Bloomington, Indiana's Spirit of '68 Promotions, always one to bring great indie acts like the Mountain Goats, Sufjan Stevens, Feist, Deerhunter, the Hold Steady, Built to Spill and many more to our quaint college town, aimed especially high this year. Wanting to take a bite of the SXSW action that heads down to Austin the next week, founder Dan Coleman and crew started up the Pit Stop Music Marathon, with the idea being to do a kind of 'mini-SXSW,' nabbing bands that are on the way down there. The festival operated in two venues a couple blocks apart with shows for eight straight days, most nights at both venues, with one ticket getting you into both places. Bands that came through so far include Indiana legends Zero Boys, noise artists Times New Viking, local veterans husband&wife and many others, but tonight I will review Pit Stop Day 6, focusing on the venue The Bishop and its headliner (and my favorite new band), Surfer Blood.
The Bishop is a great new venue that opened up near the town square last fall, and it has quickly become the place to play for bands touring or local. Just in the past month I've seen Cursive and Bowerbirds there, as well as the huge nostalgia trip of the Ataris (with my band opening) and later this month I'll be reviewing the Woods/Real Estate show there. Now, this is not including all of the craziness of this Pit Stop deal. So let's move on to that.
Opener the Broderick are locals, but I'd never heard of them before. I wasn't too surprised since Bloomington is overflowing with bands and musicians due to the music school and great scene. It became surprising that I'd never heard of them after I saw how great they were. Tight musicianship, seamless transitions from song to song, and high energy the whole set. Their music was nothing earth-shattering, but it was well-constructed and catchy. Dan described them to me as being like the Arctic Monkeys, and I think I'll have to stick with that. They played a song called "Gold in the Fire," which was a bit more alt-country than those Brits, and you wouldn't be outta line comparing singer Max Mullen to James Mercer. It has a catchy-as-hell part with a 'doot-doot-doot-doot-doodela-da' thing aping the guitar rhythm and I love it when the beat kicks into hyper-drive, too. My other favorite, "Dancing for the Dogs" was awesome as well, with a more laid-back groove and a catchy chorus of "My baby's in a bind / My baby's in a bind / No, she don't have the time / To sit and read my mind / My baby's in a bind." Check 'em out at their MySpace.
Then I hoofed it over to the Video Saloon (locals refer to it as "the Vid") and caught a bit of locals th'Empires set. A two-piece rockabilly group, they favor "boom-chuck" double-time-style beats with classic open chords on a sweet hollow-body electric guitar. Singer Eddy Price even brings his own old-school "boxing ref" mic to complete the feel. They're definitely the perfect band to see if you're in the mood for a good time and don't wanna over-think it. Check em out, once again on the 'Space.
Back to The Bishop for Turbo Fruits, a band born as a side project for Jonas Stein, formerly of Nashville, TN's Be Your Own Pet. I had not heard them before but was pretty excited after checking some stuff out online. I would describe them as being like the first couple Who records but with some of that Black Lips sass thrown in. They were locked in the entire set, and the energy level actually rose as they headed into the last two tracks and on closer "Shakin'," singer/guitarist Stein headed into the crowd mid-solo as they stretched the tune out to accommodate the crowd's reaction. While there are plenty of bands around like Turbo Fruits, they don't all do the garage rock this well. "What do ya call it when you get so stoned you forgot it's Christmas Eve? / Volcano." That about sums it up.
- Colt 45
- Mama's Mad Cos I Fried My Brain
- On the Road
- Naked with You
- Lotta Lotta Ladies
- Get Up Get on Down (Tonite)
Decided to stay at the Bishop to not risk missing any of Surfer Blood (the band I missed at The Vid is called the Hollows; sorry dudes). Obviously, I love the group (evidence), and have ever since first hearing the single "Swim" and later Astro Coast, the young Floridians' debut album. I love it mainly because it is an unabashed guitar record, but not in a technical way--just a fuzzy, rocking way that takes me back to the music I grew up with, but with some twists. I knew they would be a fun show for that reason. I was not disappointed, and I knew exactly what to expect set-wise since they only have one album. They basically played Astro front to back, eschewing the instrumental ("Neighbor Riffs") and sadly the longest, slowest but awesome one ("Slow Jabroni"), and of course they saved "Swim" for last.
Sure, their live show needs some tweaking: between song banter was minimal, and the only one to talk was singer JP Pitts. What he said was fine, but nothing very funny or all that interesting, and there were periods of silence. They didn't seem to care about moving smoothly through the set, taking their time tuning (not that it was that long) and not at any time stringing songs together in rapid succession. At one point during a tuning session, guitarist Thomas Fekete, wearing his influences on their sleeve, started into "The Sweater Song" riff and the band played about a minute of a noisy version of the song before continuing the set. They never lost the crowd (or myself) who were perfectly fine waiting a bit for this caliber of tunes. Their energy was fine throughout, but touring percussionist/keyboardist Marcos Marchesani especially was having the time of his life, rocking his whole setup of woodblocks, cowbells, tambourine, toms and synths. But in all honesty, the even-younger Broderick had a better-prepared set.
I'll take a guess and say this is every member's first extensive-touring band, and success came quickly for Surfer Blood so they were never forced to hone a live act thanks to great songs and quick and all-encompassing internet response. They also may have upset the show's promoters by playing an encore in a situation where each band's sets are timed down to the minute to allow the crowd to drift venue to venue and miss as little as possible. Despite the Woes' set starting up at The Vid, Surfer Blood played a new song despite what seemed like someone through the monitors asking them not to. "I was asking them," referring to the crowd, Pitts said. I was down with it, but it seemed a bit shitty on his part. They said the new song was called "I'm Not Ready," and it seemed pretty rad, an upbeat number that I don't remember too much else about it at this point. I did not head to The Vid to see the Woes--sorry guys--but I wake up for work at 5:30 and it is currently 12:15 a.m. I'm a pansy, I'm aware.
- Floating Vibes
- Take it Easy
- Harmonix - w/extended jam ending
- Undone (The Sweater Song) [cover--intro, first verse and chorus]
- Twin Peaks
- Fast Jabroni
- Catholic Pagans
- I'm Not Ready [new song]
Overall, it was a great night, and back-patting all around to the Spirit of '68 and Bishop and Vid folks on a great new festival that will hopefully be around for a while.