Easy mode is making a Boris Yeltsin joke when Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin comes to town. Hard mode is not making a Boris Yeltsin joke. Really hard mode is not making a Boris Yeltsin joke even though you think you've got a great one. Because it's probably not that great, is what I keep trying to tell myself. Anyway, that's just one of the five must-see Phoenix shows I've been in a moral quandary about for this week.
Quasi - Rhythm Room - Monday, November 11
Portland's Quasi will be visiting the Rhythm Room on Monday in support of their excellent new double-album, Mole City. The band, which turned 20, features two accomplished vets of the Northwest scene, Sam Coomes (guitar/vox/keyboards) and Janet Weiss (drums/vox); when they aren't devoting their time to Quasi, both have played with some of the heaviest hitters in the indie world.
Doors open at 7:30pm on November is 11th at the Rhythm Room. A new-ish local band, No Volcano, which features ex-members of '90s-era Valley standouts Trunk Federation, opens the show and are followed by Coopersberg, PA's Blues Control, who are doing the west coast leg of the tour with Quasi.
Blues Control is also a two-piece that has tons of cool stuff going on in their songs. Imagine Stan Ridgway and Mickey Melchiondo forming a band, and that's what Blues Control kinda sounds like. If only the Les Payne were still around to play... A two-piece extravaganza could have been had, but we won't hold it against No Volcano for being a quartet. -- Tom Reardon
Audacity - Trunk Space - Monday, November 11
Audacity's third album finds the band pushing in opposite directions at the same time. The Fullerton, Calif., garage-punk quartet plays with a homemade, youthful and defiant style that makes the most out of its chaotic and unpredictable twists, all served up with an endless stream of hooks.
Butter Knife, released Oct. 29 on Suicide Squeeze, is rowdy and noisy, but with softer moments sprinkled throughout.
"This album has more of a punk vibe like our first record, but there are also some songs that are softer," says drummer Thomas Alvarez. "For us, we wanted to go to more extremes. We wanted more aggressive shit and also to mellow it out more too."
Though the band members are in their early 20s, Audacity's roots stretch back nearly a decade. Guitarists Kyle Gibson and Matt Schmalfeld began playing music together in sixth grade, first as Nontoxic and later as the Plaid and the Attachments. Alvarez and bassist Cameron Crowe joined in high school and soon the group was recording and touring regularly. -- Eric Swedlund
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Pub Rock Live, Scottsdale - Tuesday, November 12
I went to school in Columbia while SSLYBY was just beginning their move into general indie notoriety, so I've had trouble ever since thinking of them as a nationally relevant band, and not a sort of regional novelty.
Which is my bad, but probably also not an isolated phenomenon for the band; if you didn't live in Central Missouri seven years ago, you might have experienced a similar phenomenon just by being vaguely aware all this time that there's a band with Boris Yeltsin's name on it out there; it's great for building recognition, and also getting pissily dismissed by Pitchfork, but it might be so easily recognizable that it lets you off without actually opening Spotify and listening to their music, which is bouncy, melodic, and equally memorable.
Opening for SSLYBY--the acronym is much harder to remember than the name--are Dust Jacket and Roar, this year's Best Local Band. So show up early.
Bill Callahan - Rhythm Room - Tuesday, November 12
Bill Callahan picks his words carefully.
If one thing defines his recent work - pastoral, grooving, and far removed from his noisier days recording under the name Smog - it's the way he selects his words. "The only words I've said today are beer and thank you," he croons on "The Sing," the masterful song that opens his recent masterpiece, Dream River.
"Beer.../Thank you/Beer... Thank you Beer..."
With so few words, Callahan paints a sprawling picture. He achieves with little what other storytellers will fumble with a lot. And even more remarkable: Callahan's words sound right; they feel right, in their syllables and consonants, in the way his thumping baritone weaves its way in between the rocks and cacti. It's like Beat Poetry with the cinematic scope of a Peckinpah film. Callahan takes pauses, allows the horse's hoofs to clop, as he unhurriedly and methodically selects his next phrase.
Callahan's songs, particularly the ones found on records that bear his Christian name, which he's employed since 2007's Woke on a Whalesong, don't clutter the scene with unnecessary details. They are sparse, but full. On Dream River, Callahan adorns his lyrics with subtle country rock, lilting folk. Jason P. Woodbury
Nik Turner's Space Ritual - Rhythm Room - Thursday, November 14
There are very few people on the planet who can say they've been exploring the musical galaxy as long as Nik Turner. For part of the past six decades, Turner has been traveling the globe, or as he playfully refers to his current "Space Ritual" tour, "rocketing around the United States of America" playing a genre of music that he not only helped create, but continues to help perpetuate.
For the uninitiated, Turner was an early member of Hawkwind, one of the progenitors of the "space rock" sound. Originally a roadie for the band, "slogging gear" as Turner remembers it, he was brought into the fold on saxophone, flute, and vocals quite quickly as Hawkwind started to round out their sound, which has influenced everyone from the Sex Pistols to Ministry to Monster Magnet and Rush.
The title of Nik Turner's current tour, "Space Ritual," is also the title of Hawkwind's 1973 double live album which featured Ian Kilmister on bass, who you may recognize as the lead misfit behind Motorhead, lovingly known as Lemmy. While Turner remains open to someday reuniting with founding member Dave Brock, and even Kilmister, there are currently no plans for an official Hawkwind reunion and unfortunately, due to legal actions between Brock and Turner, the possibility seems highly unlikely.
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Turner thoughtfully said, "In hindsight, we were doing stuff that nobody else was doing, really. We were doing the whole mixed media thing with a stage show and lights and dancers. We had a purpose...a grand design," For it's time, the music was heavy, but had an electronic aspect many of their contemporaries did not have. Renowned rock critic Lester Bangs once lovingly described Hawkwind's electronic angle as sounding like "barfing computers." If you are familiar with Bangs' work, you know that is high praise indeed. -- Tom Reardon