Thursday, November 11, 2010

Show review: Marnie Stern, Heavy Cream, Electric Hawk at Empty Bottle, 11/10

 Posted by Andrew

Marnie Stern
I am not impressed on technical skill alone. I need some dirt in my music. Three chords do more for me than excessive guitar solos. Lyrical content is highly valued, too. Last night at the Empty Bottle, I managed to find two bands that encapsulate these extremes, and one that engineered the gap between them structurally sound.

Chicago’s Electric Hawk started off the evening with a sludge of low, low bass countered by a screeching wah. Instrumental metal combined with a math textbook defied any expectation of an easy groove; a bar line could just as easily cut short as well as extend an extra beat. While the trio’s ability to keep time with each other proved their technical abilities, it was difficult to tell where one song ended and another began. Following this was proof that punk rock exists in Nashville and has been adapted extremely well. Heavy Cream breathes fresh air into a genre that too easily goes stale in 2010. Jessica’s charismatic vocals were fueled by the chemistry of Daniel and Melissa’s drum/bass rhythm section. Mimi played her Explorer as naturally as she looked comfortable strapped into it. The barrage of sub-two-minute songs managed to do a lot with a little. The abbreviated set left more to be desired and I mean that in a good way.

The culmination of the evening combined the technical proficiency and ferocious energy of the two opening acts. If Marnie Stern is known for anything, it’s her finger-tapped guitar style adapted for indie rock ears. Set opener "Nothing Left" erupted through the speakers, setting the tone of the Kaki King meets Hella noise-pop. How the tour drummer was able to recreate Zach Hill’s recordings is beyond me, and although I’m not sure, he may have had five arms to accommodate the frantic syncopation necessary to follow Stern’s six-string prowess. Her ability to play lead and rhythm guitar simultaneously proved she is one of the most creative guitar players making music today. I’m sure that every possible note on her guitar was played; not a fret on any string was left unassaulted. In between song banter deserves a mention as well, with Marnie detailing her (ex)tour manager’s (ex)sex life as well as relating the influence of her beef with the Best Coast/Waves couple on her merchandise. The only faults to be found involved unnecessary feedback towards the end of the set, along with similar song structures that became redundant by the evening’s end. But to be sure, Marnie Stern has found a unique voice that outshines in an all too foggy music world. Missed the show?  Pick up her latest album, Marnie Stern, out now on Kill Rock Stars

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