Sunday, April 29, 2012

Retribution Gospel Choir - The District Lights - Maple -- Red Palace - Apr 28 2012

Maple - Normally I do not try to see a band three times within a few months let alone for the second time in two weeks (see previous review here), but it is nice to get involved with a band's sound as opposed to just enjoying a passing ship in the night. Oh, and it helps to have this band open for a brilliant headliner. But back to Maple. They have their signature two guitar and rhythm section look with added back-up vocals from all and a nice lapsteel set up for the lead guitarist to add some effective slide moves here and there. It is a really good sound that unfortunately did not fully come out tonight as the lead guitar was a bit too quiet. However, the rhythm guitar had a wonderful feral tone I had not heard before. And the slide moves really punched things up tonight. The rhythm section was cooking and their song selection was particularly gutsy with more tough garage rock and less indie stylings. That was an appropriate move as the headliner is a tougher version than their counterpart band, Low. A rainstorm and the early slot on the bill had only about 21-22 people here, but they were treated to a fine set by this fine local band. This steady gigging is doing Maple a favor and it also helps people like me get more comfortable with the fine songs they have in their arsenal. I probably won't have yet another Maple review in a couple of weeks, but you can count on me at another show some time this year.

The District Lights - I cannot find any evidence of seeing this band, although some things look familiar. After their 42 minute set, I think I have been negligent in missing this fine trio. They have an interesting look with a full time vocalist, a guitarist who plays a bit of acoustic and more electric and a violinist who takes a turn or two on keyboard. They also have a touch of computer generated sound, but it is rather light and infrequent. I did find a few songs where drums would have helped, but overall they succeeded with this approach. It was folk based mostly, but veered into psyche territory often, establishing an intriguing foundation for the singer to work atop. He strapped on an acoustic and the two guitars allowed even more intricate musical maneuvering. One jarring moment was when an acoustic guitar started a song with an exact riff from an Opeth song. Of course things went into different terrain when the others joined in, as these guys can take some common themes and present them in a unique and original matter. Oh, and it was more than satisfying tonight as the 50 people in the crowd can attest to.
Retribution Gospel Choir - Above is a photo of this Duluth, Minnesota band on the shores of Lake Superior. I chose this shot as I used to walk these shores long ago as Duluth was my place of birth. I have not been back in over 40 years, but I have Alan Sparhawk and this band (along with Low where he and the bass player here are also essential members) to keep Duluth in mind. Low is an excellent band with its intriguing slower intense songs and vocal work by Sparhawk and his wife who also plays drums. RGC gives Sparhawk another outlet with a more intense rock drummer to push things sonically and psychically into new territories. The drummer is excellent as he plays a basic starting kit but manages creative sounds as well as a strong backbone. That allows guitar and bass to ebb and flow in fascinating patterns that make me think of Dead Meadow and Woven Hand. Sparhawk's vocal work is powerful and spiritually intense in a similar manner to Woven Hand's David Eugene Edwards. The songs are varied from short clean numbers to freaky longer jams and they banged them out with only a couple of breaks. A spicy "Down by the River" is perfectly fitted for the occasion. I would recommend Low in a heartbeat, but they already draw a good crowd. More people should see and hear Low's alter ego, as they balance out the brilliance of Alan Sparhawk's fertile mind.
Quote of the Night: Alan Sparhawk talking a lot about his home town, Duluth... " is the state's center... the gateway to Canada... Does anyone want to hear about Duluth?" Yes, you have made me nostalgic for Lake Superior, agates, and the amazing Aerial Lift Bridge. I shall return some day.

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