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2008 Wrap-Up (Alex) – Live Performances

Luckily, my editor is on in-between semester break. Otherwise, I’m sure he would be in T.A. mode and grade my late post accordingly…

However, I dragged my feet somewhat deliberately. What’s the point of a 2008 summation if you don’t have at least a little critical distance between current time, and the past year? One doesn’t write a book report until the book is actually finished. A conclusion about a hypothesis can’t be reached until the experiment is actually completed. You don’t say, “Wow, baby…that was some good sex,” until the deal is sealed–unless you’re an ego-tripping moron with a teenager’s maturity level.

January 29, 2008 was my emergence from the world of sub-par print music journalism into the realm of much more serious online music writing. I don’t take credit for the upgrade; that goes solely to Greg Szeto, the music editor at my former publication, and the founder and managing editor of Aural States. I know good coat tails when I seem them, and I was really excited to jump into this venture with Greg. 

The results have been unthinkable, really. Much of the work I’ve felt the best about, and been the most proud of in the past several years has been for Aural States.
For me, 2008 has been a year of amazing music–recorded, live, and starting recently, making it again. To be accurate this journey’s proper beginnings are in the fall of 2007, but isn’t it weird how events usually arise from prior events in sequential order? Event chains, I think they are called.  I have been into music all my life, but 2008 is unique in the fact that I actually, in some small way, took a spot in a broader network of music, and culture-of-music people. I began blogging, and people were actually reading what I wrote.

This status of blogger doesn’t feel quite like it fits yet. Around Baltimore, indie/hipsters types (definitely loaded words, which are commonly mistaken for being synonymous with “music types”) don such close-fitting clothes. Perhaps, feeling as though this is a role I need to grow into is a healthier stance, than having skin-tight clothing restricting, and inhibiting movement (read: critical movement, and development).

Also, clothes being the signifiers that they are designate people into one group. I personally don’t fit into one single group musically, and probably not socially, either. From my understanding (and I think it’s an accurate understanding) the same goes for Aural States. To be clear, this does not mean AS has to be everything musically to fulfill our eclectic mission statement, but we simply need to be who we are, and only who we are.

And who are we? Music geeks: pure, unabashed, genuine music geeks.

My (Highly Subjective) Most Memorable Live Performances of 2008 (in no order, and it’s more than 10)
Read the rest…

Venue Drama: Lo-Fi and the Talking Head

Editorial Note: Aural States takes no side in the Lo-Fi Social Club dispute and fully supports local venues as long as they continue to book high quality shows and provide a positive environment for the live experience of music.  We wish the new management the best of luck in filling the great space with some talented musicians.

So this week has not been a stand-out week for venue logistics and management in Bmore. The Talking Head finds itself rooming with Sonar in their lounge space as they, like so many others, leave behind the venerated but perpetually troubled/turned-over Davis St space. In the coming weeks and months there are plans to establish the venue as a separate entity, including moving the Head’s entire PA system and staff. In addition, there will be an entrance exclusively for the Talking Head in the small alley next to Sonar. Only time will tell how this space sounds and feels relative to the old, reliable Davis St.

The Talking Head isn’t the only venue having issues. Locals know that the venue Lo-Fi Social Club has had some major logistical problems in the past few months including an anemic schedule, little to no promotion for the shows that successfully went off and a number of shows where bands were double-booked or left in the dark, outside a dark and locked Lo-Fi. Now, some light is being shed and heated drama is emerging surrounding the Lo-Fi Social Club owner Neil Freebairn and former employee Peter Goode. Read up: an apology and vague explanation from Neil on Myspace here while Peter goes more on the offensive with a horrific story of bad business practice below (originally posted on Beatbots/Myspace): Read the rest…

Review – Imperial China, Caverns @ Lo-Fi Social Club

DC sent some of its premier music-makers to Baltimore this past Saturday. Imperial China specialize in a decaying, spaced and fuzzed out, tribal brand of post-punk. Some apt comparisons have been thrown about to Battles. I would challenge that they are a sight more intense. They played a ferocious set that was highly percussive. At times having 2 members on drums, their lines created a sense of anticipation and foreboding. Both front-men doubled duty on guitar and bass, switching frequently. This fed into the chaotic feel of the music and was topped by the twitchy guitar and bass work, post-punk flavored and coming down like sheets of rain. The entire set was utterly haunting and senses-smashing. They have some great musical ideas and it will be exciting to see where they take things.

And now, onto Caverns.

What can I say. These guys are 2 for 2 in my book. They absolutely destroyed. Their songwriting possesses perfect control of pacing and packs a lot of guitar, drum and keyboard depth into digestible and cohesive tracks. Guitarist Kevin’s energy was through the roof, frequently thundering down off the stage to romp around the floor amidst the audience mid-song, ax flailing and wailing. He even chased off a pre-set heckler within the first minute of the first song. But when appropriate he pulled back in a stunning showcase of his ability to not only shred but inject serenity and nuance into his playing. “The family that slays together stays together” is probably the best example of this.

Patrick’s keyboard work was lush and immersive, but almost overpowering. In fact, the whole sound was pretty damned deafening (as has been commented on before by Jeff the Taper). But the songs even held up in the din of induced tinnitis. I would have liked more clarity from the guitar in the mix, but nothing could be done on Caverns’ end of this. It was hard to pick out the drums most of the time, but when they came through they seemed on point. The thing I really appreciated this go-around that I overlooked last time with Say Hi was the electronics by Ira. Asking to have all the lights cut out, I realized they lug around their own lighting. And it does a spectacular job of accenting the music and setting the mood, simply with the colors amber and white.

Spectacular set, personal highlight being “This are Syntax”. It was also nice to hear the title track off their newest album, “Silk Scorpion.” Talking to Kevin after the set, he said that Caverns will be in the studio and pre-production for the album for the next month or so, emerging to play again with Imperial China at Velvet Lounge at the beginning of May.

Thanks to both groups for coming up. Good luck to Caverns in the studio. We can’t wait to hear some new material.