Local DJs Kara Bibb and Aaron Sarlo are staying busy. As if putting together a weekly playlist full of exclusively Arkansas artists and bands for their Tuesday afternoon Shoog Radio
show on KABF wasn’t enough, they’ve just rolled out a new monthly live concert series at The Afterthought featuring some of Arkansas’ best local bands
The premier show’s lineup included two excellent groups (dare I say…supergroups?) made up of several artists who hail from other projects past and present. The Casual Pleasures
mixes Nathan Houser (Ezra Lbs), Melanie King (Color Club), Jackson Diner (Groovecluster), Tommy Tanner (visual artist), and Jessie Lawson into a swirling concoction of twisted pop music that pushes the boundaries of what’s catchy and fun.
Houser’s lead vocals propel most of the songs, sometimes crooning, sometimes howling over interplaying keyboard and guitar riffs accented by multi-part harmonies, buzzing synths and an electric ukulele, all atop energetic drumming and melodic bass lines.
Sometimes it felt a bit like a drunk and gleeful romp through a carnival, other times like lounging on a sun-soaked island, not caring that your face is melting off. They recklessly walk the line between pop and ‘not-pop’ with little regard for conventions but with a real knack for finding grooves and earworms along the way.
Most importantly, though, they pass the fun test with flying colors. There’s a lot of ‘psychedelic’ or ‘experimental’ stuff going on here but the underlying force driving all of what’s going on is ‘play’ in the truest sense, with musicians enjoying themselves as they do their thing and bring the crowd along with them. They have CDs available; check out one of their upcoming shows to pick one up.
Closing out the show was Pockets, the recently formed power trio of veteran musicians Dan Johnson (The Contingencies), Eric Morris (The See), and Matt Quinn (American Princes). These three have been playing rock and roll for a good bit here in Central Arkansas and they have a keen sense of dynamics and how to use them to maximize the sound out of a three-piece.
The songs range from hypnotic to driving, from sparsely arranged to beefed up with riffs. Morris and Quinn together are an awesome force of a rhythm section, with Johnson contributing echo-tinged guitar work and compelling vocals that draw you in with emotional depth.
They do a great job of creating dynamic tension, with the vocals constantly veering between anthem and ballad and the instruments building up and dropping back, finding a droning groove before jumping out with an explosion of drum hits and power chords. Quinn’s drumming threatened to steal the show multiple times throughout the set, but he always finds a way to blend back in and let the vocals carry the songs. Morris tells me they’ll be heading into the studio soon to record, so stay tuned.
Shoog Radio promises to host more amazing Arkansas musicians at the Afterthought on a monthly basis. Check their Facebook page for updates on these upcoming Thursday shows.