Monday, August 5, 2013

The Pitch Music Showcase 2013: La Guerre, Claque, Akkilles, Rev Gusto and Hank & Cupcakes at RecordBar

Posted By on Mon, Aug 5, 2013 at 5:38 AM

First impressions are supposedly everything, and damn, I received one hell of a first impression of The Pitch Music Showcase Friday evening at RecordBar. In addition to being my first Showcase, it also marked my first time seeing any of the acts live. As a woman, I was pleased that the evening opened and closed with strong female-led acts. (There were also, of course, plenty of powerfully playing guys in between.) I saw a bit of myself in each of the evening's acts, which I consider a sign of a great run of music.

It's not hard to develop a girl crush on singer-songwriter Katlyn Conroy, aka La Guerre. Conroy was wearing bedazzling jewels around both eyes and black fishnet stockings. She also pens songs that every girl wishes she, too, could write: mature confessionals torn from the pages of a journal. The 24-year-old Lawrencian packs a lot of punch into her two-and-half-minute songs, and her Dresden Dolls-meets-Ben Folds keyboard style is secondary only to her excellent vocals. (Her microphone almost seemed unnecessary.) With few tables occupied shortly after 7 p.m., Conroy's performance felt more like a coffeehouse show than a bar on a Friday night. But she was an ideal opening act - someone you definitely want to hear while you're still sober. She split immediately after her set was over so she could drive her mom home, which seemed sweet.

A major equipment failure took hold within the second measure of Claque's opening song. "This is normally where I would tell a joke, but I didn't come prepared with one," said Claque's awkward and charming bassist Andy Beisser. After a few minutes of tweaking with his rig, guitarist and lead vocalist Jacob Kruger added, "We're just gonna roll with it - it might go out again at some point, but we'll see what happens. Take two." It did go out again, but Kruger went full-steam ahead, and eventually the technical difficulties ironed themselves out. (By way of apology, Beisser later said, "We here at Claque try our very best to bring you quality programming. We apologize for the setback.") About Claque's set: very close to the glory days of '90s alternative rock; very heyday-era KLZR FM the Lazer. Kruger's haircut and sideburns are even classically cool in a '96 or '97 kind of way; he kind of looks like a former teen idol who broke a few hearts in his high school days. He also plays one hell of a mean guitar solo. I even witnessed a couple of girls toward the back of the crowd throw up some rock horns as the set ended.

The crowd started to really filter in during Akkilles' sound check. Two factions battled it out during Akkilles' time onstage: those who were listening, their heads nodding along to the sing-along lyrics of tracks like "Your Only One," and those toward the back who provided the typical bar background jibber-jabber. The latter were missing out. If ever a song existed that could move a person to tears in a bar, it would be "City of Love." I actually felt a lump start to form in my throat as the song wrapped up. But the mood was interrupted as one of the back-of-house, chatting-type guys interrupted me, asking if the clearly vacant chair next to me was available for him to snag. Akkilles cuts right through the typical performance bullshit, proving its musicians as a group of down-to-earth guys and a gal who just want you to enjoy the purity of the music - and, as they said during the set, they'll still love you unconditionally even if you don't make a purchase at their merch table near the restrooms.

Rev Gusto is the one act of the evening that I couldn't quite put my finger on - and I'm OK with that. Four out of five guys were rocking long hairstyles; two of them took the time to tuck in their button-down shirts; and one guy with short hair retained his rock credibility by wearing a Hendrix shirt. Any sense of a calm lull induced by Akkilles was given a quick jolt by the fun, guitar-driven rock sensibilities of Rev Gusto. To my right stood a guy wearing a kilt, and next to him was a group of very young girls clapping along. Both seemed pretty satisfied with the set.

I ran into Sagit "Cupcakes" Shir in the restroom earlier in the evening, and if I could do it over again, I would have asked for the girl's damn autograph. As one-half of the Brooklyn-based electro-pop act (her husband Ariel "Hank" Scherbacovsky plays bass), Hank & Cupcakes left those in attendance in awe. Dudes reached for their cellphones to capture photos of Shir playing the drums while standing barefoot, her shirt tied at the waist to reveal a tiny frame. You think you've heard women play percussion - you haven't. I had to set my notebook aside during the set; I couldn't take my eyes off Shir banging the hell out of drums and the sensual, carefully orchestrated eye contact she made with her husband.

People started making their way close to the stage for the first time all evening, including a couple of the guys from Akkilles. The set went by way too fast. "We've got a few more songs left for you guys, and we're not going to bring it down," Shir said. "We've got some more ass-shaking music." There were dudes in the crowd who'd never heard of the band an hour earlier who shouted sentiments like "How do you do it?" and "Shit, that was awesome." Any thoughts I had of cutting out a few songs early were gone. Shir was a little frustrated with the crowd's shyness, though, and she invited us onto the dance floor with two songs left. I couldn't resist. Soon I was up on my feet, clapping alongside White Guy With a Fro. A few hours earlier, he'd sat at my table, and the two of us were too awkward to even mutter a hello to one another. That, my friends, is the power of music: It speaks when regular words fail.

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