Archive for the ‘PWR BTTM’ Category

[CANCELLED: June 17, 2017] Nnamdi Ogbonnaya/Tancred/PWR BTTM

I had really enjoyed PWR BTTM on their Tiny Desk show.  Their live show appeared to be a spectacle of fun.  I was really looking forward to this live show.

And then within a week or so after the release of their second album, the whole thing fell apart.

On May 11, Ben was accused of various predatory behaviors.
The next day, two band members quit.
The opening acts dropped out of the tour.  For my show, they were to be Nnamdi Ogbonnaya and Tancred.
Their management dropped them and they were kicked out of a couple of festivals.
The record label dropped them and stopped selling the album (less than 24 hours after it had been released).
On May 16, I was sent a refund for my concert.

Obviously, I hope all parties can get the help they need.  But in my selfish state, I can’t help but wish it all went down a month later.

I also wish that the accusations against trump stuck as hard and caused such an immediate downfall. (more…)

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4416SOUNDTRACK: PALEHOUND-Tiny Desk Concert #521 (April 11, 2016).

palehoundPalehound sounds like they would be kind of a scruffy roots rock band.  But they are about as far from that as you can get.  Rather, Palehound are the embodiment of alt indie rock–a literate confessional songwriter playing spare grungy music behind her emotionally wrenching vocals.

Back in February, Palehound played a showcase for NPR (you can see it here).  In the live setting, the band was noisy and rocking and singer/guitarist Ellen Kempner’s distortion was turned way up.  She doesn’t shred, but she makes a giant noise.  She is backed by a bassist and a drummer–spare but effective.  And her voice is comfortably uncomfortable meaning her angry lyrics and intentionally less than pretty singing works perfectly for the music she writes.

But for this Tiny Desk, she strips away a lot of the noise and lays bare both her sound and her voice.  As the blurb says, these three spare, nervy renditions of songs from 2015’s Dry Food are, naturally, a bit rawer and more exposed… But, with the aid of drummer Jesse Weiss and bassist Davood Khoshtinat, Kempner uses that intimacy to her advantage.

The first song, “Pet Carrot” opens with a simple guitar riff and Kempner’s delicate  voice singing “my best friend is a parrot and I say things that he won’t mind” (this part reminds me a bit of the melody from “Brand New Key” from Melanie.  When the band kicks in (bass and drums) they ground the song.  Her guitar style isn’t flashy at all but it works really well with her understated vocals.

She switches guitars (“the old switcheroo”) and Bob says they admired this guitar.  She says they were on tour with PWR BTMM who are so glittery so she bought whale stickers and bejeweled the guitar.  Bob says that PWR BTTM will be here in Feb (so not only did Palehound’s show air two months later but it was put out after PWR BTTM’s).

For “Dry Food,” her vocals are much deeper and even more delicate.  Her guitar playing is great—picking the high notes with her fingers and playing bass notes with her thumb.  The drum is simple–keeping the beat–while the bass adds a low end.  Again, the lyrics are great: “You made beauty a monster to me so I’m kissing the ugly things I see.”

The final song, “Dixie,” is just her singing and playing guitar.  It’s a simple ballad, but not a happy one.  I like the way she repeats the last line of each verse–like a poem.  The song feels like a dream and confessional at the same time:  “People that I’ll never meet have been showing up naked in my dreams and I try to close my eyes but I really want to see their breasts like eyes are staring back at me, their breasts like eyes are staring back at me.”  I love the slow chord she plays at the end of each verse too—a punctuation after each thought.  And then this line: “The hair that’s in my shower drain has been clogging up my home.  And I try to scoop it up but I wretch until I’m stuck just stare and gag into a Dixie cup, just stare and gag into a Dixie cup.”

With her full band there’s a lot more dissonance both in her guitar sound and the chords she plays (and she talks about new merch–Nail Polish called Nailhound by Palehound).  This band is really something.

[READ: January 23, 2013] “God’s Work”

This is a story of faith and questions.

Sanders is a college aged boy (I think–it says sophomore, and they live near a college, so I assume he is in college).  His mother is a devout woman who goes door to door with pamphlets inviting people to Fellowship.  They aren’t Mormon–in fact I can’t decide what their religion is.  They don’t believe in hell, just a void, but she says that, of course, you would rather have God’s eternal love than nothingness.

Sanders loves his mother and his faith is certain.  But he is a teen-aged boy with urges and an imagination.  And being around college-aged girls (while he must wear a heavy black suit) is unsettling.

Most people simply shut their doors in his mother’s face (which does not deter her) but every once in a while people invite her in.  Sometimes for good reason and other times to give them a hard time. (more…)

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march 21 SOUNDTRACK: PWR BTTM-Tiny Desk Concert #519 (April 4, 2016).

pwrbttmPWR BTTM are the most fun Tiny Desk concert to come along in a long time.  They are a two person—drums and guitar only–queercore band.  The two guys are Ben Hopkins and Liv Bruce.  They are punky and brash and a lot of fun.

Ben plays guitar for the first three songs and they switch off lead vocals.

“Ugly Cherries” opens with an excellent, complex guitar riff played on a very distorted acoustic guitar.  I love that that complicated riff runs through the song and ends with an awesome harmonic’d note.  It’s two minutes of pop punk fun.  And the opening lyrics sets the tone for the song (and the band):  “My girl gets scared, can’t take him anywhere.”

Between songs Ben and Liv are full of jokes and chatter.  Liv says “This is my favorite show that we’ve ever done…its cool to be someone’s lunch break.”

For “Dairy Queen,” Ben switches guitars.  He has an electric guitar this time and Liv sings lead.  Interestingly, this guitar is less distorted than the acoustic.  This is a funny song with the refrain of “right now I’m in the shower.”  There are lots of ideas about things they could do if he wasn’t in the shower like “We can go to Disneyworld and fuck shit up,” At the end of the song Liv moans that he had planned to change Disneyworld to NPR because it is the same syllables, but he forgot.

“Nu 1” returns Ben to lead vocals.  It is a slower song with a simpler guitar riff.  Although once the chorus comes in it’s loud and brash with backing vocals from Liv.  The opening line “God damn everyone’s dumb” is pretty great.  The end of the song has a guitar riff that is similar to the first song, but played in a very different style.

For the final song “C U Around” they switch places with Liv moving to guitar and lead vocals.  As Ben heads to the drums Bob comments on his nail polish and Ben looks over and says “Bob… up here” pointing to his eyes.  While everyone is laughing and Liv is tuning, Ben says

When I was 15 and didn’t think a queer person could ever be in a band….  I  never thought I’d get to throw shade at Bob Boilen.  This is my biggest dream come true.

Then Ben asks how is Liv doing up there and Liv shouts “Guitars are hard!” His guitar playing is very different–more strumming than Ben’s manic style.  The song is slow with a plucked guitar riff and I like the way near the end he starts strumming really hard and gets a cool fuzzed out bass guitar tone while retaining the regular sound of the guitar’s high end.

As you can see from the photo, PWR BTTM dress outlandishly.  Ben is in a bright red dress with sparkly nail polish and really garish facial makeup (with his beard showing through) and swim goggles on his forehead.  Liv is a bit more subdued although when he steps to the front mic you can see that his lipstick is really quite striking.  A few months back Bob said they put on his favorite live show.  If I loved the fifteen minutes of this one I can only imagine how great a 90 minute extravaganza of PWR BTTM would be like.

[READ: March 25, 2016] “A Resolute Man”

Since I’ve read a few pieces by Proulx recently I felt like I knew her M.O.: bad things happen to people who seem innocent, but might not be–usually by strangely named people.  And all set a long time ago.

This one is not far from that description, although it does change things somewhat.  And I enjoyed it a lot more.

I found the beginning to be a little slow going (but that may be because I was anticipating a long slog).  We learn about Captain James Duke.  And this time I marveled at Proulx’s descriptive sentences; “Duke, at fifty, was complicated, dark-haired, and somewhat handsome”.  That’s a lot of things in a few words.  We learn about Duke’s history and then we learn that he has inherited a parcel of land in Boston (he currently lives in England). (more…)

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