A collection of musically themed musings by Brendan Bush in Burlington, VT

Wrapup: An Horse & Kaki King @ Higher Ground 4/21/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews, Live Shows, New Releases
Written by Brendan
Thursday April 22, 2010

I’m definitely a sucker for advertising and the power of suggestion. So when I saw Higher Ground‘s facebook post about Kaki King and An Horse playing yesterday, I figured why not. I checked them both out on myspace and both had songs that I liked, and it was a bonus that the show started at 7:30 (what’s with Monkey House shows starting so late? I love music, but I’m getting old, and I love my sleep almost as much…).

An Horse was a song or two into their set when I arrived in the Showcase Lounge. There was a decent crowd for a Wednesday night show, and it was pretty diverse (Bassnectar was playing in the Ballroom and sold it out). Apparently Kaki King doesn’t attract the same audience that Erin McKeown does, which is what I was half-expecting (I was one of maybe 5 men at the last McKeown show at HG).

An Horse @ Higher Ground - Burlington, VT

Anyhow, An Horse is a two-person Australian sound machine (Kate Cooper on guitar & vocals, Damon Cox on drums & vocals). They showed flashes of Black Keys, leaving me looking around to see if any other instruments were being played offstage somewhere. Damon was at times a whirlwind, reminding me a bit of Paul Banwatt from Rural Alberta Advantage (who is a freaking maniac with drumsticks). His vocals were also a great addition to the band’s sound.

Kate Cooper’s dry Australian humor and stage banter made her all that more engaging. She is clearly bucking the increasing trend of homogenized/Americanized accents, creating a very unique sound with a fairly heavy Australian accent (“I” sounds like “oi” etc). She has a great singing voice and has written some compelling lyrics.

I love An Horse, and will definitely make it a point to see them again (hopefully headlining so I can hear more). Any two person band that makes that much sound and makes it sound so good is always a big draw.

On to Kaki King, who is as good on the guitar as people say she is. The photo above has her using a technique of slapping, plucking and thumping that I’ve never seen before. She also had some witty stage banter, and was on a mission to not allow her friend who was there taking photos to get a good shot (she kept sticking out her tongue or making ugly faces when the camera was in her face). But I just couldn’t get into her songs. Each time a new song started out I felt like I’d really be into it, but 30 seconds or so in, they all seemed to lose their muster.

I think that maybe an additional vocalist might help beef up what I think was the major factor in my disappointment, which was Kaki’s vocals. It’s not that she’s a bad singer – not at all – but the quality of her vocals just don’t match up with the quality of the accompanying music. I kept thinking that she’d make one hell of a lead guitarist and backup vocalist in someone else’s band (which is why I’m really excited about the record I bought – more below).

I also couldn’t get past whatever plastic newfangled wind instrument was being played along with the drums and guitar. It might be that the sound mix was off, but I didn’t feel like it was actually making any noise. It also made the guy playing it look like he was just writhing around on stage smoking out of some new-age bong. He had a trumpet on the ground next to him, and since I left early, I missed him playing it, but I just kept thinking how much better it would have been if he’d been playing it all along…

Kaki King @ Higher Ground - Burlington, VT

On my way out, I stopped by the merch table and added 3 news albums to this week’s music purchases: “Rearrange Beds” and “Beds Rearranged” EP from An Horse and “Black Pear Tree” EP on vinyl from The Mountain Goats and Kaki King. Both An Horse releases are wonderful, and I highly recommend their LP. I haven’t listen to “Black Pear Tree” yet, but I’m definitely brimming with anticipation at what has the potential to be an amazing collaboration.

Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Strikes and gutters

Filed Under: Live Shows, Random Thought
Written by Brendan
Wednesday April 14, 2010

I often end up in discussion leading up to and after shows at the Higher Ground about the relative values of the music scene in Burlington.

On one hand, I get to stand up front with room to move comfortably at 90% of the shows I go to there. I’ve been to many shows in the Showcase Lounge (the smaller of the two stages) where a band that easily sells out the Black Cat or even 9:30 Club in DC doesn’t even have 50 people in the audience (see Band of Horses, Ra Ra Riot, Rural Alberta Advantage, Princeton…). So there’s a real intimacy that is more difficult to obtain in a bigger city.

I also rarely have to worry about obsessively following the web sites, twitter feeds and facebook profiles of bands I like and venues that are close by. Not that I don’t still do that, but I don’t have to, because even if I stop paying attention for a week or two, there’s still very little chance anything comes up that sells out that quickly.

On the other hand, bands like Band of Horses, Ra Ra Riot and Rural Alberta Advantage have to play to half- to quarter-sold shows. There always seems to be enough really engaged people in the audience at those shows, so the numbers don’t feel as meager as they could; but there’s also definitely something missing. Something like seeing Metric at Metropolis in Montreal amidst a crowd of Canadians who’d driven 3 times as long as we had to get there.

And of course the money for these bands has to be an issue, which makes me all the more gracious to the bands who do choose to make Burlington a stop on their tours (and the labels who support them).

To summarize: I’m glad that I got to stand comfortably, 15 feet from the stage at the Hold Steady show last week. And I’m glad that I didn’t miss them like some poor souls in the many cities they sold out before and continue to since. And I hope they and bands like them continue to come back.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.