If there’s any doubt that Bloomington has an active and vital music scene — with greater quality and diversity than cities double its size — then this week’s Live from Bloomington and Culture Shock should clarify things, with three nights of local talent (and a few national ringers) on just about every stage in town. And it’s all for a good cause: the Hoosier Hills Food Bank benefits from Live from Bloomington, while college radio station WIUX picks up all the publicity that a big free concert can afford. (Maybe feeding people is a bit more important than keeping independent voices on the airwaves, but it’s all nutritious.) Complete band lists and other details are available on the Web sites, and we’ll feature three groups in our coverage, Aviary Ghost, The Giggles and Beach House.
What: Live from Bloomington
When: Thursday, April 17 at Bluebird Nightclub, Uncle Fester’s, Max’s Place, Waldron Arts Center
Friday, April 18 at Rhino’s, IMUG, Collins Coffee House, Max’s Place.
Thursday shows begin at 10 p.m. (except at the Waldron, which begins at 8 p.m.); Friday shows begin at 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird and Uncle Fester’s are 21+, all others all-ages
Admission: $5, or $3 and two canned goods
Details at www.myspace.com/livefrombloomington
Live From Bloomington returns this weekend for its annual music showcase benefiting the Hoosier Hills Food Bank. For 15 years, Live From Bloomington has put together a compilation CD of Bloomington bands and then complemented the release with a two-day food drive and concert series.
This year’s compilation features a bevy of Bloomington talent such as the Impossible Shapes, the Country Death, Trio in Stereo, Vehicle and Stella and Jane. The compilation also includes Aviary Ghost and The Giggles, two acts with the potential to dominate the music scene in upcoming years. Both bands will perform together Thursday night at the Waldron Auditorium. Friday, Aviary Ghost will play the Collins Coffee House and The Giggles will stop by Max’s Place.
Aviary Ghost is one of the most exciting bands to venture onto the Indiana music scene in some time, although it’s not completely homegrown. Charlie Crimando and Stephen Kemsley formed the band in East Lansing, Mich., in 2005.
“We began recording songs as a way to make the long, stifling Michigan winter go by a little more pleasantly,” Crimando, the group’s lead vocalist and guitarist, says. “The entire album was recorded by the two of us, first in Stephen’s apartment in East Lansing and then in his Bloomington house.”
Three years after they began, the pair had a finished album, Memory is a Hallway. “We each played different instruments during the process and would add new parts, one at a time, as the songs took shape,” Crimando says. “It was a piecemeal approach that worked really well for us. We spent as long as necessary to make the songs sound right, almost to the point of obsession.”
He describes the music as a mixture of jazz, folk and cabaret all within the same song. The songs feel familiar, and perhaps they should on an album that is a lyrical exploration of memory. On first listen, they feel ingrained into your everyday existence, so much a part of the here and now that it’s not hard to listen to a song like “The Hollow” and imagine Crimando and his bandmates right outside your window, leading a symphony and a chorus line of dancers down your street. It’s an aural atmosphere that only the most talented musicians could pull off, and Aviary Ghost has done so with perfection.
“It was a long process, but we’re happy that we spent so much time on it,” Crimando explains. “We love recording music — almost too much sometimes. I don’t think we can really function without it. It lets us rid ourselves of our worries in life and just focus on something that makes us happy.”
The band, which became a five-piece upon the move to Bloomington, is excited to be a part of Live From Bloomington. “It is a chance for us to actually help out in the community as a band and enliven the already vibrant artistic culture here in Bloomington,” Crimando says.
The Giggles are once again featured in Live From Bloomington, and there’s a good reason why. Their blend of epic indie pop and guitar-driven alt-rock makes for melodious music that demands listening. They even captured the attention of VH-1’s The Best Week Ever back in January 2007 with their song “Alarm Clock, I Hate You,” which appears on this year’s compilation.
The pre-history of The Giggles dates from high school. During summer vacation, as the future bandmates awaited their sophomore year, they fantasized about being rock stars and movie producers. While the dream of movie stardom drifted away eventually, the music stayed with them. “None of us could play but we still had fun doing it,” drummer Johnny Coughlin admits. “After a while we started to get a little better and figured we should get a bass player and singer.” They found their new band members in an unlikely place: the high school baseball team.
With time the band has grown into a more than competent musical act and is in the final stages of recording their debut album, with only a few more tracks to complete. If early samples are any indication, it could be one of the best local albums of 2008.
What: Culture Shock 08 presented by WIUX
Where: Dunn Meadow, northwest of Indiana Memorial Union
When: Saturday, April 19, noon, free, all-ages
Details at www.wiux.org
Before the summer music festival gets into full swing, WIUX, Indiana University’s college radio station, offers a free taste of what awaits with their annual Culture Shock Festival, featuring a mix of national and local acts. April 19, local bands such as Marion’s Rodeo Ruby Love and Bloomington’s jazz-based Nowlin-Mulholland Quintet will share stage time with national acts like White Hinterland, Pattern is Movement and headliners Beach House.
Beach House consists of vocalist/organist Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally, who just completed a 32-stop national tour in support of their second album, Devotion. Scally had returned home from college and Legrand from Paris when the two met in Baltimore, Md., through a mutual friend. Finding they shared great chemistry, the musicians became fast friends.
After performing as members of a band they felt was directionless and unproductive, they decided to record on their own. “It’s the perfect wedding of music and tastes,” Scally says of their friendship. “It’s been fun to grow and develop as musicians together. It’s very exciting to work with her.”
Devotion was recorded and mixed in about a month. “Victoria and I both had strong opinions towards what we wanted,” Scally says. “It was just a matter of getting what we heard in our heads recorded.” Work on the album was intense; the duo found themselves analyzing their recordings to such an extreme that they could no longer listen. Legrand finally decided to take a few days off and return to the music with unclouded ears. “It was a good decision. I’ve never scrutinized myself with such intensity.”
Intense scrutiny turned out to be a good thing, resulting in the finest album of 2008’s first quarter. With Devotion the pair creates a lush musical landscape full of organ and slide guitar that ensconces the listener. Scally’s guitar work — an instrument he picked up just for the purpose of playing in Beach House — twists from a peaceful surfy haze into an uneasy otherworldly buzz. Legrand’s voice is powerful, melding perfectly with her organs as if the two components were extensions of one another. Her lyrics are contemplative, never extending into the realms of brooding melancholy, making Devotion feel like a mystical exorcism, and an attempt to step out of the past’s fog and find something new.
Scally says the music holds up very well on stage, perhaps even sounding deeper and richer. While on tour they found themselves becoming more confident, intense and hard-working. Scally feels the tour was the best he’s ever been on, noting that the addition of their own soundman helped. “We’re learning not to be defeated by the road,” he says. “We’re keeping our energy up each night and not letting the road get to us.”
Beach House is still learning and evolving as live performers. “When we first began we just sat on stage, like ‘we’re here to play and you’re here to listen,’” Scally says. “Now were developing ways to get into the character of the music. We really want to take our audiences on a trip.”