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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The last few years it has been my pleasure to catch some really great bands at the annual Canada BBQ and this year was possibly the best line up yet. When I arrived Daniel Romano was on stage and throwing down some pretty fine twanging country music. His band went through the country paces very well, playing very smooth and traditional. Romano's vocals are great, his voice smooth and strong, and his melodies are very catchy and beautiful. His songs eveoke the same kind of feeling as The Gourds' “Palace Of Gold,” country without being overly country. Like many Canadian artists his music is fantastic, but a little bit on the safe side.

Hey Ocean plays nice, uptempo indie rock laced with tons of syncopation and groove. Lead vocals are handled by a girl, but group vocals take over much of the time as is the thing of the day. The band sings together wonderfully, blending perfectly for great harmonies and lovely “ooh oohs.” The music recalls a lot of 1980s pop music, which is not a bad thing.

Hannah Georgas was next up,and if you have not yet heard about this little sensation, I'm certain you will soon. She brings an amazing voice and weirdly catchy songs to the table, but is obviously a product of the times. Georgas is an amazing, confident, characterized vocalist who sings powerfully over beat-heavy, semi-ambient pop music. Her band is tight and powerful, synth-heavy, and filled with groove and a tremendous amount of atmosphere for four kids and a machine. The music is dynamic, but not overly so. If you love Florence And The Machine, you will adore Hannah Georgas. Honestly. And while she is powerful and fun, her music stays on the safe side of things... perhaps Neil Young is the only Canadian that doesn't play it safe.

Taking the fast train to non-safe, I found myself in a small club listening to Lubbock, Texas' The Beaumonts. These old dudes throw down some seriously irreverent and down-right cheeky twanging honky-tonk, like Hank Jr. might have done if he had absolutely no filters. The room was filled with intense energy, electric from the stage, and tons and tons of Telecaster twang. The words were rude, filled with bad words and tasteless, raw subject matter, and they were accompanied by some of the tastiest guitar playing and the most solid rhythm section I've seen in years. These dudes can play some country music, Bakersfield style, rock solid. Then everything went a little funny when the guitar players dropped their tuning to D and proceeded to bash out a slaughtering, distortion-heavy heavy metal mayhem akin to Megadeth. Hell, it could have been a Megadeth song for all I know, but with cowboy hats.

Austin's The Hickoids have been purveyors of ridiculously awesome tasteless rock for decades, and it's nice to see that their prowess has not been reduced by the years. Their brand of honky-tonk garage rock is timeless and their comfort with each other and the band is supremely evident when things fall apart perfectly and then somehow coalesce back into a song effortlessly. With The Hickoids you never fail to get brilliant breakdowns, stories of old Austin and the surrounding country, doses of punk rock and country grit, and an all out assault on your senses. But you know what they have that so many bands lack these days, and especially today? That one essential rock'n'roll ingredient: Danger. Rude, cool danger. Their set was followed by Austin's Churchwood, who play a slightly angular, jaggedly smooth, form of prog rock that does not assault the ears, but somehow manages to edge up the body while soothing the mind with the lyrically fine statements... unfortunately, I could not stay for anything other than a couple of tunes as I really wanted to make another show.

Jeff Klein and his band My Jerusalem are a hot ticket right now, not only on the Austin scene, but the band is fast gaining national notoriety for its live show and Klein's brilliant songwriting. Their recent touring has obviously paid off in their live show; the band is tight! Reducing the touring company down to a lean 4-piece does nothing to diminish the impact of the songs and really streamlines the live set and leaves melodies up front, showcasing the strength of the songs themselves. The band's vocal harmonies are perfect, tight and precise, while Klein's voice is more powerful than ever. The songs are well constructed, and the use of horns to offset melodies at certain times is wonderful, and the rhythms are solid and interesting and dynamic. The only downside to the set was the soundguy doing a very poor job of mixing the room, and cutting the vocal mikes before the band's set was finished. However, this did not slow them down, and the band blasted through their last song with Klein singing out over the room without the aid of the PA system. Awesome.

My last stop for the night was to visit British band Story Books. In the grandest of British traditions, this band takes fairly minimalistic songs and transforms them into churning masses of sound. The songs turn out to be wide and deep and beautiful, resonating with layers of lush, ephemeral guitar and offset by slight keyboards and perfectly placed drumming. The vocals move in and out of distinction, sometimes taking a traditional rock lead place and other times moving back into the mix to blend with instruments as part of the lush aural landscape.

-David DeVoe


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