Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sebadoh and CACAW, caught live

Last Friday's Sebadoh show at Club Cafe sold out. I don't know if I can take any responsibility for that, but it was sold out the day that my City Paper article hit the street. So maybe.

Waiting outside for my friend Megan to show up, I could hear openers Octa#Grape rocking out inside. The bass lines reminded me of Sebadoh, with those thunderous, low end double stops anchoring the music. When I got inside, I understood why: Jake Loewenstein from Sebadoh was the man thundering away on the bass. The band played a brand of knotty, twisted indie rock that had a little bit of math and a lot of punk rock fueling them. There was some Sonic Youth-style breaks thrown in. Meanwhile guitarist/main singer Glen Galloway played a Silvertone guitar with no strap, holding it close to his chin, which reminds both of Gerry Marsden (of British Invasion footnote Gerry & the Pacemakers) and Don Cab/Storm & Stress guitarist Ian Williams (who, by sheer coincidence, I ran into earlier in the week since he is back in Pittsburgh temporarily).

Anyhow, it turns out Galloway and one other member (I forget which one) used to play in '90s indie rock band Truman's Water, who I saw on at least one occasion. Octa#grape put on a solid show, sweating profusely and churning out a heavy set that showed their own thing on.

While they were playing, Lou Barlow was in the back of the room working the merchandise table. It was a noble deed because he was likely deluged by gushing fans ready to pump his arm (myself included). For their new songs on his, Barlow played a four-string tenor guitar, which explains the unique sound of the band. One thing that the new album, Defend Yourself, reminded me was that Sebadoh rarely goes for the simple power chord approach in their songs, where guitar and bass copy each other. The guitar fleshes out the bass, which often doubles as a rhythm guitar when Loewenstein hits those double stops. And if they end up doing the post-hardcore attack in a song, it's usually one of Loewenstein's songs, which avoids going for the simple approach anyway.

This show (last Friday, Nov. 15) was the last night of their tour and the band - filled out by drummer Bob D'Amico - was cohesive and comfortable onstage. Barlow admitted his childhood love of Fred Rogers, wondering if he ever visited Club Cafe back when it was a jazz club. (He probably didn't because that was back in late '80s/early '90s.) Later he started singing jingles from '70s commercials for baby dolls (Baby Alive, Rub-a-dub Dolly). He also drew snickers from some audience members when he admitted that he was flying back home the next morning because "I love my children more [than Pittsburgh]." Screw all the hipsters who can't relate.

But on to the music. The set drew heavily from their previous work, with about half of Defend Yourself showing up in between. I opted to sit at the bar, where my view was obstructed, save for the heads of the singers. But the sound was really good and they were full of energy. Early on they seemed to be getting used to the sound but after awhile they ready to take up a notch, or three. It would have been cool to hear "The Freed Pig" or my favorite Loewenstein song from the new album, "Can't Depend," but there was plenty to sink the teeth into.

Something told me to take my earplugs with me to Thunderbird Cafe on Sunday and I was glad I did. CACAW was playing that night, a New York trio lead by keyboardist Landon Knoblock, with alto saxophonist Oscar Noriega (also a member of Tim Berne's Snake Oil) and drummer Jeff Davis. 

Knoblock has a plethora of keyboards, including some sort of electric piano, synth and some bass keyboard that was so loud that I was sure would vibrate my glass off of the table. Their music falls somewhere between solid post-rock, prog and free jazz. (Disclaimer - I feel a little funny rattling off that lingo-istic description, despite its accuracy.) 

Knoblock seems interested in ridding his instruments of their bad rep (cheesiness, for-fusion-only) and this band does a good job of that. The music pulls you in with a steady melody or groove, stretches it till if falls apart, then picks it back up again to close it out. On their Stellar Power CD, Noreiga's alto seems to be kind of restrained for the much of it. But he was on fire the other night, squealing and wailing as things picked up. (And he was still audible through the p.a. over that din of keys.) Davis did a lot to push the music too, with only a snare, floor tom, kick drums and various cymbals and things. 

I was really tempted to buy the vinyl version of the album, even though I already have the CD of it, so taken was I with the music. But it worked out because I just discovered that their label, Skirl, recently released another album by Endangered Blood, a band that also features Noreiga, as well as Chris Speed, Trevor Dunn and Jim Black. Their last album was one of my favorites of that year.

For a quick snippet of what the band is about, according to Knoblock, check this out

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