by John Mitchell
GHOSTT BLLONDE, VIRGINS FAMILY BAND, FREE CLINIC SUNDAY AUGUST 18, 2013 SLIM’S DOWNTOWN: RALEIGH
I was working at Morning Times in Downtown Raleigh when Mark Kuzio walked up and started smoking a cigarette outside. I took a break from the website I was designing to go talk to him. It turned out that he was playing a show downtown. We planned on meeting up at the venue, and turns out the door dude is a super awesome guy, and he let me in (with large X’s and the if-you-drink-I-will-murder-you speech, of course). I entered just in time to see Wilmington garage pop trio Free Clinic sound-checking their equipment. This new band loves lots of reverb on everything. There’s a casual start to the set, with the band slowly turning their chorus-soaked lead lines and big, jangley chords on their head through a great ear for delay-tastic breakdowns. A competent, yet reserved drummer reigned everything into a nice glow. Though they mentioned they’re looking for a bass player, the atmosphere isn’t in any particular need to be pulled down. They’ve made due and developed an impressive sonic platform that will grow as their songwriting skills do.
Virgins Family Band take the stage next, and I’m impressed again. The toneless guitar and incredible keys make way for two drummers and some very fun bass lines. And while their compositions are much more complicated than those of Free Clinic, the psych-outs a little more reserved. Both bands worked extremely well together on a line-up for reasons that can’t be explained with your ear; it’s all because of the curatorial skills of that fellow I ran into at the coffee shop several hours before. Granted, it’s a little funny to say that, because I usually associate curation with quiet guys that have huge beards, not bombastic and wiry kids. But it’s this guy’s sunny presence, very similar to Iggy Cosky of the Lollipops, that makes all the bands he’s assembled for the show and all the friends he’s amassed in the crowd sync into place.
Ghostt Bllonde is a band that popped up on my radar several months ago through a taped-together cd-r sleeve in the local rack at KNC. There are blown-out tracks withered with melodramatic hooks and way-too-heavy percussion. There was real potential there though; potential to turn these ideas into hooky songs everyone wanted to sing along to. With the recent release of TrashPop//DoomWop, they’ve gotten much closer to that goal. It doesn’t lose the super-saturation or the booming drums that made the band unique to begin with, but it amplifies everything with comparatively razor-sharp articulation. Live, the energy was brought back up to the level of those first recordings, without all the necessary straining to understand what’s going on. That’s a great thing, because this isn’t heady music at all. It had the crowd, which consisted of 30-something guys with dreads, girls who’d look less out of place at the Architect, and a fair amount of plainclothes college kids bopping their heads, pulling out lighters during the slow points, and best of all, smiling. It’s going to be hard not going to Slim’s Downtown for another three months. In a few hours, the general divey-ness, tiny corner stage and half-a-foot of room I had to stand in started to feel like home.