Monday, December 5, 2011

Chapter Nineteen: "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke, and Loud, Loud Music: Sick City 4. Opposable Thumbs. The Bottom Sop."


Apparently after Cropped Out Fest in November, I decided to take a vacation from writing here, and within that vacation, I got lost somewhere in time. I've been to what feels like a thousand shows, but between the minutes of personal life and the zany idea that I can maintain two jobs, as well as engage in other extra-curricular activities, American Gloam got slow on its upkeep.

The original idea of the Gloam concept was to cover and feature local writing, as well as underground/independent and/or regional music and film. Lately, I seem to have been fixated on music more than anything else. The balance gets heavy on one end often. I plan on offering an essay on my current position towards my personal relationship with "writing fiction" soon; until then, my head is still stuck in a bar watching a band. And I don't consider that a bad thing.

That being said, my addiction to live music is still liberally strong. I've been to more shows than I've been able to document here, but since I consider this a place to record happenings that I see and hear, I'll start with What I Did This Weekend, and move on from there. Instead of logging a massive amount of shows at once, as I've done in the past, I plan on trying to capture smaller amounts more quickly.

I feel like I'm writing my own mission statement to myself right now. It's rainy and The Cold is setting in, so my mood and mental capacity can be slightly on the run. Plus, the onslaught of holiday seasons always play tricks on my brain and time.

Besides all that, I fed my addiction well this past weekend, and it will resonate into two entries. Here be the first.

Sick City 4 Minus 1. Opposable Thumbs @ Harley's Main Street Tavern. Friday December 2.

Friday fell into an unfortunate routine that I sometimes develop; exhausted from working all week, I came home in a rainy rush hour, looked at the Internet for too many minutes, and crashed on my bed until about 8:30pm, only to wake up, realize I had slept too long, feed my cat, and rush out the door to catch the events I had planned on attending.

Morning-bleary-eyed at 9:30 in the evening sort of sucks, but I was fully awake when I realized that Harley's in Downtown Louisville was surrounded by blocks of cars due to the University of Louisville basketball game being held at the Yum Center. Not being a fan of either basketball, basketball fans, or the Yum Center's idea of parking, I finally found a spot on Fifth, several blocks from Harley's. I was almost hit by a Giant SUV backing its way up a block for some Very Important Reason, I'm sure. Seems pretty common for visitors into the Downtown area to make up their own road rules, so I was able to swing with this and avoid being crushed or dying.

I've attended a show at Harley's before during game time. The interaction between bands, band fans and U of L fans is interesting. Until the game ends, Harley's resembles a sports bar; people who did not pay to watch the game live at the Yum Center crowd at the bar or at tables scattered throughout watching and yelling, booing and clapping at the TVs. Everyone is decked in red, sporting their best new Cardinals sweatshirt. Being that Harley's is located almost immediately across the street from the Yum Center, it and every other establishment on that block of Main St are deluged with Cardinal fans following the game. The streets actually become extremely crowded and almost difficult to navigate, which makes Louisville seem like a bustling bigger city at 10pm, and while I don't swing with the sports crowd, I enjoy the crowding of Downtown.

In a sense, despite not really enjoying sports fans obsessions (I can cite reasons why, but that would become a longer unrelated essay), I dig the scene Harley's has begun to maintain. The strange mix of culture that has occurred at the two shows I've been to is pretty priceless and I've appreciated it at both shows I've been to so far, and look forward to future shows there. The space becomes swamped with folks at that 10pm hour with two different crowds: the basketball fans and the music fans. I've always like the weird social scene that can be created with the mix of different interests and crowds, and witnessed this for the first time at the Epic Wish Show staged by The Kentucky Prophet, The Frequent Sea and Madame Machine on November 11, 2011. The mix was just as fun as Sick City Four took the corner and began on December 2.

This incarnation was actually billed as Sick City Four Minus One, as guitarist Chris Willems was unable to attend. I realized I was completely unfamiliar with Sick City Four, and ashamed and disappointed for that. Upon my moving back to Louisville in 2005, I had really hoped to find some jazz in the city. There were jazz elements in many musical projects I've seen, but Sick City Four represent a band I've been wanting to see for years now. Bart Galloway on drums, Dan Willems on sax and Heather Floyd on trumpet, wonderfully performing various forms of free or experimental jazz. Galloway's drums swung everywhere from loud quiet loud followable beats to rhythms that were complicated explosions. This combined with Willems' strong sax piercing through and Floyd pacing herself into certain refrains, supporting only to then take the lead, and then both horns sliding off of each other...I was in a few minutes of heaven. I haven't seen live jazz since visiting New Orleans in January.

Sick City Four Minus One

I listen to a lot of jazz and love jazz, but am not good at describing jazz, so I know any attempt at a particulars on my part would not do the group justice. Afterwards I asked both Heather and Dan when they might play again, because I definitely want to be there to see/hear it.

The quartet started in 1987 in Bloomington, Indiana, and relocated to Louisville in 1995. I'm not aware of any available recordings, but the link above leads to some live downloads that are pretty amazing.
A fan dances?
As Sick City Four played, the odd contrast of an experimental jazz trio and the bar packed with U of L fans became glaring. Some seemed interested, some left in disgust when they realized this was the type of entertainment Harley's was offering them. But that's what makes a city interesting; I'm sure two or three bars down, there would be some type of entertainment some might find more to their taste. Some stayed and listened to this music as it poured out the open door onto the sidewalk. The reactions were intriguing.

It was during this set that one basketball fan walked up to me while I snapped pictures of the band.

"You gonna post those on the Internet."
"Not sure. Maybe," I said.
"You should. Maybe some kid in Africa will learn what jazz is in Louisville. How else would he know if you don't post it?"
"I guess you're right," I mumbled, a little confused.
"But, I have to say, the thing that is capturing my attention more than anything are the huge tits on that girl over there in the red sweater."
"Hm. Maybe you should ask her out instead of telling me about it."
"You think? Maybe you're right. They're like huge cherry bombs. Good advice, thanks!" And he patted me on the back and gave me a thumbs up as he walked in her direction.

Sexist? Yes. Fucked up? Yes. Again: a weird mix of peoples.

A summation of the crowd's behavior that night is pretty dead on here at The Death of Everything.

Opposable Thumbs are a five-piece punk band based here in Louisville featuring members from several other bands of the past that I've been fans of for years. Eric Supplee, guitarist from Activated Peat, Whiskey Dick and more recently Bad Blood, described the band to some open-minded basketball fans outside as "a rock and roll band that can play 10 or 12 songs in 20 minutes...yeah, it's fast rock and roll."

Opposable Thumbs

The band recently added Andy Matter on drums, someone I've known and played music with for many, many years, and can definitely bust the drums. It's great to see Terri playing bass again. The band has an interesting sound with Bill Montgomery on synths, used to give some driving effects to garagey-punk in the songs. Eric was right: good fast rock and roll, led by vocalist Jeremy, who jumped and whooped and hollered out into the tables while the band played on.

I'm not aware of any available recordings from the band other than those on the site linked above. They have a show coming up January 7, 2012 at the Rudyard Kipling with the Vibrolas and Technology Vs. Horse.  

The night ended with less U of L fans and more music fans leftover.

The Bottom Sop. Katie Martin @ The Taproom. Saturday December 3.

Saturday night was special for a couple of reasons. It was the 26th Annual Bardstown Road Aglow, which takes place in the Louisville Highlands every year in the holiday season. The event starts at dusk, and features art openings and (as usual) live music scattered throughout the Highlands area in an effort to lure shoppers to the local businesses located in the district.

It also happened to be my Dad's birthday, who was out and about watching some music with my Mom, and kicking the asses of twentysomethings foolish enough to challenge him in a game of pool in the backroom of the Taproom.

A family affair all-around, my brother Derrick Manley's country band The Bottom Sop played three sets during the event at the Taproom. Each set saw a different crowd, as shoppers and revelers stopped, sat, drank, watched and eventually danced and/or sung along.
The Bottom Sop

The Bottom Sop mix country music from the 1950s through the 1970s with originals. It's definitely a straight-country music outfit, with the vocals being led by Derrick and Lindsay Brooke Anderson. Many of the songs are duets, including such covers as "Jackson" by Johnny Cash and June Carter, and "Daddy Was an Old Time Preacher Man" by Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton. One of my favorites they perform is the Conway Twitty tune "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke, and Loud, Loud Music." Pretty perfect rendition of it, too.

The band also features Nick Beach on drums and Jackie Railtrain on bass. Kenn Allday plays lead guitar, although he wasn't able to make the first two sets that night.

Listening to The Bottom Sop makes me feel like I walked into a honky-tonk circa 1973. I get the feeling most of the crowd watching that night had not seen them before, and many sat humming along with the songs, or clapping in rhythm with the band. If there's one thing my brother knows, it's country music, and he and the whole band can deliver. Lindsey's vocals matched with his unfold into each song so well, they almost match old recordings. I overheard several people in the crowd bring up how beautiful their voices were together, as well as how tight the band was. They shoot for an era of country that is one of my favorites, with songs about flirtin', drinkin', and heartache. And they do it well.

Plus, they got my Mom and Dad to cut a rug, which I don't think I've seen in years.

The Bottom Sop were handing out live recordings on CD-R. I believe they have plans to record a full-length studio album soon. They are the new house band on Monday nights at Baxter's, and often play Derrick's open-mic night at the Taproom on Wednesday nights.

Traveling musician Katie Martin also played two solo acoustic sets that night. I haven't seen anyone work some acoustic fingertapping-harmonics so well into songs since, well I don't know. Martin mixed folk and blues and rock and solo into her guitar and voice. She's from the South, via Alabama and Georgia, and added some nice diversity into the set.
Katie Martin

That was Friday, and that was Saturday. Next: Sunday, and my first real record review! Hold on to your hats.

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