The honeymoon is over kiddos and after a great birthday month it was back to business as usual for Equalizer and darkroom. To Equalizer business means putting on a killer live music showcase for KEXP once per month and not expecting spankings in return every time. This past Thursday August 7th KEXP, Equalizer, The Chicago Reader and 312unes.com threw down hard as they always do with another enviable rock’n roll line up of rising stars featuring Royal Pines, Macon Greyson (in their very first Chicago performance) and Fetch. It was a heavy country-prog/punk hoe-down-show-down with a mash up of styles that couldn’t have worked out better despite the dichotomy of everyone’s respective influences. Sort of like a peanut butter and banana sandwich, I guess... but with music.
Who knew this would turn out to be such a fancy pants party! Golly jeepers, it seemed like nearly the entire staff of Bloodshot Records was there, and even the mysterious local alt-country heart-throb Tom Schraeder made an appearance to see his friends in Fetch, well la-ti-freakin’ da, Tom! Fancy pants aside, I was just happy to finally see someone at darkroom better looking then DJ Mikey Dance Panther... it’s about time. MDP didn’t seem too thrilled about it, but screw that guy -- what does he even do? “Chicago’s finest MP3-J” my ass.
Fetch got things rolling first with an explosive set of jams highlighting big ballsy distorted guitars and Scott “Scooter” Schaefer’s snarling gravely vocals that conjured a mixture of Mike Ness (Social D) and Iggy Pop. Fetch was loud and proud of it and they did a great job of combining my favorite elements of early So-Cal punk with British psychedelic post punk and rootsy Americana. Scott Schaefer is the label manager at Bloodshot Records, and while watching Fetch I felt a little like I was listening to the label’s mission statement in band form if such a thing were to exist. If Scott’s musical sensibilities are manifested accurately in Fetch, then it makes sense that the Bloodshot roster sounds they way that it does with one of his hands on the wheel. Or perhaps, considering the aesthetic of Bloodshot’s roster it’s no wonder that Fetch sounds the way it does... hmm, kind of a chicken or the egg thing. How about this? If Bloodshot Records were a music box full of its various bands, the sum of all of those parts might sound something like Fetch once you turned the crank and mixed ‘em up. That’s a bit of a hyperbolic statement, I realize, but I think anyone who’s read more than one of these entries in the past will realize that’s kind of my thing. At least no one is being compared to Tibetan Circus midgets this time.
All the way from Dallas, Texas, Macon Greyson followed Fetch’s rowdy bar fight of an opening with the perfect remedy. Like a couple of raw steaks on our blacked eyes, Macon Greyson delivered a beefy set of tasty Texas style southern rock. You could tell that these guys had been on tour for a while. They were tight as a drum and locked together like conjoined twins that had been birthed on a roadhouse stage and instantly forced into musical servitude until Patrick Swayze separated and freed them with his martial arts. After an experience like that, I guess they were just like “shit, man, this is all we know how to do, now that we’re out from behind this chicken wire cage let’s go spread our special brand of progressive Southern rock to the world. Thanks, Patrick Swayze!” Armed with nothing more then their axes and an easy Texas charm they set off to follow their dreams and we were just lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them at a stop on their journey last week. I mean, I can’t be certain that’s how things went down but I have a pretty good sense for stuff like this and sometimes you can just tell by looking. So there is your hyperbole, ok!? I was just getting warmed up earlier. If that didn’t help you form an aural image, then try this. The band lists Uncle Tupelo as an influence in their bio and in the press they get a lot of comparisons to Son Volt and Jay Farrar. I’d say that’s fairly accurate: Buddy Huffman’s singing style often evokes Jay Farrar, but where Son Volt tend to get mired in dirgey melodrama Macon Greyson kick it up a notch and deliver a more toe tapping send up of Americana. But really, anything that’s good enough for Swayze is good enough for me.
So, that brings us to Royal Pines. These guys were great... but very hard to explain. Ok, I’ll try... you know how Primus really sucks? Well, imagine if they didn’t suck but were in fact actually good and all of the individual talent that its members apparently have in spades went into creating listenable music. Got it? Ok, now mellow out most the percussive clanging and jarring meter changes that Primus is known for and add some sheets of ‘verbed out guitars and occasionally countrified jangley picking. Now add a dash of The Beatles (trust me, that goes with everything) and you should have it. Does that help at all? No? Crap, I don’t know what to tell you then. Royal Pines are unique. According to their bio, their influences are “Creepy teenagers and weird old men” and they sound like “champagne in the cemetery.” I guess I can agree with those assertions, but I feel like they should also throw something else in there to indicate that they have a great energy on stage and an exhilarating effect on audiences, like... um, “monkeys in a demolition go-kart contest!” You guys, if you’re reading you can use that one, no charge.
Don’t forget to come to the next Equalizer Thursday, September 4th, with:
- Bicycle Tricycle
And as always:
Resident DJ’s Johnny Kesh and Mikey Dance Panther.
photos courtesy of the Equalizer video crew
Mike Turner and his partners at darkroom produce KEXP’S “Equalizer Chicago” a monthly showcase of on the verge Midwestern artists. Mike has consulted in the music industry nationally for 6+ years and currently resides in Chicago as a practicing social critic and sometimes DJ.