Crystal Stilts, not in Columbus

It's been a while since non-festival concert reviews appeared in this space, but that's about to change. Read on for recaps of two of this week's biggest shows, featuring the likes of Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts and Howlies plus many fine acts from this here berg.

Crystal Stilts, not in Columbus

It's been a while since non-festival concert reviews appeared in this space, but that's about to change. Read on for recaps of two of this week's biggest shows, featuring the likes of Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts and Howlies plus many fine acts from this here berg.

Monday: Times New Viking / Vivian Girls / Crystal Stilts / Psychedelic Horseshit @ Cafe Bourbon Street We begin with my favorite show of the week, a diverse but streamlined rundown of some of the most exciting bizarro pop bands in the U.S.A. I arrived too late to see Psychedelic Horseshit, which is too bad because I haven't seen them since SXSW. But that experience was mighty satisfying. I can stand to wait until they inevitably play Bobo or Carabar a few times this fall.

Instead, my first band of the night was Crystal Stilts, who, besides being part of the new "Crystal" nomenclature trend (see Crystal Castles, Crystal Antlers), are breathing new life into the sad-sack Manchester post-punk template of the late '70s and early '80s. The majestic "Crippled Croon" didn't make an appearance, but less familiar tunes carried the set just fine. Brad Hargett's bored but optimistic take on Ian Curtis grew tiresome then won me back over within the course of the set. Around him, instruments emitted sounds so simple and yet so graceful. In particular, their drummer delivered a literally stand-up performance by either exercising serious restraint or using a rudimentary skill set to her advantage. Pitchfork recently wondered why it's so hard to do music like this well. It's a worthwhile question, and one that could apply just as much to the rest of the bands on Monday's bill. I'm not sure I have an answer, but I know these bands pull it off better than most.

Vivian Girls followed. I hadn't noticed the trio's Shaggs tendencies until my pal Nick pointed them out, but yep, their slightly unharmonious harmonies could veer into a kitschy black hole if not steered right by some near-flawless garage pop songwriting. The music loses its shoegaze sheen (and therefore some of its appeal) in the live setting, but their zealous pace and able performance kept the show lively, and anyway it's really the songwriting, not the sonics, that carries this band.

Then there was Times New Viking, making an increasingly rare hometown appearance, and what an appearance it was! Months on the road at venues big and small have further perfected this band's blistering skree. Old songs sounded sharp and strong, and the new songs... oh my, the new songs! TNV has mastered the art of beating listeners to pulp with a catchy hook at maximum strength. These new songs were some of the band's most streamlined, to-the-point work thus far. I can't wait to hear the new EP they're dropping this month. Again, even more so than with Monday's previous groups, it's baffling that folks have so much trouble pulling off music like this. On its face it's so simple, but nobody does it like TNV.

It's cool that even though the band has played massive festival stages in cities around the world, they're still able to perform at their home base, Cafe Bourbon Street. This show went down much like it would have a year ago, with a few dozen stragglers bouncing around in front of the stage while the early-to-bed crowd cleared out the back of the bar. But back then the frenzied fans would have been some of TNV's closest friends and associates. Now it was a bunch of youngsters I'd never seen before, likely lads and lasses making their first or second trip to Bobo to check out this local group they read about on Pitchfork (or, if I'm lucky, here). They seemed to be having a blast; look out for the coming legion of shitgaze ripoff bands in three... two... one...

Tuesday: Howlies / Mr. Rubberburner / Rosehips @ Carabar I missed another fine local Tuesday by showing up late. This time it was Rosehips. I'd like to catch up with them soon, but thankfully those ladies are a Carabar staple, so I'll get my chance one of these weeks.

The primary pursuit this evening was to see Howlies, who came heavily hyped by the local bands on the bill and the Carabar brass. The sounds sort of like fellow Atlantans The Black Lips, but with less drugs and more vocal harmonies. Their retro pop rock came loud and fast, never letting their precise execution get in the way of their boundless energy. Much like the bands from the previous night, Howlies are just enthusiastic dudes playing simple, solid rock music with a huge helping of melody. There's nothing inventive about what they do, but they do it oh so well. I had the most fun I've had with a band in months. Who the hell are the Black Lips?

The evening's final performers were a new act of local music veterans known as Mr. Rubberburner. Their rough-and-tumble rock was passable, but considering how many quality Columbus bands are represented up there (Earwig, The Rackets and Dolby F---ers to name a few), I couldn't help thinking this was kind of underwhelming. Of course, the members don't seem to be thinking of this band as much more than a goof, so there's no need to worry about them falling off. Also, I wish I would have stuck around for this, which would have left me more than satisfied:

Patience, DeVille!