Two Men Under Fire

BAND: —-

GENRE: COVER/ROCK

VENUE: 1048 JAZZ AND BLUES BAR, MONTGOMERY, AL

It might be obvious by now that one of my favorite venues in Montgomery is the 1048 Jazz and Blues Bar. The setting for taking photographs isn’t as good as it is at the Rock Bottom Pub. However, I love the atmosphere of the 1048. I’ve never seen it packed here, which gives it an almost small town pub feel, though it is in the heart of the city. The fact that so many people know each other here, and the friendliness of the bar tenders, adds to this.

What I really love about going to the 1048 is seeing the raw talent of the local musicians. Every week I’ve gone there has been a pleasant surprise. This past Saturday (4-30-11), I went expecting – from the website’s schedule – to hear a band I had never heard of called the Woodpeckers. As it turned out, the band was unable to make it that night. The 1048 promises live music 7 days a week, 365 days a year, so not having a band play that night simply wouldn’t do. So two musicians who didn’t know each other (and thus had never played together) were contacted by a mutual friend and asked to come play (according to drummer Andrew).

I had met the drummer, Andrew, before when he played with his brother, Jay, on Monday nights. He was accompanied by guitarist Jeremy (I hope I got your name right! I’m going on memory.), whom I don’t believe I’ve seen play before. Both of them are outstanding musicians, and though I could tell that they had never played together before (as I watched and listened to them work to match each other’s rhythm), they still managed to sound amazing together. They even managed to succeed when faced with an bar of people who couldn’t decide on what songs they wanted to hear, as evidenced by the drunkard who insisted on Alice In Chains and nearly started a fight when nearly everyone else disagreed on his music choice. (Fortunately, no fight actually broke out. Everyone basically ignored him, and he eventually quieted down. Thankfully.)

During the musicians’ first break of the night, I took a moment to speak with Andrew. He explained to me that many musicians learn to play by ear. This is in contrast to how I learned – by learning to read sheet music. With sheet music, everything is laid out before you like a map. The notes you’re supposed to play, how long to hold each note, the tempo, even the crescendos and decrescendos. Playing by ear, on the other hand, involves hearing pitches and rhythms and learning to reproduce them. It may sound easy, but unless you know the difference between a high E and a high C (for example) and know those notes when you hear them… Suffice to say, it takes talent to play either way. I love that I know how to read music and believe that it’s important, but I know that’s not the only way to learn. 

I’m impressed by musicians who can play by ear because it’s something that I cannot do. Sure, when I’m playing, I can hear when I get something wrong. But that’s not the same thing. I am stuck relying on sheet music to play anything. 

But to the point… It’s important to support local musicians. Go places where live music is played. Give them a chance, because there is so much raw talent out there. Musicians, the good ones at least, don’t play to get rich. They play because they love their music, because it’s their passion and they have fun doing it. They enjoy playing for an appreciative audience. Without the audience… Well, then they’re just playing to a brick wall, and who wants to do that?

If you’re in Montgomery, the 1048 downtown plays music every night of the week. Go check them out! 

Surgestone, One Shocking Rock Band

BAND: SURGESTONE

GENRE: ROCK

VENUE: 1048 JAZZ AND BLUES BAR, MONTGOMERY, AL

Living in Montgomery, it seems that I am subjected to cover bands more than I was in St. Augustine. Truth be told, St. Augustine spoiled me. However, much as I harp on cover bands, they’re not really a bad thing. There is a world of difference between a group who plays covers well and one who writes bad songs and can hardly play their instruments. Miss Used was a perfect example of how much fun, and exactly how good, a cover band can be.

I judge a band on 3 main things:

1) Their sound (how well they play)

2) Their energy

and 3) Their creativity.

How much of a show they put on is also nice, but (to me) more of a bonus that often accompanies point 2.

I should note that, by creativity, I don’t just mean in their songwriting ability. A lot of talent goes into taking a known song and making it your own. Take for instance Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nail’s song “Hurt.”

The words themselves don’t change, but the meaning behind them when Cash sings does. He owns that song as if it were his own.

That being said, Surgestone, while really good, wasn’t anything special. They only had a fraction of the energy of Miss Used. (But then, there were only 2 members there this night, both of whom remained seated during the performance. I imagine, if I got to see the entire band, it would be more energetic.) And while far from owning the songs they performed, they put enough of their own flair to keep the songs from being radio copies. The only dancing came from a trio of drunk Japanese men.

Don’t misunderstand me, though. They weren’t boring. Their sound was excellent. It was an enjoyable experience. It was understandable why the 1048 was so crowded. It didn’t hurt that they played a lot of 90s music, either. A lot of really good music came out of that decade. (It doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that I grew up in the 90s and am nostalgic about the music. No, really, it doesn’t…mostly.)

Surgestone obviously enjoys playing music, and it shows. Likewise, the audience seemed to really enjoy them, even if there was little dancing. According to their Facebook page, only half of the band was present. I’m sure, with the hole band, their performance would have been excellent. Even so, they are really good, and I look forward to seeing them again. Hopefully, next time I’ll get to see the whole band!

Upcoming Shows

It’s been busy at work with Easter coming up and everything, but I do have new bands to review lined up! Tonight, I will be going to the 1048 downtown to see Surgestone for some accoustic action. Then Saturday night, I will be headed to Rockbottom for some Splendid Chaos. I am currently listening to Splendid Chaos via their website, and I am extremely excited about this show! I also love the lighting at Rockbottom, so I should get some good stuff!

The interview with The Eastern Wave is also coming soon!

Keep an eye open for updates. 🙂