Over the past few months recent Muncie-to-Indy transplants The Bonesetters have seeped into my consciousness via various friends and snippets of conversations here and there about the local music scene. I missed their opening set at Radio Radio earlier this month, so when I heard that their lead singer, Dan Snodgrass, was playing at Locals Only on Friday night I made it a point to finally go and see what the fuss was all about. Combined with sets by singer-songwriter Ryan Puett and Indy’s own music scene godfather, Christian Taylor, it turned out to be a pretty good folk rock showcase that was well worth the $5 cover and the chance to contract emphysema.
Based on Snodgrass’ performance, I can safely say I’ll be turning up whenever The Bonesetters play their next show in Indy. I might even make the trip up to Muncie for their show on Jan. 27th. Playing a pretty heavily distorted electric guitar for his solo set, Snodgrass played most of his songs kapo-ed high up on the guitar neck, producing a high-pitched, hollow kind of sound that went along with the soulful melancholy of his voice. Something about the cadence and overall feeling of his songwriting reminded me a lot of Richard Edwards of Margot & the Nuclear So and So's; they both feature guitar work that scrapes at your soul with minor chords and lyrics that border on the morbidly emotional (“Got your brand new trigger finger/Someday I’ll find it between my eyes”).
Ryan Puett took the stage next, his thin and wiry frame seeming totally hidden behind his acoustic guitar, a shock of slick black hair hanging down as he played. For a fairly small guy, Puett has a big, rich voice that you can’t help but stop and pay attention to. The song “Doing Just Fine” was particularly remarkable for the way Puett combined a steady, driving rhythm with lyrics that seemed to tell the story of a long and desperate road trip (“Go to sleep with the sun/And if it wasn’t for all these drugs we’d die/I’ll do just what I’ve got to do to survive”). One dares not dole out comparisons to the great Jeff Buckley too lightly in this world, and though Puett's has a completely different tone, he seems to be channeling the same kind of determined, otherworldly longing inherent in Buckley’s delivery.
Last up was Christian Taylor, joined by a gaggle of musicians including bandmate and utility player Andrew Gustin. As many times as I’ve seen Christian Taylor perform—with America Owns the Moon, Scene Elders, and as a solo artist—I still have yet to catch him with his cellist Homeschool. From what I gathered, the absence of only two members prevented this from being the full Christian Taylor and Homeschool lineup.
With two guitars, a violinist, a bassist, a drummer, and two, well, alternate percussionists (one guy beating drumsticks on a barstool), they played “Bad Luck Child” with a contemporary blues rock jump reminiscent of latter-day Bob Dylan. Taylor’s lyrics are always fraught with self-reflection and frank acceptance of the cold hard facts of life: we are all going to die, there may be no such thing as God, we are mostly alone in life. However, the sardonic chirp in his voice and the witty twists of his words prevent that message from coming off depressingly (“I’m killing time before time kills me”). It’s as if he’s done the hard work of looking inward, and come to terms with mortality and spirituality (“The only thing between God and me is God and me”).