Sunday, May 16, 2010

These United States - The Mother Hips - Middle Distance Runner -- Black Cat - May 15 2010

Middle Distance Runner - This is a good local four-piece that I have seen before. Some two-guitar and keyboards switching with a rhythm section is the core sound. The sound started way too heavy with the bass but Mr. Soundman righted it soon enough. Good vocals and a power-pop pace is the key, but there is a rootsy aspect to their sound and a few numbers really rock out as well. There are some great leads and a 60's garage-pop sound that comes through as well. I would call this a successful blend of many styles and not a jumble of confusion. Kudos to the band for pulling that off. High quality sounds here, pass it on.

The Mother Hips - I purposely try not to research bands before I see them, so the unknown bands come at me fresh and allow me to enjoy the music for what it is, as well as allow me to make comparisons on what I hear and not what the magazines or websites tell me. I had no idea about this band, but they looked veteran enough and from very early on I sensed California all the way. I thought maybe they were a Quicksilver Messenger Service for the 21st century. Perhaps the Drive-by El Caminos? Priuses? What is California anyway...  Well, I was correct in that they are from California like Quicksilver. They aren't quite as jamming, but jam nicely when they choose to. Their songs are excellent and I am also reminded of Crazy Horse, although this band is tighter (who isn't?). They had some rabid fans up front who called them back for an encore even though the between set house music had started. I have seen that happen maybe twice in the last 600 sets I have seen. The encore blew the doors out like a few of their other songs and I am not sure this band can do much wrong. Great set for this veteran band.

[photo by Sarah Law] 
These United States - A six piece band with plenty of guitars and what they mention is a new keyboardist who spends a lot of time on percussion on what likely would be the older songs. The crowd is wired tonight and the club is about half full. Immediately, the band's lead guitars interact in very clever ways as they push the rock portion of this stew of Americana, indie rock and folk rock forward. All three bands are linked by these roughly similar approaches although each had their own voice. There was some pedal steel at times and even a guest musician who was on his own tour nearby was invited in for a couple of tunes where he added some lap steel. The singer was way too happy to be completely sober, but he held it together and avoided sloppiness, so it was a positive. His attitude and the feel good nature of the music was quite refreshing on this Saturday night. Again, a good variety of songs within the set, but always with plenty of momentum to keep the crowd involved and happy.  So a good night of rootsy music for me and a few hundred young folks.

Quote of the Night: from the opener... "Thanks for coming and thanks for coming out early. A lot of people won't come out early and won't listen..."  Simple quote and I've heard many variations before, but it was very much in earnest and something I firmly believe in. I once saw the Jesus Lizard and Nirvana open for Dinosaur Jr. (and unlike much of the crowd, I bought my ticket for Nirvana) and enjoyed the openers more than the headliners. That has happened countless times.

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