by John Miller
Banter is an important part of any live musical experience. Good banter can do a number of things but ultimately it’s a way to connect with everyone; putting everyone at ease, little laughs between sets; birthing inside jokes with strangers in the moment. But more on that later as the show last night was quite interesting and one in particular that I haven’t seen since beginning writing for this publication.
Ruby Fray - Last night begin with Austin natives, Ruby Fray and as the vocals began to punctuate the music, I could tell that this particular set was going to be good; instead of being something she is suppose to be, the vocalist is performing the way she wants to, a way that in which she is comfortable with, her own style. And for someone so young to have found their voice is a rarity.
“Time for two more? Time for one more? Two more! Okay two more! We will play them really fast!”
This never happened. Ruby Fray began to play the slowest song of the night after getting the okay for two more songs. And that was how the set played out the majority of the night, lots of slow, doom & gloom stuff punctuated by bursts of energy that eventually collapsed again under the aforementioned gloom. I am reminded of X; underneath everything there are regional influences. Some twang occasionally will find itself slipping in and co-mingling with the finger picking, tom, and minor keys.
“I also make soap (awkward pause) for your body”.
As I alluded to earlier, it had been some time since I had seen an opening act like this; one that is difficult to follow.Ultimate Painting - This is a side project of both Jack Cooper and James Hoare, and it was an interesting change of pace from the soft, loud aesthetics of Ruby Fray. Very laid back, Slacker rock at its very best; think Sebadoh, Dinosaur Jr. with some sixties British pop rock thrown in for good measure. There was even some Bob Dylan tonight as well. Though I can’t remember the name of the piece, James Hoare took over the majority of vocal duties in a piece that was reminiscent of Subterranean Homesick Blues; steam of conscience and all.
The very first thing I noticed from tonight’s performance were the guitar solos; their tone was excellent, crisp, and every note was played with purpose. Coupled with the jangly rhythmic backing of James Hoare, Cooper’s solos would sometimes find themselves meandering into jam territory as the pieces would come to an end, helping punctuate that laid back attitude of the song structure.
Ultimate Painting is on tour supporting their second release, Green Lanes as they mix in earlier cuts with newer, both have a seasonal quality, however the latter is warmer. It is no surprise that these songs do feel seasonal in nature as Ultimate Painting could qualify as Romantic in some circles; lots of outside imagery sprinkles the lyrics.
“This is our last song (pause for awkward clap). Ha, ha, nice try. We know you are all busy people.”
A more pointed insult to this unaffected DC crowd couldn’t have been a better way to end the night. Slacker obviously has negative connotations associated with it, however, in this sense, it is what Ultimate Painting seems to be aiming for; this super chill, lazy river aesthetic. Even though we sometimes think of slackers as being unmotivated or lazy these songs are far from it. The song writing is tight and aside from a couple of pieces tonight, quick. Ultimately it is amazing to see a band apply those strong composing skills and apply them to play in a style that seems to contradict their abilities as songwriters.