Wednesday, Nov. 23
The Melody Inn
'Twas the night before Thanksgiving—always a classic party night—when I found myself at the Melody Inn holding a PBR tallboy and watching a man in an old English constable’s costume accost (really attack) mustache-less members of the elbow-to-elbow crowd and shame them into putting on one of the free fake mustaches available at the door. I was spared the constable’s wrath because of my borderline-acceptable three-day beard and some deft maneuvering. Others weren’t so lucky...(Editor's note: Me included! Attack is definitely the right word here.)
A mustache—real or fake—was apparently the only requirement of attendance at the third annual Mustache Bash, unless you count the $10 admission fee. Many patrons sported real mustaches or very creative fake ones. The event’s hosts even gave out awards for each category at the end of the night, though one suspects the judging standards were a little bit loose.
Undoubtedly one of the best mustaches belonged to Household Guns frontman and lead guitarist Shawn Woolfolk. Household Guns was the last band to play on Wednesday night, given the difficult task of following long-time Indy favorite Pravada. By that time, it was nearly 1:30 a.m., and though the Melody was starting to clear out, Household Guns turned in a killer performance.
Woolfolk’s grungy, distorted guitar sound almost acts to mask his technical skill, but not quite; he drives the songs with his high-on-the-neck articulated chords and solos, while delivering an almost eerie falsetto on songs like “So Far.” The raw power and technical skill of drummer Dave Hall’s work cannot be overstated, either. His fills are plentiful and perfectly timed and he delivers them with the same energy exuded by the whole band, at times seeming to launch himself out over the drum kit to attack the cymbals. Even with bassist Ben Masbaum adding vocals as well I feel like these guys would benefit from having rhythm guitar to fill-in behind Woolfolk's lead.
Opening up the night were Indy-based surf-rockers Vacation Club, who might well be the most prolific live band in the city right now; I can’t seem to go to a show anywhere in Indy without seeing them somewhere on the bill. But I’m not complaining. Their fun, guitar-heavy, irreverent style seems to get tighter and tighter each time I see them and their stage antics are always fun to watch, though it seemed they had to rein things in on Wednesday night. They closed with one of their classics “Left My Mind on the Table,” and clearly left the audience wanting more.
The night took a decidedly bizarre turn when Rochester, N.Y.-based Pocket Vinyl took the stage. PV are a husband and wife duo consisting of Eric Stevenson and Elizabeth Jancewicz on keyboard and paintbrush, respectively. Yes, that’s right: paintbrush. Jancewicz created an original oil painting while Stevenson pounded out his dramatic, sometimes angry solo compositions on the keys such as “Saloon Song.” Indeed, his songs had a little bit of an Old West barroom kind of rollick to them; however, were Stevenson actually performing in the Old West his throaty, accusatory singing style might very well have gotten him shot by some trigger-happy cowboy. Luckily, no one was packing (I assume) at the Melody and the crowd waited patiently—albeit with some raised eyebrows—while he sang and his wife finished her painting. It seemed kind of an odd counterpoint to the otherwise straight-up rock roster and I have to give them credit for pushing creative boundaries even if it wasn’t exactly my thing.
Chicago-based folk-rock band Damn Choir set up next, playing for their first time in Indy. These days, when you see a group of bearded guys in flannels setting up acoustic instruments alongside a gal on the cello you can kind of guess what they’re going for: an upbeat, Mumford & Sons-ish, well-instrumented Americana kind of thing. And that’s pretty much what they play except they seemed to have little bit of a darker edge than a lot of bands of that ilk. The song “Sweet Virginia” seemed a pretty good expression of their work; they play strong chords all together on the quarter note beats and let the songs unravel into jams. The electric bass and guitar built a nice foundation for the music and they were even able to convincingly rock-out on the Animal’s “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”
The night seemed to come to a crescendo when hometown favorites Pravada took the stage. The attention of the entire packed Melody crowd seemed to shift stageward as lead singer Jesse Lee stood tuning his guitar, a cigarette hanging lithely from his be-mustached lips. Playing power pop with a punk edge, Pravada were clearly the act most patrons had been waiting for as many stood up close to the stage singing and jumping along with the band’s quick, stabbing chords. Unfortunately, Lee’s voice wasn’t coming through as well as it could have. Songs like their classic “Whoa Whoa” (I think that's the name) whipped the crowd into a near frenzy with it’s simple, catchy refrain.