I'm sure Bret Busch (of Ramadamafia and The H.O.T.s) is a very
talented man. I mean, as far as I can tell, he's got a great
voice...and his ability to cover other people's music is somewhat
uncanny. However (and this is is a big however), I've pretty
much decided that is I ever walk into a venue and see him on
stage, I will RUN!!!!
Ramadamafia can only be described as a trip-hop lounge act.
Perhaps their most notable song is a more or less note for note
drum and vocal cover of Lauryn Hill's Doo Wop. In this
cover, they slow down the rhythm to a spaced-out rap whilest
Busch and vocalist/guitarist Pam Howe perform a high-pitched
call and response of the lyrics. It's an intersting concept,
but it's not exactly good. And that more or less sums up the
performance of Ramadamafia as a whole -- entertaining, but in
a "I can't believe they're doing this" type of way.
After surviving Ramadamafia on two beers, the next act was
Empire State, a band I've seen many many times (like at the
CMJ Music Festival). And while I like them in general, a
certain sameness has crept into their performances. So I figured
they'd be better than the opening act but not anything to get
particularly excited about.
I was wrong -- it turns out that in the two months since I
had previously seen them, Empire State had added new songs to
their usual set list. Furthermore, they had gone back and reworked
their previous music in order to "simplify" (as Tim Nackashi
put it). In essence, instead of relying mainly on keyboard with
occasional stringed instrument to emphasize the music and lyrics,
the new songs (and the reworking) tend to rock more with more
guitars and bass and fewer samples. Absolutely amazing and a
strong reminder that their songs are more than just a reverbing
pie-pan and a rotating whirlygig.
After that breath-taking performance, I figured that The For
Carnation would be something of a disappointment. I mean, it's
not like I'm familiar with their music. And as much as I may
like the late, lamented Slint (to whom the vocalist of The For
Carnation belonged), I'm not sure what direction this relatively
new band would take.
Their set did not start off auspiciously. Although there were
6 people on stage, you could barely hear the music over the
din of drunks yelling about their weekend plans and drunken
escapades. I was tempted to leave, figuring that I'd had my
enjoyment with the previous two bands.
However (and this is another big however), after some three
or so songs, the crowd started to thin. And whether that effected
the band or whether it changed the state of the listener, it
seemed that the music began to jell. Suddenly, the changes in
timbre and tempo became more apparent. And although the vocals
were still indistinct and the instruments from the stage seemed
somehow less prominent than the sum of the parts, a sound of
beauty began to grow, slowly overwhelming the remaining drunks
and overtaking The Echo Lounge. A sound which The For Carnation
sustained for the remainder of the concert. Finally as it ended,
I wanted the hall to stay silent so I could try to grasp the
remaining echos, so I could attempt to recapture that slightly
mystical trance fleeting sound.