Category: Concert Review

Show Review: Naan Violence at Cuckoo’s Nest

DSCN0774Last Wednesday night I found myself watching a sitar player in the small living room of a house called “The Cuckoo’s Next”, and was surprised at the turnout for that rainy night. Though the show was promoted to start at 7pm, of course it didn’t really start until around 9pm, but the time passed fast with friendly conversation and record-listening. I loved how they had balloons on the living room floor just for that night, and how I was surrounded by mostly people talking about music and not just forced small talk. Some of the crowd were people I don’t see out often, and others I would not have expected to see there, but it all meshed well together in the hospitable environment.

The small intimate setting of the living room was ideal for the sitarist’s set. I was intrigued by him starting out playing on an acoustic guitar, because I noticed how he played it differently than the traditional ‘American-style.’ That house was his last stop after touring the past two and a half weeks. It was his second time playing in Birmingham, his first time being at The Firehouse a couple of months ago.

I was surprised that he had only been playing sitar for five years because I thought he was quite good, and he’s taking sitar lessons in India later this year. So cool. He said that he felt very well-received by the Cuckoo crowd, and enjoyed being able to play an all acoustic set for a change.

As for the house itself, it was hard to tell who all lived there, but Milton of Them Natives, who booked the show, stated that he is not planning to utilize that house as an established venue, and it is only the second show that has been booked there. Even though that house probably won’t have many shows in its near future, I thought it was still cool enough to document.

As a side note, Silver Reich, a project Milton is doing with Emanual Ellinas, is playing The Firehouse June 24th, so check that out if you can. 

Hear more of Naan Violence at

Concert Review: Failure at The Masquerade, Atlanta GA 6/7/2014

After 16 years, Failure — Ken Andrews, Greg Edwards, and Kellii Scott — has reunited and is in the middle of their Tree of Stars North America tour, celebrating their full catalog of music with what has been billed as “An Evening with Failure”. This weekend, I had my passion, loyalty, and patience rewarded for sticking with them since a friend introduced me to them back in 2001 with “Stuck on You” on a mix CD he had prepared for me to play on UAB BlazeRadio back when I was hosting a show called Deus Ex Machina under the DJ moniker Kid A. I was joined by a friend and former coworker on the road trip, and I ran into several people from my past (two of which I haven’t seen since I was still in Dredge!) who had come from Gadsden and Tallahassee for the show.


Instead of an opening act, the band prepared a short film that displayed their musical and visual influences over the years. This included footage from The Spy Who Loved Me (if you watch the music video for “Stuck on You”, this makes perfect sense), 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ren & Stimpy (!!! – specifically, it was a clip from the episode “Space Madness” in which Ren succumbs to the crippling isolation of being sequestered to a shuttle…which fits well with “Another Space Song”), and of course the surreal La Planete Sauvage (better known in English as Fantastic Planet!)

As the Fantastic Planet footage was coming to a close, Failure opened with “Another Space Song”, which is fitting as it contains the lyrics “I’m so caught up in the tree of stars falling in my backyard” in reference to the tour moniker Tree of Stars. The full setlist, which you can view on (if you don’t mind spoilers, that is), contains nearly all of Fantastic Planet, half of Magnified, one from their debut album Comfort, and a new song called “The Focus”. Before starting the new song, the band had just come on stage for their encore: the crowd was chanting “ONE MORE SONG!” and Ken answered, “So you want one more song? Nah, fuck that! How about FOUR more?!” to which the Masquerade erupted in applause.

What? A new song, you say? Yes, indeed. And that’s not the only one. A tour exclusive live EP titled Tree of Stars contains live versions of “Let it Drip”, “Frogs”, “Sergeant Politeness”, and “Heliotropic”, as well as studio recording of a new song “Come Crashing”.

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This song is a bit of a departure from the sound I’m used to from Failure, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It feels more pop-oriented, with synths and less dissonance than your standard Failure track. For now, the verdict is “it’s growing on me.” Feel free to check it on Failure’s Bandcamp page.

It gets better: in a May interview with Smells Like Infinite Sadness, Ken revealed that the band is working on a new album that is due out in 2015! Troy Van Leeuwen, while not part of the reunion tour, will be included in this recording.

For you music tech geeks out there, the band’s live setup is 100% amplifier free. They have converted to digital, using Fractal Audio Systems Axe FX II to emulate amplifiers, cabinets, effects pedals, etc. This allows Ken and Greg to quickly switch guitar and bass duties, as they so often did last night, as well as to easily access preset banks of sound settings that so define each individual song. For example, to transition from “Stuck on You” to “Heliotropic”, Ken and Greg swap instruments, Greg begins the droning synth line that opens “Heliotropic”, and Ken pulls up the huge, nasty distortion for one of the heaviest bass riffs of all time. Instead of traditional amplifiers and cabinets, Ken and Greg each have a Sunn Model 15 PA speaker behind them simply to incorporate feedback when appropriate.

As far as live shows go for me, last night’s is matched and/or beaten by only a handful: the two times I’ve seen Radiohead (Hail to the Thief tour in Atlanta – they played Creep!!!, and In Rainbows tour in Indianapolis), Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, and Autolux on tour together in Detroit (which, QOTSA and Autolux at the time included half of Failure’s final lineup: Troy and Greg, respectively), and Sigur Ros in Ann Arbor (Takk… tour, back when they were still playing songs from Agaetis byrjun, which I sorely missed at their BJCC concert).

Happenin Fest 2014 lights up Good People


This past Saturday, Happenin’ Fest rocked Good People Brewery with Holly Waxwing, Raidy and the Erasers, Vacation Club, Natural Child, Jeff the Brotherhood, Holy YouthPlains, Drew Price, Music Band, Jacuzzi Boys and Wray (pictured above). Bands played on the inside and outside stages, great food vendors were around, and good beer was flowing. It was my first time at Good People Brewery and I hope to see more shows there in the future.

Chris McCauley of Holy Youth who put it all together gave us a little background, first saying Happenin’ Records has been around since 2005, while the fest started in 2012. After a break for grad school, Chris decided to “re-energize the label” and in 2011 released the Nightmare Boyzzz “Nuclear Summer” 7″ .

Though McCauley has a soft spot for Huntsville staples Lowe Mill and Vertical House, he moved Happenin Fest back to Birmingham to be closer to his home base in Montevallo. He also told us they were initially going to scale this year’s Fest down, maybe hosting a few bands on a hotel rooftop. Soon after though, Good People reached out and expressed interest in hosting the event. McCauley stated that he and Stefano, a Good People employee, met and the rest fell into place.

The Southside Nitty Gritty DIY fest takes over houses and ears of Glen Iris

Happenin’ Fest Saturday was rad as expected, but last Friday night a lesser known all ages fest in Southside known as the “Nitty Gritty” featured local and touring bands, spread across four houses in the Glen Iris area. Trevor Dane of Hawaii and the Freaky Deakys did a great job of organizing the Nitty Gritty, and all of the host houses, bands, and audience made it complete.
hawaii nitty gritty
(Hawaii live in basement on 1612, photo courtesy Christina Daley)
The first house “1612” started the full evening of music with Them Natives. Despite it being an acoustic set outside, it seemed like the crowd was still feeling it and most people outside at the time actually listened. They are one of my favorite currently active Birmingham bands so of course I was into it, but it was great to see them capture the crowd before sunset. Next at 1612, Hawaii did an improv set in the basement. I love how Hawaii’s shows are never the same set twice. They have a couple songs they play from the demo, but it’s really about putting on a live show. They get a rowdy at certain points and you never know when it’s coming. I feel that energy really engages the crowd, and people who didn’t know them before will remember Hawaii. The last act at 1612 was D. Bramble from Huntsville, who played outside. Local virtuoso Walker Yancey of Hawaii assisted Patrick Bakula during his set by playing the chain and saw percussion. After they closed out 1612, the crowd migrated to Eerie, Indiana for the next two bands.

The first band to play at the second house was Ray Creature, all the way from Bloomington, Indiana. They were a tight two piece which reminded me a little of the Bauhaus feel, and a friend of mine referenced Depeche Mode. Their set was differnent than a lot of what Birmingham locals are used to, encompassing synth keyboard and an electronic drum set. Along those lines, I really dug their set and the music was sexy. I actually told them that later, to which they replied “That’s the point.”

Next was Bad Psychic, also hailing from Bloomington, Indiana. Her solo act looped synth parts as she played bass guitar and sang. I really liked it, especially as someone who is currently working on my own solo material. Some of her sound reminded me of Fever Ray, which in my book is always an awesome comparison. Though the next door neighbor got a little cranky about the noise, Bad Psychic finished her set strong then the crowd made the walk down the street to the next house venue, The Alabama Hotel.

The Alabama Hotel had biscuits and other snacks for sale, showing a little Southern hospitality. The Freaky Deakys (featuring members of the aforementioned Hawaii and Electric Sheep) got the crowd moving with frontman Trevor Dane. It had been years since I’d seen that band active. The last time being in Tuscaloos and even with a different lineup, it was still just as energetic and fun live. Dead Balloons were tight as always, and as much as they practice in that basement it was cool to finally see them play to an audience in their own house.

Down the street, The Southside Lounge closed out the night with the sets of The Steel Sisters, Andy Dale Petty, and local touring legend Dan SartainThe Steel Sisters’ and Andy Dale Petty’s sets were very intimate. The red carpet on the stage and the lighting of the stage gave it this golden glow, which showcased the intimate setting of the basement. Dan Sartain’s set was great. It was a really classic kind of rock show.  There was also a bar already built into one of the side rooms in the basement, which Rolfe of Electric Sheep, aka Tremolo Bill, described as being like the Old West. Across the same room was a corner with two couches and a table — complete with people playing cards — enhancing the Old West saloon feel (even if the alcohol is not flowing from the bar). Last but not least, people sat naked in the jacuzzi together in the bathroom connected to the show room.

Nitty Gritty Friday fun night was closed out with an impromptu set around 3am by The Steel City Jug Slammers. 

House resident David Maclay stated that the vision for The Southside Lounge is for “an emerging scene of local artists to be supported and appreciated by other locals.” He also added that they do not host exclusively acoustic shows. “We just strive for events with a more intimate setting. We support music of all styles.” Tremolo Bill is booking the upcoming Step Showcase there, so stay tuned for future shows at The Southside Lounge.


man man btreeWhere do you start with Man Man for the uninitiated? The boundless energy of their stage show? The quirky (yet thoroughly catchy) melodies? The everything and the kitchen sink instrumentation? How about the fact that it’s just a hell of a lot of fun?

The band’s most recent studio effort, 2013’s On Oni Pond, finds the band in a bit more polished form than on their four previous releases. It’s by no means a radical departure, but it is a poppier one. People that might have been on the fence with them because of the “weirdness” of their earlier releases could latch onto them here much with greater ease. I’d even venture as far as to say that “Head On” could be a radio or video hit in an era that was friendlier to up and coming acts than ours is.

They leaned heavily on material from the new album at their stop at Bottletree in Birmingham on Thursday night. They played the aforementioned “Head On” as well as “Pink Wonton,” “End Boss,” “Loot My Body” and others. Their infectious energy and showmanship even make new songs seem like they’ve been part of the stage show for years and the sold out crowd often sang along as if they were old classics. They also ran through a good chunk of their back catalog including crowd pleasers like “Mister Jung Stuffed” and the song they’re probably best known for, “Engwish Bwudd” which always gets the crowd singing along at full throttle.

Even though they’ve thinned their stage show down over the years (I remember them having a mic’d bike chain on gears once) into what’s more or less traditional instruments at this point, nothing is lost or sacrificed in the name of traveling lighter. Man Man always goes out and gives you every damn ounce of energy they have. Simply put, they just rock their asses off because that’s what they do.

Side Note: Bandleader, keyboardist and singer Honus Honus seemed pretty floored by a fan in Birmingham that showed him a tattoo of lyrics from their song “Ice Dogs.” View it on his Instagram account.