Elf Power w/ Ham1 - Thursday, July 10, 2008 - RnR Hotel $10
As previously described, I have a random connection to the band Elf Power. I went to college with guitarist/keyboardist, Jimmy Hughes' sister, and spent more than one drunken night discussing music with him in the basement of 12 St. John, Binghamton, NY. And yes, I was expecting a different reaction than what I got when I gave the band the heads up about this coming post. But so be it.
Let's jump right in and dispense with the foreplay shall we? sacklunch and I arrived to the RnRH on the early side. It was an odd beginning to the night, as it was still daylight out when we got there. There was a bar crawl happening on H Street, and there was a slew of motorcycles parked in front of PUG across the street. Adding to that, it was "Drunken Jenga Night" upstairs at RnRH, and it transformed the place. I felt like I was at a UVA fraternity party with a good number of young republicans with white dress shirts and pastel ties, pretty young ladies in summer dresses, and a lot of orders for PBR. I didn't hate it, but I didn't like it either. It's just a bit of a mismatch for this club. Downstairs, sacklunch counted 8 people in attendance. I went down to check out opening act Ham1. The first song I caught, one dude was playing the trombone. That's cool. I like the trombone. Here's the next song after that:
If your computer has no sound, or you are otherwise unable to distinguish things that sound good from things that don't sound good, just know that I didn't stay for more of Ham1. I'll wait for Ham2.0* before I consider another listen.
After a few more drinks upstairs, and witnessing a gruesome rendition of Happy Birthday from the Jenga-players, sacklunch, Jimbromski and I dropped in on Elf Power, already in progress. Now, again, I was only aware of this band because my Tivo allowed me 30 free days of Rhapsody, and I heard these guys a couple time while listening to the "low-fi" channel. I liked them, but didn't explore much further. As it happens, they are an Athens band that have been around since 1994, and have had collaborations with artists from other bands like Of Montreal, and Neutral Milk Hotel (good company), and have toured with Wilco and fellow Athenians, R.E.M.
They put on a good set, and I especially liked Josh Lott's drumming. At least in their live performance, the drums took up a lot of real estate within their sound, well suited to the aggressive tracks they played. Don't ask me to name any of them. As you'd expect from a band that has been at this a while, they performed well and they were -uh- tight. Here's a peak:
After finishing their first set, Andrew Rieger and company returned to the stage for a surprising "Elfcore,*" in which they proceeded to play two songs, ending with a cover of T. Rex's "20th Century Boy." We've already noted in previous posts how much we appreciate a good cover, but a cover as your final song...interesting approach.
Here's the thing about this band: they remind me of the 1990s (the decade, not the band), which isn't bad - I liked the 1990s as that time will probably be the closest I ever get to an era like the Roaring 20s; their sound does remind me a bit of R.E.M., though I don't like making this comparison - I think I'd connect the two bands regardless of their shared roots because they sound alike in my ear; and while I enjoyed their set and can see how they would do well in serious college towns, as their final song reminds me, this is 20th Century band. They do what they do well, but it's not a new sound (or even an old/nostalgic sound). It's just a sound that I've heard enough of recently, to the point where I don't really want to make any more room for it in my life.
It's not you, Elf Power, it's me.
*Inspired by or taken wholly from the mouth of Jimbromski.
P.S. A nod to the uber-young geek rockers at the front of the stage (visible on the two video clips). They were great. One with the Art Garfunkel hair-do, the other with the Velma Dinkley glasses. Jinkies, it's refreshing to see two folks so utterly un-self-conscious.