HPX 2010 - Night #4 Recap // PART 1: Pinky & Dan

Pinky @ The Paragon

09:00 PM - Bike Rodeo
10:00 PM - English Words
11:00 PM - Great Bloomers
12:00 AM - Hold Steady, The

After working late I booted it down to the Seahorse to beat the crowd that would surely show up for The Hold Steady. While I missed Bike Rodeo, I’ve seen them probably ten times, and I’m sure they were awesome.

I got in just as English Words were setting up and I found my friends up in front ready to rock out. I hate that it’s so easy to write about terrible bands and so hard to write about awesome bands without sounding redundant and boring, because I really like English Words, but it’s hard to explain why. They take the noisiest parts of indie rock and blend them with the best parts of New Wave to create their own brand of music, and they are a pretty unique band.

Songs like Icebergs and Rope from their EP have a much more stripped down 80’s feel to them on the album, but live they are just as loud and energetic as their old material (when they used to be Smothered In Hugs). The front man is extremely engaging to watch and along with a drummer who plays left handed in an open position, and a bass player whose bass is so high he looks like he’s lining up a deer in his rifle scope, it makes for a great live show. Everyone looks so uncomfortable, but the music is seamless.


Up next was Great Bloomers, a band I missed last year when we played with them because I was playing another show down the street. Their sound is a little more laid back and country-ish, but they have their rock and roll moments and their vocal harmonies are definitely a highlight, it’s nice seeing bands make use of every voice available to them.

It was hard to pay attention to Great Bloomers however, I had three couples in front of me just going nuts on each other with the make-outs. I didn’t know Great Bloomers made people so horny. Maybe they are part of some new sex-rock movement I’m not aware of. I do know that by the time they kicked into Second Hand News by Fleetwood Mac I was half expecting an orgy to break out, but instead the couples wandered off, most likely to fuck each other stupid in some dark corner or the bathroom. I was able to enjoy the rest of the performance without seeing anyone’s tongue, so that was a plus.

With a bit more time between Great Bloomers and The Hold Steady I found myself a place by the sound booth and watched the front of the stage get rammed with a mix of country and western clothed hipsters and tattooed v-neck wearing bro douche bags. I had so many guys shove past me on the way to front I thought maybe someone was giving out free weed. Once the Hold Steady started however everyone just stopped and stared, this was a real rock show now, and it was balls out from the first note.

The Hold Steady had a really thick sound and you can tell these guys are the real deal. While they played all the songs I wanted to hear I find the lead singers voice gets kind of repetitive after a while. He is really energetic and interesting to watch but as far as vocals go, he talks, he sings, he talks, he sings, and then he talksings. If it weren’t for the kick-ass rhythm section this band wouldn’t be nearly as awesome.

The Hold Steady had the crowd jumping clapping and singing along and you could tell most people were having a great time. I left after what must have been 16 songs, I had heard all I wanted to and was starting to crash. This was one of the most solid shows I’ve seen this week from start to finish, and since I can’t go out for the final shows on Saturday, it was a good way to end Pop Ex for me. I definitely feel like I got my moneys worth with my bracelet, and I hope it’s a trend that they continue with next year.

Dan @ .... Everywhere

09:00 PM - Bike Rodeo (The Paragon)
09:30 PM - Quaker Parents (Gus' Pub)
10:30 PM - DUZHEKNEW (Gus' Pub)
11:30 PM - Play Guitar (Gus' Pub)
12:00 AM - Hold Steady, The (The Paragon)
01:00 AM - Ruby Jean and the Thoughtful Bees (Coconut Grove)

Friday night was the first real hectic night – I knew I would be bouncing back and forth between a few different venues trying to catch all the bands I wanted to see. I headed down to the Paragon early to get my stamp and catch the Bike Rodeo set.  I don't think I need to repeat how great these guys are, but they sounded fantastic on the big Paragon PA and there was a healthy crowd who were digging their vintage rock sound.

After staying for as long as I could, I booked it back up to Gus' Pub for Quaker Parents. These guys put out a great album recently and their live show is just as good. Despite a slightly smaller crowd that none the less grew as the set went on, the band put on a vigorous set, with plenty of witty stage banter – probably the best banter of the week. The crowd sung along and appreciated the cheap beers. I planned to stick it out here for a couple bands at least – Play Guitar and Duzheknew were sure to be great, and I was digging the relaxed atmosphere, he cheap drinks, and a place to sit down, all of which were lacking at the Paragon.


Duzheknew were up second, and I was pleased to see local horn heavy weight Dave Ewenson amongst the band on sax and conga. The set started a little rough but after a few sound tweaks things got swinging in a motionless, no wave kinda way. Droning pop with fuzzy bass lines and grand canyon vocals, Duzheknew played a great set to a crowd which I was pleased to see was swelling quickly. By the time Play Guitar came on the bar was getting to about the fullness of a regular Friday night. After a few more technical difficulty (which would be a recurring theme through the next few days), Play Guitar came out swinging. Their recent album was fantastic, but I find it's hard to pull off the sound of the record at the live show sometimes. While the songs were all there, their set was a little washy and not as energetic as I'd seen them before.

The Hold Steady were due up at the Paragon, which had reached capacity earlier in the evening. I decided to try my luck getting back in. When I arrived there was a short line outside, but I was able to breeze past it and with a quick look at my stamp the bouncer sent me right in. It was crowded inside, though not as bad as I had expected. Still, there was no hope of getting anywhere close to the front the stage. I settled for a spot a few rows back on the riser left of the stage. After the usual headliner 20 minute delay, the band came out to great hurrays and cheering from the crowd. With three guitars, lots of matching custom guitar amps, and a great deal of swagger, the singer wasted no time in engaging the crowd with a sing along right off the bat, which they were happy to oblige. Still, knowing nothing of the band nor ever having heard any of the records, I could only judge them at pure face value: tight, original rock with plenty of swagger and musicianship. But, it wasn't really my thing - guitar rock bands are just so overplayed in my mind, I wanted to hear something fresh and totally new from a festival like this.

I decided to try my luck in an even riskier move, which was to head for Coconut Grove to try and catch Ruby Jean and the Thoughtful Bees, and to meet up with the rest of the Noisography crew. I didn't have a stamp for this show yet and last I'd heard it was at or near capacity. None the less I found a spot to park and got in a line of about 20 people. Very slowly, over the next 20 minutes, a few people ahead of me managed to get the go ahead from the bouncer and squeeze in. Soon, it was 5 minutes past Ruby Jean's start time and it wasn't looking good. The bar was full. Eventually I made my way to front of the line, and hoped that as only one dude (everyone else seemed to be in groups of 3 or 5) I could convince the bouncer to squeeze me in. Shortly after Ruby Jean started the dance floor filled up and the crowd moved away from the bar area, and the owner gave the go ahead to send a few more people in.

I arrived in the middle of what was all ready a frantic, sweaty dance party. The tight produced techno/rock beats of Ruby Jean greeted me, encircled by a pumped up crowd. I have to say, though dancing is not my forte, I've always appreciated the band for their live drumming, sound effects, and energy. Tonight I was particularly pleased, as last time I remember seeing the band was as a 4 piece – guitar, drums, vocals, and a synth/tracks/producer – but all the sound I was hearing this night came from live drums, the vocal Kaoss Pad, and heavily effected guitar. Previously canned bass lines and synth tracks now seemed to be coming at least in part from what used to be 'gimmick guitar' adding noise and solos over laptop tracks. In my mind live dance music bands have always held higher value when they're being produced right there in front of you with real musicians who can make mistakes, instead of off a laptop that can't screw up (unless it crashes). Of course, to the crowd on the dance floor all the matters is the music, and no one left this show disappointed to be sure.

Ruby Jean & The Thoughtful Bees

After a long night of bar hoping we finally headed home and tried to get some sleep before the final onslaught of Day 5, Saturday.


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