Emotionally Raw, Musically Diverse
Beneath the smooth lyrics of Santa Cruz’s Audiofauna lies a powerful, brutal honesty. Lead singer Kelly Koval’s vocals have been compared to bands like Florence & the Machine and Cat Power — her voice is angsty without being whiny, heartfelt but not self-indulgent.
As these songs unravel, the synthesized beats and concerto strings uncover a graveyard of intimate fears and private wishes. Koval melts listeners with the raw clarity of her lyrics. “They say one and one is two, but where are you? Won’t you find my other?” she croons in “Other Half.”
Just as the lyrics drift through a sea of emotions, Audiofauna’s airy melodies flit about, trying to keep up. Musically, this is a band that can’t make up its mind as to what genre it wants to be: Indie? Folk? Soul? The musicians bring an expansive array of talents, playing cello, upright bass, guitar, violin and “bottles and beats,” among other instruments. The energy of the band’s live shows is bringing new interest to a type of music appropriately called “folktronica.” But try not to rely on labels to explain such an eclectic band — just listen. Audiafauna, Leo London and Justin King play at 8 pm Thursday, Aug. 5,, at Cozmic Pizza. $5. — Catherine Foss
It’s Not Honky Punk
|Photo by Amy Fox|
If you’re trying to share a message that motivates people to take action, playing your music half-assed isn’t going to inspire anyone to acts of disobedience, civil or otherwise. Thankfully, political folkers Alder Street Allstars know what they’re doing. The four-year-old band that came into being to play a fundraiser for a friend facing deportation is so good they’re a current editor’s pick on CD Baby.
The musicians in the band were originally members of the Campbell Club student cooperative on campus. The All-Stars first assembled to perform a benefit concert for the sake of a friend who was going to be deported. The friend raised enough money to beat the system, and the Allstars decided not to stop. Since then, they have played numerous concerts and have recorded two albums. Their brand new one, Too Drunk To Folk, might be called “thug-grass,” “punky-tonk” or folk-rock, if you want to be conventional. Each term describes a band that is fiendishly good at using banjo, mandolin, guitar, fiddle, bass and washboard to translate punk’s rebellion into the bluegrass idiom.
Though Eugene has welcomed their fiery picking and plucking, the Alder Street Allstars are taking their radical visions around the country — on Aug. 3 they’re embarking on a two-month cross-country tour with fellow folk rockers The Harmed Brothers in an ’88 Dodge Ram nicknamed Big Bertha. “With this new album we finally feel that the band is complete, and we are constantly working on new material for a third album after our tour,” says singer-guitarist Ian Royer. Alder Street Allstars play at 9:30 pm Tuesday, Aug. 3, at Oak Street Speakeasy. 21+. Free.— Vanessa Salvia
Not Just Any Guy
The last time Eugene Weekly wrote about Guy Davis was in 2005, when he appeared to support his seventh album, Legacy. Since then, his legacy has only grown, and he’s continued to work on interesting projects that showcase his curiosity about the blues and history.
Davis’s album after Legacy, 2006’s Skunkmello, was awarded a rare five stars by Downbeat Magazine. In 2009, Sweetheart Like You held the number one position on the folk charts for a month. Earlier this year, Davis performed on Broadway in a revival of the musical comedy production Finian’s Rainbow. Whatever the project, his focus is on the blues, and the stories that intrinsically relate to the music.
Davis grew up in a middle-class suburb of New York — not the cotton-pickin’ life you imagine of some bluesmen — but he’s dedicated his career to reviving the traditions of acoustic blues, African American stories and his own original songs, stories and performance pieces. His parents and grandparents told him their stories of growing up in the rural south, and those made their way into his humorous monologues. Davis taught himself the guitar, and one night on a train from Boston to New York he picked up finger picking from a nine-fingered guitar player.
On stage, Davis is folksy and humble, approaching his performances not as a formal event but rather an impromptu sitting on a front porch among friends and neighbors. By the night’s end, Davis will have you singing along, clapping and stomping your feet. Guy Davis plays at 7:30 pm Thursday, Aug. 5, at Tsunami Books. $21.50 adv., $23 door. — Vanessa Salvia
True Margrit is Truly Unique
I love the name of this band because it reminds me of my grandmother, sitting on the edge of her chocolate brown pleather sofa, surrounded by piles of TV Guide and Reader’s Digest (you know how pack-ratty some grandmas are) and reading Grit magazine. Even as a kid I knew that John Wayne had True Grit, and later, I came to know that even singing cheesy lounge tunes, Ann-Margret had style like almost nobody else.
The band True Margrit has a little bit of the cool sexiness of retro toe-tapping jazz. Vocalist and pianist (wait for it) Margrit Eichler doesn’t need to rely on rockstar obfuscations of distortion and reverb: With nary a guitar string in sight, her husky voice shines with only the black and white keys of a piano, a bass and a drum kit to back her up. Eichler doesn’t just tickle the ivories; she occasionally slaps them too, climbing on top of the keyboard to whack them into submission. There’s a little bit of hard-nosed vulnerability, just like in the movie, when Rooster Cogburn tells the young Mattie about his wife and son who never liked him anyway. Eichler’s voice is flexible like Aimee Mann’s, and her ability to lay the truth bare just as powerful. Eichler’s processing whatever issues she has with plucky sass. Prop me up with a piano, give me a thesaurus and a devilish wit, and I hope I would do the same. True Margrit and The New Mexican Revolution play at 9 pm Saturday, July 31, at Luckey’s. 21+. $5. — Vanessa Salvia