More concerts and shows of note

More Concerts of Note

The Honorary Title

Fu Manchu

Wednesday · Radio Down

Pack up your one-hits and ear plugs ... Fu Manchu is back on the road. One of Stoner Rock's consistently satisfying outfits (beginning with the psychedelic thunder of their first single, "Kept Between Trees," in 1990), Fu Manchu has been having one of the busiest years in their 15-year-career. After a two-year studio hiatus when their last label dissolved in a flurry of corporate finagling, 2004 has found the So Cal quartet busier than a High Times writer at a Moroccan harvest party. Last year, while weighing their options, the Fu's whipped together a double live album culled from a variety of their 2003 tour dates titled Go For It ... Live!, their first live release which also served as the introduction to the band's new drummer Scott Reeder. Earlier this year, the band made a live appearance on Monster Garage, the Discovery Channel's chopped-out motorcycle travelogue hosted by hog guru Jesse James, best known for his West Coast Choppers TV gig. James had long used Fu Manchu music as the soundtrack for his segments; this year he hired the band to write the theme song for Motorcycle Mania 3, his latest Discovery TV movie, which also included a trio of Fu Manchu songs and a ton of incidental music. In the midst of all this activity, the band was hard at work on a new album, which had been advanced with the release of a two-song 7-inch and a three-song CD EP back in January. After completing work in the studio, the Fu's signed with DRT and released their ninth album, Start the Machine, back in September which leads them inevitably back to the stage, the place where their reputation as an unmatched live act was born.

Burn one and cue the amazed look ... Fu Manchu is here. (Brian Baker)

The Honorary Title with Giant Judys

Friday · Crush

In the press kit accompanying Anything Else But the Truth, the latest effort by The Honorary Title, nearly every blurb or article about the band makes reference to Dashboard Confessional and the genre some genius dubbed "Emo." It's an unfair comparison though, and something that could scare off serious music fans (not Emo kids who will outgrow the genre as soon as they learn that life goes on without that cute girl in study hall). "Acoustic guitar, personal songs, tattoos ... Dashboard Confessional!" goes the music crit logic, I suppose. It's a nice marketing tool, but the Brooklyn-based group — essentially singer/songwriter Jarrod Gorbel and multi-instrumentalist Aaron Karnstra — have legs beyond a fleeting trend. An album cover featuring a cartoon panda ripping his intestines out might not go over to well with the sensitive types anyway.

Gorbel is a metalhead-turned-folkie who cut his teeth on the Manhattan club circuit as a solo artist before teaming up with Indiana-native Karnstra. The band began drawing big attention almost immediately and Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba (ah, the comparison justified!) invited the twosome to tour with his band, which led to record label offers. The band settled on Doghouse Records (onetime home to The Get-Up Kids and All American Rejects), which put out Anything Else in June of this year. The band's popularity rose instantly, thanks to more opening slots for other big shots (Switchfoot, Secret Machines, Taking Back Sunday), and the HT has received further exposure from requisite television placement (some awful show on The WB featured their excellent song "Bridge and Tunnel" twice).

With a slow drawl that sounds like a mix between Pete Yorn and an anesthetized Julian Casablancas, Gorbel unspools his warm, acoustic-based songs with impactful melodicism and an honesty and intimacy the late Elliott Smith would have admired. Gorbel subtly layers organic guitar textures, while Karnstra assists with an intuitive ear for tasteful ornamentation, fleshing out the songs with sparkling keyboards and anchoring bass work and taking care to not step on the songs' toes. Emotional, but not crassly so, Gorbel has a gift for being able to relate his innermost feelings without sounding earnest or pitiful — one reviewer appropriately called him "a heartfelt singer/songwriter who's not begging to be punched in the face." (Mike Breen)

The Sights with Thee Shams

Saturday · York Street Café

To the outsider looking in through the eye of the mainstream music press, one would think that every band gigging in Detroit is either an MC5, Stooges or White Stripes clone. Surely many bands have adapted the "Garage" sound to fit in, but The Sights help expand the image of their hometown by going a different route, using vintage sounds but drawing from a deeper pool of influence.

Young veterans of the Motown scene (the band has been active on the club front since 1998), The Sights were formed by Eddie Baranek during his freshman year of high school. Relentless touring and a couple of cultly-acclaimed records (2001's Are You Green? and 2002's Got What We Want) helped land the band a deal with Scratchie Records, the imprint founded by ex-Smashing Pumpkins guitarist (and general good-taste maven) James Iha, which is distributed by New Line Records, a division of New Line Cinema. The band's self-titled effort for the label — which has been reportedly delayed due to the usual "we-don't-hear-a-single" bullshit, but will hit stores early next year — benefits from the crystal clear production, resulting in a Technicolor Garage Pop sound that retains the raw vigor but pushes the radiant, ear-tugging melodies front and center. Like neo-Pop/Rock-classicists The Shazam and Sloan, listening to the new Sights album is like finding the ghost of some kick-ass FM radio station from the '70s, as the band respectfully and creatively takes cues from icons like The Animals, The Faces, The Move, early Kinks and Who, and The Jam. But, while vintage sounding, the songwriting strength displayed in every track makes sonic comparisons inconsequential. Unlike many, these guys actually live up to their influences. Reverberating with iridescent organ trills and Baranek's versatile vocals, the album moves from swaggering Soul shouters ("I'm Gonna Live the Life") and ripping pre-Punk ("Will I Be True") to tripped-out, hooky psychedelia ("Scratch My Name In Sin," "Baby's Knockin' Me Down"), unshakable Power Pop ("Backseat") and even a dab of old school C&W ("Waiting on a Friend"). But, ultimately, The Sights' forthcoming release is just a magnificent Rock & Roll record devoid of any extraneous bells and whistles. Remember those? Thank God someone does. (MB)

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