LIVE: Roadkill Ghost Choir @ The Box (Charlottesville, VA) - 10/7/12

There are many firsts when you are in a band. The first EP you release, the first tour, the first night you all sleep in the van together, and the first time you see and hear someone singing along to your songs thousands of miles from home. These are just a few of the firsts Roadkill Ghost Choir has been checking off over the last few weeks, and a couple of weeks ago they got the chance to check off their first show in Charlottesville Virginia.

Opening the set with a monster 11+ minute performance which blended two new songs “I Could See Everything” and “Dead Friend” into a single musical piece, the Ghost Choir provided the intimate audience with a great introduction and foreshadowing of the dynamic cosmic soundscapes and range they would explore throughout the evening. Starting with a simple strummed guitar, the band built the groundwork of long shimmering pedal steel lines, Wurlitzer backdrops, and Brian Eno inspired ambient tones that intertwined beautifully with Andrew Shepard’s dynamic and powerful lead vocal range. “There’s no meaning to the words left on the lips of an old dead friend,” he sang as he bent and shifted between a brooding country twang, Tom Petty croon, and aching grunge yelp in a single line. All the while the band fluidly phased from a mellow country ballad to straight up indie rocker, only to end on an ambient piece that sounded like a pulsating neutron star whose gravity had enveloped everything that had just happened.

As a listener, these ambient transitional pieces provided a space to reflect on what they had just experienced. In this case, it also provided a perfect launch pad for the next tune, a straight up rocker that is still “Untitled”. Turning up the grungy guitar, bass, drum and vocal lines on a dime, the inclusion of non-traditional drawn out pedal steel and vintage electric piano gave it an overall fresh and new feeling. 

TO DO LIST: The Be Good Tanyas @ The Hamilton TONIGHT!!!

It will be a slightly downsized but no less brilliant Be Good Tanyas that take the Hamilton stage this evening. Founding member Sam Parton was involved in a car accident early last month, and she was forced to drop out of this leg of the tour as she continues her recovery in the band’s home town of Vancouver.

While Parton will be missed, the other two Tanyas, Frazey Ford and Trish Klein, are a formidable musical presence on their own. The band’s three albums, Blue Horse, Chinatown, and Hello Love are superb, and the highlights were assembled on this year’s Collection 2000-2012.

The Tanyas make some of the most understated and beautiful acoustic music out there – a mix of folk, country, and bluegrass that revolves around the harmonies and interplay of the band members. While some folk bands aspire to sound “old-timey,” the Tanyas’ music transcends that kind of label – it’s simple, well-constructed, and a joy to listen to. Drummer John Raham and bassist Mark Beaty will join Ford and Klein to fill out the sound, but really, the two could show up sans instruments and still put on a fantastic show.

To put the Tanyas’ musical output into perspective, they’ve released just three albums in 12 years; show opener Dan Bern has released three albums since May, beginning with Drifter, a wonderful roots-rock travelogue that illustrates why he’s one of the best singer-songwriters in the business. Bern’s live shows are always fantastic, blending serious subjects and surreal stories with the skill of a juggler.

One missing Be Good Tanya won’t detract from a night of wonderful acoustic music.

Get your tickets HERE. We'll see you at the show. 

REVIEW: Dan Bern - Drifter

Dan Bern seems to be on a never-ending world tour that began sometime in the mid-90s. Now he's taken that globe-trotting experience and channeled it into his terrific new album, Drifter.

Drifter plays as an introspective travelogue - Los Angeles, Spain, the Netherlands, and outer space are all traversed in rhyme. On recent albums Bern veered into pure rock territory with the occasional blazing electric guitar and sneering vocal, but Drifter sticks to the kinds of upbeat folk he made early in his career, and the addition of Common Rotation's skills on a myriad instruments fills out the sound perfectly.

Press Play: Roadkill Ghost Choir - "Drifter"

Sounds Like: My Morning Jacket, if Fleet Foxes rocked, Midlake, Band of Horses, chicken-fried Radiohead
Why You Should Care: This what you want playing when you are dodging guitar bullets coming out of your speakers as you are chasing after the mythical unicorns of Kamchatka. (at least this is what I was feeling) Otherwise, this drips with the type of energy that will make anyone want to start a band, get into a trance on the dark lonesome highway and see how fast you can get that old duster going, or just rock some serious air-lap-steel in your living room. 

Following the path laid down by fellow state-mates Tom Petty, Criteria Studios (which produced Fleetwood Mac's Rumours and The Eagle's Hotel California), and Iron & Wine, the Roadkill Ghost Choir stand out as a beacon of hope for the music coming out of Florida in the coming years. Composed of six gents who look like they just stepped off the set of Dazed and Confused, "Drifter" is a roller coaster ride of a tune that comes charging out of the gates with a southern rock attitude that’s been dipped into a dream tank and then blended with folk music and some rock cojones to launch it into the stratosphere.

Wowzers, what does that even mean?