Saturday, April 07, 2007

singing songs about the weekend

I like my music recommendations to come with a personal touch--thus, my aversion to magazine reviews or even most music blogs, even in the age of downloadable MP3s, MySpace, and the like. Radio helps to a certain extent, but it has built-in shortcomings. So what's a new music junkie to do? Personally, I've come to rely on the word of trusted friends with a long history of music appreciation, many of whom I've met through the Wilco--if you will--community. These enthusiasts are some of the biggest music hounds I've ever met, and I love their dedication to seeking out new, unheralded bands and artists of nearly every genre, usually without reliance on dogma or regard to hipster cache or "buzz band" hype. Of course, it helps that we have relatively similar tastes, though we don't always agree. One area in which they've really opened my ears is with homegrown talent, which is how I made it to the David Vandervelde show this week.

David Vandervelde, the Rickshaw Stop, April 5, 2007: Greg over at captain's dead pimped out David Vandervelde a while ago, and after months of dilly-dallying, I finally got around to listening to the tracks. What I (and probably everyone else) heard: a major nod to T. Rex and the like. That opening track, "Nothin' No," is a scorcher, sounding a little like Wilco's "Kingpin," except without throwaway lyrics and backed by the Spider from Mars. (Some credit should probably go to Jay Bennett, who contributed to this recording.) The rest of the album is less blistering but ultimately more surprising, as it reveals delicate touches among its hot licks, culminating in an enchanting closing instrumental. The vocal similarities to Marc Bolan are undeniable, as well. Overall, this album has snuck up on me in the last few weeks.

David Vandervelde, the Rickshaw Stop, April 5, 2007As it turned out, the live translation had the subtlety of a sledgehammer. David and his two supporting players went for the jugular, forgoing the album's keyboards, bells, and organs in favor of raw, bluesy jams. The guitar solos, in particular, came on heavy and sludgey. If the album brought to mind Electric Warrior and Aladdin Sane, the live performance veered closer to the era's cock rockers. As such, the band got out only six or seven songs in their already truncated opening slot, and in fact, a couple of songs weren't even from the album. But we heard that slamming opening track, as well as the very lovely "Murder in Michigan," so the crowd was exposed to some of the band's range.

I just read the other day that David and crew are slated to open some dates with Spoon later this spring, and it'll be interesting to see how their live show evolves. I'd be up for revisiting this group.

I managed to catch a couple of songs from the first opener of the night, a local guy named Peter Walker and band, who churned out serviceable, hook-laden rock. I also stuck around for Richard Swift, the headliner--who turned out to be really good. My CD budget (and attention span) aren't what they used to be, so I most likely won't seek out the Swift catalog, but the group's full, bouncing tunes provided a lovely backdrop for the night and brought to mind the best singer/songwriters from the '70s.

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