What makes a band extraordinary are the details. With a quartet it can be difficult to get everyone on the same page. Five individuals on five instruments can sometimes sound like a noisy mess. Not with this band. Radiation City excels in minutia.
The spirit of Rad City lies behind a mess of blond hair and a pair of thick black rimmed glasses. Often
seen abusing a beautiful blonde Telecaster, this is Cameron Spies, songwriter and sometimes lead singer of the northwest outfit. Playing jazz pop, 1990s rock fusion guitar riffs, Spies’ gives the band its common character.
The soul of the band comes from a voice. This voice, the tone and range of power, is nothing short of brilliant. Hearing it on record is one thing, live it is spectacular. This voice, Elisabeth Ellison’s voice, is Rad City’s moral and emotional identity. Ellison, songwriter and sometimes lead singer, also plays keys, adding a layer of depth to Spies’ guitar work.
The heart of the band comes from the rhythm section, Matt Rafferty and Randy Bemrose. Not too many people notice the rhythm section of a band unless they are really, really bad or really, really good. Rafferty and Bemrose are the latter, gifted musicians that hold the band's sound together. The orchestrations of Spies and Ellison are focused by Rafferty bass lines and Bemrose’s drumming.
These four members alone would make Rad City the envy of musicians everywhere. There is, however, one more piece to the Rad City puzzle.
Not to be overlooked, adding texture to Rad City’s sound is multi instrumentalist Patti King. On keys, guitar, vocals, violin, and just about anything else that makes noise, King makes a lovely addition to the band. Her flourishes pop the songs to life and make this whole troupe one damn good band.
Rad City makes a point of playing thoughtful, restrained music. They are five individuals making one strong statement. Each section pieces together nicely, like patchwork. Fitting because listening to Rad City is like curling up in your favorite blanket.
Their sound is comforting and easy to fall into. As you sink into a song like “Find It Of Use,” with its multiple layers of synths and slow ringing guitars, a warming calm washes over your body. At this point you realize the band is not just quite good, but exceptional.
Pick any song from the band’s debut album, “The Hands That Take You,” and try not to fall in love.
“There is hope for us yet,” Ellison sings on “The Color of Industry,” the first song I heard from the band. Three seconds in and this one line of optimism is enough to make me. a hopeless romantic for good music, a believer.
Catch Radiation City with opening bands Brainstorm and Social Studies at the Cavalcade in Fruita this Wednesday, March 20. This is an all ages show and tickets are just the best $10 you’ve spent in your life.
Have you ever listened to a new song or album and just said "YES!"?
That's how I feel right now about UK wonder kids Alt-J. Good lord, they are amazing. Alt-J are a relatively new band, having just released their debut album, and the album stuck in my conscious, "An Awesome Wave" in September 2012. Already it has won the Mercury Prize, an annual music prize awarded for the best British album of the year, and my heart. I love it.
I don't want to say that they are a good as, or will be as successful as, or as admired as Radiohead, but... Alt-Js songs are well composed and the restraint put on each instrument is near perfect. They don't overdo it on guitars, nor on synth, nor on drums. They are balanced, thoughtful orchestrations. I particularly love the drum rhythms on their songs. They are intricate yet restrained. Amazing work. And don't get me started on the vocal harmonies. All I can say is wow.
Check out Alt-J's full performance from a recent stop at Seattle's KEXP radio and let me know what you think.
In downtown Grand Junction there is a house. You’d barely notice it walking down the sidewalk as it looks like any other downtown house. Appearances, however, can be deceiving.
More often than not, this ordinary house is the location of Grand Junction’s indie music scene. It’s the Casa Coyote, the howl of the underground.
Just inside the back door, steep stairs lead beneath the surface down into the cellar. It’s a small room, hardly updated for modern use. There’s not much headroom and the exposed ceiling reveals the house’s guts that zigzag from one unfinished wall to the other. A large, unused coal-burning furnace sits behind its modern brother in the corner, cutting the space in half.
Graffiti-covered walls peek through a doorway cut into the far wall, offering little escape from the empty, cold atmosphere. At first glance, it’s hard to imagine spending a lot of time here. One has the distinct feeling of being underground. It’s dark, claustrophobic, generally uncomfortable, and that’s before the music starts.
On any given night a touring or local band might try to cram their gear into Casa Coyote and play a set for Grand Junction’s most passionate fans of live music. Once the amps click off standby and the warm hum spreads, the room takes on a noticeably different temperament. A few quick hits on the kick drum and Casa Coyote is suddenly alive and brimming with possibility.
Here, bands can play and be more than a soundtrack for barflies to drink to. It’s a den of temporary refuge, and a place where musicians are appreciated. As all-ages crowds gather, they embrace the only truism that matters: today you are the youngest you will be for the rest of your life.
Grand Junction’s indie scene is a pack of individuals starved for creativity and originality. Collectively, they are musicians, artists, photographers and sometimes just lost fans looking for a place to fit in. They are nocturnal creatures creating a music scene of their own from thin air. No financial motives, just selfish pursuit of a good show.
DIY style music venues such as Casa Coyote have always played an important role in the growth of the local scene. It’s where musicians meet and form bands. It’s youth forcing the issue and creating something organic and special before it’s too late.
Before Casa Coyote it was Le Garage. Before Le Garage it was the Pop Up House. While the underground hot spot is ever-changing, shoulder-to-shoulder these fans are forever bound by music.
Crowds at Casa Coyote act on impulse, dance wildly and treat every show like it could be the last. It’s the perfect venue in that way. This atmosphere, the kind that bands thrive on, rarely exist at proper venues. Where else could a psychedelic surf rock jam band such as Wooden Indian Burial Ground play and be appreciated for their nonconformist sound?
Playing along with Casa Coyote regulars Bronco Country and ‘70s style crunch rockers Dirtylektric on March 20, Wooden Indian Burial Ground brings the weirdness of Portland to an unremarkable house near you.
At the end of Bronco Country’s most riotous song and embodiment of the DIY scene, “The Fuzz,” the local indie favorites sing “we’re just having fun/ having some beers/ what’s the big deal?”
The big deal is the culture of Casa Coyote. It’s worth much more than face value to Grand Junction.
Whoa! I just checked the calendar and all of a sudden this week is jam packed full of concerts. If you are not ditching the Grand Valley for Snowball Music Festival here is what you need to plan around this week.
Young Dubliners at the Mesa Theater - It's Naggy McGee's birthday so celebrate with, what else, some Irish drinking music. The Wrong Impressions open for the Celtic rock icons this Thursday.
Greg Brown at the Mesa Theater - Folk singer and guitarist Greg Brown plays an intimate show this Friday at the Mesa Theater. Brown has recorded over two dozen albums, some of which have been nominated for Grammy Awards, and has been a frequent performer on A Prairie Home Companion. Check out a performance and interview below.
Chelsea Grin at the Mesa Theater - Are you ready for some Salt Lake City Death Core!? Ready or not, here comes Chelsea Grin, playing this Sunday at the Mesa Theater. Attila, Betraying the Martyrs, and Buried in Verona open.
While every music nerd in the galaxy has been geeking out over the new 15 second sound clip from some unreleased, unnamed Daft Punk song, I've been jamming to something that you can actually listen to. While the Daft Punk robots are upgrading to an new operating system, equally French house producer Kavinsky dropped "OutRun," a collection of heavy hitting vintage disco tunes. You may recognize Kavinsky as a key music contributor behind "Drive," the 2011 Ryan Gosling/Carey Mulligan movie. In fact, "Nightcall," the albums signature tune also appears on "OutRun."
The album is very 1980s, very synthy, and actually available. My guess is "OutRun" looks like and sounds like whatever new stuff Daft Punk will drop in May so the question is, why wait around when something equally good already exists?