In another era, let's say twenty years ago, an artist like Colleen Green would have been a mainstream star, at least in the alternative rock world. In fact, her music is a little reminiscent Veruca Salt. Even today, in a time when the music industry is in flux, Green still enjoys some popularity in the middle echelons of underground music. She has a gift for spinning personal fears, insecurities and “flaws” into catchy melodies. Hopefully someday, people will talk about how they saw Colleen Green at a relatively small DIY space, the way they might today speak of Dan Deacon, HEALTH and Future Islands.
On stage at Dryer Plug Studios, Green gives the impression that things are on the verge of falling apart now and then. Still, she retained a calm and cool demeanor. She told us that the kick drum was feeding back in a tone that was a “solid A," which she demonstrated by playing an A chord on her guitar. For someone as open as Green, mistakes and tweaking issues are almost part of the show, because the rough edges matters less than being real and connecting with people. All the while, the focus is on the songs, and Green effortlessly went from excellent song to excellent song. In doing so, she reminded everyone who showed up that we can let minor things in life drag us down or we can forge ahead and let what really matters shine. And to hear someone speak to a real understanding of and empathy for the human experience is a powerful thing.
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Fortunately, the local openers shared a kind of raw emotional quality that resonated with what Green was doing, even if all the music was very different. Future Single Mom, every single time, takes splintery shards of sound and crafts them into great, bracingly defiant punk anthems railing against being objectified as people. Safe Boating Is No Accident used to have high concept, almost performance art-shows but has gone to another level, now sounding almost like a power pop band with heartfelt songs about the pitfalls and absurdities of modern American life. Male Blonding could easily be compared to the Strokes, Viet Cong and some mid-'90s emo or math rock band, but its willingness to deconstruct conventional song structure and dynamics pushed the music into unconventional yet accessible territory.
The unifying element here, though, is how all of the bands that played aren't really going for a genre or brand of music that is easily defined. Yes, Colleen Green probably has some appeal to fans of the recent wave of garage rock and people who remember the better bands of the alternative rock era. But she is best appreciated and understood on her own terms. Future Single Mom often does play punk shows but it can be just a little too weird for some people in that world. Safe Boating has gone beyond irony back into sincerity without losing the sublime sense of humor and social critique. And Male Blonding missed the boat on angular, atmospheric post-punk by not being a band ten years ago. All of which is to say that it was refreshing to see a show with bands that were all high quality, sounded nothing alike but seemed to fit together. That paradox is what made the indie underground of the '80s and '90s so fruitful and interesting and, ultimately, influential and inspiring.
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Bias: I was a casual appreciator of Colleen Green before I Want to Grow Up, but it's safe to say I'm a fan now.
Random Detail: Ran into former Radio 1190 Local Shakedown Host Amy Moore-Shipley, Ancient Elk guitarist/vocalist Anna Smith and Action Friend drummer Paul Alexander at the show.
By the Way: There was one of those great Famous Class Records split seven inches for sale at the show. Side A: Jeff The Brotherhood's “A Dog.” Side B: “Hellraiser” by Colleen Green.