Provence - It's a beautiful day and I am out in Virginia to watch a couple of very young bands with most everyone in high school. So permit me a couple of war stories on why I would do this. My friends and I went to the Jockey Club near Cincinnati many years ago to see Discharge making a rare tour in the US. When we heard a band of 14-18 year olds named Sluggo were playing their first show, we laughed how they would probably blow Discharge off the stage, which of course they went on to do. And many other times at the club, five Kentucky high school students called Squirrel Bait sounded like a big label success. That brings me to Provence, a local area five-piece comprised of 15 and 16 year-olds. They have the usual rhythm section and two guitars with a keyboard playing lead vocalist. I had heard some of their recorded music and found it quite accomplished beyond their years. The good news is that they can bring it out in a live setting as well. The songs are smart with above average vocals and everyone is a competent player from what I can hear. It's a shame the bass is too loud as keyboards suffered a little along with the rhythm guitar. It improved a bit as the set went on. The songs were good indie pop-rock with rhythmic guitar and bass playing to complement the drums. I particularly like one instrumental break they had where the drummer went into a creative Africanesque beat. The lead guitar worked well on top of that for probably the most creative moment of the set. So there were flashes of very good music and it was all decent and easily could fit in with many of the touring bands I come across. They will certainly sharpen some edges and more writing and playing will yield more results, but for now, Provence can play.
Sub-Radio Standard - You know the down-side of this event is that I feel like it is the reverse of the old "kids table" at the fancy holiday dinner. But instead, the kids take over that club and I feel like one of the parents off to the side. I really need a Ray Davies or Joan Baez show, so I can feel young again. But I'm here and listening to another young band. I am thinking they are not much older than Provence (maybe a year further along in high school?) and have the same general indie rock-pop sound. They lean a tad to the mainstream and have some folk moves as the singer plays acoustic guitar on many songs. They mix around with keyboards, multiple guitars and some hand percussion, too. Decent enough pop music mostly, a bit too mainstream for me at times and lacking a little zazz (I am stealing a Simpsons joke here). But they close strongly with a couple of nice rockers, so ultimately I am impressed again with a band wiser than their years. And I will forgive a Beatles cover (Hey Jude) as bands this young can violate the Byron Coley rule on Beatles covers. In fact it made me think that if I had to a cover a song this old when I was 16, I could have chosen Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler's "Stormy Weather". I could not do "Somewhere over the Rainbow" as Arlen had not written that yet. Ah, the timeline games I play... Anyway, the crowd was enthusiastic (for both bands) and it was good to see young bands get a chance to play on a good stage like the Jammin Java.
Quote of the Night: From the Sub-Radio Standard's singer after someone said something to him... "I'm just very small, this is a regular size guitar".