Sound Advice: Wild cats, ’90s throwbacks and Texas, y'all

Sign up on the list: Open-mic nights at bars and nightclubs are as ubiquitous as the Pabst Blue Ribbon served at such establishments. That said, there’s a new one in town worth checking out. James Cavern, the singer-songwriter who did a quick stint on The Voice earlier this year, just launched a series at one of Midtown’s newest spots, Goldfield Trading Post (1630 J Street). Each week, Cavern herds wild cats—err, budding hopefuls—and says that so far attendance has been “awesome” and feedback “great.” OK, but what sets it apart from the million other open mics around town? Well, for starters, Cavern, who also hosts a Thursday night “open jam” at Pour House (1910 Q Street), is about to launch a video series for which he’ll shoot clips at Goldfield and later post to the bar’s Facebook page (

On that note, Cavern says there are also plans to revive Porch Sessions, his popular YouTube series featuring acoustic performances from local artists including Autumn Sky, Century Got Bars and Musical Charis. Anyway, back to the open mic—it’s free, happens every Monday night at 9 p.m., and is 21-and-over only, obviously.

A purple, sparkly trip: Sacto pop group Soft Science just debuted a new video for its single “Light” (from the full-length Detour, released earlier this year on Test Pattern Records). Filmed by Tyler Kinney, the clip’s a bit of a mind-trip: The quartet (featuring past and present members of Holiday Flyer, Welt, Forever Goldrush and the English Singles), shot it while playing and lip-syncing at what was essentially double speed. Kinney then slowed down the footage to half-speed. There’s also a fog machine and lighting effects, and everything appears all purple and sparkly and magical. Until the end, when suddenly it’s not (I’m not going to explain that further, you’ll just need to watch). Kinney describes it this way: “The concept was to shoot a really flashy-looking video, then pull back the curtain and just show how DIY it actually is.” The result (like the band’s sound) is super shoegaze, i.e. very ’90s throwback. The Big Takeover, a New York-based music magazine, premiered the video online (, cementing its love for the band. In February, the mag praised Detour, writing that “the hunger and drive in this classic indie pop dreampop, a massive treat for Ride and Lush fans … is palpable.” Soft Science, incidentally, will play Friday, September 12, at the Starlite Lounge (1517 21st Street, 9 p.m., $5, music). Dead Leaf Echo, All About Rockets and Slowness are also on the bill.

The raw and the romantic: Nearly halfway into her band’s Labor Day set at Witch Room, Natalie Ribbons made a confession. “I keep trying to write these loud, fast songs but I keep pumping out jams that are slow and romantic,” the Tele Novella singer said.

That’s OK, of course. Longtime fans of Ribbons’ old band Agent Ribbons adored, after all, that band’s swingy, baroque-tinged cabaret pop. With Tele Novella, Ribbons—who relocated to Austin a handful of years back—now makes music that’s a bit more rock, a bit rawer, definitely more danceable. Witness the way bassist Jason Chronis, for example, bounced like a pogo stick throughout the set. Still, whatever the rhythm, Tele Novella nonetheless showcases Ribbons’ charms: That husky voice and lyrics that tell full stories in short time. The Texas band, which played to a crowded house, was preceded by Silver Spoons, a trio that seems to have perfected the art of droning stoner indie rock, and Oakland’s Shannon and the Clams. The latter ensemble is so loved for its by-the-numbers take on ’60s surf pop that people literally ran to the stage as the band launched into its set. There was lots of retro-esque dancing, but eventually one couple helpfully brought the night back into the 21st century, taking the opportunity to indulge in a bit of mock, playful grinding.

Raw and romantic, indeed.