Live: The Willowz/The Scattered PAGES/The Papermoons

The Willowz pic #1

THE MINK -- 5/22/2007: Tuesday night is pretty much the definition of an off-night for gigs, but nevertheless, your fearless reviewer braved the boho attic that is The Mink for some midweek hedonsim. Before the gig even started I managed to lacerate my thumb on something, proving that A. I am a special and unique snowflake, and B. aspirin really does make you bleed more than normal.
No matter. The Papermoons pulled my attention away from triage and onto the stage. Matt Clarke managed to capably juggle guitar, vocals, a bass pedal, and a harmonica, which is no mean feat. I loved Daniel Hawkins on the drums. He looked awkward and hesitant, as if he couldn't quite decide what to play, but then I realized how hard and precisely he was hitting the thing and how well the two guys meshed. If I had a gripe, it's that a lot of their songs sounded a bit same-y. But it's a good sound, so I'm not complaining too much.
Next up were the Scattered PAGES, who started their set with "Eternity Waits" and took us down the rabbithole and out the other side. Great stuff; sepia-toned, skull-beneath-the-skin music. Catch 'em around here while you still can; maybe in the future someone will write about them the way Greil Marcus writes about Dock Boggs.
Or perhaps not, because great though they may be (and they were pretty great), with the PAGES, there's always the sense of artistic detachment. That old-timey chord change, that yodel, it's a stage dressing. You can almost see Brandon Hancock in a barker's hat, calling you over with a wave of the hand as the curtains glide open. They're going to tell you a story.
Not so The Willowz. The Willowz were the story. They shambled out of the darkened corners of the club and, finally finding an amp that worked, began to play. Drummer Loren Humphrey's arms became an electron cloud of probability, with only the occasional rock-drummer-stick-point to let you know someone was even in there. Aric Bohn's guitar was, at any given point, out-of-tune, missing a string, or unplugged, but he was unconcerned, intent instead on securing a supply of weed. Ritchie Follin wanted the punters to move in closer, presumably to watch their faces melt. Riffs emerged out of the noise, completely heavy in a way that had nothing to do with palm-muted triplets or the lochrian mode, then disappeared, leaving you to freefall through chaos. It was hard to track songs; I caught the riff to "Nobody," Ritchie called out "Jubilee," which for some reason necessitated a Telecaster, and "Evil Son" required a keyboard part. The rest was a blur.
There was something almost parodic about the Willowz; maybe it was the devil's-rejects retro outfits, but they came across as the ür-stoner garage band. It worked, though, I think because it's natural and real. They mean what they play. The set seemed much too short, but I suppose Aric had decided it was time for the guitars to go through the amps and swing from the rafters. Maybe he finally managed to score a bag. As for myself, I didn't need any; my brain was already gelatin. And that's not bad for a Tuesday night. END