Thursday night, Union Pool hosted Vampire Blues’ Double Record Release Spectre Folk’s The Ancient Storm and Chris Lee’s Bury the Kings. Vampire Blues is Steve Shelley (of Sonic Youth)’s new record label, and he also has producing credits on Chris Lee’s album, as well as being the house drummer for this show.
The last time I caught Spectre Folk was at Death by Audio more than a year ago, which I had almost entirely forgotten about until their set slowly jogged my memory. Through the course of Spectre Folk’s psychedelic jams, I found myself feeling something more familiar than just a reference to something I know I’ve heard before, somewhere; more than a duplication. In general, it feels like there are currently more traditionally-inspired psych bands popping up, but Spectre Folk takes all the '60s and '70s vibes and guitar fuzz, and elevates it to a more experimental level. As easily recognizable as psych can be, Spectre Folk finds a nuance of it that makes their songs feel like they have more purpose. As the project of Pete Nolan, who is also the drummer in Magik Markers, crafts songs in a way that feels like they aren’t just random good time jams; there’s more marked storytelling going on there. Nolan, with boxers hanging out of saggy-bottomed boot cut jeans, communicated his original ideas well through his fingers over the frets and his drawls into the mic.
Chris Lee had played right before with his band, which parlayed a bit of a funky vibe they were trying to infuse with folk and a tinge of post-rock. They started off strong with what sounded like groovy folk interpretations of what could be Sigur Rós songs, but then some of the wailing vocals didn’t move me so much. They had some cool segues between songs, playing through much of the time without pause, and filling the space with Lee tapping his guitar to sustain rumbling speakers, but the transition wasn’t always a smooth one between or during some songs. Strangely, much of their set had this silent coffeehouse vibe to the room that felt like someone should be lighting candles and passing out cupcakes while we listened to the show.
Lee Ranaldo and his band capped off the night, and that was stellar. As a co-founder and guitarist of Sonic Youth, Ranaldo has honed this incredible ease of musicality and showmanship that any new band can look up to and appreciate. He started off solo on acoustic guitar, then brought his equally seasoned band out for a great set of straight rocking out. He touches on subjects like going back to his old hometown and seeing all his friends there in the same place doing the same thing they used to when they were 16, and distills it into a cerebral grunge jam that doesn’t dwell on things too hard as much as observes them. The highlight of the set was Ranaldo playing his guitar with a bow, looking a little like a magician wielding a musical wand.
Photos (c) Kelly Knapp