Clarke and the Himselfs, Brett Netson, and Duncan Kissinger slay at the State Street Pub.
The State Street Pub put on a wonderful show last Wednesday. Featuring three remarkable artists: Clarke and the Himselfs, Rhett Netson and Duncan Kissinger, who absolutely slayed with their unique performances. The best part? Like a certain Dante Hicks, I wasn’t even supposed to be there.
It’s funny, in every sense of the word, just how much we all owe to happy accidents. For example, Wednesday night I was unable to obtain a press pass for the show I had settled on covering. Now, I hadn’t hung too much hope on that show, but it still left me at loose ends for something to do with the evening, if nothing else. Feeling thwarted, I was just about to pack it in when I checked the State Street Pub’s Facebook page. The lineup intrigued me and I decided to go down to the SSP and catch the show.
The show I caught beat the hell out of staying home.
A little background: while Duncan Kissinger is local, both Brett Netson and Clarke and the Himselfs hail from Boise, Idaho. Prior to seeing them, I had no idea that Boise had a musical scene of any description, let alone a good one. But, if the acts I saw at the State Street are any indication, the Boise scene is worth a look.
Clarke and the Himselfs went onstage first. It is here I probably ought to confess something. Before coming down to the SSP, I took a listen to her music and bought one of her albums outright. Thus, I knew in advance that I would love her performance. However, it turns out that listening to a recording of her could not prepare me for what I saw live. In fact, it might have given me the wrong impression. I thought I would be dealing with a band. I was wrong. The name Clarke and the Himselfs is not just Clarke being whimsical. Clarke is, in fact, a one-woman band. A one-woman band with some fantastic multitasking.
Clarke and the Himselfs’ musical technique is, suitably, unique.
But if you’re a one-woman band aiming to rise above the level of novelty act, you’d better be. She alternates between playing her drums one-handed and strumming her guitar. In addition, she has a foot-powered tambourine, cymbals, and kick-drum to fill out her percussion section.
Despite vastly different styles, Clarke’s performance technique reminds me of bluesman Jesse Fuller and his Fotdella. Albeit, only broadly. In practice, Clarke uses her guitar to create a series of melodic pulses while her drums propel the song. It’s actually her voice that carries the song’s melody. In addition, she really loves her distortion, which she uses in both her guitar and vocal work. Now, listening to her albums, I was unable to distinguish her technique from the sound of an entire band playing. Seeing a live performance is really the only way to get the full effect.
Musically, she has a jangly, lo-fi sort of sound with garage-rock inflections. Think Chad Vangaalen with just a hint of Credence Clearwater Revival. This gives her music a lonely, melancholic quality that is just perfect for a little dive like the SSP. Even so, she played with a very intense and focused energy, a must when juggling so many different instruments. Powerful stuff.
Brett Netson came on next, and brought hell with him. In, I hasten to add, in the best possible way.
With just his guitar, voice, and a bank of effects pedals, Netson created a sound I have no reference for. A seething world of dark noise. The best I can do is liken his sound to a mix noise rock and roots music. An odd combination to be sure, but odd was the theme for this concert. As he played, Netson’s guitar moaned as he wandered through his soundscapes. His tinny vocals echoed in the noise like lost souls. Altogether, The whole effect was eerie and enveloping.
The entire time Brett Netson played, nothing else existed in the room. No one in the State Street Pub spoke, danced, or did anything except sit and listen. I’d thought Clarke and the Himselfs had an intense stage presence, and she did. But Brett Netson put her to shame. I have seldom seen so much energy projected from a stage. The only comparable performance I’ve seen was the Causalities. Even then, the energy I saw on that occasion was a different sort. Watching Netson was like watching a volcano constantly on the verge of eruption, but never actually does.
The State Street Pub gave the audience and I a brief respite following Netson. And, oh boy, did we ever need it. But there was still one more performer to see, and none of us were about to miss that.
Duncan Kissinger is a rather unassuming individual, which fits with his low-key stage presence well.
He prefaced his set with a promise that his show would not go beyond 24 minutes. Then he and his band began to play.
Their sound is pure indie rock. Not soft, but unaggressive and gentle while still maintaining a rock energy. Likewise, Kissinger’s lyrics are droll, but at the same time quite clever. However, his songs are short. Very short, in fact. Like the kind of length you usually associate with grindcore. This isn’t a criticism; the songs work well enough. Moreover, they’re so much fun to hear that you don’t care.
Kissinger kept his promise, and the audience and I were out before we knew it. We knew we’d caught a great show, and we could slink off into the night happy.
As I said, it’s funny, in every sense of the word, how much we owe to happy accidents.
Keep listening, everybody.