Bands: Hawk, Dorian Taj, Brad Peterson, The Wandering Sons
Venue: Double Door
Date: Friday, June 29, 2007
Reviewer: Jocelyn Floyd
My second foray into the world of indie music added to my education by prompting questions. What is an ungalung? What’s that long saxophone that curls up on itself called? And what’s with all the guys in the great hats?
An ungalung (which I must be spelling wrong, because Google brings up a Thai percussion instrument) is apparently a type of pedal-steel guitar. The long saxophone, if my research is correct, is called a contrabass. And I still have no idea what’s up with all the hats, but I like it.
Double Door is a venue supremely suited to live music. Like the Beat Kitchen, there were few chairs – stools lined the bar on one side, a smattering of tables stood on the other. Smack in the center of the room was a staircase leading to a basement, with the lighting booth in front. The sound board was set up along one side of the stage, providing easy access to microphones in case of emergency – and yes, there was one case of a mic going out, which was handled quickly and professionally, with little disruption. I was impressed. The openness of the space worked well, and the single room setup made it feel less like I was a speakeasy in the backroom and more like I was at a concert in a club.
Less impressive, however, was the way background music continued to play as band members tuned their instruments, checked the sound in the monitors and tested their mics. While the process is never a melodious one, the cacophony created by the overlap was rather annoying.
Hawk took the stage first, not that I knew that until they introduced themselves at the end of their set. They offered a standard rock guitar/drum combo, with upbeat music and vocals. It was easy to find yourself tapping, or even bouncing, along to the beat. Their lyrics were less polished, however, offering clichéd phrases in poetry more concerned with rhyme than with the soul of the intent. “You’re so fine / You’re on my mind / You’re so fine / I’m gonna make you mine” has been done before, as has “I saw you girl / walk my way / you stole my breath / I got nothin’ to say”. With some more development in the lyric department, though, their enthusiastic stage presence and playing style offers a range of potential.
Dorian Taj, which followed, claims the genres of “indie / rock / pop”. Another guitar/drum combo, they also added keyboard on a few songs. In their live performance, however, it seemed as though they were attempting a shift into heavy metal, and their music and lyrics were obscured by screaming vocals. If this was their intent and they wish to move into this new genre, then I cannot comment on their quality – it’s not a genre I enjoy, even when it’s done well, and thus I have a hard time distinguishing between the good and the bad.
Their sound online (www.myspace.com/wwwmyspacecomdoriantaj), however, offers fun music with interesting lyrics. “Get used to it” starts with the singer offering a list of things he’s not used to as life changes, followed by a chorus commanding that he ‘get used to it.’ “Come tomorrow” offers a softer look at parting, with all the conflicting emotions involved, as summed up in the chorus line, “I’d love to tell you, I’d like you to stay, ‘cause it’s so hard to say good-bye, good-bye”. I, personally, would be more likely to enjoy a live performance with a tone similar to these offerings.
And now, to go slightly out of order here, the final act of the evening was Brad Peterson. If you check out his site (www.myspace.com/bradpeterson), you’ll immediately see he’s been the recipient of a miracle: he was struck by lightening in 2004, causing a 39-week coma, and yet he survived.
Musically, his songs were standard rock fare for the most part. Except for his final song of the evening, when he brought out a trumpet. In case you didn’t know, I adore the trumpet, even more than any other brass instrument. And he played it well. Clear, pure tones, sharp staccatos contrasted with longer, held notes. It added an almost Mexican mariachi flair to the song. Overall, his vocals were strong, the harmonies smooth, and the instrumentation, complete with aforementioned ungalung, sound.
His lyrics offered a balance between humor and seriousness. He introduced a twenty-year-old song, which he’d recently rediscovered on a cassette under his mother’s couch, by calling it a “melancholy, poignant piece about a dog...written in first person.” And went on to sing that he was “Patty Green’s dog / but she isn’t home / so I sleep in my doghouse alone”. Another song, whose title I do not know (one of the hazards of hearing music for the first time in a live venue), mentioned “keepsakes in the garbage, ‘cause the house is being sold.” Speaking as someone who has moved close to a dozen times (more if we include the sojourns in college dorms), I can attest to the powerful, true poignancy of that image.
And now, back to the third act, The Wandering Sons. One word: Wow. Far from an ordinary guitar and drum rock band, this one. Seven members took the stage, with instruments ranging from keyboards (two) to guitars (two to three) to saxophone (that contrabass I was talking about, plus a smaller straight one) to yes, an accordion. And the vocals were joy to my ear. The instant the lead singer began, I knew: this was a man who could sing. Imagine my joy when his voice was joined by others in perfect harmonies.
Their myspace site (www.myspace.com/thewanderingsons) describes their sound as soul, country and blues, a fairly accurate description of their amalgamated style. Ten varied names represent their influences. And yet, despite the claims of another attendee, who insisted they “borrowed a lot” (implication: copied their style completely) from Jakob Dylan and The Wallflowers, they don’t sound like a straight imitation of anyone.
In addition to their true musical mélange, they had powerful lyrics. Some were simple, yes. In “Change Your Mind” (available to listen on their site), the lead singer repeatedly asks, “Is there any way, darlin’, I can change your mind?” Not the deepest of sentiments, not the most erudite way of phrasing it, and yet, combined with the simple musical backup, I believed him.
In another song, he claims that “These four walls are gonna set you free.” Walls, typically the symbol of constraint and confinement, become the bearer of freedom. A haunting tune backed by understated music, this song stayed in my mind for hours afterwards, a true sign of powerful music.
The Wandering Sons will be playing at the Beat Kitchen on July 19, 2007. If you have the opportunity, I highly encourage you to attend. You won’t regret it!