For most shows, when I'm this far behind, I simply post my photos and my videos along with a note saying "Sorry, no time to write about this one." But this show was good, poorly attended, and it shouldn't be lost to history. So, here's some quickish notes to let (most of) you know what you missed.
The members of The Jellymin are young, and the band is brand new. No one seems to know where they came from, and the four kids in the band weren't telling anyone. The three vocalists whispered into their microphones, they played sloppily, they stuck to standard runs and progressions taught to beginners, they used cheap gear and tiny practice amps, and they were not bothered a bit by any of that. The seven songs covered a lot of ground, but every song was chill with an emphasis on vibe. A few songs in, the band played "Two Steppin'" and I felt it. It's got a strong hook despite being little more than simple percussion from Luis Pecina, little washes of synth from Ximena Flores, and spoken vocals delivered with a strong cadence. Find it on Spotify and you'll hear it with a sax solo. Seriously, go listen. A cover of Pink Floyd's "Money" came in the middle of the set. It was odd and disjointed but played with spirit. Atzin Garcia provided the famous bass riff and the vocals through his toothy grin, while guitarist Bryan Michiman stumbled clumsily through David Gilmour's complex bending solos. To paraphrase, the young rush in where experience fears to tread. Near the end of the set, Flores took lead vocals, speaking and rapping a soulful and funky track that recalled KC's Blackstarkids or even De Le Soul. There's something there. Just to confuse us all, the final song of its long 35-minute set was built around a classic rhythm & blues stroll pulled straight from the '50s. While the quartet was billed as psych, that's not right. Where The Jellymin do fit in is anyone's guess though, and that's an interesting place for a young band to start.
Moscow Puzzles from Iowa City was up next. It's the sort of band that you could write a little about or a lot about, with nothing in between. The light version explains the instrumental band is a duo consisting of guitarist Tobin Hoover and drummer Tony Andrys. It notes, in passing, that the band is roughly indie rock with elements of intrepid noise and post-rock grandeur. It would mention that the duo draws from a number of familiar bands birthed in the post-hardcore era, but it doesn't offer easy comparisons to any. The long version digs deep into the loops created by Hoover, and how chords develop into riffs and occasionally become leads. It delves into the noisy elements of the band, and how the duo tiptoes around chaos without falling in. It would likely contrast how other bands maintain that control with rigid mathrock, but how Moscow Puzzles generally chooses to retain simple time signatures as it shifts from element to element. There's nerdistry here that I'd love to write, but you don't want to read, and the band would find inadequate if not libelous. Instead, we'll keep it short, only saying that the most expansive and straightforward song of the night, "Colt" was a ten-minute post-rock dream, and you can hear it on the band's new Cicadas are Sensitive to Parallel Lines available on CD and digitally from 5CM Recordings.
The night culminated with Jorge Arana Trio and what is my favorite set in recent memory. The trio is led by the guitar, keyboards, and occasional vocals of Arana with Mark Lomas' drumming and Jason Nash's bass completing the sound. How the trio constructs its songs is a mystery to me. Is its music deftly improvised around a set skeleton, or is it carefully and impossibly choreographed in advance? In the band's set, instruments are constantly on side quests that only overlap for brief moments of cooperation. Bass and drums may find a short groove, only to split apart soon after, making space for the drums and guitar to later join forces. But that doesn't last long either, and soon it's back to individual dizzying acrobatics – that is, until guitar and bass unite for their own tryst. There are few moments when all three instruments are playing in the same time signature, much less honoring the same progression. This is where the band earns its free jazz description, but the trio feels lightyears away from Keith Jarrett, and to my ears hews much closer to the frenzied bands that called Skingraft and Touch and Go home in the early '90s. That scene is also my spiritual home.
Throughout the night my focus switched from player to player; I was mesmerized by their skills as I attempted and failed to count beats and anticipate unions. When I was able to tame my hyper fixations, I let the band's music envelop me. It's counter intuitive, but I believe the trio's songs spur listeners to dance. Every song has a host of beats that might offer an entry, and it's impossible to move off rhythm when there is no discernable time. This was true through most of the band's twelve-song set. The trio started with "Traffic Time Exorcism" from its 2016 album Mammoth, and by the end of the night, it had played all five songs from its latest EP Hyena alongside newer songs and others dating all the way back to its 2012 debut. The breadth of the set illustrated a common spirit if not always a consistent methodology. In some songs, the keyboard was looped, while in others ignored entirely. Vocals only appear in the latest wave of compositions. But whatever the delivery, the result was delightful, and I celebrated my joy by buying a shirt from the band. It was a good night.