Long live rock, I need it every night

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Sliceland of Iceland...

Mugison (with Bellman Barker)
September 23, 2008

...quite niceland, indeed. It was a night of surprises, not because I expected Mugison and Bellman Barker to suck, but because they were both so good. The original intent behind Rock Club, for me, was to see a lot of shows and maybe someday be able to say something like "The Beatles? Yeah, I saw them in 1961 in the Cavern Club." Get in on the ground floor, you know? Neither of these bands will ever knock the Beatles off of their lofty perch, but I have to say that my $10 ticket was money well spent. Lately I'd been lamenting our not seeing enough local bands so I'm glad we got to see Bellman Barker, in particular.

Mugison is a two person outfit consisting of lead singer Örn Elías Guðmundsson, and some other dude. The other guy could have been Örn's brother, but everyone in Iceland looks like they're related to each other, because they pretty much are. The two of them would gibber in their childlike pidgin tongue, and then Örn would make a quip in English, and then they would launch into some stripped-down White Stripes/ De Stijl style blues-rock. They were very good and you couldn't help but be won over by their endearing nature. They'll be playing Austin City Limits this weekend so perhaps I'll check them out while I'm out there. Sack suggested that we offer up Jumbo Slice's house for Mugison to crash at, without informing him. Mugison, if you're reading this, e-mail us and I'll give you Jumbo's address. He won't mind.

Bellman Barker actually opened things up so I suppose this review is out of order. One rejected title for this one was Blame It On The Bellman Barker, which would have been an homage to the classic ape movie Blame It On the Bellboy. The title was rejected because I looked on IMDB and realized that I was actually thinking of Dunston Checks In. Blame It On Dunston? Dunston Checks In, by the way, is an award-winning documentary about a chimp who hangs out with George Costanza and later rises to become the Chief Financial Officer of Starwood Resorts, Inc.

I stated earlier that Bellman Barker won't surpass the Beatles, but they can probably overtake Wings. As I was listening to them I was trying to place the sound, and I kept coming back to what could be called "intelligent 1970s rock"--you know, sensitive guy music that's not as wimpy as yacht rock--I'm thinking Wings, Badfinger, Kansas, stuff like that. Bellman Barker have lots of cool tempo changes and soaring refrains (go to their MySpace and listen to "Two Bees" for a taste). They tend to be a little too jammy for my tastes and I think they could benefit by shortening and stripping down some of their songs a la Spoon, but you can't argue with their proficiency. These guys are the type of band where every member has been playing his instrument since elementary school, and it shows. We see so much ragged music that you get used to it, until you see someone like Bellman Barker play. Almost like a session band, really. Even the backup vocals were pretty choice.

And lest you think that being compared to Wings is a bad thing, I beg to differ. Back when Mrs Jimbromski and I lived in New York, one of my neighbors posted an anonymous note on my apartment door complaining that I had been playing my music too loud. That didn't bother me so much--it was late and I had the volume up too high--but she added that "[my] taste in music sucked" because the song I was playing at high volume was "Band On The Run." I nearly drafted a long rebuttal defending Wings--I wanted to tape it to the front door of the building--but I thought better of it. Pearls before swine.

A few quick notes on DC9 and then I'm off to Austin. We were able to sit in a booth in the corner and watch the show, which was great. This is the dinner theater atmosphere I've always pined for. The onyl drawback was that it was freezing by the windows.

Anyway, we're all off to Austin, so posting will be sporadic while we're gone, but we'll try to report back on what we see. Two big thumbs up, one for Mugison, and one for Bellman Barker.


sacklunch said...

I arrived a little late, so I only caught 1/2 of Bellman Barkers set. However, what I heard I quite liked. Good musicians playing intersting songs, what more can you ask for on a Tuesday night for $10.

I enjoyed Mugison as well. It was not what I expected as I had read they were travelling with a full band. My only quibble was that their set was kind of short, seemed like about 40 minutes tops.

There was some dude at DC9 who was trying to get Mugison and Bellman Barker to play a final song together. His attempt was rather lame and uncomfortable. He also was looking/pointing at us as I think he thought WE were in the band (the real Bellman Barker dudes had been sitting next to us, but had left already). We commented how funny it would be if Jimbromski, Stuttson, and I went up on stage to play. What a fucking mess that would be. Though I hear Jimbromski is very adept at playing the skin flute.

Off to Austin tomorrow. Woot.

Jumbo Slice said...

Nice use of the umlaut.

Only two in Mugison? No problem, they can stay with me. They're from Iceland so they won't mind sleeping in the yard and bathing in the creek.

If we don't see Mugison at ACL then let's see their after show at Stubbs.

Anonymous said...

You had me at "sounds like Kansas." No one else is playing Saturday at 11:45...I might try some Mugison. I love Icelandic inside jokes! Svo hlægilegur!

John Foster said...

This will make me question all future SackBromski reviews. I have seen BB a number of times but avoided any coverage on my other site for the "if you don't have anything nice to say" reason but also the inevitable shitstorm of comments sure to rain down from those unwilling to leave their name and e-mail. Plus they seem harmless but I have re-considered the harmless part.

BB is so unbelievably bland that it is embarrassing. Kansas and Badfinger oozed personality. You guys are commending a band just for being smooth and proficient. I admit it may not be a quality in high demand at times in the clubs we all frequent but the reality is you can see this at 100 bars in the area every night. Thousands of guys that can actually play a tight set are littered throughout the city. You know why you don't see them? Because you go to see bands at places that don't have a salad bar! For fuck's sake - being a non-offensive background to beer slurping should be damned at a real music venue.

Aaron could be an engaging front man, but he sings clearly out of his register in order to be wispy and high and "smooth" rather than original and memorable. The rest of them are interchangeable, like a poorly dressed session band culled together from the music program at some liberal arts college.

You guys know better.

Unknown said...

what he said.

Potsy said...

ha! Push back. Most excellent. Meanwhile, I wasn't there, so I have nothing really to offer.

Jimbromski said...

that reminds me of a joke

How many Vietnam vets does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

You wouldn't know, man, you weren't there.

Jimbromski said...

Also re: Foster...appreciate the frankness b/c as you mentioned nobody ever gives their real opinion for fear of hurting someone's feelings.

It's obviously a subjective judgment but for me, I paid $10 for a ticket, got a booth right next to the stage, hung out with some pals, and heard two pretty good bands. Those other factors influence me as much as the music...if I had seen BMB at the Black Cat backstage, maybe I wouldn't have enjoyed it so much, who knows.

Also, I wouldn't say Kansas "oozed personality," that's going a bit far.

John Foster said...

Give me a band that sounds just like Kansas either before or after? I'm not saying I liked their personality - but it certainly was there. Walk outside in Arlington and throw a just emptied down your gullet beer glass towards Wilson Blvd. That guy who is now picking bloody shards out of his three inches too long mop of a hair do - he plays in a band that sounds just like Bellman Barker.

I can certainly appreciate that a band can have a different impact in a different venue or depending on the circumstances surrounding you seeing them. Jenny Toomey's Mom being drunk next to me made a Liqourice show into one of my faves when it would have been so so had I stood 10 feet to the left. In this case however, it is a band that I have seen 5 times all over town just in the last year and it would (and will) be true no matter the circumstances. I am sure Malitz has suffered the same thing 100 times over knowing the amount of shows he attends.

I am busting balls because you didn't say we had a nice night and the beer was cold and the opening band didn't offend us and then these kooks from Iceland did their take on the blues... You went out of your way to commend them on their proficient playing as a badge of honor and when Sack did the same I just lost it.

I respect your opinions too much to let it go unnoticed.

It won't change my reading what you have to report back but it is sort of like we had been chatting about sports and music for a few months at our kid's school and then you drove up to pick up your kid and I saw a Dave Matthews Band bumper sticker on your SUV.

sacklunch said...

I just got back from Austin and I am tired, so I will keep this relatively short.

Let's face it, live music is incredibly subjective. I think your mood, environment, weather, dewpoint, whether you have had sex that week, etc, etc... has a lot to do with youer show experience. Again ,it was a Tuesday night, we had some seats, and I was in a good mood. Did Bellman Barker blow me away? No. However, I did enjoy the majority of the songs I heard and the performance was far from "bland". We've seen a lot of shows together and a fair amount of local bands at that and I have certainly been much blander (is that even a word? More bland?)

Anyway, the point I very eloquently trying to make is that they were an unexpected surprise. I ws going in with the attitude that they were going to be mediocre at best (like many of the local bands around here) and they exceeded my expectations. Again, not bad for a weekday night at DC9.

I think it is ridiculous to generalize on musical taste by my opinion of one local band.

I also need to add a few things about the Dave Matthews Band sticker comment. I went to college down in Williamsburg when the DMB was still playing at places the size of RNR Hotel and the Black Cat. Make fun of me as much as you want, but those were some excellent live shows. Yeah, they got all big and sold out. They moved into that adult contemporary/jam crap that I learned to really dislike. But I distinctly remember those shows in 1993 as being quite good. So maybe I bought the DMB sticker and put in on my SUV back then. Does that still make me a douchebag?

And finally Foster, and this is me busting your balls, so don't take it the wrong way. But that other blog you write for, THEY LIKE EVERYTHING. EVERY REVIEW IS ABOUT HOW AWESOME AND EXCELLENT EVERY LOCAL BAND IS SO I THINK YOU MAY BE BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE...(and yes, the caps were on purpose, OMG, 01001000111)


John Foster said...

Hey Sack - By no means do I question that DMB was an amazing live act and that is a piece of conversation I wouldn't even raise an eyebrow about, but hopefully you get the meaning behind going the extra mile and actually putting the bumper sticker on your car. The part about Bellman Barker that put me over the edge was that you both elevated them past simply saying "this band didn't suck as much as a lot of local openers" to bumper-sticker slapping status.

I know what you mean about some things on byt but in the "barking up the wrong tree" category I don't think you could say that is the case about my writing over there.

I enjoy reading your collective view on things (and am waiting on the inevitable video of Jumbo giving "hugs for recyclables" at ACL) but there has been nothing on this site to date to prepare me for you guys digging a BB performance. Honest. I was shocked.

Anonymous said...

All of this reads: John Foster needs to get a life.