Friday, February 17, 2012

review- veronica falls at the empty bottle 2.16.12

Last night seemed pretty fucked from the get-go—Stefanie and I set out for Bite at 7:30 in order to begin our official Valentine’s Day date night. During the drive we both managed to say something that offended the other, such is always the case with outings that carry the weight of special romantic significance. After dinner at Bite we went next door to drink a few beers before the show started only to find my name was not on the will call list. Apparently I’d forgotten to buy tickets for the show back in January while I was busy buying pretty much every piece of wax that I could find still in print by the band. After an hour-long sojourn we ended up back at the door of the Empty Bottle paying the $16 to get in. My main worry during this back-and-forth trip was that the show would sell out before we made it back—this was the type of night it had been shaping up to be, after all. We were able to get in, though, and things began to turn around slowly.

We caught a bit of the first band while we were in the pool room chatting with friends and drinking beers and then headed into the main room to catch Brilliant Colors, who seemed promising. The first song wasn’t bad, but after that we started to notice how little there actually was to discern one song from the next—Dandy Warhols-styled ‘ooooohs’ and ‘lalalas’ in lieu of actual lyrics for choruses and the frontwoman with the Dorothy Hammill haircut didn’t have much of a vocal range to speak of. Their live sound suffered from a laziness that a lot of supposed lo-fi bands fall victim to these days—just buy a cheap guitar and a distortion pedal and there’s your guitar sound—crappy. Plus we were being bumped into by strangers constantly and it was starting to feel like a weekend night show—for some reason my tolerance for being elbowed by strangers took a nosedive during my late twenties and I have a lot of trouble putting up with that aspect of going to shows and accounts for the reasons I usually just stay home (besides the stupid early hours I keep due to my coffee slinging slave job).

Once Veronica Falls were finally onstage stumbling through a seemingly never-ending soundcheck/setup we retreated to one of our favourite spots—the wall next to the ‘no service’ area of the bar. After forty minutes the band overcame a temperamental Fender Twin (it was one of those sketchy reissues) and got things rolling at last. It sounds like the Bottle’s sound system might be on its last legs as the vocals and guitars sounded nice and clean, but the bass drum and bass suffered from a ton of crackling and clipping. Despite this the music was still enjoyable and managed to right itself after a while. The band seemed to really be enjoying themselves, singer Roxanne Clifford in particular, which was contrary to the way I had initially perceived them.

Speaking of perceptions, for a band that is lumped in with the ‘twee’ crowd they have an incredibly muscular sound—it’s amazing what they are able to do with the instruments that they’ve chosen. Two hollow-bodied guitars through Fender Twin Reverb amps with the reverb cranked and the rest was just a question of alternating between fluid melodic runs and chunky chords. They also wrestle brutal tones that are achieved with nothing but pure attack—a method that Sonic Youth used to rely on during their 80’s salad days in lieu of distortion pedals. Clifford and guitarist/vocalist James Hoare can whip up a ruckus together. It’s particularly glorious when they get into a sort of Velvets-y blues murk trance as they did during the extended intro to main set closer ‘Come On Over.’ I also adore their resident Scot Patrick Doyle’s minimal drum setup—beautiful and perfect—a floor tom, snare, tambourine, bass drum and only ONE cymbal that is used incredibly sparingly. Bassist Marion Herbain was the major casualty of sound problems last night, but favors similarly understated lines that match up with the drumming quite nicely.

They played no less than four new songs—‘Bury Me Alive’ (see above) from their Insound Studio Session, ‘My Heart Beats’ which can be heard on the Slumberland Souncloud page and two others. The final of the four was particularly interesting in that it showed the band moving in a different direction from their self-titled debut. It was thick and raucous and hyper-melodic a la Sonic Youth’s shinier moments. In other words, it was really fantastic and shows them mining some material that they haven’t fully explored yet, which is incredibly promising. The band closed the night with a single-song encore (sometimes these can be the best kind) consisting of their beautiful cover of Roky Erickson’s ‘Starry Eyes.’ It was an unexpected treat and left me more satisfied than I could’ve possibly imagined. Their harmonies after the first couple of songs locked into dead-on mode and didn’t let up. They achieved a kind of heavenly harmonic perfection with this encore. A bunch of people left after Brilliant Colors played and more left after ‘Come On Over.’ Suckers.

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