Friday, February 4, 2011

Recent Concerts, Part One.

Bradley Hathaway, Us and the Ship

Location: The old I Love Evelyn building

Friday, January 28

Due to a prior commitment, I arrived at the Bradley Hathaway concert about thirty minutes after the door opened. When I walked in I found that the show had already started, but was surprised to see that Bradley Hathaway was already playing. It turned out that, in order to make sure everyone stayed at the show, the out-of-town headliner was playing first, and the local band (Us and the Ships), was playing last. Not exactly how it is supposed to be, but this is Texarkana.

I didn't actually take this picture, but I didn't have my camera at the concert.

Bradley Hathaway, sporting long hair and a mustache, sat alone onstage accompanied by his acoustic guitar. I did not get there early enough to hear very many of his songs, but his style consists of his playing a simple, repetitive line on the guitar and talking over it. The only artist I can think to compare him with would be mewithoutYou if Aaron Weiss got into Americana and mellowed out considerably. His style was challenging, and it will probably take repeated listening to him to fully appreciate him. There was a lot of giggling in the audience when he got to the lines in one of his songs, “Adam and Eve were naked in the garden, and I want to get naked too. Let’s all get naked. But no, I can‘t do that.” etc. Although it makes sense in the context of the song, it seems as if the song lyrics are directed more toward shocking or amusing the audience as opposed to making a genuine artistic statement. Perhaps I’m wrong.
After he finished playing his songs, he recited a couple of his poems. Bradley Hathaway is no Wordsworth. He falls prey to most of the pitfalls of modern poetry, its egotism, its morbid introspection, and its total ignorance of any poetic devices such as similes.. And his poem about wanting Jesus to give him a hug seemed to skirt the edges of irreverence. However, his poem “Manly Man” was a humorous take on the difference between true Christian manliness and the world’s definition of manliness.
Once Bradley Hathaway finished his poetry recitation, he went to the tedious business of selling T-shirts and Us and the Ship took the stage. I found that this band was fronted by lonely poet Keith Tubbs and one of the members was Skyler House, who had played rhythm guitar for Israel and Fordreamsalike when I saw them open for Abel. The band’s style was described to me as hardcore-influenced indie, sort of in the vein of Edison Glass.
Guess which one can change a tire.

Us and the Ship’s was a band that tried too hard. Keith Tubbs, who is already unable to sing without sounding like he has a stomach virus, gave us a new feature to his onstage persona-dancing. Flailing would probably be a better word-the poor guy looked like he either had some sort of nerve disorder, or that he was being attacked by a swarm of angry wasps. The rest of the band did synchronized head banging, which looked very amateurish. The drummer‘s idea of being good was playing as loud as possible. The songs felt like they lasted forever. A good band can take a twenty-minute long-song and make it go by in a heartbeat. Us and the Ship dragged out five-minute long songs into eternity. I’m not in any way against experimental song structure, but if you are a beginning band, it is a good idea to keep to the tradition verse-chorus-verse structure. It’s pleasing to the ear and makes it easier to write good songs. Amateur songwriters may claim that it makes their music “too pop”, but anything that is not classical or traditional folk music is pop.

I didn't take this picture either. This is why you should always remember your camera.

Us and the Ship’s songs had the typical features of indie bands that try too hard. There were repetitive sections of the music that lasted too long, tempo changes, a pseudo breakdown. Keith even pulled out a harmonica, to do his Dylan-wannabe bit. The final song was the best, one of those indie songs that tries to swing with a bluesy rhythm, but the lyrics were complete gibberish.
My biggest complaint was not with the band, but with the audience. Despite the loud rock music being played onstage, and the energy of the band, they stood stock-still during the entire performance. This is completely unacceptable. It is just as rude and disrespectful to stand still at the front row of a rock concert as it would be to jump and scream at a symphony performance. Standing still during the band’s set says to the band “I don’t care.” I was informed that this was a Texarkana thing, and I can see why. Since Texarkana has almost no music scene to speak of, most people have never been to a concert before, and have no idea what to do once they’re there. If you go to see some sort of rock band, don’t stand still. Jump up and down, clap your hands, bang your head, do the Charleston, do something. But don’t stand still.

You can visit Bradley Hathaway's Facebook page here and Us and the Ship's Facebook page here.

While you're here, read and comment on the other posts. There's some good stuff waiting to be read.

Currently listening: Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes.

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