#WMS 2012 recap: Bar Standard
Tom Murphy The Swayback performing at Bar Standard during the 2012 Westword Music Showcase.
Every year, for the Westword Music Showcase, we enlist our army of Backbeat wordsmiths to host various stages, and, in addition to their emcee obligations, we ask them to pull double duty (or triple-duty in some cases) and also write up the acts that appear on their individual stages. Tom Murphy hosted the Bar Standard stage. Page down to read his thoughts and see some photos.
Tom Murphy Land Lines performing at Bar Standard during the 2012 Westword Music Showcase.
Land Lines got things started at Bar Standard and provided a perfect counterpoint to the swelter of record temperatures outside. Anna Mascorella, Martina Grbac and Ross Harada built lush compositions out of simple elements to produce a kind of music that was sparse yet created a vibrant flow of introspective moods.
Harada didn't play traditional percussion so much as let his rhythms follow the overall patterning of melody and mood, often using different parts of the kit to create clicks that sometimes drove the song and the interlocking rhythms of Grbac and Mascorella. If the trio's previous band, Matson Jones, was noteworthy, in many ways, Land Lines expands greatly upon what its members have done so well in the past.
Tom Murphy The Morning Clouds performing at Bar Standard during the 2012 Westword Music Showcase.
The Morning Clouds basked in waves of sound that washed in and out alongside lonely melodies with a structure built on adding and pulling back elements to create a gentle, sometimes intense, dynamic. The Morning Clouds came off like a blend of '80s dream pop and Phil Spector's various '60s projects. At times, it was like Jason Pierce writing his version of Americana if he'd never remotely heard country music in his life and only read about it.
The resulting sound was a lush sparkle, teasing out the fluttering motes of sound at the edge of reverberating chords. Toward the end, one of the band's songs was reminiscent of Swell Maps' "Midget Submarine," only slowed down and blissed-out. These guys are experts at making somber, melancholy, downtempo music sound warm.
Tom Murphy Achille Lauro performing at Bar Standard during the 2012 Westword Music Showcase.
Once again, Achille Lauro kept its record of delivering a solid showing of music that seems so smooth and soothing at times that it looks easy. The intertwining sounds from guitar, keyboards and programming swirled around Matt Close's observational and poetic lyrics that tell stories of making it through the labyrinth of expectations and empty concerns of modern life.
"Supernatural Beings," as it often is, was the high point, even though Close's truly evocative synth line seemed to be missing -- Luke Mossman did an alternate take with his own electronics and covered the technical issue nicely without missing a beat. The African and Latin beats courtesy of Ben Mossman seemed especially effective in giving Achille Lauro a bit of groove when locked in with Jon Evans' rich low end.
Tom Murphy Le Divorce performing at Bar Standard during the Westword Music Showcase.
This was Luke James-Erickson's debut with Le Divorce, and he fit in perfectly. You may have seen him around playing as the drummer in the Don'ts and Be Carefuls or his solo doom-dub project, Wind Does. Le Divorce looked like it was having fun with its music.
Kitty Vincent, who engaged in her always charmingly self-effacing, sardonic humor between songs including pausing to tune: "We tune because we care. Take three!" Joe Grobelny, meanwhile, lunged and danced about like a rock star of old. Mike King seemed to hurl bass notes down behind Vincent while mouthing the words to the music -- that's a guy that commits to a project beyond "just" being the bass player.
Tom Murphy Joy Subtraction performing at Bar Standard during the 2012 Westword Music Showcase.
There was a Wretch Like Me sticker on a case Abe Brennan of Joy Subtraction used for his pedals, probably because Brennan's kept the same case since those days. Along with the case, Brennan brings a great deal of the energy he had in his old band. Joy Subtraction had buzzing guitar tone and propulsive rhythms, not unlike if some hardcore kids discovered their own version of post-punk by breaking beyond any strictures of the aesthetic of their older music.
In the middle of the set, the band did a cover of "This Ain't No Picnic" by Minutemen and then did "Dignity Is a Luxury" and said they didn't write it. Perhaps not, it sounded like it could have been written by McClusky. Either way, there was some real force and aggression in the band's performance without the instinct for violence.