Round four winner Underclaire.
Like I’ve said before, we call it the Musicians Showcase for a reason. If you’ve come out these four weeks, I hope you’d agree that Arkansas’s got talent. Perhaps in no week was the variety of that talent on display like it was last Thursday. Ryan Couron kicked it off with radio-ready new country, and Iron Tongue closed it out with throwback metal. In between, Outstanding Red Team offered rowdy barroom rock (and got a cocktail glass hurled at them in exchange) and Underclaire tore through smart, wrenching alt-pop. It was a great night for folks with catholic taste in music. But the judges judged and Underclaire came out on top.
It was obvious from the first couple of bars Underclaire
is practiced. The four-piece, together almost a decade longer than most other Showcase acts, plays with a precision rarely seen in local bands. Which is not to say that you’d be just as happy sitting at home listening to their latest CD. Nope, Underclaire’s live show is dynamic. Mike Mullins and Edison DeLeon kick out striking guitar lines that weave and build and crash together anthemically. Bassist Rob Brackett looks like he just started driving (so do I, Rob), but reels off prog-y bass lines. And Bryan Baker’s totally earned his way into the pantheon of Showcase drummers (say hi to Velvet Kente’s Jamal Lee and Jonathan Wilkins and the Reparations’ Will Boyd). On a scaled back kit, he stayed as busy as any drummer in town — he plays a lot of fills — yet always remained within the song.
Underclaire sounds like a lot of early indie-rock, pop-punk … OK, emo: Braid, The Deftones, The Dismemberment Plan. But like my colleague JT Tarpley pointed out, the band’s grown beyond its influences, rather than simply Xeroxing them. Can’t wait to catch ’em in the finals.
Ryan Couron. Photo by Brian Chilson.
If you’re a fan of contemporary country and you’ve somehow managed to miss Ryan Couron
, who gigs just about three days a week in Central Arkansas, you’ve been blowing it. Because he’s got mad national potential. Tall and with a strong country tenor, the young singer/songwriter and his studio-grade backing band sticks close to the Music Row formula — mixing a hearty bit of twang with arena rock flourish in songs about huntin’ and fishin’ and putting it on thick in ballads about girls who’re just like heaven. But that’s often what it takes to succeed in the business.
Brian Hirrel of Outstanding Red Team. Photo by Brian Chilson.
Outstanding Red Team
, perhaps the newest band in the Showcase, offered a charmingly sloppy set. Like Greg Spradlin said, it’s a band that’s “refreshingly, artfully Stooge-y.” Which is to say that under all the hollerin’ and garage noise there’s some really cleverly wrought pop songs. None more so than “The Fastest Racehorse,” in which lead singer Brian Hirrel reels off a catalog of rapidly delivered sports references, and backing vocalists Slaughterhouse and Jimmy Young (who was celebrating his 40th birthday last Thursday) chime in with tremendously catchy vocal hooks. It’s definitely the single.
ORT’s frenetic set came to an equally harried end when some asshole, who perhaps had watched the cowboy club scene in “Blues Brothers” one too many times, launched a cocktail grass at Hirrel’s head. Luckily, he ducked. And the asshole was brusquely — but sadly not sleeper-hold-brusquely — shown the door.
Iron Tongue. Photo by Brian Chilson.
If you have a soft spot for the early days of metal, Iron Tongue’s
your new favorite local band. This oddball five-piece, featuring more vets of pop-rock and blues-rock bands than metal ones, is, as guest judge Jeff Riggs said, “metal so heavy it should be described in tonnage.” But, at the same time, it’s not unrelenting or abrasive. There’s slow-grind sludge, but also plenty of almost stoner-rock riffage. The most obvious metal signifier is lead singer CT’s demonic, guttural holler. He’s terrifying. In fact, joshua said he could hear his songs in a reoccurring nightmare he’s been having about blue elves. Except, he said, there’s no way he’d let a tambourine — which CT shook occasionally — in his heavy metal dream.