WQFS brings DIY legend Calvin Johnson to GlenwoodApr 5th, 2012 | By Keith Warther | Category: Entertainment
Tuesday night I arrived at Glenwood Coffee and Books to an open garage door with a few people drinking beers as the rains moved in. Most shows don’t start on time, and this one appeared no different. The crowd was light and my anticipation only grew with the wait. I was standing only a few feet away from a music legend, Calvin Johnson, Olympia, Washington’s own DIY native son. Johnson has been involved in the underground music scene since the late 1970s, working with many big names such as Kurt Cobain (Go Team), Beck (“One Foot In The Grave”), and Doug Martsch of Built To Spill (The Halo Benders). In addition to his work with notable artists, Johnson has signed many other acts to his own K Records label. K is one of the most recognized labels in the college/independent circuit. He also gained recognition as a musician in his bands Beat Happening, The Halo Benders, Cool Rays, Dub Narcotic Sound System, and various other solo and collaborative efforts.
First to play was Adam Thorn’s new band, Pistol Crash, which features members of his former band Rough Hands – Mike Wallace and Trevor Reece (both currently in Drag Sounds) and a swell bearded piano repairman by the name of Lou Delbene. The songs were catchy, with a vintage garage sound like The Velvet Underground, yet also with hints of country/surf twang, and great moments of harmonious instrumental breakdowns. The first song got Johnson dancing as he stood at the foot of stage wearing large earmuffs, swinging his arms and bobbing his head. Thorn’s words were a bit of a departure from his former incarnation, the one man band Adam Thorn and the Top Buttons, as they seem to be more positive and upbeat. Pistol Crash’s second to last song was a reworked Top Buttons tune “Non-Stop Thinking Machine,” which is always a crowd pleaser. I am always impressed with what these musicians can do together.
Johnson’s group The Hive Dwellers took the stage and quickly pulled the plug on the PA. I think this was a wise choice for the small room with a minimal crowd. This made the sound much more intimate, and Johnson’s voice is loud enough to be heard in any room. The Hive Dwellers feature a drummer, bassist, and Johnson on vocals and sometimes an acoustic guitar. His words often reflect a silly situation or just awkward social commentary. Highlights of the set included Johnson’s dancing, synchronized clapping from the crowd, and the occasional sing-a-long. The song “Get In” really topped off the night for me with lyrics emphasizing that 95% of the human population is different and why don’t you come and join us. His dancing and performance style is one part Jonathan Richman equal parts “Stop Making Sense.” The music is equally fun and serious, often delivering a good message.
Last came K Records signees, Pittsburgh’s own Curious Mystery. I watched as the room dwindled down from 30 people to around 14 as the quartet – evenly gendered – took the stage. For the lucky ones who stuck around we witnessed quite a show put on by a hardworking touring band. The sounds of psychedelic 1960s progressive rock with shoegaze came from the PA system. Curious Mystery are for fans of bands such as White Magic, Celebration, and Beach House.
You can catch many of these musicians tonight at Night Two of PhuzzPhest in Winston-Salem. Casual Mystery plays The Garage at 9pm. The Hive Dwellers play Krankies Coffee at 7:45pm followed by members of Pistol Crash (Mike Wallace and Trevor Reece) in Drag Sounds at 8:30pm. For a full schedule of PhuzzPhest events go here.