I hate to admit this, but I've never seen Duluth folk singer/guitarist Charlie Parr perform live. He's been on several bills of shows I've attended, but always as an opener, and I've always arrived after his set. My timing was no better last night when I went to First Ave. for the CD-release party for Duluth slowcore trio Low's new album, Drums and Guns. Doors were at 6:30, I showed up at 8 and had missed all of Parr and the first couple songs by Sweden-based Loney, Dear. I can tell you, however, that Loney, Dear is now on my watch list. The lead singer's falsetto voice and the band's variety of instruments—guitar, bass, and drums backed by organ, synthesizer, tambourine, and others—keeps it interesting. Also, the band was unafraid of showing its enthusiasm, which is refreshing to see in this emo-angsty rock 'n' roll world we live in.
Low's set had me smiling the whole time. And that's saying something, since so much of their material is depressing. This band may be called slowcore, but last night it was more like snailcore, they played so slowly. But it was so passionately and earnestly played that it was enrapturing. The only downfall was the guy videotaping the entire show, who stood in front of the stage almost at the band's height.
Low played almost every tune from Drums and Guns, which was a thrill for me, since I was unable to take that CD out of my player for the first month I had it. They played the beautiful downer "Dragonfly," catchy "Sandinista," head-bobbing "Hatchet," heart-wrenching "Violent Past" and "Murderer," and my favorite song off the CD, "Breaker" (which, incidentally, has a really funny video on YouTube).
Luckily for me, the early showtime at First Ave. meant I had plenty of time to make it over to the 400 Bar before local electro-pop group Halloween, Alaska went onstage. I missed Cepia, but arrived during Ela's set. It was my first time seeing Ela—which is fronted by Askeleton's Bill Caperton and Knol Tate and backed up by Heiruspecs drummer Peter Leggett and bassist Sean McPherson. I dug their emo indie rock sound, and it seemed the college crowd did as well.
Halloween, Alaska is currently recording its third CD, which drummer Dave King told me last night will probably be out this fall. The band's setlist pulled heavily from its last disk, Too Tall to Hide, including "A New Stain" (which much of the crowd sang along to) and L.L. Cool J's "I Can't Live Without My Radio" (which I couldn't help but sing along to). The band also mixed in some new tunes it's been working on.
Singer James Diers made sure to promote the compilation CD they had for sale last night. Halloween, Alaska was one of several local bands to contribute to For Callum, a benefit disk featuring everyone from Jawbreaker to Bill Mike to Story of the Sea, the proceeds of which go to a care fund for one-year-old Callum Robbins from Baltimore, who was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy.