Thursday, February 17, 2011

Aunt Martha - The Last Monarchs - Thundertyts -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Feb 16 2011

Thundertyts - We begin with a power trio featuring members of Little Bigheart and Mercies. As should be and is often the case, this band goes in different direction than those two bands do. Like Little Bigheart, there is a throwback sound immediately present. Instead of heavy progressive rock, it is more in a heavy blues rock vein with a touch of sixties psyche (the heavy variety). I immediately hear the Groundhogs type sound with a touch of Steamhammer. Of their influences listed on their page, I think Hot Tuna is also a good comparison, but for some reason I always hear British bands before thinking of the Americans. Anyway, these guys are rocking hard and all three players are energized and laying down the licks, which is essential in hard rocking trios. They throw a few curveballs later in the set. They play some songs with some funkrock/R&B moves of a sort. They even had Albert Haynesworth come up for a guest vocal. Well, actually this guy appeared taller and probably hasn't called his lawyer as much as Albert has the last two weeks. But he did a nice job and it was a nice shift in style that the crowd enjoyed. The crowd started at 25 and moved up to 50-60, so it was a great start to the evening's festivities.

The Last Monarchs - Oh yes, I knew I had seen this band but could not remember the circumstances. But once I saw the drummer I recalled how I enjoyed them but how his drums were at times overwhelming. The line-up is all acoustic which certainly can cause that issue. They have guitar, violin, cello, bass with the lead vocals from the guitarist and another female vocalist assisting. They call their music folk, but you would have to call it folk-rock with the powerful drumming going on. I felt this time, the sound was more balanced with everything coming through bright and clear. The guitar strings rang out nicely and all the bowed strings were clear and interesting. The bass almost sounded electric as it had more strength than before. And that made the rhythm section that much better as the beat kept things moving at a nice clip. More songs are good than not. The additional female voice is good and reminded me of the Incredible String Band's sometime singer, Licorice. And by-the-way, Licorice (McKechnie) has been missing for decades, so if anyone knows where she is, please let me know. But for the Last Monarchs tonight? They delivered a solid set and are a band well worth seeing.

Aunt Martha - This three-piece from New Hampshire offers a slightly different take on folk-rock. They have an acoustic guitar/vocalist with a drummer and a guy who plays a bit more violin than bass and adds some vocals on a couple of songs. The music has a steadiness to it and there is some nice subtle moves within the arrangements. The guitar work is pretty simple with the vocals being more of the showcase. I thought their song "Detroit City" was accomplished in the extreme. It was quite moving and the growing crowd (maybe just shy of 90 by now) seemed to pick up on this one, as I did. Although there was an Americana feeling at times, it felt a little more geographically broad, which is something I favor at least as a nice alternative or a chance to add more original flourishes. Very interesting how you can place the final two bands tonight in the same category and have very distinctive sounds, both being successful. This set capped off a strong evening of music tonight.

Quote of the Night: From the friendly doorman looking at my ID...
"Do you have to go to school tomorrow?"
"School? I don't even have to go to work tomorrow."

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