For the uninitiated, the group formed out of the ashes of Scroat Belly, a quartet whose drummer they lost before continuing on as a trio for their eponymous debut album in 1998. At that point the group comprised guitarist Kirk Rundstrom, banjo player Eric Mardis and Jeff Eaton on the Stitchgiver--a one-string bass fashioned from the gas tank of an old Ford pickup truck. They eventually added mandolinist Wayne Gottstine, who transformed their trademark three-part harmonies to jaw-dropping four-parts.
Using Austin's Bad Livers as a blueprint, the fearsome foursome of Split Lip combines a traditional bluegrass sound with the blazing speed and energy of punk rock, and in the process somehow manages to improve on the formula. And while Should Have Seen It Coming is quite possibly the best recorded document of its myriad skills and charm yet, the band's live shows are truly a thing of wonder. Imagine Ralph Stanley channeling the energy of Motorhead and you've got an idea of what to expect. Who else but Split Lip Rayfield could share a stage with both Del McCoury and Nashville Pussy?
Split Lip Rayfield performs on Saturday, Oct. 23 at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Al Foul and the Shakes and Last Call Brawlers open at 9 p.m. Admission is $5. For more information call 622-8848.
Former child actress and singer Jenny Lewis recorded with, and became a touring member of, electro-poppers The Postal Service, whose album went on to become the second-highest-selling album in Sub Pop Records' history, right after Nirvana. Former child actor and singer/guitarist Blake Sennett released a Sub Pop album as The Elected, and toured to support it. And drummer Jason Boesel recorded with Bright Eyes. All of which, of course, makes bassist Pierre de Reeder seem like a lazy sod in comparison.
Eventually the members reconvened as Rilo Kiley and headed into the studio with a rotating cast of knob-twiddlers that reads like a roll call of indie producers-of-the-moment, including Mike Mogis, Jimmy Tamborello and Mark Trombino. The result is the aptly titled More Adventurous, whose release earlier this year on Brute/Beaute Records (distributed by Warner Bros.) flung Rilo Kiley into the music press megahype generator. Time magazine declared its "Portions for Foxes"--which contains the immortal lines "The talking leads to touching / Then the touching leads to sex / And then there is no mystery left"--one of the 12 Songs of Summer, declaring it "the tightest thing to emerge from the indie-rock Petri dish in years." For a few months there, one couldn't gaze at a newsstand without Rilo Kiley staring right back.
Overhyped though it may be, More Adventurous is indeed a giant leap from the band's previous work. The songs are more fully formed, the writing is sharp in its observations, and the arrangements--replete with string sections and horn flourishes--are dynamic and varied. Rilo Kiley manages to expertly balance jadedness and innocence, bitter and sweet, and other things that shouldn't really go together, but do successfully on More Adventurous.
Rilo Kiley performs at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Tuesday, Oct. 26. This early all-ages show begins at 7 p.m. with opener Tilly and The Wall. Tickets cost $10. Call 622-8848 for further details.
There is no Billy Nayer--at least not in The Billy Nayer Show. Instead, there is a core of two members--drummer Bobby Lurie and singer/songwriter/autoharpist Cory McAbee--and a revolving door of sidemen. By all accounts McAbee is the focal point; described alternately as "a modern William Blake" and "a schizophrenic G-man," he is also an actor, illustrator, screenwriter and award-winning film director (his cult favorite, The American Astronaut, will screen prior to The Billy Nayer Show's performance this week). As for the music, well, it is nearly impossible to describe without hearing it, as it hits upon a dizzying array of genres. If we must settle on a vague description, let's call it cabaret rock, with dadaist lyrics that will have you simultaneously scratching your head and laughing your ass off. If it sounds the least bit intriguing, you'd be well advised to check them out.
The Billy Nayer Show performs at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., on Wednesday, Oct. 27. The all-ages show begins at 9 p.m. with a screening of The American Astronaut. Admission is $6. Call 884-0874 for more 411.
Fronted by Kiev-born singer/songwriter Eugene Hutz, the members of Gogol Bordello are the kings and queens of "Ukrainian Gypsy Punk Cabaret," even if they are likely its only practitioners. With an arsenal that includes saxophone, guitars, accordion, fiddle and a pair of costume-changing dancers, the collective blurs the line between high camp and high art.
Gogol Bordello performs at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Friday, Oct. 22. Tucson's Molehill Orkestrah opens at 9 p.m. Cover is $10. That number again is 622-8848.