Monday, August 21, 2006

Aloha (Live at Schubas)

The Aloha show at Schubas on Sunday felt like a night full of misfits. Which is kind of perfect because Aloha has always struck me as sort of an oddball band, in the best way possible, and this apparently doesn't bother them in the least, as they continue to rock the fuck out, not giving a goddamn if people can't figure out if the band is about the marimba or the jazz fusion meets prog polyrhythms or Tony Cavallario's mild lisp or whatever.

So, so what if first act openers Rahim were plagued by feedback and other sound problems that always seem to haunt the venue? They were super-cute skinny boys in tight pants, and who's going to complain about that? Pas moi. And, does it ultimately matter if second openers The Eternals, with their slippity-slappity electro-funk grooves, assaultive keyboard screeches, and I'll-see-you-in-hell vocoder chorus effects, were the last thing I was prepared to stand through when I arrived in Aloha-mode? They had great energy, lead singer Damon Locks has immediately commanding stage presence, and I enjoyed their depth of commitment to their material.

And, even my seasonal old-lady disorder couldn't really get the best of me. I mean, oy vey already, you Sunday-night concertgoing kids, with the not being able to stand in one specific bit of floor space and the turning your back to the stage so you can scream along with the music to your group of friends and the endless reconsiderations with the waitress about whether you do or do not want another PBR. Because--you guys like Aloha? Wow. I just have to give up trying to second-guess a band's fan base. Just goes to show that if you're great musicians with great spirit and a willingness to flaunt what makes you unique instead of steamrollering over it, you too can win the affection of bitchy gays in black tank tops and loud, pretty drunk girls reeking of entitlement.

I've heard tell that Some Echoes is "the Alligator of 2006," and, whereas I would counter that Alligator is doing perfectly fine as the Alligator of 2006 (and possibly 2007), the point is well taken. Some Echoes isn't so much a grower or a slow-burner as it's a "never mind us, we'll just be patiently waiting over here for you to appreciate our awesomeness, and, no hard feelings if you find you don't fancy us after all"-er. It's quietly masterful without being overly mannered. It's one of those albums full of songs you can never remember specifically until some twisty lyric or delightful melody line breezes by and you go, "oh yeeeaah...! That song. I love that song!" I don't think I'd ever go out of my way to recommend this album to anyone, but that also means I can conceivably recommend it to everyone. It's not a grab-you-by-the-throat kind of thing; it's never going to get repeated obsessively on your iPod. (Well, except for maybe "Ice Storming." I've begun to realize that I would be perfectly capable of listening to that one on repeat for an hour or two.) But, rest assured, it will sneak up on you one day, after several months, and you will realize what you've got on your hands here, and the cumulative effect may very well leave you in tears.

Live, you have to take everything that makes them weird and unexpected sonically, and then add in the fact that you're looking at these sensitive, delicate-looking indie kids making all this noise, blowing the roof off the place. You've got this incredibly brilliant, creative drummer Cale Parks in a fucking teddy bear t-shirt, pounding the drums with the most unbelievably beautiful combination of passion and precision, and then also smiling beatifically when he sits down for a few minutes at the keyboard. Relatively new marimba player and multi-instrumentalist T.J. Lipple plays all those furious mallet lines without breaking a sweat. Bassist Matt Gengler mouths all the words to the largest, most anthemic songs, clearly still in love with what Cavallario is writing. And then Tony, wonderful and strange and as unselfish as frontmen get, caroms his way through these candied ginger melodies, vocal lines that burn and soothe simultaneously like scalded milk. These guys are improbable, to say the least. But, their musical mutations have fused together so elegantly, this hybrid beast has turned into something irreducible and capable of swallowing you whole. Politely, gently, but whole.

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