Recap: Canned Acoustica IV (11-M08-3)

Before I really get into the meat of the recap, I want to go ahead and summarize my thoughts on the night as a whole. This was perhaps the most surreal and most memorable Canned Acoustica of the three I have attended (1, 2, and 4; I was unable to make the third one due to a scheduling conflict).

I arrived well into (actually, near the end of) the second or third artist’s set (I think this was Springfield Riots). This, despite best intentions to arrive much earlier given that I was also a bit late to both Canned Acoustica 1 and 2. So I got to see Screwtape, Nick Gaitan and Umbrella Man, Los Skarnales, Venomous Maximus, and The Literary Greats. (I think that’s in proper order; my apologies if I left anyone out.)

I had never seen any of these bands perform before. Most of these are bands I would not normally go out of my way to see, but if you know me, I take advantage of every chance I get to support a charitable cause, especially when there’s something in it for me as well. While neither part of the name Canned Acoustica seems to apply to the more recent events (it’s no longer a canned food drive, and it’s no longer strictly an acoustic/”unplugged” show), that doesn’t mean I won’t attend the next one. If anything, I see the expansion in both ways as a good thing. I’ll get back to this towards the end of the article…

Anyway, I don’t remember a whole lot of Screwtape. I was kind of not fully “tuned in” at this point. If I remember right, they were kind of a folk-meets-rap act, and I’m not a huge rap fan. (The few rap albums I have copies of, are primarily for other reasons.)

I noted that Nick Gaitan and Umbrella Man had merchandise for sale (CDs and T-shirts). If their set at this event didn’t move merchandise, I’m honestly not sure what will. I have been on a bit of a zydeco kick lately (actually, just expanding my musical tastes in general), so maybe I’m biased a bit.

The most memorable highlight of the evening was Los Skarnales. I was pretty tired, bordering on outright exhausted, by this point. So I was kind of just sitting down taking in what I could, obscured view and all. Anyway, after Los Skarnales finished their set which included a number where some guys dressed up in soccer jerseys, and some wound up taking off their shirts and dancing. I don’t remember the name of the song, and I don’t know Spanish so I could not understand the lyrics or anything. What I could understand was the volume level almost certainly set a Canned Acoustica record (my unofficial noise meter reading was “two notches below earsplit”), Mills McCoin calling for a mop over the PA, and kicking myself for not having a camera with me to photograph the spilled beer and sweat covering about 50 square feet of floor in front of the stage. While I’m not really a fan of Tejano (in fact, outside of J-pop and K-pop, I really don’t do much non-English music), I do admire the talent of a band with this kind of stage presence and following that can have a truly wild set with that kind of audience participation.

Next came Venomous Maximus. I am a new fan of this act as well. They embraced the concept of doing an unplugged set, which is good because a heavy metal band after the Los Skarnales mayhem might well have caused the roof to come tumbling down. I like what I saw and heard; they brought candles with the band’s logo, and had the lights dimmed for most of the set, which was a nice touch.

The real “sleeper” act, though, would have to be The Literary Greats. I’m not sure who the lineup was, exactly; I know Sara Van Buskirk was there on backing vocals and hand percussion. If she’s not a permanent member of the group, she should be; I remember her musical talents from the first Canned Acoustica, and she fit in well with the rest of the band this time around.

There were a couple of minor disappointments. First, the number of people talking during the performances seems to have gone up; Josh Applebee and Mills McCoin should not have to keep asking people to take the conversation outside for those trying to actually get into the music. Seriously folks, if you want to just hang out and talk and don’t care about the music, Lucky’s is next door. There’s no telling just how bad the recordings were as a result of the excessive conversation noise. For some of the sets, I was sitting close to or in front of the microphones and it wasn’t too bad; for another I was standing about the same distance from the stage as the microphones and I definitely heard conversation from behind me at a level high enough to interfere with my enjoyment of the music.

The second disappointment had to do with the food options. The first Canned Acoustica had two food trucks, which Mark Austin described as affordable and I concurred with. The second time around, we only had cupcakes. I was absent from the third Canned Acoustica, but this time around, we had The Modular. Pricing of their offerings started at $6 (two different I was hoping to find something for $5. I had the $6 offering, a chicken hot dog with pickled onions (no mustard or mayo; I can’t stand either), which was the $6 offering. Drinks were only sold at the bar, however, and I can understand why Warehouse Live would insist upon this. I do think, however, that $3 for a soda is a bit much (and I even tweeted about this at the time). I had planned to pay $2 and then tip the remaining $1. With the price being $3 instead, I leave it as an exercise to the reader how much I had left over to tip.

(To be fair, it could have been worse. I recall an incident at House of Blues in the summer of 2009 where the soda was $3.50. I had a bartender then snip at me with “we don’t take loose change like that” when I tried to pay with three $1 bills, a quarter, two dimes, and a nickel. I finally found a second quarter; what annoyed me was that it shouldn’t have been necessary to dig one up to begin with. But that’s another rant for another day…)

All in all, I had a blast, and even the disappointments would not be enough to keep me from making it to Canned Acoustica V.