Up until the middle of last week, it was hard to say exactly where Brooklyn's Woods would be performing September 6th. Fliers circulating around town indicated the freak-folkers would be playing venerable Tempe establishment, The Manor. Folks won over by the band's recent opening spot for Dungen at the Rhythm Room would have the chance to see the band in an intimate setting. Then came word that the show had been moved to The Modified. Unless you asked the people at Modified, who informed me a week and a half ago that the show was going to be hosted at "some house."
Regardless of any initial confusion, Woods did in fact join Phoenix based singer-songwriter Stephen Steinbrink, and three electronic-based touring acts from Denver: Hideous Men, Picture Plane and Josephine & The Mousepeople at The Modified, and they brought with them their A-game, all freak out guitar fits, reedy melodies and analog tape trickery.
Steinbrink's set was as reliable as ever, bolstered by the inclusion of some new songs from Steinbrink's forthcoming record "Next New Sun." Then things got sufficiently stranger. Hideous Men offered enjoyable if not particularly engaging noise pop. Picture Plane, known as Travis Egedy to his mom, pushed mostly forgettable rave ready trance. Josephine & The Mousepeople fared far better. The two man act, consisting of one singer-yelper-laptop wrangler and an accompanying drummer-percussionist, recalled the twitchy aesthetics of the Anticon roster, at once claustrophobic, melodic and coolly disturbing, At the end of their set, vocalist Avi launched into a thinly veiled tirade about not being a "mother fucker," seemingly pointed at last minute additions Woods.
Despite any friction or band bickering, Woods launched into their set and within moments had the the attention of everyone in the room. Their roughshod folk-rock erupted into psychedelic freak outs, with live tape manipulations from tape-manipulator G. Lucas Crane adding to singer-guitarist Jeremy Earl's eerie vocals. The band alternated between 2-3 minute pop jams and massive guitar fits, the rhythm section pounding out a solid backing for Earl's fuzzed out excursions. The room seemed united; the smelly, bearded dudes, the lone hippie-raver who danced absurdly through Picture Plane's set, the art punks, even the sound-guy seemed into it. Regardless of how they ended up on the bill, it was fairly obvious that where ever Woods ended up playing, they'd be leaving a trail of intrigued, stunned fans.
Last Night: Woods at Modified Arts
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Better than: Missing the band when they performed with Dungen at The Rhythm Room.
Personal Bias: Anyone who covers a song off of Graham Nash's excellent "Songs for Beginners" (Woods closed with "Military Madness") is alright with me. The album stands right up there with "On the Beach," "Manassas," and "If I Could Only Remember My Name" as a favorite of the CSNY canon.
Random Fact: A few years ago Gilgongo Records, the Tempe label that puts out Stephen Steinbrink's records, issued an awesome seven inch by Woods.
Further listening: For a more post-punk take on the Woods sound, check out the affiliated band Meneguar.