Thursday, June 23, 2011

Show review: Not in the Face, Moon Furies, Man Your Horse at Memories, 6/20

By Gene Wagendorf III

Moon Furies (photo: Gene Wagendorf III)
Rock and roll is full of clichés -- from musicians, writers and fans alike. We all cringe when we see them, and we're all no doubt guilty of contributing to them. Such was my night at Memories on the 20th of June. Before you think I'm slamming the bands that night, hold on, I'm not. The blame for the cliché moment rests solely at my own feet as three, yes, three times I turned to the guy next to me and said "Man, I wouldn't want to have to follow those guys." Each time I said it about a different band.

First up was Man Your Horse, a math rock trio from Vancouver. The first thing I noticed about the band was the way they set up: drummer front and center with the guitarist and bass player flanking him on opposite sides. I don't know if this was premeditated or simply out of necessity (with a total of five bands playing over the course of the night the stage area was swamped with gear), but man did it work. Said drummer was a fucking maniac on the skins, rolling and pounding out soaring beats that felt more like thunderstorms than parts of a song. Jack Kerouac once described a jazz quartet as working with "unmusical ideas that nevertheless never leave the music, always there, always far out."  That's all I could think of while watching this guy work in tandem with the angular melodies and bubbly bass lines his co-conspirators were conjuring. It sounded like a mess, and usually that's not a good thing, but this was that rare kind of mess that works, that makes you want to move. Man Your Horse ended on what I think was "Breakfast for Dinner," but the set did such a good job of bleeding together as a single piece of music that it doesn't really matter. What matters is that they ended on the strongest note possible.

And so it happened for the first time. "I wouldn't want to have to follow those guys."

Luckily, local synth-poppers Moon Furies were up to the task. The group, currently somewhere in the first half of an ultra ambitious 100 shows in 100 days, appeared onstage no worse for the wear. Their entire set carried a bubblegum electricity that made it damn near impossible not to like them, though I don't know why you'd try. If Man Your Horse had my eyes wide, then Moon Furies had me grinning like an idiot and bobbing my head. Not content to let the audience have all the fun, vocalist Jim Wittmann ran around Memories like a Muppet on speed. This is the kind of guy who was probably born to be a rockstar, so it's a good thing he's talented. Otherwise he'd be like, I don't know, the most energetic barber ever? Guitarist Andy Kiel seemed to pick his spots a little more, waiting until the Nintendo-synths of "Logan Square" were in full swing before jumping off stage to stalk Wittmann around the bar. "Look At Me"  best showcased the band collectively, giving them a chance to show off some striking harmonized vocals before Wittmann produced a trumpet and wailed over drummer Andrew Hertzberg's dance beats. Hertzberg seemed happy to let his bandmates soak up the attention, playing with a bit of a Stuart Sutcliffe smirk. Guess that'll happen when you're the one providing the beats that booties are shaking to. After announcing that the last song was "about astronauts" and getting an enthusiastic "fuck yeah" from the back of the bar, Moon Furies closed out their set with "Mercury 13." The song takes a few moments to build tension before launching into the group's catchiest hook, a squeaky synth line that dances over Hertzberg's water balloon splashy rhythm. The whole thing ended with an appropriate crescendo: stuttered drums, rising guitars, more trumpet and the line "we cannot lose, we were born to win."

And so I uttered it a second time.

Not in the Face (photo: Gene Wagendorf III)
The last band to make me look like a jackass on this night was Austin's Not in the Face. It seems that all the kids who listened to the White Stripes growing up are starting up bands of their own and if this duo is any indication, that's a very good thing. Their debut album, Bikini, didn't make much of an impression on me outside of one or two simple, catchy jams, but their live show left me with my jaw hanging. If you don't believe me, just ask my beer, which sat growing warm as I was too distracted by the looped explosions onstage to take a sip. While the Jack White comparison was the first that popped into mind as they started their set, it became clear midway through that singer/guitarist Jonathan Terrell and his drum thumper Wes Cargal were channeling a more Motörhead-meets-The Stripes kind of thing. After quickly tearing through a couple of straight-forward rockers, Not in the Face pulled out "Brass Tacks," an angst-crunchy Southern jam complete with the kind of slide guitar work that makes me weak in the knees. I can say with almost full confidence that Terrell looks exactly like you think he does- tall, thin, black shirt, black jeans, mutton-chops and a black cowboy hat. You know, kind of like he was kicked out of the pages of Preacher for being too much of a badass. I suppose that's fine with me, because if you're going to hear that God's abandoned his post it may as well be from someone who's cranking out some gutty rock and testing your headbanging skills. Ok, maybe there were two rock clichés on this night; Just when Not in the Face's set had gotten to a point where I didn't think they could top themselves, the closed with a throbbing, wild cover of T. Rex's "20th Century Boy." No doubt the song Terrell and Cargal wish they had written, I dare say I can't imagine T. Rex doing it any better themselves. Rarely would I say that Memories is the perfect place to see anything, but this is an exception. It was hot, it was loud and it was fucking amazing.

And I can't imagine who would want to follow that.


Check out more show reviews:
The Kent McDaniel Band, Kraig Kenning at Custer's Last Stand fest
Project Film, Exit Ghost and more at Reggies
The 1900s, Gold Motel at Taste of Randolph
Ortolan, Bring Your Ray Gun at Pancho's
The Lopez, Wett Nurse at Memories


  1. NITF! are hands down one of the best live acts around.

  2. So I guess you didn't stay for the band that did follow that?

  3. That one Moon Furry guy was crazy. I saw him puke at the end of show.. I don't know what the fuck he did before that show, but damn!

  4. That t-shirt is great, I want one also great review!!