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Sara Foss's Thinking It Through
by Sara Foss

Thinking It Through

A Daily Gazette life blog
Her column and blog rolled into one

Schwervon! at The Spotty Dog

On Saturday I made my first trip to The Spotty Dog in Hudson for a concert. Now, the Spotty Dog is not an ordinary concert venue. It is a bookstore with a bar that serves craft beers, and a small space where bands can set up and perform. In many ways, it is my dream venue — a place of books, brews and music. It’s actually kind of amazing that it took me so long to get to it.

Anyway, I went down to The Spotty Dog to see the band Schwervon! I was introduced to Schwervon! by my friend Tony, who proclaimed their 2012 album “Courage” the best of the year, and told me that if I didn’t like it, I needed to learn more about music. Tony lives in New York City and drove up to Hudson to see Schwervon!, after seeing them perform the night before in Brooklyn, which is the sort of hearty endorsement that makes me take interest in a band. I also really like “Courage,” a tight, crisp, smartly written blast of indie pop punk.

Schwervon! is a New York City band that re-located to Kansas City relatively recently. They’re a two-piece: Major Matt Mason plays guitars, Nan Turner plays drums, and they both sing. Their music is reminiscent of The Vaselines, the pioneering Scotland-based alternative rock band that was a major source of inspiration for Kurt Cobain, and wrote twisted, catchy songs such as “Monsterpussy” and “Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam.” (I highly recommend the compilation CD “The Vaselines — A Complete History.”) The Vaselines were known for the guy-girl harmonizing of bandleaders Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee, and Schwervon! has a similar dynamic, with the harmonizing of Mason and Turner providing a nice counterpoint to the snarling guitar and aggressive pounding on the drums. Although it’s worth pointing out that Schwervon! does have some quieter songs, and that their music runs the emotional gamut — there’s melancholy, joy, sadness, anxiety and, yes, courage.

Schwervon! might be the spiritual descendant of The Vaselines (McKee even provided vocals on “Truth Teller,” the opening track off “Courage”), but I also thought of the Pixies and Pavement while listening to the band’s set at The Spotty Dog. However, Schwervon! is a true original, with the sort of refreshingly offbeat lyrics and lovely, adrenalized songs that make you sit up and take notice.

On Friday, I went to the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center in Troy to hear the avant-garde jazz band the Peter Evans Quintet, which features traditional jazz instruments such as the trumpet, stand-up bass, drums and piano, as well as live electronics. I’ve been to a number of avant-garde jazz concerts, and they’re always fairly challenging, filled with complex combinations of noises that are not always especially musical, at least not in any conventional sense.

Anyway, the Peter Evans Quintet might be the most “out there” avant-garde jazz band I’ve seen. They’re obviously talented, and I actually loved a lot of what they did, because they played loud, fast, aggressive, music — a thrashing, crashing yet often melodic stew of music and boundary-pushing improvisations. However, at times I thought they pushed things a bit too far — that I could have gotten the same vibe from, say, standing next to a construction site. That said, the Peter Evans Quintet is definitely an ensemble to follow. They’re all very young, and should have long, interesting and maybe even groundbreaking musical careers ahead of them.

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