Show Review: Hunx and His Punx, Brilliant Colors and Gun Outfit at Hemlock Tavern, 1/3/10

by Joel Edelman on January 4, 2010

I miss the days when the Hemlock looked like this.

I was such a good little soldier. I took notes on my cell phone, but I was so cheap that I didn’t email them to myself because my data plan is a bit limited, and not in a good way like the 38L is. I figured I would just read them when I got into work the next day. But then the battery died. So my phone is at home, charging and watching Drew Carey butcher The Price Is Right. Good thing Brilliant Colors played, because I don’t need notes to talk about them and their heavenly sound. (Did you see what I did there?)

It was a Spinning Platters All-Star event as far as I was concerned. Dakin and Gordon were in attendance, and it doesn’t get much better than that. And it didn’t, because everyone else at the show was a douchebag drinking $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboys. You can buy a lot of soap for $2 at Grocery Outlet. I suggest you try it sometime. But I was there for what was on stage, and that was just what I got.

This was a show worth taking two buses to, or one if you felt like walking a little bit. The three bands could not have been more different, so you were bound to appreciate one of them. First up was Gun Outfit, from Olympia, Washington. Olympia still has that sound, not to mention its own version of cheap beer. And it was a capital idea to take in this act.

The sound at the Hemlock Tavern has had its good and bad moments over the years, but because its showgoers have increasingly become part of the be-there-to-be-seen scene, no one really cares anymore that the sound is done wrong.

I’m not saying running a sound board is easy. But it was done up last night for a larger room. The drums are going to be a certain volume. You can’t do shit about that. But then you’re going to make the guitar louder than the drums? In a room that small? That leaves nothing for the vocals. For Gun Outfit, that was fine. Oh, and one of the guys in the band looks like DP. Like I said, Spinning Platters had representation everywhere!

Musically, the band was solid. Perhaps a new singer would take them to the next level. I get that being off key has its place in an independent music society, but it helps if it is contributing toward something ironic. I wasn’t sensing that. But for the first act, at least it was good. Driving powerpop with lots of passion. There will always be a place for that.
Next up was Brilliant Colors. I always get this band’s name wrong, even though I reviewed it for Spinning Platters last year. The problem is that one of the few fillies to win the Kentucky Derby was named Winning Colors, and similar to when I wanted to spell Rilo Kiley “Rilo Kelly,” it’s tough to shake.

I’d been looking forward to this show for a while. The only other band I wanted to see live more was the Hot Toddies, who are in a class by themselves. Put these two acts together with All Girl Summer Fun Band, and I’m spent. But tonight was merely a night for Brilliant Colors to shine bright. Having only listened to the record, I was curious what I was going to get. I was able to develop a pretty good analysis of this band. Oh, you’d like to see it? Okay.

My suspicions were realized, I think. Let’s take twee, er, three friends, and put them somewhere where they can listen to classic C86 acts and talk about knitting. Then let’s say they decided to emulate the sound, personae and mannerisms. People would criticize the Clintons for running everything through a focus group first. I posit that Brilliant Colors did the same thing.

Their set was tight. Tighter than Meryl Streep’s character’s vagina at the beginning of It’s Complicated. The focus on the musicianship, the singing — the CLOTHES and HAIR! It was a trip in a time machine, it was. Maybe they dress that way every day. I don’t know. Maybe they do it so they can blend in at the Berkeley Bowl (now with two locations to serve you). Whatever the logic, they have it nailed! Those of you lucky enough to see Talulah Gosh and the Raincoats the first time around would be in for a treat if you saw Brilliant Colors perform. They are the Tainted Love of the jingle-jangle movement. And the best part was the sound.

Their sound is perfect for the Hemlock. One of things you get with this type of act is too-quiet lyrics. Even on a lot of early recordings of these Tiger Trap-like acts, the vox are mixed in too low. Maybe it was the style at the time. Maybe the singers are always shy. Maybe the point is the music, not the singing. Whatever the case, it really hit home when you could barely hear the fantastic chops of the lead singer. I wish I had filmed the set. It could be on YouTube now with the rest of the shows I’ve done.

Next up was Hunx and His Punx. It features members of Gravy Train!!!!, and I could see that. But to see another band after Brilliant Colors would be like following the London Philharmonic with Jessica Simpson.

Hunx and His Punx were fine. They certainly were a lot more fun than the other acts, and the music was not bad. I just appreciated the structure of the second act more. It makes sense, though: Put the party band on last when everyone is drunk so they will be properly appreciated. That’s fine. The band played frenetic songs with keyboard and other whatnot, and I have to say that the sound had been adjusted to fit the band nicely. The lyrics were turned up, and the balance was pretty sweet. I think when you have a keyboard it kind of forces everything to fall into place. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Body odor aside, it was another great show at the Hemlock, just like old times, except with no pool table. What’s up with that? Bring back the pool table, guys!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dakin Hardwick January 5, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Nearly all points agreed with. Especially since I saw Its Complicated the night before, and happily had a cold so I wasn’t aware of the negative aroma in the air.


Marie Carney January 5, 2010 at 7:07 pm

so many links!
<3 <3 <3


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