Thursday · The Mad Frog
If anyone needs proof that The Codetalkers is not a Col. Bruce Hampton side project, they'll get it on this leg of the band's tour when the trio appears without their famed utility guitarist/spiritual mentor. "Bruce just had an angioplasty," reports Codetalkers guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Bobby Lee Rodgers from his Atlanta home. "He's been off for a month and a half, but everyone still keeps coming out and wishes him the best. He's gonna come back. He's doing Bonnaroo with us."
Hampton attended the 1999 birth of the Codetalkers when Rodgers assembled the band after returning to Atlanta following a Boston stint as a Berklee College of Music professor. Hampton's presence has loomed throughout the band's existence, but he's always identified the Codetalkers as Rodgers' band, a fact most evident on the band's imminent sophomore album, Now.
"Bruce only appears on one track," says Rodgers. "The rest of it is just us. It's all live, and then if there needs to be any icing, maybe we'll put a little something on there."
Now is a showcase of Rodgers' incredible guitar technique and sound, achieved by running his Gibson 125 through a Leslie cabinet, a Super Reverb and an Echoplex. The result is Rodgers can emulate the sound of a Hammond B3 on his guitar to astonishing effect.
Just as diverse as Rodgers' guitar sound is the range of influences impacting his songs. Steered by Jazz at an early age — he claims Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Smith, Miles Davis and John Coltrane as deep influences — Rodgers credits an older and more improbable influence: Johann Sebastian Bach.
"Bach was a Jazz musician," says Rodgers. "He was the master improviser of all time; he wrote it all down, but he could just sit there and play that shit. Everything he's ever done that I've listened to, I've just been blown away. If I could get to a 10th of that, I'd be in business."
Perhaps the most impressive accomplishment on Now and in the Codetalkers' live presentation is the band's sheer musicality and the seamless line between their technical proficiency and improvisational skill. "I've studied a lot of Classical music and heavy Jazz and the thing I've always admired is people that had transparent art," says Rodgers. "You listen to a tune and the music just comes into you. You're not hearing drums or guitar. That's what I aspire to as a composer. Transparency, to me, is what makes music great." (Brian Baker)
Aloha with Embers is Sammy and Ghostman & Sandman
Thursday · Southgate House (Parlour)
The annals of Prog Rock are littered with many things — costumes, concepts, 80-piece drum kits — but great songs are pretty scarce. To be fair, many grandiose artists don't even try to write with the average consumer in mind, but those who attempt it generally end up sounding more comical than profound.
It took a while for Aloha to get the correct proportions, but on Some Echoes, the swirl of vocal harmonies (some reminiscent of Ghost in the Machine-era Police) floating over composed instrumental chaos (à la early Genesis or King Crimson) is a monument to the union of musical self-indulgence and soothing Indie Pop.
The quartet has released no less than nine CDs and EPs, plus the 1997 demo that landed them on Polyvinyl Records. Their early work was heavy on the vibraphone and excessively eclectic, often sounding like two separate tracks being played simultaneously. These evolving snapshots (along with sporadic tours) resonated with a growing, cultish fanbase as well as with critics. But compared to the warmth and depth of Some Echoes, even their other recent work, 2004's Here Comes Everyone, sounds slightly mechanical and hollow.
This surge forward especially lifts Aloha's majestic lyrics. While their wordplay has always bordered on poetic without being too literal or nonsensical, these cocoon-like songs add weight and drama to every phrase. The inclusion of a number of relaxed, piano- and mellotron-driven tunes also adds to the overall beauty of the disc. With a history of fast-paced, exhausting live shows, it will be interesting to see if they delve into this gentle territory in concert.
Because the quartet was conceived at Bowling Green University, they are often referred to as being "from Ohio," even though half are no longer residents. Guitarist/vocalist Tony Cavallario is a Clevelander, and when Cincy-raised drummer/pianist Cale Parks isn't recording or touring with Aloha, Cex, Joan of Arc or other projects, he still calls Cincinnati home. (Ezra Waller)
Bullet For My Valentine with Walls of Jericho and Roses are Red
Friday · Bogart's
When it comes to Next Big Thing Syndrome, the Metal community can be acutely susceptible to bandwagon climbing. A little technical proficiency and a lot of volume go a long way toward shining a brief but intensely bright spotlight on bands that never seem to go much further than their initial buzzes.
Bullet For My Valentine might be one of the exceptions to the rule. The Welsh quartet's recently released debut album, The Poison, has already sold close to a quarter million units worldwide and niche Metal media outlets as well as the mainstream Rock press are lining up to anoint BFMV as the second coming of Metal. Genre bibles Kerrang! and Metal Hammer have done cover stories on the band and their potent debut, while Revolver and Alternative Press both named the band as one of the groups to watch in 2006.
Naturally, all this attention has earned BFMV the top slot on the upcoming Trustkill Takeover Tour, a label showcase with stablemates Walls of Jericho and Roses Are Red. But if bands are known by the company they keep, BFMV is headed for a much bigger time. The band made the most of their recent opening slot with Rob Zombie, winning over his discerning audience and earning critical accolades in the process. That success has led to an astonishing string of pending opening gigs; by the time they arrive here, BFMV will have warmed up the Guns 'N Roses crowds at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom and, after their local stop, they'll perform the same function for Axl and company on their European jaunt.
And while they're overseas, they'll play a number of summer Metal festivals where they'll main-stage with the likes of Metallica and Korn. Through all of this, it's important to remember that Bullet For My Valentine is not just hype du jour; this is a band that knows the value of melodicism and subtlety even as it presents them at an adrenalized volume and pace. (BB)