Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fear of Virginia - The Highballers - The XOs -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jan 13 2011

The XOs - Nothing unlucky so far today for me as I get set for another fine local showcase at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel. About 50 people join me for the opening set tonight from a local four-piece. Just one guitar with an exclusive lead vocalist. Funny how that classic a look is so less common these days. But if you have the chops that these guys have, you don't need extra guitars or lots of reverb drenched vocals. These four guys simply cut loose with heavy blues based rock that had a modern edge and thrust to it with even a couple of power pop and psyche moves disguised in there some where. The first influential band they cite is MC5 and that is descriptive enough, although I kept hearing a Doctor Feelgood sort of riffing that Wilko Johnson nearly invented. It was thicker and more modern here, but it gave me that same unrelenting crunch that moves me nearly every time. The vocals are assured, the bass mobile, and the drumming laid it down with conviction. Tight, powerful and a lot of fun. This is a band to keep tabs on for sure.

The Highballers - The band warned that they would be sounding just a wee bit different than the opener and that was clear enough at the outset. They said they had a low-down sound and that came out as gnarly blues rock--thick and deep with piercing lead guitar runs and dual male/female vocals. They easily handled following the powerful opening set with plenty of volume and pace to keep the house rocking. The second song moved into a psychobilly terrain which was not as fast as say a Gun Club, but had a nice Sadies feel to it. They moved around again within these styles and varied the pace and structure in nice subtle ways. Fans of the really assertive roots bands like the Knitters or the Sadies will eat this music up. There were only a few songs that seemed a bit safe, but this 40 minute set had lots of smart and fun highlights with good guitar interplay, vocal harmonies and solid rhythms. And again, here is another fine local band to keep my eye on. The crowd had doubled by set's end and had a great time as these Friday showcases have been delivering the goods for some time now. The Highballers have a debut album coming out and are at the Jammin Java soon, along with hopefully many more shows.
Fear of Virginia - A couple of guitars, keyboards, bass and drums comprises this local indie rock outfit. The sound is agreeable Friday night rock'n'roll. There is some thrust to it, but I really do not detect much beyond basic expectations and competence. The crowd is really getting into it a lot more than I am, which may be due to some regular fans and plenty of time for lubrication prior to the set. They slowed it down on a song and I finally heard the real individual skill this band can provide. The song was well written and played with great conviction. It is rare when the slower songs move me significantly more than the rockier numbers, but it happened here. Again, the crowd was digging it and it capped off a great night of music. I will reserve full judgment until the next time for the Fear of Virginia.

Quote of the Week: From my favorite futbol column at, as they remind all of us how wild the UK media is...

'Well, I Feel Slightly Bilious' Non-Football Headline Of The Day... 'Angela Merkel has the whip hand in an orgy of austerity' - The Guardian.

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