Megan Reilly started the music-filled night at North Star Bar last Wednesday rather simply as the Memphis resident and her backing band showcased a series of songs from her latest release The Well. The set was a combination of singer/songwriter style material with up-tempo, twang-infused guitars and a complimentary rhythm section. The highlight of the set was “Old Man and the Bird” a duet performed with John Wesley Harding in which Reilly and Harding’s vocals captivated the audience.
Opening their set with the neo-retro-sounding “Lonely Lonely Night,” Juston Stens & The Get Real Gang took no time to fall into the accustomed groove. Demonstrating their knack for combining chunky guitar licks with naturally smooth vocal harmonies, Stens and company played at a relentless pace without breaking a sweat. As the song began casually amid a simple riff, a swaying bass line and crisp vocal harmonies added texture to the already multi-faceted song. A guitar solo appeared to sneak into the equation, and the group seemed to gel - clicking on all cylinders.
“When Fire Burns Out” demonstrated the polarity of the group’s sound. On one hand, dual guitar leads with a classical feel and unabashed percussion set the stage for a serious tone as did lyrics such as “Like a ghost without a soul.” However, while in the depths of its intensity, the groove took over and somehow lyrics that earlier seemed dark and heavy took on a new air which was light and energetic. Juston Stens & The Get Real Gang do share similarities to his previous venture as the drummer for Dr. Dog. Yet those similarities are basic ones: high-energy levels, a group of musicians who work together to form a powerful cohesive unit, and the ability to tap into elements of rock ‘n’ roll and reinvigorate them. Once this band gets up to speed, the ride that follows is a real joy.
Canadian indie rockers Zeus closed out the gig maintaining the bar, which had been set by Stens and the gang. The band brought a hard edge to pop-rock and as the musicians frequently switched hats throughout their performance impressively splitting duties on various instruments from guitar, to bass, to keyboards. Their set included earlier material like “I Know” and a rollicking cover of Genesis’ “That’s All” to songs off this spring’s release Bursting Visions such as “Stop the Train” and “Love in a Game.” Their musical aptitude and attention to detail made this evening a night of musical glory. (Photo by Mike LaVancher) - Michael Colavita
For those who decide whether to come or go based on the first forty seconds of an album, Restorations’ LP2 is practically tailor-made for snap judgments. After a chiming, anthemic guitar opening, the band already known for fist-raising jams lets all hell break loose with “D,” their most unrestrained opener yet. The drum kit-mauling, earth-shaking bass lines and ascendant guitar riffs can only be described as complete sensory overload, and make it clear that the following eleven songs are going to be fueled by pure viscera. If your preferences run towards structure over huge sound, this release may leave you cold; LP2’s predominant means of exploring the band’s wealth of ideas are stadium-sized instrumentation and endless waves of atmospherics, as well as a dose of ennui.
This is a murkier, more inward-looking Restorations than we’re used to. Everything that was there before, musically, is blown sky-high this time around. They’ve managed to pack ideas into every iota of the song list, aided by Jon Low’s miles-deep production; the density of the music itself is offset by an album-long meditation on place, belonging, and the ramifications of leaving the familiar behind, which makes the outsized sound that much more of an interesting direction. Juxtaposing the existential discomfort with more sophisticated, complex forays into Restorations’ sonic wheelhouse.
The spiraling guitars, one of the album’s specially prominent features, are everywhere, serving various purposes in each song. “Kind of Comfort”’s jittery glam rock aspirations accompany lyrics of searching and wanderlust. Even the more downbeat cuts (“In Perpetuity Through The Universe,” “New Old”) are propelled beyond their subject matter by the songs’ barely-concealed restless energy. At its more pensive moments, like the folk-inflected “Civil Inattention,” there is a restless undercurrent of texture and volatility that never quite lets up.
Album closer “Adventure Tortoise” is all monster buildup laced with extraterrestrial effects, kicking off into a sort of requiem for the band’s neighborhood. “I’d really like to stay to help this place,” growls Jon Loudon through his teeth, but the allure of letting it all go is too strong to resist. The longing for a place “where nobody knows your name” isn’t quite all-consuming enough to inspire real action, but it is definitely the new paradigm Loudon means.
It takes guts to pull off a release that feels ten minutes long but contains more emotional and musical texture than most records. Restorations cover a whole lot of ground on LP2, and for the most part, pull off their ambitions. A bit too sanguine for shoegaze, and maybe too heady for punk, Restorations’ second full-length album brings an intriguing palette of aspirations to their open road-ready sound, prepared to try anything and everything. - Alyssa Greenberg