Sunday, June 26, 2011

Constant Alarm - Amateur Hour - The Echo Wall -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - June 25 2011

Before I start in on the bands, I would like to highlight one of my "audibles". I sometimes change my mind on which club to go to en route to a show or just a little before leaving. I had the choice of seeing Dinosaur Jr., Henry Rollins interviewing Dinosaur Jr. and Off! for $30 or seeing three local bands for $10. I tried to figure out the positives for the Dinosaur Jr. show. Yes, the two bands are both good and worth seeing. But, I just saw Off! a month ago and their 20-25 minute set does not change at this early point in their career. Dino Jr. is an act I have seen three times since their reunion and once in the olden days. They are good, but I think I have seen them enough. And a live interview with them? Ummm, they are about the quietest set of people since Syd Barrett passed. And they were almost as dysfunctional, although they've matured. Lou Barlow is engaging, but still I've heard from him and read about these guys plenty. And Henry Rollins with a microphone is about as over-rated as they come, unless he has Black Flag or SOA behind him. Of course, his energy is good, but there are so many more people I would rather listen to. So, it was off to check out the local fare that this fine area has to offer...

The Echo Wall - I have seen this band once or twice and have enjoyed them. Nothing has changed tonight and they may even be a bit better. They have a rhythm section, keyboardist, percussion-ukulele-backing vocalist and a guy with acoustic guitar and lead vocals. I am guessing he is the main songwriter and his folkish Americana songs could come to life nicely as a solo act. However I am happy he has a full band with him, as the other players offer enough nice touches to bring additional strength and feeling to the songs. I like the finger picking on the guitar and the keyboards fit in between the notes in interesting ways at times. The last cut had a bit more pace to it, but stayed in character. Good set by a band that is worth a look beyond the 25-35 people tonight.

Amateur Hour - I have seen this band quite recently at the Red Palace. They seemed kind of new and in need of some work. Well, I do not know how hard they've worked in these few weeks, but they seemed like a new band tonight. They feature two guitars, bass and a singing drummer. The sound was excellent as the rhythm was solid and the guitars were rocking. There was more urgency and confidence that I did not detect last time out. And a few of the songs really had some quality to them and some nice guitar lead sections as well. There were lesser moments, so more songwriting and playing out will only help, as it is for most every young band. But they showed that they can put on a viable and enjoyable 40-minute set.
Constant Alarm - I heard a cut from this band and they reminded me of one of my favorites from the other coast, Lovelikefire. They line up with female vocals, guitar, bass and drums. They did have some of the earlier Lovelikefire sound with good pop rock hooks and strong vocals, but they ultimately went toward a more straightforward rocking style. The pace was somewhere between Bad Company and Bad Brains which tells readers absolutely nothing. But I kept coming back to Bad Company far too often as I was listening to them as the pace and style was more in this direction. Fortunately, they varied the songs a bit to get me off this train of thought, but I still think there is room for improvement here. They have good vocal work between the singer and bass player and everyone plays competently if not quite well. I just did not see the creative spark or leadership that really brought these decent songs to life. Toward the end of the set, the guitarist began soloing a bit more which helped but still more was needed. One song had a Banshees style sound that perhaps showed a direction to move toward? Again more work could pay real dividends here. They have some great raw material and are fun to listen to, but I will be very curious to see where they are in six months. I am optimistic AND I see from their web site that they say they have a second guitarist. Whether he missed this night or they are down to a four-piece, I think adding a member may pay dividends.

Plug of the Night: If you are not already a reader of The Big Takeover, I would recommend it over any other music magazine. They have an improved on-line presence and a radio show as well, so there are ways to sample them before trying the old fashioned fanzine. Jack Rabid and his cohorts do the best interviews in the business and you can tell the band has fun talking to them, unlike many of the mainstream magazines. Oh, and you can get all you need to know about the Dinosaur Jr. show in Philadelphia.

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