Graveface Records Roadshow at the Triple Rock, 2/25/14
Photo by Erik Hess
Graveface Records Roadshow
The Casket Girls, Gramma's Boyfriend, The Stargazer Lillies, Dreamend
Triple Rock, February 25, 2014
Last week the Graveface label tour van was totaled in New York City. Despite the accident, their Graveface Records Road Show made its way safely to the Triple Rock last night, bringing electro-goth headliners the Casket Girls to the stage alongside a trio of other Graveface artists.
Graveface Records is an independent record label based in Savannah, Georgia. The label is owned and operated by Ryan Graveface of Black Moth Super Rainbow, and has released recordings by Twin Cities musicians Dosh and Haley Bonar. Bonar's spazz-rock side project Gramma's Boyfriend is soon to release an album on the label, and joined the Road Show's other three touring bands for their Minneapolis performance.
Graveface's shoegazer group Dreamend opened the show. "I ate a lot of poutine before this," he cautioned audience members in between their first couple songs. "I should have had a salad. Anyway, that's what's going on." Despite the apparent overdose on gravy-covered fries and cheese curds -- the Triple Rock does serve up a wicked poutine concoction -- Dreamend filled the dimly lit room with their unique blend of styles.
Graveface sings into a microphone concealed within a mask, the sound emanating as if from within a metal tube. Their songs rose and fell in swells, with slow sweet guitar lullabies rocking the audience gently and gaining momentum to crash like violent waves against a shore at each peak. Peter Seeba's drumming was prominent, providing a driving accompaniment to the textured guitar work. The music was loud, alluring and intricately layered.
Photos by Erik Hess
North Pennsylvania based outfit the Stargazer Lillies took to the stage next, again with Seeba on drums. Vocalist and bassist Kim Field began singing in a throaty voice to a backdrop of guitar providing enough noise to drown out her vocals almost entirely. While the distorted wailing of John Cep's effects-laden guitar created a fascinating wall of sound, Field seemed to have trouble maintaining her pitch as she struggled to find footing within the cacophony. Unfortunately her high notes were obviously off key, and faltered in achieving the same brilliant luster of Cep's brilliant dance between darkness and light.
For their third song, Cep took a bow to his guitar, causing an eerie dreamscape of haunting melodies to echo endlessly over the crowd. As the set continued Field seemed to slowly gain more confidence, her voice increasing in volume and precision though she remained motionless with her eyes turned to the floor. Their last song, though, was entirely devoid of vocals, effectively propelled by a dark bassline into a sprawl of screaming guitar effects. At its end the Stargazer Lillies ran from the stage into the greenroom, without a word.
Gramma's Boyfriend was a welcome departure from Field's lackluster stage presence. Bonar has her own special swag reminiscent of a cheerleader scorned. Gramma's Boyfriend is frisky, with music that immediately got the audience nodding their hands and moving their feet. It is obvious that Bonar has fun being on stage. She stomped around like a renegade marching band member, waving her hands menacingly through the air.
Photos by Erik Hess
Short spazzy songs like "Donkey Donkey 2x4" packed a serious punch. "First Last Reunion" was a musical ode to Bonar's high-school band Frankie Horseshit, which she claimed to have christened at the age of 16 while learning to make pizza in her Home Economics class. Another notable moment of their set was a surprisingly triumphant rendition of Daniel Johnston's "I Live My Broken Dreams." They were refreshingly spontaneous, choosing to vibe off of the audience rather than sticking to a set list.
"What do you want to hear?" Bonar asked. "We're taking requests. No we're not. Just emotions." The caliber of Bonar's powerful vocals was just as impressive as her endearing quirkiness. She transitioned seamlessly between velvety singing and punk rock shouting, giving just enough sharp edge to each piece.
The Casket Girls rounded out the Road Show with their weird display of electro-goth. Graveface initially came across vocalists Elsa and Phaedra Greene on the streets of Savannah as they were playing autoharp and singing strange songs. The sisters seemed to encapsulate a more gothic and complex version of '60s girl group the Shangri-las, who Graveface was obsessed with. He approached them with his idea for the band and thus, the Casket Girls were born. Stage antics of the Greenes are indeed quite reminiscent of early girl groups, complete with choreographed movements and outrageous hairstyles (wigs, actually).
Photos by Erik Hess
The sisters were shrouded in mystery, from their dark shades to their satiny nightgown-style garb. They both balanced perilously on sky-high heels encrusted with rhinestones, singing together as they moved in tandem. The resulting aesthetic could be described as California goth -- a balance of over-the-top style elements with creepy undertones. Their set began somewhat slowly, with Graveface providing distorted organ-sounding keyboard elements and drumming once again by Seeba. Field of the Stargazer Lillies occasionally joined the Girls on bass, providing a deep, dark rumble that added to the eeriness.
Things picked up about halfway into the set. The Greenes lamented "treading water in the deep end" while they moved about the stage in yoga-like acrobatics. Field's bass became sexy and funky as the sisters lured the audience into their dark world singing, "the devil's in the details... the key to my heart is yours." Their voices complemented one another perfectly. Suddenly, their sorrowful, witchy sound was irresistibly catchy.
Before Graveface took to his guitar to end their performance in a screeching fit, the girls descended from the stage and stalked the floor of the Triple Rock, doling out hugs and kisses to willing audience members. It was beautiful and haunting, a perfect demonstration of their cutesy nightmare weirdo powers. Why not receive a kiss of death from two gothic Southern belles? All told, it was an eccentric and fitting way to end the Road Show's eclectic presentation.
Critic's bias: My Mom is a classically trained vocalist and pianist. She has taught me a lot about voices, and therefore I am a tough critic when it comes to live singing. Unfortunately when performers are off-key or obviously straining their vocal chords out of their comfortable range, it can really ruin things for me.
The crowd: Brave! It was absolutely frigid outside!
Overheard in the crowd: While outside smoking and discussing the opening acts, I was told an interesting story. A concertgoer claimed that the Black Moth Super Rainbow show at Myth was the reason why he will never do acid again. Apparently he started really tripping hard in the line to get in, and was gone for as soon as he got through the door. Things like the bathroom attendants really freaked him out, and he said that all he wanted was a nice tree, but alas he could find none. Later that night he went home and played with a cat that kept turning into Satan. Whoa.
Gramma's Boyfriend: (list provided by Bonar, though she cautioned it is not in the correct order)
Forget the Stones
Down in a Bucket
Donkey Donkey 2x4
First Last Reunion
I Live My Broken Dreams
Bury the Hatchet
The Casket Girls: (provided via e-mail by drummer Seeba and is unfortunately very difficult to decipher)
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.