The Bummers

A friend of mine invited me down to see the Bummer’s vinyl release at Strongwater Food and Spirits on March 6th. I was unfamiliar with both the Bummers and the other bands on the bill, and had also never seen Strongwater function as a live music space. At least things promised to be educational; I bundled up on what turned out to be the last cold night of the year.
  The cool kids release vinyl these days folks. CD’s are yesterday's beer coasters, relegated to traditional Celtic Music and Chad Mitchell Trio compilations. I think the vinyl thing is a little precious, a triumph of hipster revisionism, but that’s probably sour grapes -- the needle on my record player is broken.
  Anyway, I got there early to check out the Strongwater space. It’s a nice room, large enough to accommodate a good crowd without getting claustrophobic. The bar is back by the door, far enough from the stage so that you can order a drink without screaming. They use it as a banquet space too, so there is some attention to aesthetics and comfortable chairs. The sound was generally good, although it could get a little treble-y; a few tasteful acoustic panels would go a long way.
  With respect to the bands, I would preface things by noting that it’s a bitch to keep the attention of an unfamiliar audience. They don’t know your songs, and, unless you have a brilliant sound engineer and a degree in forceful enunciation, nobody’s going to have a clue what you’re singing about. You can fix it (somewhat) with dynamics, arrangement and not doing stupid shit like playing two straight songs in the key of A. That’s the explanation for why so many bands seem to randomly drop in a blues tune in their set. Dynamics seem to work the best, even from song to song -- a band that is really loud all the time becomes a numbing drone just as just as easily as a band that is always soft.
  Case in point, the first act, Comrade Question, came out of the gate like a house on fire. Their first song was awesome, a monolithic sound from a three guitar attack with a soaring lead drenched in reverb and vibrato. A drummer locked in to a Ramones beat, a great male/female vocal harmony, goddamn -- It hit so hard that I actually left the beer line to go see it close up. I was seriously excited; this was just the thing to start a night of music.
  The rest of their set, though, retained that level of saturated volume. I can’t tell you if the rest of their songs were good, bad or indifferent, because they all started running into each other. But damn that first tune was good, if they could just take a break from the powerful every so often these guys could go a long way.
  One quibble -- in song number six, the band suddenly dropped out of a measure to let their singer bellow “baby I’ve got something to say!” That’s a fucking terrible lyric, dude, please don’t ever do that again.
  Up next were the Psychic Wheels, another group with a thick, saturated sound compliments of two guitars and keyboard. The Wheels center on a front man who sings with a curled lip Brit-sneer, a la Billy Idol. Like Comrade Question, they suffered from a lack of space -- too many instruments playing the same notes. But they certainly had presence -- they actually sounded a lot like the Sex Pistols song “No Feelings.”
  Around midnight The Bummers came on. On a night which was not lacking for stage presence, their singer trumped everything else – he looked like an insane biblical hermit wildman mid-70’s baseball pitcher, and he was bouncing all over the place. His voice is unexpectedly different, at times otherworldly. The band was exceptionally tight, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a group that looked happier onstage.
  Their sound was really, really wet – tons of reverb and delay, and likely some vibrato and chorus thrown in too. Their singer even periodically used a supplemental microphone with some or all of these effects on it. A few times it started my head swimming. This group had a much better feel for dynamics than the previous acts – frantic rock alternated with lazy Sunday driver vibe. But always reverb, reverb, reverb.
  It was a good show, but it went on a little too long. After about 45 minutes, I felt like the band had exhausted its bag of tricks – the effect microphone in particular got old fast. Or maybe I was just tired and feeling the effects of the micro-brews weirdos kept buying me. Regardless, I needed to be somewhere everything didn’t echo.