w/Carissa's Wierd, Aveo
Sit & Spin, 441-9484, Sun Dec 31, 9:30 pm.
NEW YEAR'S EVE is here and people are greedy for fun--so greedy that they'll forget how to have it and end up believing they've had fun only when they wake up New Year's Day hung over, face down in a pair of dirty skivvies or some oversized breasts. Which can be great fun, I admit, but let's not forget what New Year's is really about: Resolution. A firming up of the old constitution, a monumental epiphany at the tail end of some serious introspection and emotional catharsis.
Which is why, this New Year's Eve, I want to be at the Sit & Spin, bawling my fucking face off to the three beautiful bands they have so wisely chosen to perform for us. But, like my mother always says, I won't be crying because I'm sad, I'll be crying because I'm happy. You see, I want honesty. It's fundamental. Headliners 764-HERO are about that as well. Singer/guitarist John Atkins has never been anything if not honest. Even when his lyrics are vague, his investment is remarkable.
764-HERO are essentially a no-frills power pop trio. What makes them exceptional is that John Atkins is so good at expressing torment. Mostly it carries in his vocal delivery. The band functions solidly as a unit; the drums are punctuated by deep, ripping hits and the bass lines are kept clean and even. There exists that great reverberant echo throughout 764-HERO songs, the one you look to bands like lowercase or Unwound to hear (though said bands don't provide the pop buoyancy of 764-HERO), and with such emotionally charged songwriting, you are always expectant, wrapped up in anticipation of forthcoming emotional release. With each record, 764-HERO grow more realized as they evolve into a virtually irresistible spectacle of tension, intuition, and sound.
Their 2000 release, Weekends of Sound (Up Records), is their finest to date. Throughout this outstanding record, tension coolly builds and unravels, insinuating what's to come. And what comes, as on the title track, is the resolved swell of a great rock song. It doesn't hit you at once, but eases its way in: "Weekends of sound," Atkins screams, a cluster of heavy drum hits just at the heels of it, "Weekends of sound...." And then it all comes together in a rush of full, arching vocal melody intoning above a static phrase of power chords: "And you will/ you'll sit down/won't bore us anymore/ you'll shut up/and you'll keep it honest."
Carissa's Wierd are all about keeping it honest. What makes a person happy to hear them is that they let you in quietly--to confusion, conflict, despair, the whole emotional process. It's generous, really; it makes you feel connected to something wide open, gracious, and undeniably human. They amaze because, like 764-HERO, they don't worry about whether or not they're having fun. They're addled and shaky and possessed of an enormous capacity for great music-making.
Take "To Be There Now," when second vocalist Jenn Ghetto sings, "So forget the way it made you feel/Don't forget it made you want to die." She's singing about sorrow with a voice that is at once tattered and direct in its vulnerability. Happy New Year, right? But think of it: New Year's is partly about ridding oneself of another year's worth of baggage. What better way than through terrible beauty, through quiet musical immolation? (And besides, they never do that song live anyway.)
Carissa's Wierd are not built for a rock venue, sadly. Instead they should be playing tiny opera houses, in which nobody's yapping mouths would overwhelm the lulling, self-contained plaint the band is altruistic enough to get up on stage and create. At the last Carissa's Wierd show I attended, a friend asked, "Why does The Stranger get so worked up over them? There's nothing new to what they're doing." I told him to be quiet, but it was pointless, considering that America's happiest cheerleader was a mere 20 feet from me, barking and yapping like a dumb, most unwelcome fuck.
To my friend's credit, he was partly right. There's nothing conceptually unique to what 764-HERO, Carissa's Wierd, or melodic, soon-to-be-superstar locals Aveo are doing. Rock, my friends, has been invented, reinvented, used up, and reprocessed a million times over in the past 50 or so years. What makes this night so perfect, then, is the human experience, the emotional investment. And if you want to spend a real, honest New Year's Eve with three great fucking bands, here's your chance.