Saturday, Dec. 17
White Rabbit When a new band (new to me, anyway) takes the stage, my mind automatically starts searching for analogs: Who do they sound like? Who are their influences? Who (if anyone) do they seem to be trying to imitate? Sometimes, I come up utterly blank as I’m too busy digesting the actual music being played on stage, however...
...when I heard Nashville-based Modoc, it didn’t take me more than one or two songs to figure out these guys are big Led Zeppelin fans. This fact was underscored mid-way through their set when they broke into the big guitar riff from “The Ocean Song” in the middle of one of their own songs, and damned if they didn’t do a passable job of reproducing Zeppelin’s thick, grinding, and perfectly unnerving guitar sound. To put it simply, Modoc plays heavy, blues-influenced rock and play it well. They seem to be a young outfit with a lot of potential to advance musically, which they showed by spreading out and slowing down a bit on some of their newer songs like “So Lonely.” They have a good handle on the kind of pace changes, vocal interludes, and chopping riffs that a band needs to make in order to get the watcher’s attention and keep it.
On the topic of young-ish bands that seem to be going places, Nashville-based Kansas Bible Co. have probably one of the most energetic and put-together stage acts I’ve seen over the past year. Their eleven-man outfit includes a five-part horn section—two sax, two trumpets, one trombone—and plays a kind of funky soul that is a cross between Earth Wind & Fire and Sam and Dave (they closed their set with “Hold On, I’m Comin”).
The fact they can get eleven guys aged 20 to 24 to even practice together regularly, let alone form a working band, is a feat worthy of attention in and of itself. Full of youthful energy and a fun, playful stage presence, they appeared dressed in suits and ties, the jackets of which they soon began taking off. The audience seemed entranced by their sheer energy and the sonic effect created by all those instruments. Each song seemed to blend into the next as they used fills rather than stopping after each jam. They showed they were able to get free-form and experimental a few times too, breaking down into extended guitar improvisations. This seems like precisely the kind of soul throwback act that, like Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, could easily make a niche for itself in the mainstream music world.
Indy-based guitar rock trio Hero Jr. warmed up the night. Playing a similar vein of hard guitar rock as Modoc, these guys have a more radio-ready kind of structure to their songs. They generate a big, classic rock guitar sound while using some of the fast-changing riffs and chords of skater-punk bands like Blink 182. It’s the kind of buzzing guitar sound you cannot help but nod your head and tap your foot to, but which somehow just doesn’t seem to stick with you long after it’s over. In my opinion, they need to break out of the almost mathematical structure of their songs occasionally (verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo) and push themselves a bit more musically.