Ghost of Monkshood's Chase Spivey (guitar/vocals), Chris McDaniel (guitar/vocals/banjo/trumpet) and Dorian Small (rhythm/vocals) talked about music before their show Dec. 17 at The Deli. The Hex's Todd Jackson (guitar/vocals), who would open the concert, joined them.
These two bands epitomize the current exciting spirit in the metro music scene. It was no coincidence later during the performance how many in the audience were local musicians. They were present in anticipation of artistic revelations that are the hallmark of GoM shows.
"Putting out our new album 'Spider Through the Fog' has been the year's highlight. It got a Pitchfork (pitchforkmedia .com) review. Also we just played our first out-of-state show in Dallas at the Cavern," McDaniel said. "It went a lot better than we expected. The band that invited us was having their Christmas party," Spivey said.
They suggested improvements for the local music scene. "More all-ages venues," McDaniel said. "More people coming out to shows," said Small. Spivey: "More people that are open-minded about art. There's no lack of creativity here."
The men represented America's vast musical diversity with early exposure ranging from Small's mom playing gospel piano to McDaniel's neighbor blasting Dr. Demento. Spivey's parents, "... liked grunge and listened to a lot of Nirvana ..." when he was a child. Life-changing albums from the group included titles by the Beatles, Steve Reich, U2, Miles Davis, The Flaming Lips and Modest Mouse.
Free advice to other bands on gig etiquette: "Don't make fun of other people in your band," Spivey said. Jackson: "Don't show up and not play just because there's not enough people." "Headliners should not demand all the money," McDaniel groused. "You should check out the show of the other bands on the bill," Small said.
Comfort music: Belle -- Sebastian (Spivey), Billie Holiday (Small), Elliott Smith (Jackson) and the Kinks (McDaniel). Most annoying musical instruments included soprano sax and various guitars. Consensus was any could be in the wrong hands.
What they said about songwriting was enlightening. "Songs are great for turning your life into mythology. They're audible photographs," Small said. McDaniel, who hugs people along with the handshake, admitted he uses songwriting as anger release. Spivey seconded the emotion. Jackson writes no ballads. "My songs are about emotional reaction to everyday life, abstract states of mind and finding your way."
Best concerts attended in 2005: Tarantula A.D., Clinical Mops, Josh Jones solo, Byron Berline and Mars Volta/Tall Cotton.
Jackson dug deep for someone he'd return from the Great Beyond for one more performance. John Lennon and Janis Joplin are common responses. "I want to hear ancient Greek music, because no one living has ever heard it before," he said.
Bands that should have made it big but didn't: "Conjunto Clave, Frequency Bliss, Knife in the Water and the Chainsaw Kittens."
Jackson played with Chris Sanborn (guitar), Levi Watson (drums), Carisa Bitting (vocals) and Brian Cheek (bass). Passive passages alternated with heavy ones. The blend of male and female vocals worked well although Bitting was often tiny in the paws of King Kong-huge guitars.
The Hex played cryptic hymns such as "Empty Rhinoceros" and "Dog in the Manger" from their self-titled album. It's a good freshman disc with jazz elements and unexpected flourishes. Quavering vocals and quirky arrangements are part of the witchcraft.
The show concluded with a hypnotic cacophony of droning distortion and crashing cymbals.
Ghost of Monkshood
Ghost is an abnormal combo. How many rock guitar bands cleverly include banjo, congas, baritone sax and trumpet?
They rotated between instruments like a quintet of Stevie Wonders. Chris McDaniel's vocals are a natural resource that should be shamelessly exploited. Pump those pipes for cash, like Oklahoma oil, son. Harmonizing with Spivey and Small was seamless. No shoe gazing here, they jumped around stage like frog legs in hot grease.
Ghost of Monkshood are a lovely mix of intellect and power pop with the occasional curve ball. One funk-flavored groove was Bourbon Street intersecting "Strawberry Fields Forever." They conjured the spirit. Their large audience danced until the end.
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