It's an ambitious task fitting close to a dozen diverse acts into a five and a half-hour show, but the folks at the Vinefield Agency pulled it off as part of new company's launch party and showcase. Local standouts like the Knew, Achille Lauro, John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light and others all delivered strong, compact five-song 25-minute sets.
The show went rather smoothly with not a lot of downtime between the sets. With each act being quite different than the next, it showed that the focus at Vinefield -- an entertainment agency founded by James Irvine and Evan Mellinchampe* -- is keeping a diverse pool of talent, and Friday's night showcase featured about half of the bands on its roster.
Early on, singer and pianist Rachel James and her trio delved into a decent set of pop rock tunes before Carbon Choir turned out a sturdy set of material, some of which recalled Coldplay. The band 200 Million Years, on the other hand, settled into subdued atmospheric electronica with some fine vocal work by Zale Hassler and Ellison Park. Gangcharger, fronted by Ethan Ward and Paige Peterson, blasted through a gritty and noisy set, which was a bit jarring in the wake of 200 Million Years' set. About two-and-half hours into the show, Monroe Monroe offered up an energetic set of songs that recalled early '80s U2 albums like Boy and October.
John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light ran through some of cuts from his latest effort, the outstanding Beautiful Empty, like "Same Scar." But instead of sticking to strictly original material, Common and company also did an excellent take on the Tom Waits tune "Clap Hands," which might not have been surprising to anyone who might have seen him play Rain Dogs in its entirety four years ago at the Mercury Café and the Oriental Theater.
While the crowd began to thin somewhat by the time Achille Lauro took the stage, it didn't seem to bother the band at all, as the four-piece delivered one of the best sets of the night. There were even fewer people left by the time the Knew came on, but the trio likewise still busted out an energetic set.
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CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: While it's great seeing such a varied groups of bands, it was really long night. By The Way: 200 Million Years gear was stolen from the band's car last night. Random Detail: The lighting set-up at Casselman's is outstanding. The place seems to get more dialed in every time I go there.
[Ed note: An earlier version of this review described Vinefield as "a booking/management/PR company headed up by James Irvine."]