Last week Mike Doughty and his band stopped at Gasa Gasa for an absolutely engaging performance. If you’ve followed Doughty’s career, you know that it has been one of peaks and nadirs. The man himself is a musical chameleon with performances running the gamut from solo acoustic to six piece electric ensemble. It was this latter configuration that rolled into Gasa Tuesday. After taking the stage promptly at nine, Doughty and company ripped into a set that consisted mostly of Soul Coughing classics and deep cuts. Doughty has emerged in this incarnation as a seriously excellent band leader who is surrounded with a band capable of wild improvisation within the themes of these original songs. For his part, Doughty directs the proceedings with a carefully orchestrated series of gestures. The songs retain their form but the band gets to swing with Mike through the particulars. There is an urgency to these early songs that was born from the intersection of speed and stagnation—that mid-nineties despair. In this context they are reborn. Despite Doughty’s love/hate relationship with the material, the songs sounded wonderful. This was not a nostalgic cash in or a rote going through the motions. There was a profound moment of joy from the crowd that celebrated the artistry of the performers. I’ve seen Mike a lot over the years from the early days of Soul Coughing forward but this was certainly one of his most resonant moments.
On Tuesday emo punks Joyce Manor will roll into Gasa Gasa in support of their excellent record Cody. This record sees the group diving into new production techniques while retaining the crisp, punchy tone that has defined their work to this point. I was recently able to chat with lead vocalist Barry Johnson about the record and the tour. For this record the band enlisted producer Rob Schnapf to give the proceedings a bit of polish. I asked Johnson about this process, “I think that you write differently when you know you're going to be working with a producer. In your younger days when you can't afford a producer, you don't have any, there's no backup plan. You know what I mean? The songs are as good as the songs are, and then when you have a producer, you're kind of, I feel like maybe there's a tendency to get the songs 80 percent of the way there, and maybe leave certain things. It's like, that's why we have a producer. They'll know what to do with something like that, you know what I mean? I think that we definitely left … We got the songs maybe 90 percent of the way there and left some things open-ended so that Rob could work his magic. It was really cool being able to have that basically fifth member throwing ideas around and he's just super, super talented and a wise person. He has so much experience to draw from that we … He has a lot of great ideas.” He had some specific examples especially on the production of the track “The Last You Heard of Me”. “It's a super repetitive song…I kind of knew the song dragged a little bit, but I was like, oh, that's kind of what's cool about it. It's super repetitive—but he had this idea to throw this E minor at the end of this totally arbitrary part and just make the song less even…Cut a measure here or add a measure or have an abrupt chord change, and it just holds your attention a lot better. That was the most impressive thing I saw him do where he took this repetitive thing and just was able to tweak it slightly and get so much more life out of it.”
Joyce Manor are known for their outstanding live sets. The key to these shows is the extreme energy the band draws from the crowd. “I think that when we first started playing live our sets were 10 to 12 minutes, and then once we had a record and an EP we started trying to play for 15 to18 minutes, and then once we had a couple records, our sets were like 20 or 25 minutes for a while. The last couple tours, like within the last year, now that we have a couple albums, we've really been trying to do as many songs that we like as possible, so we play like 22 songs now, which with talking between songs it ends up being still at 50 minutes, and it's been cool. It's a challenge to keep every minute of that energetic and exciting, but I think that since we've gradually added weight on, we're at the point now where we can do almost an hour-long set at 100 the whole time.” Drop by Gasa Gasa on Tuesday night to see Joyce Manor at full tilt.
Tomorrow at the Circle Bar you can catch an eclectic group of local misfits together in one outrageous show. The lineup consists of Merle Swaggard, Tony Skratchere, Garbage Boy and the premier appearance of Vinyl Tap. There is no way of telling what this group will do but it will definitely be worth your time.
This week Shadow Brother will release their new record Delta Of Time. This record is a long-distance collaboration between Toby Vest, Jake Vest and Jeff Schmidtke. It is interesting to hear how the tone of the work is influenced by the nature of this collaborative process. Worth a listen or two for sure.
To Do This Week
Tomorrow Billy Joel will be at the Smoothie King Center and Kristin Diable will be at the the Maple Leaf with Kettle Black. Saturday check out Naughty Professor at the Blue Nile after the Krewe du Vieux. Monday Dashboard Confessional is at the House of Blues and Tom Worrell will be at the Carver. Tuesday be sure to hit Joyce Manor at Gasa Gasa.
To Listen This Week
- Check out the new Father John Misty track via Youtube
- Excellent Japandroids performance on Colbert via Youtube
- Angel Olsen has a new track via CoS