“Distinguish” is a verb

Colma’s Jim Atkinson

Colma’s Jim Atkinson

It is difficult for any band to achieve sonic difference, but perhaps more difficult for bands that play anything close to alternative-rock music. The reason for this is that the genre itself—guitar, bass, drums and über-dramatic vocals—is something of a cliché.

Two bands at the Boardwalk last weekend well-demonstrated this problem. The Masses performed a competent set, including turntablist Nick (the band’s Web site lists no last name). While the band is certainly competent, again, there was little to distinguish it from any other hard alternative or nu-metal acts (although Nick’s turn tabling at times reminded of Geoff Barrow’s work with Portishead, a feature the band could capitalize on). More at www.themassesmusic.com.

A similar problem existed during Colma’s set, which began promisingly enough with vocalist Jim Atkinson performing a moody spoken-word piece illuminated by a sickly green light (Colma is, after all, a city known for its massive graveyards). Unfortunately, once the band actually began playing, my interest as a listener was lost. It’s not that Colma is in any way inferior, but simply that it isn’t doing anything particularly different. One factor that might slightly hedge this comment is the lyrical content, which Atkinson told me was inspired by the cemeteries in Colma. Unfortunately, in a live setting it’s difficult, or impossible, to really hear what is sung (particularly with this genre). More information at www.colmamusic.com.

In other news, Sherman Baker releases his new CD, Carry Me Home, this week with a series of shows. The first, and perhaps most important, at the Blue Lamp this Friday with Richard March and St. Simon 3. More information on these shows, and the new CD, at www.shermanbakermusic.com. You might also note that Baker’s Blue Lamp CD release show will be the second-to-last show for St. Simon 3, the final date (at least for the foreseeable future) being October 22 at Luna’s with Scott McChane and Local Honey. More on the trio at www.stsimon3.com.

With Popgun’s activity apparently waning and Red Star Memorial broken up, guitarist Steve Amaral has found himself with extra time on his hands. What better way to fill that time than by joining another band, this time with Jay Shaner, who is in the process of finishing up his first solo recording. Fans can look forward to hearing Amaral in the new setting as soon as Shaner books some band-related shows.

Meanwhile, a solo Shaner and a solo Scott McChane are holding court every Wednesday at Luna’s under the banner “Moodswing Wednesdays,” an event that finds the two morose songwriters inviting a guest each week to play songs and discuss songwriting.

And since McChane already has appeared like a ghost image in all but one of the above news items (overbooked? nah … ), I might as well tell you that the songwriter also has teamed with Richard March to co-host “Nashville Nights,” a series of country and alt-country shows held every Monday night in October and November at the Blue Lamp. News on this at www.scottmcchane.com or www.richardmarch.com.