Weekend music report: Andrew Bird, An Albatross and lots of garage rock
This weekend was like a crash course in just how far you can stretch the work "rock" these days. Friday night, Andrew Bird brought his prim and proper pop to a fitting chamber, the Southern Theatre. The next night, four local garage rock bands kicked it old school. And Sunday, An Albatross showed just how insane a rock show can be.
Bird couldn't have been booked into a more appropriate venue. The Southern, an elegant, classic theatre that was renovated a few years ago, correlated nicely with Bird's modern but timeless pop-rock compositions. Given the refined setting and the dignified nature of Bird's music, the performance felt more like a recital than a rock show, even if, at the peak of their loop-heavy arrangements, Bird and his band certainly rocked. Meanwhile, they put fine chops to tastefully good use, proving that you don't need to frequent the guitar hero circuit to witness virtuosity.
With his guitar hanging on his back, Bird would usually begin songs by picking up his violin and creating a thick, looping wall of sound; then drummer Martin Dosh and bassist Jeremy Ylvisaker would join him in launching the songs, which included much of the new Armchair Apocrypha and an array of older selections. Noticeably missing were two of the best from his last outing, The Mysterious Production of Eggs: "Fake Palindromes" and "A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left."
Those great songs weren't missed too much, though, because Bird and company were spellbinding, if a bit sleepy. He announced after opening song "Imitosis" that the band planned to try some of its more dreamlike numbers in the serene theatre, and they succeeded in laying a thick haze on the room. It was easy to zone out, but that wasn't necessarily all that bad. The effect was a calm, relaxing way to unwind at week's end.
Saturday at Carabar found the Patsys and Magic City celebrating the release of their split 7-inch along with the Grave Blankets and the Beatdowns. All garage rock all night—it's not something I want to live on, but a binge now and again can be quite satisfying.
The Grave Blankets began the night on the darker fringes of the garage, delivering a more sinister take than what followed. I missed most of the set, but I got there in time for "Our Love Is Real," which remains one of the best singles to emerge from Columbus in the past few years. Simple, catchy and rocked the eff out, the track belongs in the garage punk canon.
The Beatdowns followed. This was my first experience with the throwback rockers, and they didn't disappoint. They rocked, they rolled, they got me to sing along. And they covered Herman's Hermits. Also, Mark Wyatt headbangs like no other. As Wes Flexner would say, he is that dude.
For someone who hates so much music, Karen Graves has quite the mediocre band. Not quite sure what draws the local garage rock aesthetes to Magic City, who seem to be coasting by on feminine charm and risk-free songwriting. Their recorded wares are nice enough, if ultimately inconsequential. Perhaps the rudimentary rock would stand up better if the band exhibited a shred of energy on stage. As it stands, I've never heard a band so merely "OK" (punctuated with a half-hearted shrug).
It's a shame I couldn't stay to rinse my ears out with the Patsys, who always the deliver the kind of blistering old-school rock 'n' roll that sets you on fire and gives you chills all at once. Watching Jeff Regensburger drum is one of the exquisite pleasures in Columbus, his murderous bludgeon powering one of the city's loudest, proudest rock engines. Though I can't say definitively, they almost surely were the class of the night.
Back to Carabar Sunday for An Albatross. I have complained about late starts on weeknights at Carabar, so this show's timely kickoff burned me; I missed locals Brainbow and Hills. What I did see was one of the great spazz bands around. With guitar, bass, drums and one out-of-control organ, the band rattled off furious bursts of energy, singer Eddie B. Gieda shrieking his lungs out, but tastefully, if you can believe that. The band broke from its enraged fits to engage in some circus-psych jam sessions, making more palettable a genre that is not exactly my cup of tea. And after a broken amp caused a long intermission and a minor exodus of fans, An Albatross came back even stronger for the "second set." Theirs is a spectacle I can get behind, even if it doesn't plaster a look of glee on my face.