Show Review: Woods, Kurt Vile, The Art Museums at Slim’s, 6/11/10

by Dakin Hardwick on June 12, 2010

Let The Power Of Psychedelia Overtake You...

We speak of SXSW a lot on this site, only because it truly is the best musical bargain out there. You travel from venue to venue seeing bands that you know & love in intimate settings, and you also get to uncover greatness. Sometimes, though, you can get so caught up in the magic of the experience overall, that you may find that the band you learned to love so much in Austin under Shiner-induced ear goggles, isn’t so dreamy in the foggy splendor of San Francisco. Woods were that band for me in Austin, and I was kind of worried that they wouldn’t do it for me here. I’ve started accumulating some of their recordings, and although they are good, they just seem so different from what I remember. But, on this hotter than normal June evening, I forced myself out of my apartment, where I was enjoying lemonade under the fan with my cat (she didn’t get any lemonade, but I did put her tuna on fridge for a bit before serving her dinner. She quite liked that), and forced myself over to Slim’s.

The strange thing about indie shows is that nobody dresses in a way that is reflective of the weather. All of the guys were wearing long sleeve plaid shirts & khakis, and all of the girls were wearing long skirts with a cardigan. I was blown away by the fact that nobody was sweating profusely, but nonetheless, I wasn’t there to ponder the cooling effects of wool in the summer, I was there for some live music.

The Art Museums were just beginning their set when I walked in the door. I liked the staging of them. There were four musicians standing in a line. There were two males playing guitar and singing on the outsides, and two females in the middle, one playing bass and the other playing an electronic drum pad. Virginia Weatherby, the drummer, made excellent use of this machine. She managed to get it to sound like an acoustic percussion instrument, unlike most bands that opt to make to electric drums sound as robotic as possible. The band’s sound itself was fun. The played a loud & fast version of jangle pop, reminiscent of the sound Aisler’s Set were working towards in their heyday. If you aren’t aware of Aisler’s Set, just imagine a pure synthesis of Belle & Sebastian and The Misfits, and you will get close. The Art Museums managed to sprinkle in a nice does of punkier Velvet Underground into the mix as well. I’m also a sucker for the 12 string electric guitar, and Glenn Donaldson played it very nicely.

Next to take the stage was Kurt Vile, whom did not play Mack The Knife, but did seem like he was looking for the next whiskey bar. His fans were the most enthusiastic group of people in the crowd, and it seemed to surprise him quite a bit. People were quiet and respectful when he played his rugged, yet mopey brand of folk music, but as loud as a Justin Bieber show between songs. Yet, he remained hidden behind his very long hair throughout the bulk of the set. The only time he actually showed his face to us was during an amusing bit of crowd interaction, when a woman screamed out:

“You are making my friend wet!”

To which he replayed with a big grin:


to which the woman replied:

“My friend. Who also thinks your wife is really cool, too!”

This did seem to relax Vile a bit throughout the rest of his set. He seemed to be having a bit more fun, which made his playing a lot better. I would definitely see him again, and he kept letting crowd know that he will be coming back through in a few months with a full band.

This leads us to the headliners. A few days before the show, I was able to secure a copy of their latest record, At Echo Lake, which is a very good record, but sounds nothing like the feedback laden band I saw in Austin. The album is primarily a folk record, colored with some interesting effects and a few psychedelic rave-ups. After listen number five in half as many days, I was really primed to see the band that I had been listening to. My excitement level creeped up even higher when I saw this device take the stage:

If it isn’t clear from the picture, we have a sea of guitar pedals, two tape recorders, a cross fader, stacks of cassette tapes, a trumpet, and what I thought were a pair of headphones. If this device was onstage in Austin, I didn’t see it. Probably because it was a crowded room and the person who plays this device plays it while crouched on the floor.

The band came out and delivered an assaultive instrumental opening number. They played a track that was both aggressive and dreamy simultaneously. They key to this song, as well as the overwhelming driving force behind the live show, was what G. Lucas Crane was doing with this handy gadget. He had one side of the headphones on his mouth, and he was hollering nonesense, while working the two tape decks as if they were to turntables, twisting the knobs that held the tiny spools of tape like an expert dj scratching out a beat, juggling back and forth between that two tapes and manipulating his vocals using the guitar pedals. When this guy puts multi-tasking as a skill on his resume, he isn’t lying.

The rest of the set, which consisted primarily of songs off the aforementioned Lake. The songs still had the basic feel of the songs as they appeared on record, including Jeremy Earle’s signature falsetto, but like a band that knows how to take things to the next level live, everything had an additional punch to it. They played ferociously, and managed even get a few people in the crowd moving, a normally impossible feat for the traditionally reserved SF crowds, but nearly impossible in such heat. The band also managed to look like they were having a truly enjoyable time while they were playing. Everyone was all smiles, and it was a truly joyful experience. ¬†Throughout the set, band members switched around instruments, and The Art Museum’s Glenn Donaldson came out a few times to add some of his great 12 string playing to the mix. Crane used the trumpet on only a handful of songs, playing it through the headphones, much like his vocals, and it sounded awesome, and never once sounded like a trumpet.

After all was said and done, the band played a solid hour of joyful psychedelic noise. My fears of this band disappointed me were for naught, and I will encourage anyone who enjoys inspired music that uses experimentation for good, not evil, to spend some time with Woods.

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