Monday, May 19, 2024

Music with Jameson & Lone Star: Papermoons & Bright Men of Learning @ The Backroom 16 May 2024

posted by Ramon Medina - LP4 @ 12:01 AM

Lets face it, even if Hendrix were to rise from the dead and play a set before 10:30PM the odds of me seeing him would be dodgy at best. I think I'm just locked into that whole Rudyard's time zone - doors at 9 and bands start at 10:30(ish!!!) - sorry. Friday was no different as even the lure of The Wild Moccasins (who put on great lively shows that are matched by some great tunes) wasn't enough to forgo a pre-show round of booze and baseball with some friends over at Griffs*. That is no dis to the Moccasins but just to say that this is just a peculiarity of mine or to put it another way - when it comes to early shows, I suck! Regardless, I did arrive (happily sauced) and Bright Men of Learning and Papermoons put on two lovely sets of finely crafted music. If you were close enough to catch me drunkenly singing along at points - my sincerest apologies.

Bright Men of Learning
are a perfect example of what I mean by craft; they are not trying to reinvent the wheel because BMOL's songwriter Marshall Preddy figured out that reinventing the wheel is horribly overrated. They don't do musical tricks on stage nor do they play around with fancy time signatures, jarring electronics sounds, or anything that approaches overstatement. The band simply plays straight-up rootsy rock. They rely on the basics - sharp songs, a solid voice, and a crack band. It's a band that whittles away at its craft and presents you with a perfectly carved experience that's at once recognizable as part of a tradition and yet true to itself. The band delivered exactly that on Friday. The triple guitar attack led by Ben Murphy, whose ear is simply incredible, is always a kick. (I always wonder if Ben writes his own lines or if they are given to him by Marshall but I always forget to ask.) The effect is always a lovely melodic compliment to the vocals that round the songs out quite nicely. The big thing about BMOL is that, as time has gone by, Marshall's batting average as a writer just gets better and better. You can hear it on the band's releases and lately it's particularly noticeable as there are many unreleased songs which leave you after the show looking for a studio version in vain. "What the Devil" and "Western Hearts" being two examples of two songs that simply kill and will have me first in line to grab the new album.

Papermoons also crafts gorgeous songs that tend toward the understated and organic but the duo swing things a bit more on the folksy side than BMOL. The songs on Friday were played beautifully but the 'Moons secret weapon is their harmonies and the Mink's sound system simply let them down. At least from where I stood, Matt's vocals came through nicely but anytime Daniel's vocals should have been there to punctuate the song they were nowhere to be found. It's a shame because the band does harmonies so well and in a manner I don't hear very many other Houston bands attempting. That should have been frustrating enough to have gotten under my craw and ruined the show but even with one arm tied behind their back the band can still pull off an engaging and gorgeous set. The technical issues simply lost out to the music and that's no accident because the 'Moons, when you get right down to the nub, craft some beautiful songs and as Bill Fool so aptly put it in the Born Liars article "It all comes down to the songs." .

So let me leave you with this thought from Dave Van Ronk which I think applies to both bands.

"When songs get pretentious, overflowery and obscure, the songwriter is proclaiming that he or she is an artist, and the whole concept of "art" as we understand it today is an early-nineteenth-century intellectual construct based on a set of what I consider to be false romantic notions. I think it's a good thing that, back in the Renaissance, people like Michelangelo were treated like interior decorators. A well-written song is a craft item. Take care of the craft, and the art will take care of itself."[1]

Bright Men indeed
Marshall Preddy (r) writes the songs

Johnathan Sage (l) drives the van**

Ben Murphy (l) wondering
"Is Jonathan on the sauce again?"

Papermoons - (l-r)
Daniel Hawkins & Matt Clark

Matt Clark!
Geddy Lee fetish - exposed!

Bright Men of Learning

*Just in case you were wondering. Yes, the Astros lost and no we never could get the guy in the back patio to relinquish the TV. What a dick. Yet I will concede that losing to the Rangers is no better outside than inside.

**Not just any van but the Jman company van. He's not just a great bassist but also a florist! How freaking rock and roll is that?!!

[1] P. 208 The Mayor of MacDougal Street - A Memoir. Dave Van Ronk with Elija Wald (c) 2024 Da Capo Press

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At May 22, 2024 12:24 PM , Blogger mrshl said...

Thanks for the kind words, sir. And, no, I don't tell Ben what to play. Everyone in the band is better than me at everything. So it's fairly easy for me to delegate.

I just strum my chords and think of words to say.


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