Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Rock Shows of Note LXXIII

The launch of Fast Company Now has distracted me from Media Diet for the last week-plus, but it hasn't kept me from going out to shows in the evening. Here's a roundup of the last week's worth of live music experiences.

Last night after eating, reading the day's magazines, and taking a disco nap, I braved the possibility of rain to head to TT the Bear's. It's been awhile since I've listened to King Missile, but I've been reminiscing about bands such as They Might Be Giants and the Dead Milkmen lately, so I thought it was high time to catch up with one of their compatriots -- at least in my listening history. I got there a little way into an energetic, extremely funny set by Pittsburgh hip-hop duo Grand Buffet. Featuring Matt and Nate Kukla, who don't appear to be related, the act is a boisterous, humorous stage show limited to two vocalists and electronic beats. I think they'd fit well with Big Digits, and their lyrics were well suited for a show with King Missile. Their on-stage banter and audience antics added a lot to the performance. I'd check them out again.

Next up was Bradford Reed and His Amazing Pencilina, who's also performing with King Missile III, the latest iteration of King Missile. Playing a homemade instrument that combines a guitar and bass in a lap-like setup intended to be played with pencils, Reed played a Lonesome Organist-like one-man band set. His songs were largely spacey pop numbers, and I quite enjoyed "She's a Rocket" and "Voodooman." I was pretty far back from the stage, so I couldn't watch him closely, but it's an interesting gimmick, he gets some rich sounds out of his set up, and his songs were solid.

Then King Missile. On record, they come across as a joke band and novelty act, but on stage, John S. Hall's brain child is equal parts spoken word performance and art rock. Performing as a trio featuring Hall, Reed, and a female bassist, the band played an assortment of newer material -- King Missile's recent records have been self-released or only available at shows -- as well as some of the kitschy hits such as "Detachable Penis" and "Jesus Was Way Cool." But, akin to Grand Buffet, the banter and between-song political and cultural commentary was most impressive. Hall's a smart guy, and King Missile is just one way he expresses his ideas, which aren't to be dismissed in the joke-band context. I was quite surprised the show wasn't better attended.

Last week Thursday I moseyed over to Drugless Douglas' farewell party, also at TT's. Primarily an assortment of local power-pop bands, the highlights of the short sets I witnessed included the Red Telephone's reunion set, Ad Frank's solo keyboard drama rock, and the almost-mod bash pop performances by Dave Aaronoff and the Details and the Pills. Slightly overwhelmed by the number of bands performing -- and I only caught six of the 17 acts -- and embarrassed that I waxed crushy for Paula Kelley, I did have a chance to say goodbye to Douglas before he left town. "I kind of took you for granted," I told the long-running WMFO-FM DJ. "You were always around."

And last week Monday I ventured unwisely to the Choppin' Block in Boston for a stop of the Paper Radio Summer of HTML tour. Featuring Extreme Animals, 8-Bit Construction Set, Beige Programming Ensemble, and/or Bitch Ass Darius, Taketo Shimada, Dr. Doo, Cory Arcangel, Extreme Animals, and DJ Jazzy Jess -- I can't always tell what Paper Radio projects are what -- the night was a hodgepodge barrage of geeky technology-driven music mayhem. Some of the performances were more demonstration than set, and highlights included the Mario Brothers game that had been hacked so the game's sound effects composed the soundtrack music, the Commodore 64 tour of cracked games -- including the work of Crapforce Omega -- and Ben Jones' percussion performance accompanying projected computer animation. Monday night was kind of a train wreck and I was lucky to get home in one piece, but if you get a chance to check out the tour, do so. It's an amazing combination of HTML performance art, computer animation, consumer electronics hacking, and music. Extremely interesting.

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