Monday, August 24, 2009

Live: Autodrone, Young Boys, Violet Hour

When: 8/13
Where: Public Assembly

It's been a long time since I last heard Autodrone live, mostly because they haven't been playing out a whole lot. I've spoken pretty highly of them in the past - their combination of shoegaze-inspired walls of sound and intricate, aggressive lead guitar is brilliant.

However, at Public Assembly, the band was simply not on their game. Part of this was due to the utter incompetence of the guy running sound. The guitar was way too quiet, the synth overpowering. But the band is to blame for even more of the problems. The tempo was all over the place, with synth rushing and drums dragging. Even the usually impeccable guitarist Jeremy Alisauskas wasn't locking in with the others.

Perhaps the silver lining in the band's weak and sloppy performance was that it gave singer Katherine Kennedy a chance to really carry the show. And this she did. Though she's always a strong singer, I've never heard her so confident and never seen her take so much control of the band - usually Aliksauskas runs the show. This time, amidst the mess of a performance, Kennedy kept the band's focus and never let on that the show was not going well.

The band finished the set with a new song, one that indicates the potential of their next album. The song is, on one level, one of the band's best, with guitar riffs and vocal melodies that could outshine any song on the band's excellent 2008 debut. On the other hand, this new piece goes on about four times as long as it should. I understand the urge to repeat excellent parts over and over, but bands need to learn to trust their audiences not to miss the good stuff the first time around. [MySpace]

Next up was Violet Hour, an electrogaze duo who I've heard a few times now. While not the most original band and probably not destined for any sort of commercial success, Violet Hour are an exceptional live act. The band often invites guest musicians for shows. When they don't (as with this show), they still alter their set and their arrangements, making each concert a completely different experience.

Violet Hour also complements their music with visual creativity, including two vertical lights used for part of the Public Assembly show. While many bands use visuals that distract or even detract from their performance, the effects at this show added to the experience - interesting and evocative but simple enough to keep focus on the music.

As songwriters, Violet Hour are generally unfocused and don't hand their audience their music in bite-sized tracks. I don't want to say all music needs to be song-based, but when it's as meandering as Violet Hour's, it can be awfully hard to concentrate on. However, for music to space out to, you could do a lot worse! The only problems specific to this show were in vocal pitch. I've heard issues with this before and would dare to suggest both members pay more attention to the accuracy of their singing in rehearsal and in performance. [MySpace]

The last band of the night, Young Boys, was new to me. As soon as they took the stage, I realized an unavoidable reference point: Crocodiles. Those of you who follow indie rock hype probably heard of Crocodiles this spring, a duo that (despite their protests to the contrary) generally sounds exactly like the Jesus & Mary Chain. Playing against programmed beats, Crocodiles sing heavily reverbed, British-styled pop songs under a glaze of distortion and feedback. On stage, they do this while sporting sunglasses.

Young Boys do the same thing. Only with more bad-assery. While Crocodiles intentionally leave their music rough around the edges, there is a certain amount of polish under the lo-fi affectations. With the Young Boys, the imperfections are more raw and more genuine. This is aided by the sparsity of their music, a minimalism enhanced further at Public Assembly because the band's preprogrammed beats had been erased. Throwing down drum tracks on the spot left the band's sound skeletal.

Combine this awesomeness with some top-of-the-line songwriting, and you've got a remarkable band that could show up the Crocs any day of the week. Keep an eye on these boys. [MySpace]

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