Well, it was bound to happen eventually, especially without Xpress‘ two former music men — ’80s-luminary Frank Rabey, gone now the way of the Dodo, and indie-Obi-Wan Steve Shanafelt, dislodged from this post by yours truly in August — to cry foul. (Actually, SS helped me land the gig, and I’m happy to note Shanafelt’s back in time to file Xpress‘ Dec. 8 report on the Vincent’s Ear debacle.)
Anyway, here we are in the Dec. 1 Xpress, and if you want to read about music this week, you’re stuck with not one, but two freaking jam-band reports, both written by you-know-who. (See the Umphrey’s McGee preview.)
“Blasphemy! Think of the children!” (screams Rabey from his hobbit hole in Eastern Carolina). “The hippie’s urinating on my legacy!” (croons Shanafelt from soon-extinct Vincent’s).
Be that as it may, the jam scene ’round these parts has legs of its own to run on, and this week offers a not-so-rare opportunity to see both sides of this ever-present coin. With a well-developed sense of journalistic fairness dogging me always, we shall — in good fun, of course — evoke the ghosts of Rabey Past and Shanafelt Present (as I would imagine them) to play Devil’s Advocate to my Dreadlocked Angel showering praise on a worthy local jam band (FR: “Fat chance, young punk!”):
• On tour with Marsupial: Hendersonville to A-town; Friday and Saturday, Nov. 19 and 20. (SS: “Get a life, loser!”)
The quaint, stroll-friendly confines of historic downtown Hendersonville offer a welcome repose from sometimes over-boisterous Asheville — the latter being lately embodied in the unwelcome hiss of nitrous tanks filling the night air following at least two recent Orange Peel shows.
Here, We Three Ghosts will join in unison about this N2O business: “Get a f••king life, you brain-cell-sucking vagrants! Go back where you belong — Phish tour — and leave our mountain town out of your ghetto fantasy!”
Needless to say, there were no $5 balloons for sale near Hannah Flanagan’s in Hendersonville on Nov. 19, where local heavies Marsupial dropped the hammer on a two-set run for the border.
Marsupial’s Ian Reardon and his guitar/vocals counterpart in Naren Schoenacher make use of the double-axe attack, much like Umphrey’s McGee does — falling a little short of Umphrey’s polish, true, but managing pretty damn well nonetheless.
Marsupial’s been at it for close to five years now, but have failed to make huge local waves. This isn’t so remarkable, since many local bands have trouble finding real homes here — with some local venues failing to give A-effort in this integral booking category.
Especially with Vincent’s Ear going the way of the Rabey (FR: “Why, you little …”; SS: “The injustice!”), locals like Marsupial may have even more trouble finding gigs beyond places like Flanagan’s and College Street Pub downtown (where Marsupial played the next evening).
Both venues are to be commended for their dedication to some fine local talent. The no-cover thing is also nice, though it encourages folks to take music for granted: an inevitably frustrating curse for Marsupial, who swim in a genre dependent on audience interaction to achieve optimum results.
Even Relix magazine gave these talented rodents a friendly nod in their “On the Verge” section last month. And if those hippies noticed Marsupial’s organic rock from offices in San Fran or New York, then maybe folks in Montford or Weaverville might do the same.
Both nights, Marsupial flexed good muscle on chunks of jam-minded originals. A superbly rendered Police cover in “Driven to Tears” at College Street (FR: “Ahhhh, Sting … they can’t be so bad”) scored a Saturday highlight, while an epic spot from Hendersonville tasted almost like Tool’s driving rhythm — with Reardon evoking a little Santana in his often-spastic but polished solos.
Shanafelt last spring rated Marsupial’s record a 2.5 on his 5-point Random Acts scale. I’d almost concur, giving Dancing About Architecture an extra point for self-release and doubtless under-funding (SS: “Bet your patchouli stink, newbie!”), as Marsupial remains best dissected in person. Fear not, fellas: Phish didn’t make a record appealing to a non-jam audience until Rift, while The Dead didn’t repeat that trick after 1970. (FR: “Wrong again, boy!” [singing “Touch of Grey” in jolly-Jerry voice]: “I will get by … .”)
Score: On the type-of-bands scale, Marsupial scores a jam band: You just won’t get it till you see it.