Sunday, May 3, 2009

Derby Day at the Southgate House: Paleface, Frontier Folk Nebraska & Stick Figure Drawings

For most Kentuckians, this past Saturday was all about the Kentucky Derby. Well, not for this one. That's right. In the twenty-eight years I've been alive and living in Kentucky, I have not once ever seen the actual running of the event. Say what you will about that, I could honestly care less...

No, the one thing I was looking forward to on Derby Day, was the concert that took place that night in the Southgate House's parlour.

Headlining the show, was an indie-folk duo out of North Carolina, known as Paleface. The boyfriend/girlfriend team consists of Paleface (that's the name he goes by) on acoustic guitar and harmonica and Monica "Mo" Samalot on drums. They're currently out on the road in support of their latest, The Show Is On the Road. Paleface describes the album as "a farewell love letter to his longtime home (New York) and an embrace of his new life in the South."

Over the years, he has written some five hundred songs, as well as putting out fourteen albums, under various monikers. He was a student of Daniel Johnston, and has shared the stage with artists such as Billy Bragg, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Avett Brothers and the Breeders. When it comes down to it, Paleface (the man) most resembles a cross between Bob Dylan and Tom Waits. Their current tour will take them everywhere from New York to Atlanta, and everywhere in between including the Riverbend Music Festival in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Onstage directly before Paleface, was a local band called Frontier Folk Nebraska. Much of the material they played last night came from their most recent album, Pearls, which already also happens to be one of the year's most talked about local releases. Over the years, Frontier Folk has undergone a few lineup changes, and with the current "hotter than hell" lineup, there's no reason not to think of this band as one of the area's best.

Dipping into elements of alternative country, slide blues, folk and rock, the guys of FFN list influences ranging from legends like John Lennon and Bob Dylan, to jam band cult heroes the Grateful Dead, and even bands like Slayer and Sonic Youth. However, the one influence most evident for me, when first hearing the voice and words of front man Michael Hensley, is Ryan Adams. Hensley is like Adams in a lot of ways, like the genius and skill of his songwriting. Unlike Adams though, Hensley appears to be very well-grounded, not having the massive ego or being a drama queen like Adams can often be at times.

When talking about FFN, you can't go without mentioning the name Travis Talbert. A master on both the lead and slide guitar, Talbert certainly has a chance to become the next Warren Haynes. As of now, they currently only have a handful of shows booked throughout the summer, so if you're in the area, make sure you don't miss them. Those shows include a May 30 appearance again at the Southgate House, a June 8 in-studio performance on WNKU, and appearances at both Molly Malone's on June 18, as well as the Mad Hatter on June 24. They've also booked a couple of smaller festival shows, including Adjust Your Eyes in Oxford and Whispering Beards Folk Fest in Morning View, Kentucky.

Kicking off the evening, was the Alt Country/Indie/Pop quartet, Stick Figure Drawings. What originally started out as a side project featuring Max Fender and Tim Colina of Alone at 3am, the band is here to prove that they're much more than just a side project. Like Alone at 3am, Fender remains just as passionate, while bearing his "heart-on-his-sleeve" words, which at times brings to mind a songwriting style similar to Rhett Miller of the Old 97s and Jay Farrar of Son Volt.

But unlike Alone at 3am, there's a few differences you'll find with this band. Setting the tone, drummer Colina somewhat takes it down a notch, as this isn't as hard a rock band as Alone at 3am. He also adds some mad Boss-like sounds on the harmonica. But the biggest difference is perhaps the two lovely ladies you'll see gracing the stage. The newest addition is Wonky Tonk's Jasmine Poole on bass, who joins the band when she's not fronting her own project. Let's not forget the other half of the songwriting team, Sarah Davis, who brings to the band her sweet and sensitive vocals, along with adding some electronic flare to the music by playing keys, as well as a few other unusual sounds you'll hear such as the xylophone.

Stick Figure Drawings are currently recording their debut full-length at Candyland, but for now, they have a six-song ep, First Wind, available, which you can find at their shows. Their upcoming shows include May 6 at Northside Tavern with the Chocolate Horse, the Chick Pimp, Coke Dealer CD Release at the Southgate House on May 8, May 23 at Arnold's, as well as a few shows at Molly Malone's. Those dates are May 24, June 14 and June 18. A number of other artists are joining them for the Molly Malone shows. They'll also be playing the Boiler Room with Cory Branan in Lexington, Kentucky on June 17.

For booking inquiries on Stick Figure Drawings, contact

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