Whiskey and cigarettes

Chris Horton

Chris Horton

When viewing a wide variety of local shows, you start to make note of certain behavioral practices among local bands. For example, you generally can learn a lot about a band by noting if its members hang around for the other bands’ sets. More often than not, each band shows up for its own set, plays and then immediately loads out and disappears for the evening. Its audience often follows suit; after all, the message band X is projecting is that band Y isn’t good enough to listen to. Frankly, it strikes me as being strange behavior at best, and very rude at worst.

The Distillery’s Songwriter’s Night last Thursday provided a ready laboratory for studying this behavior pattern. Justin Ancheta played his set and disappeared from the room about the time Chris Horton (of Horton and the Hoodoos and, more recently, the Electric Flood) began to play. It’s something of a shame because Horton’s voice is stellar—a grinding, dirt-choked rasp that sounds like a lifetime of whiskey and cigarettes—and this more than makes up for some deficiencies. Of particular note is Horton’s reputation as a guitar player extraordinaire, something I did not find at Thursday’s solo acoustic show, as Horton repeatedly tried to play faster than he was really capable of doing, making for a mess of missed notes and buzzing frets. His guitar tricks (playing behind his head, for example) were campy, given the singer-songwriter setting, but playing an electric-style lead line on an acoustic guitar without any backing or references to the ongoing rhythm and chord structure seemed an odd choice—was the audience to imagine the rhythm and chord structure continuing behind the “solo”? Maybe just an off night for Horton, but more likely, he’s an electric player not entirely at home on the acoustic instrument. Check out the Web site for his old band the Electric Flood (www.electricflood.com) for more information.

Incidentally, Horton himself disappeared out onto the patio with his friends about the time Allegra (formerly of Angoramachinegun) began her set. In fact, out of the three performers, only Allegra herself was generally around during the whole evening, at least hanging around the same room as the other performers. Horton’s and Ancheta’s people missed out; she was quite good—as I’ve come to expect from her. (This time, her style reminded me a bit of another local musician: Amber Padgett of Spider Silk Dress.)

The rumor, just so we can set it up before hopefully making it disappear, was that local Bright Eyes-sound-alike band An Angle was in danger of being sued by Bright Eyes’ label, Omaha-based Saddle Creek Records. It makes some sense, because An Angle owes—to say the least—a major sonic debt to Conor Oberst and his band. However, Saddle Creek itself has dispelled that rumor, plainly stating via e-mail that it is not suing An Angle and noting that the whole rumor is “laughable.”

And last week’s readers might be interested to know that Danny Offer has a new Web site location, www.dannyoffer.com.