Been too busy with work to get to the computer, so to tide you popkids over, here are some notes I made on my phone from a show the other night, haste-typed & unedited.
12/4/12 Tiger House and Fanno Creek at Bunk Bar
A sparse but ultra-hip crowd greeted me upon entry to this free Bunk show. I’ve seen many shows here, but this was far & away the crowd that would seem the most at home in Williamsburg: beards & beanies, funky old dresses & cleverly-styled hair, everyone over 30 cast into some Logan’s Run fate, but no one below 25 either. A merch table had a set-up w/ tapes, CDs & stickers saying “Free…take stuff. But play it!”
I just missed the first band, but the second one, Fanno Creek noodled a bit, gear all set up & soundchecked, just waiting for time to start. This down time led my mind to wander towards the mural above the stage which called to mind Tom Joad, specifically the one from the Springsteen song , rather than directly from the novel.
1st song opens w/ an a capella sing along that is augmented eventually by an acoustic guitar mic-ed up; then a power pop start w/ driving drums, sorta folk-punk, in the best of what that means instead of the pejorative that term usually is, since “folk” to me is the worst of all four-letter F words, since that means (DO NOT CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING LINK!) this sort of thing.
Whatever! I warned you. You did it to yourself. I didn’t even listen, just added the link w/ the sound off. Hope if you ignored my warning, you had the luck and/or good sense for your computer to do the same.
There’s something reminiscent of a 1950’s suburb in this trotting 2nd song, that changes on the fly into a gallop. Great harmonies. 2 acoustic guitars, a bass & some drums imbue this hooky & pop-y songwriting team with a real punk energy.
Later in the set the songs take a more subdued quality; “there’s nothing keeping me” sung so sweetly over a lilting melody before a break & the drums thunder in, really giving an early fall outdoors at twilight kind of feel, walking along the sidewalk, past blue-painted Craftsmans with a slight breeze & the image of a crush fueling your brisk steps…
The drums then take a poly-rhythmic break which creates a real sense of busyness to such an otherwise simple tune.
The next song featured a sung set of lyrics over a winding vocal counterpoint, like rapid footsteps on a bridge over a slow-flowing river. Then the two vocalists harmonize “whoa”s. and it’s as if everything has run to the sea & the pedestrian has been swept up into the sea, tossed about & turning underwater, a sense of needing to be alarmed, but feeling strangely calm & comfortable, certain that this tossing & turning in the waves is just a dance & a pleasant & not unfamiliar one, despite its novelty.
This is pop in all its modern glory, feeling good & strutting w/out arrogance, casting off sadness & frustration like coats at a holiday party. This lingering feeling that if the music were a car cut off in traffic, rather than cuss up a storm or shake a fist in anger (or worse, as I’ll leave to your imagination), they might just say, “guess they really had someplace they really had to be” & then never think about it again. This is music of untroubled sunrises & being old enough to know the value of restraint, but young enough to really be all there and in the moment, not aching with memories & regrets. This is music of an unhurried enthusiasm.
Most songs have been free of any kind of guitar wankery, & this slow & droney number I’m listening to now has a bit of Pink Floydyness to it, which I find myself far more willing to forgive than I might otherwise. Then there is a tom drum rumble & we’re off to a sprinting gallop as the vocals plod along over this beat with an unhurriedness almost as if to mock the frenzy of the drums. It’s this antagonism between the spirited & the relaxed that seems to me to be at the heart of Fanno Creek’s sound, which could perhaps be summed up in the closing lyrics to their last song:
“Don’t go away don’t go away don’t go away don’t stay”
Next up were Tiger House.
Upon taking the stage, it became very clear that Tiger House is a VERY different band than what preceded. “Come on, get up close here! None of this fucking Portland shit! Let’s get fucking drunk.” And then they broke into a very disco-beat song, sedate but w/ high energy. There’s no other way to put it, the opening song is straight up disco punk, with falsetto Gibb singing and the whole nine. Strong funky bass runs & high-hat half time disco beats. Some guy named Justin (pretty sure it’s the awesomely friendly door guy with the ridiculously long beard, but I could be wrong. Anyway, that guy is really great, whoever he is) was thanked more times than there were people in the room & there were not an insignificant amount for 11:15 on a Tuesday night. The band is comprised of 4, looks like lead singer/guitar, guit/keys, bass & drums & they coax a LOT of music out of that loose cabal.
There’s a bit of an extended tuning break so I’ll take this opportunity to reluctantly admit that I actually thought Fanno Creek might have been the headliners & when I found out they weren’t I decided to get some food. There was a group of people in front of me, all way stylishly dressed & a guy came up to join them & hugs were given out. I tried to keep a respectful place in line but one of the guys turned to me, “hey, there you are!” And gave me a hug. I tried to show good cheer without committing to the hug & the guy says to me, “Hey, I was kinda just trying to half hug you there.”
“Yeah, you’ll have to forgive me, I’m really not much of a hugger”
“Yeah…I was getting that. You were just giving off this whole ‘I’m not a hugger’ thing. Kinda hard not to notice.”
“I really do mean nothing by it. I dig your positivity.”
I left them to their catching up & placed my order.
An incredibly nice & fashionably dressed woman came over as I was eating my meal & introduced herself as Kelsey (sp?). I awkwardly offered a greeting, a bit surprised by the approach, but in a pleasant way. She offered me a CD, letting me know that this was the band that was playing, (Tiger House) as they feverishly ran through an upbeat number, with super-high energy & trading vocals, the disco long thrown aside for pure power pop, heavy on the power. These good-natured drunks thanked Justin yet again and tore into another tune as I struggled to understand what Kelsey was saying to me since I had my earplugs in & thought that I was only going to be sitting down to a meal & a show.
This keyboard led track has a nice late night driving feel to it, not like the lonely late night driving music alone in the city that Tiny Fireflies (OMG this is the best song EVAR & has my heart under lock & key for life) can so effortless conjure with their bedroom pop, but that sense of going to the last party of the night. You no longer have a full head of steam, but there’s still some energy & good times to be had, so you storm through the door a bit sloppily, a bit too familiar, but everyone is in great cheer, it is December and these Saturday nights are times when everyone is a friend, some you have merely yet to make the acquaintance of.
Closing song had some great rock screams from the lead singer who was frequently referring to his current state of debilitation as if he were in confession & the only way to sin was to be drunk & he had committed Every. Conceivable. Variety. That said, the sound of the group belied any claims to true intoxication, although the constant declarations of love to Justin did seem to offer evidence to the contrary.