We begin Day 1 of the 29 Shows of February which I am going to affectionately call 29 DAYS LATER.
Bleached - They had a really nice crunchy garage sound working right from the start that reminded me of a refined Cramps. The female vocals went off in a different direction--heavily reverbed, but not into outer space. There was plenty of guts and passion on the line without going too over the top. Some of the chords reminded me of Wire's Pink Flag crossed with 999. I could say catchy, but I think I just covered that. Vocals seemed a bit overwhelming in the PA, but that may just be the particular timber affecting my hearing (there may be some science to this as some spoken and sung voices seem to hit my brain harder than they should). The spell was wearing off a bit as the songs started sounding a bit like an LP of a pub rock band (say the Count Bishops) played at 45rpm. But they closed with a really nice number that had some good guitar moves. There was a lot going on in just 22 minutes. They have a great foundation. If they can add some variety, they will be able to energize a crowd for a nice long set.
Porcelain Raft - A Brooklyn duo is next with drums and a do-the-rest guitar/electronica/vocalist. This is... nice. That is rather faint hearted praise, but lush pop sounds with light airy instruments tend to take a while before I can fully get into them (if ever). So things begin rather slowly. Things started clicking a lot better by the 4th song as I was getting more into the style and more importantly, the song had a really nice murky loop working the low end allowing his higher register vocals to soar higher. After that, there were more examples of good songwriting. But I am kind of a tough sell here and was left with respect for the music, but wanting more out of it.
Smith Westerns - This five-piece comes from another one of my former homes, Chicago. They have 2-3 guitars working with one guy adding keyboards when not on the guitar (sometimes both during a song). If the diversity of the two opening bands were on a mathematical axis, this band may be about at the midpoint between. They had a dreamy pop style for the most part, but they added some nice edgy guitar work along with a solid rhythm section. I did struggle a lot with the sound, especially early on. There was quite a bit of reverb in the vocals (which seemed good enough to not need that much) and some compression in the guitar sound (even some odd Bobb Trimble like phasing). I felt like I was hearing the air around the sound as much as the sound itself. They worked in a bit more jangle and power into the sound as the set went on and I was pulled closer to what they were doing. And that was a lot of interesting pop music that was personal, yet classic. A few songs reminded me of what Phil Spector probably wanted the Ramones to sound like on "End of the Century" if Dee Dee and Johnny had been more cooperative (or if Spector could have replaced them with people playing the way he wanted them to). The crowd filled about 70% of the club with a few of them dancing, a few more swaying and most accepting the set for the most part. There was not a lot of roaring desire for an encore, but a couple of spurts of desire got the band up for a couple more closing out a 55-minute set. I enjoyed their individuality, but it did not convert me into a major fan.
Quote of the Night: While standing by the soundboard, I was watching the guitarist for Porcelain Raft work with the Black Cat sound man in trying to fix something on stage. They came running back to the soundboard where the band's sound man was intensely fiddling with one of those newer computerized boards. In reply to their question.... "Excuse me, I'm checking my email. One second..."