Sensory Overload: Just try and take your eyes off this year’s crop of Bands to Watch

By Columbus Alive
From the January 30, 2014 edition

It seemed oddly appropriate Counterfeit Madison kicked off our annual Bands to Watch concert at Skully’s Music-Diner on Saturday, Jan. 25, since Sharon Udoh, the creative heart and lone constant in the group, is such a forceful onstage presence it can be all but impossible to take your eyes off of her.

The singer, backed by a six-piece band that included a violinist and a vibraphonist, didn’t disappoint here, turning out a diverse, impassioned set that swung from stampeding blues to fragile, orchestral soul to moments of unhinged musical fervor. At one point Udoh repeatedly bellowed “You are so impossible,” wrapping both hands around the microphone as though she were attempting to strangle the offending party.

Scuzzy garage-punk duo Cliffs followed with a set of raw-nerve rock that touched on frustrations derived from a wealth of subjects, including relationships, religion and modern technology (one imagines the dudes are not fond of internet dating). Rather than wallowing, however, the pair cranked the volume and buried the outside noise in a barrage of thumping drums and feedback-caked riffage.

Post Coma Network followed with a comparatively polished performance that split the difference between upbeat, pop-oriented fare (the infectious “Queen of the Nightlife,” for one, hit like a warming island breeze on this chilly, snow-strewn night) and moodier numbers built on swooning guitars and spacier, atmospheric passages.

Angela Perley & the Howlin’ Moons, in contrast, almost completely eschewed restraint — save for the set-closing “Ghost” — favoring rough-and-tumble numbers that ripped through the venue like a cowboy atop a “Hurricane.” Perley remained at the center of the maelstrom, singing in a voice that reminded at least one Alive staffer of early Lydia Loveless, while guitarist Chris Connor laid down country licks so southern fried they could be described as smothered and covered.

Bummers closed out the evening with a wonderfully trippy set, bashing through a range of psychedelic burners that would sound ideal soundtracking some future Quentin Tarantino film (assuming he wraps up recent leak-related lawsuits and gets back to movie-making). The crew’s songs were generally short and punchy, incorporating elements of surf-rock, reggae and garage, and an endearingly sloppy cover of Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs’ “Wooly Bully” brought the evening to an electric close. See you again next year, Columbus. –Andy Downing