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Disposable Fun, and a Bit More: Them Som’Bitches, March 22 at Bier Stube PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Sunday, 17 March 2013 09:54

Them Som'Bitches

The title of the second track on the Asphalt Plains EP from the Quad Cities-based garage-country band Them Som’Bitches is “D.G.A.F.,” with the first three letters standing for “Don’t Give a.” You can figure out the rest, and it’s about that subtle. For good measure, the phrase turns up in the next song, too.

Despite that symptomatic coarseness, the six songs on Asphalt Plains represent a modest achievement, despair and nihilism delivered with a wink and elevated by consistently engaging performance. Over 20 minutes, the band’s shit-kicking aesthetic unerringly evokes a very particular picture: for me, aimless folks marking time in a trailer on the scrubland, with no other sign of human activity.

That’s nearly explicit in “Buzzard Ridge,” with animal-call samples taking the roles of instruments – and doing it well. I particularly like the owl, which appears to think it’s a background vocalist, and the howling. These fanciful flourishes all over the EP are a bit on-the-nose, but that’s part of their charm; we ain’t talking high art.

Even without the sound effects, though, the punks-doing-country songs suggest a dual nature: the barren beauty of the American Southwest invaded by loners with nothing better to do than drink and shoot stuff.

 
Just Enough Turmoil: Day Joy, March 8 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Saturday, 02 March 2013 13:36

Day Joy

The vibe of Day Joy’s debut album is undoubtedly dreamy. The Florida-based band intends that literally – but not quite in the obvious manner of gentle, mild, peaceful sleep.

Yes, it has cool cello, some warm organ, and spare banjo and guitar in wispy, atmospheric, reverb-heavy arrangements. There are lovely harmonies articulating what Michael Serrin – who founded the band with Peter Michael Perceval III – called “soft-spoken melodies.” It usually moves at an aimless pace toward no clear destination.

But the opening track, with the appropriate title “Animal Noise,” closes with an aggressive cacophony from nature. The next song is “Bone & Bloody,” followed by “Talks of Terror” – which teeters on the edge of a climactic cliff but never leaps off, denying a catharsis that had seemed inevitable. The penultimate song is “Splattered Like Me.”

Sweet dreams might dominate, in other words, but they’re swirled with nightmares.

Day Joy, on its way to South by Southwest later this month, will perform at Rozz-Tox on March 8, and Serrin said in a phone interview that these contradictions were intentional. The tantalizingly titled Go to Sleep, Mess – released in February on Small Plates Records – was crafted as a concept album. “The idea of it was the mental turmoil that you may have when you can’t sleep at night,” he said, also comparing it to “that contrast between that beautiful dream and that terrible nightmare you have right after it.”

 
Stravinsky’s “Rite” of Passage: The Quad City Symphony Performs “The Rite of Spring,” March 9 and 10 PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Frederick Morden   
Thursday, 28 February 2013 14:20

Igor StravinskyWithin seconds of the new ballet’s unusual musical beginning – a solo bassoon – the audience began hissing and making comments. As the music burst into unchanging pitches of repeated rhythmic patterns, the curtain opened with strangely costumed dancers stamping their feet in a pigeon-toed position. No traditional tutus and toe shoes here; they wore long-sleeved dresses, headbands, and cross-laced leggings into moccasin-type shoes.

Members of the audience, thinking they were being mocked, started throwing whatever they could grab at the dancers and orchestra. Other audience members tried to stop, or at least restrain, the angry protesters by beating them with canes, hats, and coats, or shouting them down. The uproar became so loud that the dancers were unable to hear the orchestra. Disgusted by the fracas, the composer left his seat for the backstage wings, where the choreographer was calling out the rhythmic counts for the on-stage dancers.

After roughly 40 of the worst offenders were extricated by ushers and management, order was finally restored midway through the performance, and the remainder of the ballet was presented to an attentive though stunned audience.

At the conclusion, the response was mixed: Some were outraged by the raw music and unconventional choreography, but others gave the performers and composer several curtain calls and were intrigued by how, with his music, Igor Stravinsky could resolve the contradiction between a modern symphony orchestra and scenes of ancient tribal rituals. And it was how he solved the problem that changed music history.

It was May 1913, and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring: Scenes of Pagan Russia was being debuted at the month-old Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. The near-riot was perhaps appropriate for a piece that revolutionized musical thinking, elevated rhythm to its own art form, and stands as arguably the most important composition of the 20th Century. Now, 100 years later, the Quad City Symphony Orchestra will perform The Rite at its March concerts.

 
A Musical Mismatch: The Quad City Symphony Orchestra, February 9 at the Adler Theatre PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Frederick Morden   
Friday, 15 February 2013 13:12

Five by Design

We do silly things for love. This must be one of them.

In what Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith termed a “fun experiment” at his February 7 “Inside the Music” lecture, the Quad City Symphony, for its “Valentine’s Day” Masterworks concerts, replaced classical-music repertoire for half of the program with tunes from the 1940s sung by a five-member swing group. Last year, we got Scheherazade; this year, we got the “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”

The orchestra was the opening act, performing Berlioz’s arrangement of Carl Maria von Weber’s Invitation to the Dance, Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, and Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz” from Swan Lake. During the second half, the orchestra served as backup band for vocal group Five by Design, which performed a variety of old-time pop selections including, among others, “Night & Day,” “Begin the Beguine,” “The Trolley Song,” “Mairzy Doats,” and “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

I enjoy all kinds of music, and symphony orchestras have long attempted to attract new audiences by blending popular and classical music in their Pops concerts. Simply put, the swing music on the February program belonged in a Pops concert, and it diminished the Quad City Symphony's Masterworks series – whose traditional forms and repertoire are my balms against the temporal superficiality of what Mahler called “a garish world.”

The musical mismatch in conception was exacerbated in the February 9 Adler Theatre concert by the artistic disparity between the orchestra and vocal group, both in technical execution and ability to evoke an emotional response. Even judged only in its genre, Five by Design could not match the performance standard of the orchestra.

 
The Art of Sturdy Songs: Dan Hubbard & the Humadors, February 8 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 31 January 2013 05:53

Dan Hubbard & the Humadors

The Web-site bio of Dan Hubbard & the Humadors says the band builds its music on “the classic sounds of Tom Petty, Van Morrison, Neil Young, and Jackson Browne.” That’s a pretty common set of influences, and one that has produced plenty of earnest but dull music in the hands of less-skilled singers/songwriters.

But with Hubbard and his band – playing their first headlining gig in the Quad Cities on February 8 at Rozz-Tox – those forebears mostly hint at an unpretentious, straightforward, gimmick-free, and song-based style. And when the hooks are plentiful and the arrangements are thoughtful and performed with vigor – as they usually are – the guys pull it off.

 
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