This is the second time I’ve been to the El Rio (http://www.elriosf.com/) recently during stormy weather. A bit of a shame, as one of the things I like the most about El Rio is its backyard porch area. Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to let a few raindrops (or a lot of raindrops) make me miss the Turks show. Plus, as I was ensconced in the corner of the backyard under a wooden overhang, I got to check out some of the paintings back there (under the “Seven Deadly Sins” theme) as well as a small Virgin Mary altar that had previously escaped my notice. Nice!
I was unfamiliar with the bands that opened for the Turks. The first one, Rademacher (radradrad.com and http://www.myspace.com/rademacher), are an interesting indie band from California. They started with a Talking Heads cover and it was a good song. It seemed appropriate to me, as the singer had a voice that occasionally sounded as if he were losing it, with a (in my opinion) David Byrne / Alec Ounsworth (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah) sound to it. At first, the guitar reminded me of The Strokes a little bit, but it often seemed actually more interesting (due to the varying rhythm and drums that accompanied it), and, as they really had a lot of diverse styles happening from song to song, I wouldn’t hold them to that comparison. I also heard a bit of Modest Mouse and once some noisy Sonic Youth-ish guitar work, although that didn’t last for very long. Interestingly, at the same time, they had a tendency (maybe a little too often?) to chorus together like an anarchist folk punk band, and, in fact, the way the bassist stood away from her mic and really gave it her all when she sang reminded me of Terry Johnson from This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb. As I said, a lot of different stuff going on! The bassist also brought out a few other instruments and threw them into the mix: a melodica and another that looked kind of like a little kid’s keyboard (and maybe it was!). Although when the melodica was brought out the bassist was laughing so much she had trouble playing it (lots of friends in the audience), they both made cool and unique sounds. They also threw in some handclaps at least once, which I almost always like (handclaps make for an automatic party, no?), but at the time made me wonder if they were possibly trying to incorporate too many different styles in a search for their own. The drummer, in the meantime, really kept the pace in a nice way; he was solid and, although not flashy, interesting.
I couldn’t decide about Rademacher. I’d get to thinking that perhaps they weren’t my cup of tea, but then I’d really like the song they played right after I had that feeling. I would say that, overall, I thought they were good, but maybe just not my style most of the time. My friend, who really liked them, said that they reminded him of the Van Pelt and The Lapse. I am not familiar with either of those bands but I think he has a vast knowledge of la musique and if he puts Rademacher in that camp, I’d definitely trust him on it!
Next up were Silian Rail (http://www.myspace.com/silianrailmusic), also from California. They are a two piece instrumental band, a guitarist and drummer (with, I think, some pre-recorded bass/ guitar lines occasionally played underneath). I thought they were totally good but I just wasn’t into them at all. The drummer was stylish and complimented the guitar playing, and the guitarist was clearly very technically proficient. They actually reminded me of Manacle (who I saw a couple of weeks ago at Edinburgh Pub) a little bit, although they weren’t as heavy. Like Manacle, I’m not sure exactly what kind of genre they might fall under - I’d say they’re definitely less prog and more indie. The music sometimes made me think of small, brown, weightless birds in summer trees. Pretty, and wonderful for some people, just not for me.
Meanwhile I’d begun to worry that Turks (http://www.myspace.com/turks) had cancelled or something. It was getting pretty late, and it didn’t seem to make any sense that they’d be playing with Rademacher and Silian Rail because they have a totally different style. What a weird line up! Seriously, listen to all three of them in a row and see what I mean. Luckily, however, they finally came on a bit after midnight. THIS was what I was waiting for.
From Oakland, Turks are a four piece and the kind of band that make me begin to say, “Oh, I love the drums, the drums are so excellent!”, but then I’ll get distracted by how everything else is so good, also! Yes! I love that!
On the subject of drums, though, I have to say that Turks make me very happy in that regard. Weighty and intense, with little rolls thrown in now and then when I wasn’t expecting it, just to make sure I was paying attention and to put a big smile on my face. Totally. Loved. Them. At the same time, the guitar was fighting for space in the cockles of my heart, with its weird, Scratch-Acidy, pulsating and undulating wavy treble. The guitarist would sometimes dance and play in a totally spazzy way that I super love, and I could swear he only had three strings. SO excellent. Loved, loved, loved the guitar.
The singer was great with the rest of a great band; he was energetic, on the stage and on the floor, with a gravelly voice that both rambled incoherently and also barked out in short, aggressive bursts. Strangely, I was reminded at times of Rob Zombie’s voice, which unfortunately - am I wrong about this? - does not seem like a very complimentary thing to say these days. Did White Zombie not used to be kinda cool, around Make Them Die Slowly and shortly thereafter? I know I used to like some songs by them….I don’t know. Anyway, the deepness and the scratchiness is what sprang to mind, despite whatever Mr. Zombie might be doing these days.
On the left side of the small stage, the bassist was holding things down with a hearty bass line that brought again (I say “again” because I said this recently about Hvorslev) to mind Big Black and Scratch Acid. I often actually have trouble deciding, when a band reminds me of Scratch Acid, if it’s the rhythm guitar or the bass. I guess it must be both. Anyway, think She Said or The Greatest Gift, and that’s what the bass brought to mind.
Okay, I just had this weird little mental run where Kerosene 454 popped into my head. Wow, it’s been awhile! I wondered if it made any sense (in comparison), and I decided it doesn’t really (maybe the teeniest tiniest bit), but it just jumped in there. I think Big Black’s “Kerosene” is trying to confuse things. Could it be because I finally just found (Earth) Atomizer (Let’s Go.) on vinyl after keeping my eyes peeled for it for years (oh, the records we give away when we’re young and in love)? Yes! It could!
Another question: So what is the Hvorslev / Turks link? They’ve both got some similar sounds happening, but I’m not exactly sure….maybe Bill who used to play bass for Turks now plays bass for Hvorslev? Well, that’s just a guess. Perhaps someone can clue me in, or I can one day ask a real, live band member.
Another question: Why is it that whenever I want to talk about bass, all the adjectives that come to mind make it sound like I am describing soup that is supposed to satiate some jock’s massive hunger? “Hearty,” “rich,” “robust,” words like that? I think it’s because it’s the bass that eats like a meal, bass that you want to take a bite out of.
Yum, yum, Turks! Utterly delicious.