Saturday · Southgate House
In classic Rock fashion, VietNam has spent the last six years becoming an overnight sensation. The Brooklyn-via-Texas quartet's self-titled debut full-length, released two months ago, has been lauded by a broad spectrum of media, from Rolling Stone to Pitchfork to The Washington Post, all of whom praise the band's blend of '60s/'70s Psychedelia, Blues Rock and acid-burnt Folk with a subtle wash of contemporary noise.
With potent reference points like Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Canned Heat, Royal Trux and Sonic Youth all crashing around within VietNam's Indie boogie groove, the question has less to do with the amount of attention being paid the band at the moment and more to do with the amount of time it took to happen. VietNam's roots were laid down in the late '90s when native Texans Michael Gerner and Josh Grubb met and became fast friends. Gerner, a guitarist/vocalist and veteran of several Austin area bands, introduced Grubb to the scene by giving him his first guitar and helping him hone his chops.
In 2000, the pair formed VietNam -- with what would prove to be a revolving door of rhythm sections -- and began playing regular local and regional gigs.
Gerner and Grubb eventually followed their muse to New York and Philadelphia, adding drummer Michael Foss in 2003 and bassist Ivan Berko in 2004. Shortly after Berko's arrival, VietNam signed to Vice Records and released their debut EP, The Concrete's Always Grayer on the Other Side of the Street, but their relationship with the label was contentious and they found themselves thrown off the very tour that was supposed to raise their profiles.
They might have spent years trying to get a second chance at their big break if not for the support of Maroon 5's Mickey Madden, a longtime fan of the band, who financed and co-produced VietNam's full-length debut. If great reviews were coin of the realm, VietNam would be buying summer homes in Spain, but until press kits are edible, the band will have to make their fortune the old fashioned way -- by playing rapturously intense live shows and winning rabid fans a gig at a time. After six years, VietNam should be able to endure a few more overnights until they're recognized for the sensations that they've been all along. (Brian Baker)
VAST with August House
Sunday · The Mad Frog
By the time he was 16, multi-instrumentalist Jon Crosby had scoped out his Southern California/Bay Area environs and informally educated himself with a liberal arts curriculum consisting of a broad range of musical, cultural and technological expression. Combining all of these elements into a creative singularity, Crosby, along with a bassist and a drum machine, became Visual Audio Sensory Theater, or VAST, in the late '90s, blurring the lines between musical genres (it's a swirling blend of Industrial, Prog, Classical, Metal and AltRock) while incorporating technology to push the envelope of concert-based performance art.
Local radio began to air Crosby's demos and he eventually came to the attention of Elektra Records, which signed him without fully understanding the scope of what he was attempting. After releasing Visual Audio Sensory Theater in 1998, Crosby cobbled together an actual band to take on the road and to work on a sophomore album. But by the time Music for People was released in 2001, three of VAST's members had already departed for solo/other band careers. Music for People was not the Electronic youth culture hit that the label had envisioned and so Crosby and Elektra parted company and Crosby relocated to New Mexico and Texas.
Crosby began making music on his own again, releasing the results as a download-only series titled Turquoise & Crimson, some of which was eventually compiled into the conventional CD release, Nude, on 456 Entertainment in 2004. It became Crosby's second failed attempt at a label relationship. Shortly after, Crosby started his own label, 2Blossoms, and took control of his own recorded destiny, releasing more albums in the past four years than he had in his first five, including A Complete Demonstration (a collection of early demos), a retail version of Turquoise & Crimson, the Live at CBGB's online concert disc and an online and retail version of a new album titled April (another new album, Closed Romantic Realism, is slated for later this year or early 2008).
Always creatively and technologically restless, Crosby has initiated an interesting new twist for members of his fan club, who are encouraged to submit questions about specific VAST albums, which he then answers and releases as audio commentaries. To date, the first two albums and the Turquoise & Crimson project have been addressed in this manner. Whether your inner geek is music- or tech-oriented, VAST will find a way to tweak the ones and zeroes of your soul. (BB)