Sound Advice: : Michelle Shocked, Mic Harrison and Gil Mantera's Party Dream

Upcoming concert previews of note

Dec 15, 2007 at 2:06 pm
Ben Mistak

Gil Mantera's Party Dream

Michelle Shocked with Over the Rhine

Saturday ´ Taft Theatre

In 1984, Texas native/political activist/budding Folk singer Karen Michelle Johnston took part in a San Francisco demonstration decrying the American corporate practice of contributing financially to both major parties in order to curry favor from whoever won the presidency. When she was arrested by San Francisco police, she gave her name as Michelle Shocked. Twenty-one years later, the activist, the Folk-rooted singer/songwriter and the name remain.

Shocked first came to prominence when UK indie label owner Pete Lawrence conned his way into the Kerrville Folk Festival and surreptitiously recorded Shocked as she played for friends one evening around a bonfire. The bootleg recording, complete with passing traffic, distant trains and crickets, later released by Lawrence as The Texas Campfire Tapes, was an immediate sensation and Shocked became the darling of underground Folk. Mercury Records won the ensuing major label bidding battle and released Shocked's mainstream debut, Short Sharp Shocked, featuring a cover photo of Shocked in a chokehold at the 1984 protest.

To the label's dismay, Shocked refused to churn out more of the same Folk fare, offering up the Jump Blues energy of 1989's Captain Swing and the purer Country feel of 1992's Arkansas Traveler, which the label only marginally promoted. When Mercury balked at Shocked's desire to record a Gospel album, she sued to void her contract, citing the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. She won, retaining the rights to all her work, which she eventually reissued on Mighty Sound.

Earlier this fall, Shocked released ToHeavenURide, a recording of a Gospel-flavored performance of traditional spirituals and similarly-themed originals that she presented at the 2003 Telluride Bluegrass Festival, finally fulfilling her longtime wish to do a Gospel album.

(Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — Brian Baker

Mic Harrison & the High Score with Scott Miller

Saturday ´ Southgate House

A little over 10 years ago, one of the most sought after tickets in town was any area appearance of Knoxville, Tenn.'s favorite Roots Rock sons, the V-Roys. The quartet made their local reputation on a string of high-energy shows that combined the band's love of early Rock's visceral appeal, Country's rural simplicity and an almost Power Pop sense of melodic exuberance. It was a winning combination to say the least. One of their most spectacular gigs was the E-Squared label showcase in '98 with Cheri Knight and Six String Drag, as the V-Roys roared through a hair-raising set at the Southgate House.

All good band things must come to an end, and the V-Roys folded their hand in 1999, with guitarist/vocalist Scott Miller forming the Commonwealth while guitarist/vocalist Mic Harrison immediately took the solo route, releasing the quirky and immensely satisfying Don't Bail that same year. Perhaps missing the band life, Harrison filled in with local Knoxville group The Faults before taking a gig as guitarist for Superdrag. After that Harrison threw himself into his minor star-studded sophomore solo album, Pallbearer's Shoes.

Harrison then hooked up with a hot trio called the High Score, who tour and record with Harrison in the gaps in their own busy schedule. It was this aggregation that released last year's stellar Push Me On Home, an album that clearly shows Harrison's dual devotion to the power of rootsy Rock and the sublime allure of Honky Tonk Country. If Mic Harrison and the High Score bear a resemblance to the V-Roys, it's in their mutual ability to translate their manic stage presence in the studio and then transcend those studio performances with alcohol-fueled intensity and a focused abandon in front of a wildly appreciative audience. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — Brian Baker

Gil Mantera's Party Dream with The Seedy Seeds and Eat Sugar

Tuesday ´ Southgate House

There's something to be said about brotherly love, from the Isley Brothers to the Wolverton Brothers. Gil Mantera and his bro, Ultimate Donny, of Gil Mantera's Party Dream spin a dimension beyond that notion. Whether it's the lavish lure of their spandex-clad legs or the Electronica erotica that's moving them, these brothers are sure to tempt you into submission.

Knowing each other, well, since birth, Gil Mantera and Ultimate Donny reached for the stars and realized the Party Dream in 1999 after the break-up of their former band, Party Talk, with now-manager Brian Gage. Attracting immediate attention in their homeland of Youngstown, Ohio, the boys eventually broke out of the Midwest and were picked up by Fat Possum Records in 2006. They've been touring extensively since, joining up with acts such as Art Brut and The Rapture.

Ultimate Donny gallantly guts the guitar and sings while Gil Mantera pops the Electronica and vocalizes via a vocoder. With synthesized sounds taking over the airwaves, Gil Mantera's Party Dream offer a little more edge than the rest.

"We're like beautiful animals," describes Mantera. "Sometimes you see a very pretty lady kitty cat and, in some strange way, you feel the urge to fuck it. We try to harness that power and make it available to the audience."

A bit of swanky spandex here, a bit of naughty netting there. Fangs and swords. Strings and skivvies. No matter your fetish, Gil Mantera's Party Dream are sure to satisfy you during their ecstasy-induced burlesque-esque performance. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — Sara Beiting