The Teenage Prayers excel at the art of writing barnburners. A hair shy of overblown (or sometimes just real gone), stompin’, hollerin’, sweaty numbers such as “I Like It” and “Good Voodoo” were made for cramped juke joint stages such as the one they’ll take at The Star Bar this Wednesday.

Teenage Prayers

Produced by Steve Wynn, Everyone Thinks You’re the Best, the New York act’s second full-length, is most memorable when in the throes of full-on bar band ecstasy, but ably simmers down to explore a variety of different styles and tempos. “I’m in Love Again” sounds at times like a Steely Dan outtake; “Heiroglyph” plays with dub even as it’s a rousing shout-along; “Dreams of the South” has a steady, epic strength. The songs all hang together, members of the same wild, beautiful gang.

Unified by a whopping dose of ragged soul, this is a band whose sound jumps out of your headphones and starts a riot. Live, they ought to be dangerous.

The Teenage Prayers play The Star Bar tonight with Hymns and Spottiswoode & His Enemies. Catch them on tour as follows:

Thursday, March 20 – Charlotte, NC – The Milestone
Friday, March 21 – Raleigh, NC – Slim’s Downtown
Saturday, March 22 – Baltimore, MD – Lo-Fi Social Club

Amidst the excitement of a daylong festival, it’s all too easy to overlook a worthwhile up-and-comer. San Antonio’s Girl in a Coma are all the reason you need to commit to an early arrival at the Warped Tour’s Atlanta stop this Wednesday.

Consisting of sisters Nina and Phanie Diaz (on vocals and drums, respectively) and bassist Jenn Alva, the Smiths-inspired trio deliver a dramatic statement with their Blackheart Records debut, Both Before I’m Gone. Nina’s intense wail seems far beyond her years, while the music charges forward in a spirited give-and-take between hard-charging percussion and twirling layers of melancholy guitar (with a thoughtful ballad here and there for good measure). Girl in a Coma aren’t your typical rock band; they’re a good reminder that expressive, accomplished music flourishes everywhere of its own accord.

– Amanda Langston
– Photo by Sarah Quiara

The 2007 Vans Warped Tour hits the HiFi Buys Amphitheatre on Wednesday, July 18. Girl in a Coma take the Kevin Says stage at 1:00 p.m.

More Girl in a Coma tour dates:

July 19 – Transitions Art Gallery at Skate Park – Tampa, FL
July 20 – Jack Rabbits – Jacksonville, FL
July 21 – The Nick – Birmingham, AL
July 23 – Two Stick Sushi – Oxford, MS
July 25 – Fitzgerald’s – Houston, TX
July 28 – Trade Bar – McAllen, TX
July 29 – GW’s Roadhouse – Laredo, TX
July 31 – Ray (Joe’s) Bar – Marfa, TX
August 1 – Zepplin’s – El Paso, TX
September 2 – Powerbox Fest – Seattle, WA
September 4 – Ash Street Saloon – Portland, OR
September 7 – Pastimes – Truckee, CA
September 8 – XOXO Club – Reno, NV
September 30 – Ford Amphitheatre / Latin American Cinemateca of L.A. (Mexico! Mexico! Rock! Rock! Rock!) – Los Angeles, CA

Smith’s Olde Bar
April 3, 2007

It’s always frustrating to be among a crowd of people in search of the impossible. Musician Sean Lennon claims, and reasonably so, that he doesn’t know a world in which people aren’t obsessed with his parents. So one hopes for his sake that, after releasing two albums on his own as well as collaborating with many of his peers, he isn’t too annoyed at being denied the right to develop a fan base or earn popularity on his own terms. Of course, everyone attending his show this past Tuesday could simply have been rabid fans of his sophomore effort, Friendly Fire, but unless I’ve seriously underestimated the popularity of woozy indie pop amongst the baby boomer population, there were a lot of Beatle freaks in the house, hoping to breathe in the aura of their departed hero. (If any Yoko enthusiasts other than myself were in attendance, they remained incognito.)

Despite the demographic on hand, openers Women and Children seemed unfazed, and eager to entertain the sizable gathering. (Kamila Thompson, daughter of noted musicians Richard and Linda, kicked off the evening, but a bit too early for some of us to experience it.) Segueing effortlessly from hippie death blues to country-folk and any other tangent that pleased them, the core trio (at times joined by a drummer) kept things earthy, employing piano, violin and a hint of rural twang despite the L.A. pedigree of most members (pure-voiced singer Cheryl June Serwa hails from Manitoba, Canada). The crowd was rowdy, restless and perhaps not entirely invested in the performance before them, but this was their loss. Women and Children handled themselves with grace, and had a vinyl/DVD boxed set for sale at the merch table, which is nothing if not ambitious.

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Well, among this hometown crowd, at last, something was different. Everything was different. She was doing it. Not just one tune, but two, three, the whole damn set, even the solo numbers. And she did so gloriously. The surreal sight of watching her display onstage emotions other than doubt, insecurity or apologetic frustration elicited first wonder, then pride among those present. She explained the transformation herself midway through the set: “I’m sober…hello!!”

Serving as support system and dazzling on their own terms, the Memphis Rhythm Band buoyed Marshall’s elegant delivery with full-bodied, easygoing soul power. Nine or ten strong from my vantage point, these veteran players punched up their Greatest numbers with a lively, authoritative presence, spiking “Willie” with sharp background vocals, gently rolling “Living Proof” into being, and making it clear that their collaboration was one nourished by tremendous affection.

Chiefly responsible for creating a sultry vibe with vocals as smoky as one of her Parliaments, Marshall turned playful, dramatic and physically free. Goofy and joyful, she cracked jokes, quoted Arrested Development and periodically waved to familiar faces, mimicking both horse and chicken at times and generally shaking what mama gave her. Just as quickly, though, she silenced the crowd with “Where Is My Love” and a forlorn “House of the Rising Sun,” and hypnotized them with the witchy “Cross Bones Style.” Reverting to form, Marshall morphed her Jagger posturing into a churning, wildly reworked version of her take on “Satisfaction,” something it appears that she’s attained in abundance (enough to follow that number with a sly, pointed interpretation of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”). In short, this evening made up for every fumbling “I’m sorry” in the universe.

– Amanda Langston
– Photos by Alex Adan

Let Cat Power blow your mind at one of the following locations (with Memphis Rhythm Band unless otherwise indicated):

9/13/06 – Vic Theatre, Chicago, IL
9/15/06 – Austin City Limits Festival, Austin, TX
9/16/06 – Gypsy Ballroom, Dallas, TX
9/17/06 – Stubb’s BBQ, Austin, TX
9/20/06 – Venustiano Carranza 25, Mexico City, Mexico (solo)
10/28/06 – Vegoose Festival, Las Vegas, NV
11/1/06 – Roundhouse, London, UK
11/3/06 – Paradiso, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
11/4/06 – Ancienne Belgique, Brussels, Belgium
11/5/06 – Grand Rex, Paris, France
11/7/06 – Kaufleuten, Zurich, Switzerland
11/9/06 – Bob Dylan Tribute, Avery Fisher Hall, New York, NY (solo)
UltrababyfatThe Other Sound Festival @ the EARL, Friday, 9/8/06

“We never had to do sit-ups because our abs were constantly worked out with laughter,” recalls Michelle DuBois of her time spent as half of one of the Atlanta music scene’s most fruitful partnerhips, her collaboration with Shonali Bhowmik in Ultrababyfat. Originally lacking its superlative prefix, the pop-punk quartet evolved throughout the 90’s into a raucous, crackerjack live act with a national following. 2001’s Eight Balls in Reverse captured their gift for vivid, memorable songwriting and balancing rough and smooth musical impulses, while extensive touring behind the record solidified the lineup of Bhowmik, DuBois, Jeff Holt and Jody Bilinski. Ultrababyfat were at a peak in terms of creation and visibility.

When the foursome recorded a follow-up the next fall with Eight Balls producer Matt Goldman, the future was uncertain. “We knew we had to record it,” remembers Bhowmik, “and then we knew that we were in for big changes in terms of focusing on other things in our lives.” DuBois formed local favorites Luigi, while Bhowmik moved to New York, where she now practices law, rocks out with a new outfit, Tigers & Monkeys, and performs in comedy troupe The Variety Shac. The new record was destined to wait for an opportune moment.

It looks like that time has arrived. Two Sheds’ release of No Ringo No, explains DuBois, “falls in the midst of good times we are each having, as an unexpected treat, and leaves more question marks as to what the future might hold.” Bhowmik may have the answer. “We always laugh about us spending time together when we are old ladies,” she reveals. “Just thinking about making a record together at age 80 sounds so great. Wouldn’t that be amazing???”

Ultrababyfat headline The Other Sound Festival this Friday, and are supported by The Five Foot Flame, Engineering, The Preakness, Faith Kleppinger and Gentleman Caller. No Ringo No is out now on Two Sheds.