Sac’s most exciting band?
Submerged: “Hello. We’re Contra. We don’t have any music for sale. … Just listen to us. Enjoy it.”
So began Sacramento supergroup and enigma Contra, headliner at Submerge Magazine’s 200th issue party. The event should go down as a definitive success, with a top-tier, diverse lineup of all local talent and a pretty solid turnout for a Sunday night. Then again, I’m somewhat surprised it wasn’t packed, given said top-tier lineup and free admission. So it goes.
LowBrau was at its coziest during Contra’s set. With members of Doombird, Dusty Brown and Tycho, Contra pulled off a cross between synthy ’80s power-pop and the likes of the National and the War on Drugs. It’s such a shame that Contra is so adamant about never putting out a record, though more the reason to make sure to catch the group live. Kris Anaya sang with a milk crate over this head, made a joke about the Sammies—or was it a joke about Submerge?—and claimed his entire band was from Carmichael. Key word: claimed.
It marked the peak of a generally excellent night. Earlier, we were treated to a full-band Joseph in the Well set. Violinist Joe Kye so often performs solo, it’s easy to forget that he prefers to play with upright bassist Casey Lipka (Cave Women) and drummer Tim Stephenson. As a trio, songs fall somewhere between Kye’s majestic minimalism and the lush, grand orchestrations on his debut album. At some points, I wished I was hearing his stripped-down versions and felt distracted from the main star. Elsewhere, such as the rhythmic “Happy Song,” it became tough to imagine the songs without drums and bass. Of course, the less-than-ideal acoustics definitely played a role.
In the past, Sunmonks’ LowBrau sets have been challenging because of those aforementioned acoustics. But on Sunday, the band sounded tighter than ever. Sunmonks also played a bunch of new songs off their upcoming debut full-length, which veered toward a Talking Heads influence and slightly away from the Dirty Projectors styling of early work, like “The Deaf.” Still, it’s tough to make comparisons at all. Tribal vocal harmonies, tropical rhythms, unusual time signatures—the set solidified my opinion that Sunmonks are the most exciting and promising emerging indie act in town. Now it just needs that live horn section.
Sparsely populated: It’s probably been said that band camaraderie must always be able to stand up in the face of adversity. Last Saturday at Fox & Goose, Cory Norris & Good Company stood tall and celebrated their CD release to a mere few attendees. Despite the low turnout, they still managed to lay it down in their well-known funky-footed style.
Even Norris himself wasn’t shy to comment on the crowd’s minute status over the mic: “We’re small, but we can still be loud, right?” In turn, the rock group delivered music like dogged entertainers for such an intimate audience. And, hidden amongst the quiet listeners in the back, there was one avid screamer who showed some real audible love.
The local Stummies, plus Dylan Crawford and Andre Fyling (of Massive Delicious), also gave strong-willed performances. Crawford and Fyling were the openers, keeping it reggae-rooted with their dreads and beards, dueling acoustic guitars and downy vocals. The Stummies closed out with a nightcap of their indie-pop—and, in case you didn’t know, they’re aptly named after a fictitious drug from the film Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy.
No doubt, Norris & Good Company were the most footloose of the night, as Norris literally played in his bare feet—just kicked off his Chuck Taylors and socks and threw them by the wayside.
Though the room’s population slowly dwindled further, the group rattled off tracks from its new album In Over My Head. Songs like “Calling Down” and “Mermaid” seemed well-received—and gave bassist Rodell Borbon Patman a chance to shine with his heavy-duty slap technique.
It’s refreshing when pros are as dedicated to their craft as Cory Norris & Good Company. They could’ve been playing to a crowd of one and would’ve given it their all. Norris, as usual, told the night’s sparse group of onlookers to “Remain in good company.” Way to see the forest for the trees.