Monday, Dec. 19.
Shared Heritage in Fountain Square
It’s a cold, rainy, really disgusting Monday night. You park your car on Prospect St. in Fountain Square and go around the back of the Murphy Arts Building, to where you’ve heard there’s an art space called Shared Heritage where one of your favorite local bands, Vacation Club, is playing. You try one door but it leads you right into the back of the Red Lion. For a moment you debate having a pint and some fish n’ chips but now’s not the time.
So you prod around for a while, knocking on various doors and ambling down a few hallways, until you find yourself outside again. This time you're headed to an unassuming door at the back of a large, plain brick building. The door is propped open by a little piece of cinderblock, and there’s a wet piece of notebook paper taped to the door that says: Vacation Club, Landlord, Everything, Now!.
Up the stairs you find a warehouse that’s been converted into an art studio space. Down a long hallway there appear to be some people milling around outside of one particular door. So you go, give your $5 donation, and take a look inside. The studio is maybe thirty feet long by fifteen feet wide, with vaulted ceilings, exposed brick on one side. It is bare, but for the musical equipment toward the front where two small spotlights provide the only illumination in the room, pointing straight up the brick wall and creating a dim, dramatic mood.
You sit down on the floor and wait. Others start to mill around inside the room. Then Vacation Club starts to do a sound check. The bassist shouts into the mic, making a few people jerk upright in surprise. The bassist smiles—more than slightly amused—as he continues his sound check. Then someone in the room shouts, “Rock and roll!” and people start to gather to the front of the room. Now the guitarist, drummer, and bassist are all plugged in, jamming on one chord….loud…like they’re revving an engine, just warming things up. You start to wonder how long this will go on, and the crowd starts to bop up and down in anticipation. Then you see the lead guitarist pushing his way through the crowd to the front of the. The band stops revving on the one chord, just long enough for the lead guitarist to grab his axe, and then the first beat drops and away they go…
There’s no way to accurately describe the feeling of having your ears blasted by Vacation Club’s grimy, distorted, surf-rock in a space the size of a large living room when you’re standing ten feet from the amps. It’s so loud it almost hurts, but you cannot back away. The music makes you think of the mid-60s, of the Vietnam War, of the moment precisely as rock and roll was getting angry. It is controlled chaos; it is kind of like the Beach Boys meet The Rolling Stones. But it’s more than that because there is a twisted, psychedelic-punk element you just can’t put your finger on; the lead singer’s chirpy voice and the scorchingly electric delivery of what would otherwise be sugary mid-60s pop makes you wonder if these dudes are completely sane. But, if you like it so much, maybe you aren’t either.
Fast forward the clock about thirty years to the mid-1990s, and Bloomington-based Landlord takes the controls. If you’ve got any hearing left, Landlord immediately sets about to relieve you of that sense, roaring ahead with thick, heavy chords that drip of punk and grunge, pierced with soaring guitar solos. These guys are shaggier than Vacation Club: longer hair and a looser, less structured sound, but at the same time equally, if not more, mature as a band. You look out at the other people in the crowd, swaying and swinging their heads as Landlord roll out a half-hour’s worth of undulating chords and driving bass. You can’t hear the words, but you learn later that one particularly haunting song is called “Jack Song,” with one of those solo runs that sticks in your head for hours afterward.
At long-last, Everything, Now! sets up at the front of the room. Your ears get some much needed relief as their sound is a bit more complex and not quite as heavy as the two previous bands. There is no confining these guys into a single era of music history. Their band chemistry is seamless as they shift skillfully between styles, and no two songs seem to sound alike. The stuff from their new album Do it on The Moon sounds like pure blues-rock (kind of Black Keys-ish) while older songs like “In Heaven Smoking Trees” have a heavy, simple, low-slung feeling. They can even do country-western, with plodding back-forth, bass and shuffling beat on “We Don’t Want Anything But Love.” Their song “Something Like That,” is even more of a departure, channeling some sort of retro vibe, but by now you can’t place who or what or where…it’s just damn good music, and you enjoy it.