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1/20/2010

Music > This Little Underground

This Little Underground

 

Wow, Jay Reatard dead at only 29. I sure hope you were at his Back Booth show last month.

The beats

Being both delicious and loaded with value is an accomplishment that would satisfy anyone. But in a clear attempt at supreme awesomeness, Pabst Blue Ribbon sponsors the occasional free concert, the latest being Athens one-man band the Matt Kurz One (Jan. 14, Willís Pub). Kicking with garage, soul and even some MC5-isms, his rock & roll is solid. But the guyís most defining distinction is his jaw-dropping dexterity.

Just detailing the logistics of how this cat works all his instruments could easily eat up all my column space, but Iíll try to keep it short. Going far beyond the standard sing/play guitar/stomp a kick drum one-man format, Kurz works a rig full enough for a four-piece band all by himself. The guitar, as you know, occupies both hands. But his strumming hand also holds a drumstick that works the high hat, toms and cymbal. Thereís a second stick duct-taped to the guitar head that acts as the finger with which he plays the keyboard. Meanwhile, the toe of his right foot works the pedal that kicks the bass drum, while the heel works another that slaps the snare. Finally, his left foot works the fretboard of a flat-lying bass guitar with, yes, his toes. So suffice it to say, this octopus-man is one coordinated fucker.

Besides totally sick efficiency, Kurz also has that vaudevillian showmanship that one-man bands tend to have, slinging hilarious banter that was virtually a comedy act between songs. He may not be the most musically innovative one-man band out there, but he is the most musically complete Iíve seen yet.

One band that could use some of said economy is local act An Introduction to Sunshine (Jan. 16, Back Booth). Their lighthearted, folk-brushed indie pop boasted lots of little details (three guitarists!), but much of it was indiscernible and little of it had measurable live impact. In order for them to matter, they need to simplify. There could be some pleasantness in there, but that canít be ascertained until all the distractions get peeled back.

Opening was new local country band the Lonesome City Travelers. Their repertoire packs lap steel, banjo and accordion, so I should be all over this band, but Iím not. Tentative, unfocused and looser than the town whore, theyíre still too far from where they need to be in order to be counted. Itís quite conceivable that I could be digginí on this band a year from now if they put in the practice, but not now.

Hey, donít feel too bad, young bloods, even the mighty miss the mark sometimes. Take the vaunted RJD2, for example, whose recent performance underscored what a mixed blessing his stylistic adventurousness can be (Jan. 13, the Social). While itís almost always more interesting to see a stage full of people playing live instruments than a solitary turntablist, his pure DJ sets were far more pulse-pounding, musically, than the band segments of his show, which says something about both his considerable turntable skills and his less-than-interesting musicianship.

City and Colour, the solo vehicle for Dallas Green, of Canadian post-hardcore band Alexisonfire, delivered an atmospheric set (Jan. 11, Plaza Theatre). The guy has an evocative and pure voice thatís actually quite nice to hear outside the half-man-half-beast format of Alexisonfire, where itís often a liability. In fact, Greenís solo music has more sophistication and taste than youíd imagine. Still, it paled in comparison to opener Lissie.

This new Fat Possum recording artist is an earthy Midwesterner whose music lovingly mines the roots of her Mississippi childhood. Itís a dusty, mood-thick Southern indie-rock sound informed heavily by genuine folk and blues.

As for Lissieís voice, well, itís built to stun. With a grace and gravitas akin to Neko Caseís, it pours forth with natural movement and looms large with tonal richness. But echoes of Janis Joplinís swagger and Stevie Nicksí free spirit give it more youth and fire. The girl only has an EP under her belt, but take note of her now, because she is a serious newcomer to be reckoned with.

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