe it to Josh Malerman...when you actually talk it out to someone, to try to explain Johnny Headband, it's often difficult. You were there. You saw it. You know...
It's escapism, it's endearing, it's theatric, it' it's shirt is also unpredictable.
Phase 3.0 is in effect. We're glad they're back. The next show is in September at the DIY Street Fair - more info:

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