Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Algiers - Sunwolf - Burn to Shine 6 -- Black Cat - Apr 12 2016

by John Miller

Burn to Shine 6 - Burn to Shine is an anthology of short films curated by both Christoph Green and former member of Fugazi, Brendan Canty (the former directing each film in the series). The idea began over a decade ago; the first in the series highlighting Washington DC and since 2004, six have been filmed. Tonight is the third stop of a small six date tour before the sixth film (shot in Atlanta on a sweltering late July day) is released nationally. Each piece begins the same; a group of artists converge on a house destined to be demolished. There is no real narrative to speak of as each band plays one song; a brief interstitial separates them. And each film ends the same; the house is ultimately demolished. These films serve as picture, a brief moment in time, for each respective city’s musical landscape. They act, not only as anthropological pieces, but also eulogies; each film highlighting a vibrant, lively scene shortly before their demise. Before tonight’s festivities, I familiarized myself with the series and watched the Chicago film. It was good; however I didn’t truly appreciate the impact until watching the Atlanta piece tonight. Everything really came together during one of the last shots; Green holds the camera on the teeth of a bulldozer as it slowly stabs this house. He waits for what feels like an impossibly long time until those teeth finally penetrate the structure, then quickly cuts to the home’s insides spilling out. This house was a home just a short moment ago. It’s painful to watch.

Sunwolf - Sunwolf has the dubious task of beginning the musical part of the evening. Locals from DC, this trio also has a Fugazi connection. Sunwolf is built, as I imagine most local bands are, with the pieces of other local bands; singer/songwriter Kalani Tifford recruited both Tom Bunnell from the Felt Letters and Jerry Busher from Fugazi. It's a quick set. Despite the film running a little long, Sunwolf finish their set within half an hour. It's a mix of garage and power pop. The compositions are quick, catchy, and with a more receptive audience, singalongs wouldn't have been out of the question. Following the movie was no easy task; about half the room emptied after its completion and the remaining half seem somewhat distracted from what they just saw. Something is definitely missing from the set and I don't fault Sunwolf. It's tough to follow a piece seeped in nostalgia but they power through it and their music does a good job of trying to lighten up the room again. The last piece is different; they slow things down as the reach the halfway point; quick chords become long, sustaining, whole notes. The drums though continue their steady beat, almost as if they are leading the guitar, a crumb trail back home.
Algiers - The evening ends poetically; despite the good intentions, serving “as a time capsule of that scene on that particular day in that particular city, and as an epitaph for the building the performances take place in”, the Burn to Shine series can be quite depressing. With each film, we witness not only the death of a home but too the death of these very close, amazingly talented communities. As the teeth of the heavy machinery cut into the walls of these homes, Green closes a door. While that particular moment in Atlanta may have died almost a decade ago; Algiers lets us all know that Atlanta still has a lot to offer. Algiers is more rhythmic than anything featured in the Burn to Shine piece this evening. The beats, the constant thud of the drum and the accompanying computer, seep through, and wrap their way around each member. Like the movie, interstitials play a part in Algiers' set. Each piece begins with something out of a Tangerine Dream score. These are quick, progressive pieces that set the table for the songs that follow. It works well and reminds me of Zechs Marquise as well. Algiers, in particular, is a pleasure to watch as the passion for what they are doing is hard to ignore. Usually that passion is most clearly seen in lead vocalist, Franklin James Fisher. It’s worth noting that his melodies are particularly strong. Since the compositions tend to emphasize rhythm, Franklin is often left alone to do the heavy lifting and he does not disappoint.  It's a shame that the room remains sparsely attended. Both bands have put on excellent and varied performances.

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