Boomslang 2012: A Preview

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This article appears on page 12 of the September 13, 2012 print edition of Ace Weekly.
by Raj Ranade

This year’s Boomslang finds classic acts reuniting, exciting new artists emerging, and talented veterans keeping at it – here are Ace’s must-see acts playing at Boomslang 2012.

That reclusive indie rock genius Jeff Mangum is touring at all is reason enough to see his show at the Kentucky Theatre on Thursday, September 20th at 7 PM. After the release of their classic album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea in 1998, Mangum’s group Neutral Milk Hotel disbanded, and the singer/songwriter himself has only performed at a handful of shows in the intervening decade. Mangum actually made some history the last time he was in Lexington, when he played at the Red Mile in 2008. For an encore, Mangum led the crowd outside to a nearby tree and performed a few songs with former bandmates Scott Spillane and Julian Koster – an impromptu reunion that was the first time the band had played together live in a decade. Whether or not Mangum pulls off anything similarly historic at the Kentucky, audiences will be treated to his unique brand of songwriting, which meshes lo-fi acoustic guitar sounds with a variety of ornate instrumentation, as well as his moving, ragged wail. (Listen to: “Two Headed Boy“, “Holland, 1945“). The Music Tapes, the band of Mangum’s ex-bandmate Koster, will also be playing – Koster’s songs mix together everything from singing saws to accordions to psychedelic pop effect. The show will open with the carefully-arranged, trance-like acoustic guitar stylings of Nashville guitarist William Tyler. (Jeff Magnum om iTunes)

“We’re not joking/Just joking/we are joking/just joking/we’re not joking” goes the hook to one
of Das Racist‘s early singles, but the impressive thing about the group these days is how
skilled they are at both. Brooklyn rappers Himanshu “Heems” Suri and Victor “Kool A.D.” Vazquez first gained blog notoriety with their goofball single “Combination Pizza Hut & Taco Bell“, a narrative about two guys who fail to realize that they are at the same combo fast-food place. But with the free mixtapes Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man, the pair revealed themselves as some of the funniest, most incisive cultural satirists in rap today, not to mention gifted rappers in their own right. And Heems’ mixtape Nehru Jackets, released earlier this year, found the rapper in a raw, aggressively political mode as he took on issues of race and class – as in the impressive sustained rage of “NYC Cops“. But expect a more laid-back party vibe at Cosmic Charlie’s at 10 PM on Thursday, September 20th – though non-minorities should be ready to have their white guilt mocked (“White people, play this for your black friends!/Black people, smack  them!“). (Das Racist on iTunes)

If there’s one constant in the career of experimental San Francisco rockers Deerhoof, it’s that the band continues to find new, musically thrilling ways to avoid easy classification. The
band’s discography encompasses everything from free-form noise-rock experimentation to 70s classic rock style guitar noodling. But their latest album Breakup Songs finds them in an
uncharacteristically danceable mode, placing singer Satomi Matsuzaki’s wispy coo over blippy electronic beats and taut guitar riffs. I’d guess that’s the vibe that you’ll find in their set
at Cosmic Charlie’s at 8 PM on Friday, September 21st, but I suppose anything’s possible.
Indie rockers Buke & Gase will also play – if the fact that the band builds its own instruments
(the “buke” is a modified baritone ukelele, the “gase” is a guitar-bass hybrid) sounds
hipster-precious, the band’s muscular sound and singer Arone Dyer’s punchy, Gwen-Stefani-style vocals say otherwise. Indie rockers The Apache Relay will also play, and Nashville dance-pop act Five Knives will close out the night. (Deerhoof on iTunes)

20-year-old Dylan Baldi’s band Cloud Nothings plays a throwback brand of emo/punk on a grand scale – on his latest album Attack on Memory, Baldi has crafted impressive miniature epics of shifting mood and dynamics like the 9-minute “Wasted Days“. The manic energy of the band’s performance at Bar Lexington at 1 PM on Saturday (where Futurebirds, Sleeping Bag, and Girl in a Coma will open) should be a good contrast to the slow-moving onslaught of sound that will converge on attendees of Doomslang, the 8 PM doom metal showcase at Buster’s on Saturday. Sadly, the previous headliners Baroness, fresh off the release of their excellent album Yellow & Green, had to cancel due to injuries band members sustained in a bus accident, but doom metal veterans Saint Vitus should pick up the slack, along with fellow metal acts Weedeater and White Hills). (Cloud Nothings on iTunes)

At press, Boomslang hadn’t yet updated their website to mention this, but buzzed-about rapper Le1f will headline the annual dance party Queerslang. Many words have been spilled in the media about Le1f’s status as one of the few openly gay rappers in modern hip-hop, but it’s not his taste in men that makes him special – it’s his taste in beats. The backing tracks on Le1f’s mixtape Dark York are a clatter of aggressive bass, ominous synths, and frantic percussion – it’s a stunning blend of avant-rap sounds, against which Le1f holds his own with charisma and swagger. Garage rockers The Younger Lovers and synth-poppers Skeleton Head will also be on hand at Cosmic Charlie starting 10 PM on Saturday, September 22nd.

The Jesus and Mary Chain, the Scottish progenitors of the musical style known as shoegaze, will play at Buster’s on September 23rd at 8 PM. Rising to popularity just as the raucous punk energy of acts like The Sex Pistols and The Clash was starting to fade, the Jesus and Mary Chain were relatively demure stage presences who stuck to conventional song structures, but the band pushed their instruments to new eardrum-shattering heights. These are sweet pop songs draped in aggressive feedback, reverb, and squalls of droning guitars for an appealingly abrasive edge. You should go, but be aware that it will be loud – earplugs aren’t a bad idea (Listen to:  “Never Understand“, “Just Like Honey“). Experimental electronic act Gary War and indie rockers Dinosaur Feathers will open. (The Jesus and Mary Chain on iTunes)

 

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