Thursday · Bogart's
It has taken considerably longer than overnight for Wolfmother to become a sensation, but what the Hard Rock/Retro Metal trio lacks in immediacy it more than makes up for in volume (the Spinal-Tap-amps-to-11 kind). The Sydney, Australia, threesome formed in 2000 when guitarist/vocalist Andrew Stockdale, bassist/keyboardist Chris Ross and drummer Myles Heskett took time away from their respective jobs as photographer, computer tech and graphic designer and set out to pay homage to the Psychedelic/Metal giants of the '70s, monolithic Rock monsters like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath.
After four years of spare-time jamming, the trio was ready to start gigging and recorded a demo in order to attract the interest of booking agents. The demo was so well received that Wolfmother garnered a deal with local label Modular, who had the band re-record the EP for official release in 2004. The ensuing year saw the band become the subject of an intense industry buzz, resulting in a distribution deal with Interscope and a trip to Los Angeles to work on their debut full-length album, which was released in Australia in the fall of 2005.
Wolfmother's worldwide profile has been expanded by a shrewd campaign of music placement in commercials, video games, movies and television shows. In 2006, the trio blitzed American television with appearances on all the major late night talk shows. British gigs raised Wolfmother's stock there as well, evidenced by their appearance at Led Zeppelin's induction ceremony into the UK Music Hall of Fame, where they covered "Communication Breakdown."
This will be the last time to catch Wolfmother in concert for awhile as the band will soon take time off from their current touring grind -- timed to coincide with the appearance of their new song, "Pleased to Meet You," on the Spider-Man 3 soundtrack -- to begin work on their sophomore album, which will likely break the records that the first one set. (Brian Baker)
HOOTS & HELLMOUTH WITH DR. DOG AND THE TEETH
Friday · Decibel Lounge (formerly alchemize)
There is a new crop of musicians finding success by "contemporizing" hallowed Americana musical forms.
But there's a little bait-and-switch going on -- nothing malicious, merely clever.
Take the "Newgrass" phenomenon as an example. While a new generation of Jam band fan is flocking to hear groups play spirited Bluegrass songs with a "New Millennium" edge, what they are really getting is a vigorous dose of traditional music, usually as pure as it ever was. Though they certainly develop their own voice informed by the times (and a few do push boundaries beyond purists' directives), these "new traditionalists" aren't doing anything startlingly new at all. And there's nothing wrong with that, because, ultimately, it keeps the music alive, prompting new, young fans to explore musical heritage.
It is evolution. And, with the admittedly sped up generational pass-down, it's Folk music's lifeblood.
It's not just Bluegrass, either. Bands like Asylum Street Spankers (see below), Old Crow Medicine Show, The Greencards (playing the Southgate House Wednesday) and even The Dixie Chicks have reintroduced acoustic music to the universal consciousness, delivering it through their own 21st century perspective and connecting with people in a way that more processed music just can't. Though singed by the fire of modern life, few of these artists wander too far away from the core values and truths of Folk music tradition.
Although more in the realm of the great "Neo-Americana" crew The Avett Brothers (playing the Southgate May 31), Hoots & Hellmouth are destined to be next in line to pick up the thread. The Philly group's Sean Hoots calls their sound, "new music for old souls," which is such a good descriptor, it should be the extent of their biography.
But there's more -- Hoots and songwriting partner Andrew "Hellmouth" Gray started sharing songs in 2005, arranging them for acoustic guitars (they are both amazing Bluegrass/Folk pickers), which led to the formation of a backing band featuring mandolin, back-up vocals, stand-up bass and foot stomps. The group's just released self-titled debut album fills things out tastefully with organ, drums and other subtle flourishes and the writers connect the dots between Folk, Rock & Roll, Blues and Gospel within their ballads and rave-ups.
It's been said that the band's music is played with a "Rock & Roll spirit," a common claim amongst critics when a band throws all their weight behind a performance and picks up the pace to a brisk stride. But I bet if there was a YouTube video of a 1920s jamboree, we'd all see that old Country, Blues and Folk performers played with a joyous, possessed intensity that would make many Rock bands today look like The New Christy Minstrels.
By keeping the torch burning in this manner, "modern classicists" like H&H have the perk of being able to play twice as many gigs. H&H has performed at several Folk festivals, but their current trek sends them out with excellent, trippy Indie eccentrics (and fellow Phillies), Dr. Dog. Jaded Indie Rock hipsters might at first scoff, but there's a better chance than not that their old-school Pumas will be stomping before H&H's set is through. (Mike Breen)
ASYLUM STREET SPANKERS
Sunday · Southgate House
This just in: the Asylum Street Spankers -- the acoustic-based Ragtime/Jazz/Swing/Country/Blues collective from Austin, Tex., whose catalog includes an homage to marijuana, a selection of bawdy songs, a Christmas album and a concert DVD commemorating the group's 10th anniversary featuring all 21 people who have ever held membership with the band -- have just released their latest project. It is -- wait for it -- a children's album titled, appropriately, Mommy Says No.
"There are 11 originals and two covers," says Spanker Christina Marrs. "We covered an old Jazz standard called 'Everybody Loves My Baby' and a Harry Nilsson tune from The Point!, 'Think About Your Troubles.' That's been a favorite of mine since I was a kid."
Ignoring the fact that a broad section of the kids market might be wary of anything with "Spankers" in the name, Marrs notes that a children's album doesn't fall all that far outside the band's interests.
"We have a penchant for theme records, I guess," says Marrs with a laugh. "It's interesting to be given a project where you need to write four songs about marijuana smoking or four songs for children."
Not to worry, ASS fans. The Spankers haven't gone soft.
"This record is obviously going to be purchased by our fans for the young people in their lives," says Marrs. "And while we're calling it a children's record ostensibly, it's a highly palatable listen for adults."
Last year's Spankers release was the Re-Assembly DVD, a visual and musical artifact of a pair of 2004 concerts in Austin that celebrated the band's improbable 10th anniversary. Re-Assembly and its predecessor, the 2003 DVD Sideshow Fez, highlight the most important aspect of the Spankers' particular genius, which is their live presentation, without, as they say, "demon electricity." The fun that the Spankers provide is reflected in the fun that they experience themselves, which clearly accounts for the band's longevity.
"There's just something so special about the Spankers to be able to combine the musicality that the individual members have, with a sense of spontaneity and good humor and fun," says Marrs. "You've got some real serious talent who aren't taking themselves too seriously. And some people don't get it. They hear a song by the Spankers and they think, 'Oh, novelty band.' It's a fine line to walk because there's this mentality that serious music can't be funny or fun, which is absolute bullshit." (BB)