Dig Baton Rouge

Two Days, Two Big Acts

By Ty Simmons

It’s not often a venue has two high-profile acts on back to back nights. This Sunday and Monday, however, the Spanish Moon is doing just that.

Coming in hot off of a stellar SXSW show, Okkervil River is set to perform Sunday, March 24th. The Austin-native rock band is touring in support of their most recent record, The Silver Gymnasium.

Formerly a part of Jagjaguwar, home to Bon Iver and Dinosaur Jr., The Silver Gymnasium is the first record Okkervil has released with ATO, home of SOJA, My Morning Jacket, and Primus.

The move has seemed to pay off.

The Silver Gymnasium peaked at Number 7 on the Billboard 200, the highest-charting record the band has ever released. The second concept album of their career, following  the stellar Black Sheep Boy, Gymnasium focuses on the childhood of lead singer and frontman Will Sheff. Unlike past Okkervil recordings, where rock and roll typically reigns, Gymnasium’s focus is nearly entirely on the lyrics. Of course, the songs still feature intricate instrumentation, but even at the album’s thickest, it remains sonically effervescent, letting Sheff’s musings shine through.

Okkervil River’s sound is wholly their own, a lyrically conscious, yet loud, Texas rock. But they aren’t beyond compare: Some songs sound organic and soft like The Antlers, with falsetto singing by Sheff. Others produce strong jammy choruses reminiscent of fellow ATO signee Trey Anastasio, a probable trace of their 2010 collaboration with Roky Erickson, a legendary and influential psychedelic rocker from Texas.

Opening for Okkervil is Hundred Visions, another Austin rock band that’s been twice showcased by SXSW. A two guitar band, their spare-but-powerful approach to rock and roll, featuring looping guitar riffs and classic rockable drum breakdowns, will more than compliment the show.

After the final encore, make sure to get a good night’s sleep, because Monday, March 25th is Spanish Moon’s Round Two. Sacramento rock duo Middle Class Rut, equally powerful, are set to play that evening.

Consisting of longtime collaborators Zack Lopez on guitar and vocals and Sean Stockton on drums and vocals, MC Rut is an interesting phenomenon.

After the breakup of their first band, Leisure, at the hands of Dreamworks Records, Lopez and Stockton took a 3 year hiatus, after which they formed Middle Class Rut.

Following the rocketship success of their 2007 single “New Low”, MC Rut toured the country, recorded their first LP, and shared stages with Muse, Social Distortion, Them Crooked Vultures, Alice In Chains, 30 Seconds To Mars, and Linkin Park.

Lopez and Stockton are capable of producing complex, roaring sounds as just a two-man band, like The Black Keys without all the blues influence. Their first album, No Name No Color, was released in 2010 to critical acclaim.

Their next album, 2013’s Pick Up Your Head, brought their frenzied collaboration to the next level. While No Name No Color was recorded with a live show mentality, Pick Up Your Head definitely has the mindset of the studio. Like The Beatles when recording Revolver, MC Rut stopped limiting themselves when working on their most recent record.

“Once we decided to take an ‘anything goes’ approach, the songs poured out,” Lopez explains on the band’s website. “We were freer with layering and didn’t worry if we couldn’t reproduce it live, as long as we captured the music with the highest energy possible.”

As a result of their new, more complex, more layered sound, Lopez and Stockton are touring with a full band, including another percussionist, bassist, and guitarist.

With deceptively simple song structure and loud execution, MC Rut is a valid and welcome addition to the resurrection of garage rock, in company with bands like Cage the Elephant, Queens of the Stone Age, and Foo Fighters.

For the second of two high-profile bands, Spanish Moon is doing pretty well.

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