Boy-girl two-piece bands that fold swampy blues into dirty punk are definitely nothing new, especially since a certain Detroit band with a fondness for red and white saturated the scene. Despite that reality (or perhaps because of it), I'm impressed with the sounds being passionately banged out by local duo Sugar Farm (www.sugarfarmmusic.com). Though originally from the Seattle area, guitarist/vocalist Margaret Light and drummer Martin Reinsel spent a few months last year living in Mississippi, exploring the roots of their chosen genre at ground zero. Rensel describes their time in the South with great fondness and respect, citing "truly life-altering experiences recording and giggin' with the likes of Cedric and Garry Burnside [close kin of the late R. L. Burnside] and T-Model Ford." They also got involved with the local Mission Baptist church attended by Junior Kimbrough's family—a cultural and spiritual immersion that now informs their work with palpable authenticity.
However, they're hardly content with emulating their predecessors, and enthusiastically pull a powerful sense of punk-minded aggression and paint-peeling sexual heat into the mix. If your idea of a dream band is one that fuses the lusty charisma of the Bellrays with the articulate aggression of Fugazi, then I strongly advise you to catch their next show this Thursday at Hana's (downtown at 1914 Eighth Avenue). Need more incentive? This will be the alternative venue's last show—Hana's is being bulldozed to make way for yet another onslaught of condos.
Nearly 10 years ago—well before all these condos started popping up like herpes outbreaks in a whorehouse—I saw a particularly memorable show at Moe's (now Neumo's) on a drizzly winter weekday. The bill was co-headlined by dark-humored songwriters Gerald Collier and Marc Olsen; it was also attended by probably only a dozen people, creating an intimate atmosphere that felt more like a spontaneous living room jam than a "real" show at one of the city's bigger clubs. Watching exceptionally talented musicians play to thin crowds can be lackluster or depressing, but on the right occasion—and with a properly enthusiastic audience—it can be borderline magical.
This same feeling was conjured by the Hawthorne, California–based band Dios (Malos) at Chop Suey late last year, when they played a bliss-inducing set for a reverent audience of 10 or so devoted fans (including most of the members from Pretty Girls Make Graves) and charmed everyone senseless with psych-tinged, beach-buoyed pop from their eponymous sophomore album (a release many critics deplored, but I adored). Despite that meager turnout, Dios (Malos) are heading back our way in early May, and while I'm selfishly hoping that intimate atmosphere is re-created, I also hope for their sake that they get the broader audience they deserve. Attendance is especially encouraged for fans of Clem Snide's wistful sense of romance or All Things Must Pass–era George Harrison.
Audience size definitely wasn't an issue for last week's Stranger Big Shot blowout at Neumo's, featuring exhilarating performances by the Emergency, Tennis Pro, Romance, and Visqueen, and spot-on selections from DJ El Toro. A packed house watched as punk-popsters Speaker Speaker picked up the honors, including a cool $2,000, which they plan to spend repairing their ailing tour van or perhaps retiring it and upgrading to something more reliable. Congrats to them and thanks to all the Stranger readers who helped make the event such a success.
Looking ahead to even bigger Stranger-sponsored festivities, this year's Capitol Hill Block Party is undergoing a couple of significant changes, both of which I heartily endorse. First, the two-day party will kick off late Friday afternoon and wrap up Saturday night—no more "sunstroke Sunday" to contend with—a particularly difficult day for an event primarily attended by nightlife fans who'd rather save their Sundays for resting and recovering. Second, they're handing over the booking reins to Sealed with a Kiss promoter Jason Lajeunesse, an agent with excellent taste and strong connections who will undoubtedly put together a swoon-worthy assemblage of national and local acts. Keep your eye on this column for lineup announcements as they are confirmed over the next few weeks.
In bleaker news, many club owners around town are growing nervous about a new regulation that will require complete sprinkler systems to be installed in any venue with a capacity of 99 or greater. While obviously wise from a safety standpoint, the expense (totaling $30,000 or more for most venues) will be a significant burden for smaller, already struggling venues (see also In the Hall, page 11).