Live Review: Monofog, Joshua Novak, Hawks of Paradise and Good Housekeeping at the Larimer Lounge
Good Housekeeping, Hawks of Paradise, Joshua Novak and Monofog
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Better Than: A line-up where all the bands are pretty much the same.
Good Housekeeping opened the proceedings with a cover of “Pink Room” by David Lynch, rendering it more surfy and less menacing than the original. The act went on to perform a great deal of material from its EP including an odd version of “Above the Tide.” While the notes were played properly, the performance came off a little stiff, like studio musicians coming out for a rare live gig. Apparently two of the five members of the band were new, and that definitely had an impact. Nonetheless, this is something the band will eventually outgrow as it gains confidence. The outfit closed out its set of gorgeously lush, loungey, atmospheric pop with a cover of “Disorder” by Joy Division.
Hawks of Paradise was up next and immediately burst into some of the most intense rock-and-roll the Lounge has seen in some time. James Yardley sang like the unlikely son of John Lennon and Bob Dylan, with all the confidence of both. The band's music was a mixture of straight ahead bluesy rock and super-amped psychedelia -- like the Brian Jonestown Massacre shedding any pretense of hipster cool detachment. Sure, we've heard it before, but unlike a lot of other rock bands mining the past for inspiration, the members of Hawks of Paradise are writing their own chapter with a gutsy intensity and every song, whether appropriating rock tropes of yesteryear or not is bursting with an invigorating energy, establishing this band as someone to watch.
Joshua Novak could probably be called a “singer-songwriter” in a technical sense, but so were Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake. While it would be premature to compare Novak to either, like those dead heroes, his songs don’t, for a moment, recall the awkward musical gropings heard in coffee shops or at open mike nights. A lot of people want to be their heroes, but Joshua Novak is just trying to be himself. His rhythm section was so spot on, it allowed him to launch into flights of emotional and musical exuberance. At times, with his gritty intensity, he recalled early PJ Harvey, at others he evoked Jackson Browne, if only Browne wasn't so lame and a lot more spooky. Novak’s voice sounded fantastic. More impressive, though, is the fact that he seems keenly aware that no matter how great your voice happens to be, if the music going along with it isn’t at least as commanding and interesting, the songs fall flat.
Monofog was a little sharper and more aggressive this night than it's been in a long time. While it pains me to say this -- as a long time fan and friend of the band -- but I haven’t been as consistently taken with the groups shows for the past year as I have been way back when. The band seems to have reworked some of its old material, though, and made it immeasurably better. The more keyboard intensive songs sounded darker and more intense than I remember and reminded me a little of Baltimore’s Celebration.
On “Black Lung,” Doug Spencer pulled off some superhuman guitar work in which he looped a part while playing two additional parts simultaneously, which rendered the song impossibly hectic, especially with Hayley Helmericks’ wild-eyed vocalizations. The highlight of the set came near the end when the band performed “Vultures.” The track started out moody and murky, giving Helmericks, a gifted lyricist, the sonic space to inhabit the song like a fell spirit, menacing and powerful.
-- Tom Murphy
Personal Bias: Some of my favorite songwriters are in all four bands.
Random Detail: Eddie Dugan from Moccasin came out of his self-imposed exile in Aurora to make an appearance.
By the Way: James Barone may be the only guy who does sound for Larimer Lounge anymore who really knows how to tweak it so it sounds good in spite of itself. That place needs a sound system make over in a bad way.