Emily Rodgers & Her Band, Lohio, Anna Vogelzang & Annie Palmer
Monday February 15, Howler's
I grabbed a 54C on Craig Street and made it Howler's around 9:40. There are a few reasons that I like seeing shows at Howler's, even though I've only done that twice now. First, one can see the musical act (from behind) from the street; that's pretty neat. Second, the acoustics are always great, even though the room is just a big empty rectangle. Perhaps the plethora of t-shirts hanging on the ceiling dampens the harsh reverb or some shit like that (they're also fun to read when you're bored). Third, the atmosphere is always relaxed and casual; I feel fine getting up and walking to grab a drink at the bar, even if I'm seated in the front row of the audience-associated tables. Also, there's usually plenty of performer banter, and even if it is pandering for donations or CD/clothing/paraphernalia sales, it's at least endearing. The only downside is that the audiences tend to be rather lackluster, both in sheer numbers and in appreciatory applause. Tonight was no exception to that rule of two. At no point were there more than 15 people in the crowd. Granted, the main act was local and the touring openers were (well, at least one of them was, as far as I know) former locals. Still, there was minimal applause after each song, and I wish I could have been more encouraging towards the performers without . . . well, without embarrassing myself, I guess.
I walked into the concert side of Howler's during the middle of Anna Vogelzang's set and sat down at a fully-lit table on the front left side. I caught two songs with her playing guitar and singing, and was impressed with her voice; it was well-tuned, and even when the guitar strumming got frantic and loud and unrestrained, it felt emotionally natural and forcefully admirable. The lyrics were earnest and, at times, humorous juxtapositions of sounds and sayings. I wish I could remember some of them, but I found myself smiling outwardly at many of the little turns of phrase she managed to pack into her lyrical strummings. At one point, she related some current text messages to the audience, including a story about performing song requests on a live internet-broadcasted show via texts: “The future is now!” After a few songs, she switched to the banjo and played more songs in the same vein. I remain impressed by her musicianship and personability. Her set concluded with a mellow, melancholy duet with prior performer (whom I missed) Annie Palmer. At some point, I had gotten a beer from the bar and when I came back, I pulled out my Stewart calculus textbook and planned my recitation for Tuesday morning. Anna must have seen me doing this (I was in the “front row”, after all) since, later on, between sets, she came around to everyone handing out slips of paper with URLs for free album downloads, and made a comment about me doing homework during her set. I tried to say something to the effect of , “Oh, it's not like that . . . I'm teaching, actually” but it came out more like “Ohh . . . uhh . . . yeah. Thanks.” Oh well. She played a Lady Gaga cover song (and joshingly criticized an audience member for his too-quick denial of appreciation for her music) and referenced a YouTube video of her attempting to learn this song on her guitar while she was drunk. She quoted a few of the comments on the video, which were (like any internet thread) quite inane. Check that video out here. Also, the aforementioned paper slips with URLs for downloading her album “Cartography” were for this website. Be sure to check it out.
Next up was a stripped-down version of Lohio, and by that I mean two guitarists, one of whom sang. They sounded pretty interesting, and the non-singing guitarist played bottleneck/slide guitar style for a portion of the set and it sounded great. They included a few cover songs, playing Iron & Wine and Townes Van Zandt. It was pretty interesting, and it seemed like they were really just trying stuff out to see how it sounded in the club setting.
The final set was from Emily Rodgers & Her Band, as they were billed. This was essentially Emily on guitar and vocals, the talented guitarist from the stripped-down Lohio, a female bassist, and a drummer. Everyone seemed particularly proficient at their individual instruments, especially Emily and her voice; most of the appeal of her album “Bright Day”, which I downloaded on eMusic a couple months ago (and came out in October 2009), at least for me, is the haunting and ethereal yet forcefully present nature of her voice. She manages to make herself heard over the rocking guitars and bass lines without seeming strained or stretched. Spencer made a comment after the show while we were hanging out at the bar which was something to the effect of, “They sounded ok, but I didn't really like them overall because the guitarist could run circles around the others.” This seems like an unfair assessment (“X was not good because some element x of X was too good”) but it sort of makes sense. I don't particularly agree with it, and I did enjoy their set, even though it did seem like they were just running through the album I've already heard and the live versions were not overtly different, but I can see where he's coming from. I'll certainly check out any new material she puts out. Here's a video for the single “Hurricane” from her album.