Over the Weekend: July 25-27, 2008
Triple Rock, July 25
The last time I saw Western Fifth, I believe it was their second show ever. They had somehow landed the opening slot for Ike Reilly, and they fumbled through a shaky set and handed out burned copies of a couple of demo tracks in duct tape envelopes. Their live show needed some work but the demo showed promise; frontman Ryan Holweger sang with a quiet desperation, and the band accompanied him with a slow, unfolding country beat. Fast forward two years, and the band has improved exponentially as a group. Holweger seems to have grown more comfortable with his voice, which teeters between a subtle whine and a heart-wrenching warble, and has developed the band into a vehicle for delivering his slow, pensive country ballads.
The Triple Rock wasn't the ideal place to catch Western Fifth--the sound made it hard to hear the lyrics from almost anywhere in the room. Even still, the mood of their music washed over the room, causing the small crowd on the floor of the venue to hush up and sway back and forth.
Crescent Moon is in Big Trouble
Triple Rock, July 26
The Crescent Moon is in Big Trouble set unfolded like a dream. The members of Big Trouble took the stage first, setting the tone with an expansive instrumental song that warmed the room and drew the crowd toward the front of the stage. Big Trouble is a collection of musicians who have been playing together for years in a slew of different groups (Heiruspecs, Martin Devaney's band, Jessy Greene's band, etc.) and different configurations, and their collective history as musicians has helped to shape them into a unified and powerful force. Their sound is unique, laying dormant somewhere between blues, ambient, R&B, and shoegaze.
Crescent Moon strolled onto the stage for the second song, and the sound shifted again into an undefinable genre. I suppose, technically, that you could call Crescent Moon is in Big Trouble a hip-hop act. That's where the band's stellar debut EP is filed at the record store. Crescent Moon is perhaps best known for his work as an MC in a couple of different hip-hop groups--he made a name for himself in Oddjobs before starting up Kill the Vultures, which is still active--but he has also recently ventured into folk music with his alter-ego Alexei Casselle, partnering with his wife Channy in Roma di Luna. Which seems appropriate--as an MC, Crescent Moon is constantly fluctuating between loud and quiet, hard and soft, B-Boy and beat poet, becoming harder to define at every musical juncture.
Crescent Moon commanded the room. He worked through all of the material on the Crescent Moon is in Big Trouble EP, throwing a Kill the Vultures song and a Roma di Luna song into the mix as he went along. The most astounding moment of the set was most definitely "Broken Dishes," an intense narrative about addiction and abuse that is better left experienced than explained. Cresent Moon and Big Trouble don't play together often, making sets like Saturday's at the Triple Rock all the more precious for fans of these talented musicians.
The XYZ Affair
Nomad Pub, July 26
The XYZ Affair are an airtight pop band, and their set at the Nomad only served to confirm my love for their immaculate harmonies and intricate song structures. Lead singer Alex Feder grinned wildly as he sang, and it was as if he was in on a joke that no one else knew about--before long, though, we learned what Feder had up his sleeve. In addition to playing original songs from 2006's A Few More Published Studies and this year's new EP, Trials, the XYZ are known for throwing a few covers into their set. Sure enough, the band delivered with "Under Pressure" and a remarkably note-perfect version of "End of the Road" by Boyz II Men, complete with a spoken word verse by drummer Sam Rockwell.
To get a sense of The XYZ Affair's sense of humor, check out this video for "All My Friends," featuring a few old Nickelodeon television stars (including the older brother from The Adventures of Pete and Pete!):
See also: a feature on the XYZ Affair by Max Ross from this week's print edition.