Straying from it’s usual beat-orientate lineup, The Pagoda Lounge at The Fairmont Hotel presents a full rock-centered lineup for SVSX featuring Will Sprout (Mumlers), Fierce Creatures and Mike Huguenor (Shinobu) followed by an after-party DJ set by B.Lewis.
11:30pm, Pagoda Lounge, Fairmont
South Bay fans may wonder where Will Sprott of the Mumlers has been. The singer/songwriter known for sparking the South Bay’s wave of freak-rock a few years ago hasn’t been nearly as ubiquitous here since he moved to the East Bay. But he’s been perhaps busier than ever. It’s been a couple of years now since the Mumlers’ second album, Don’t Throw Me Away. If the folky debut was surprising and offbeat enough to get Sprott national media attention, the follow-up surpassed it in every way with its grittier, Stax-on-acid soul.
Sprott, however, felt that in many ways he didn’t get to capitalize on the album’s strengths live, because it was just too hard to get the big Mumlers lineup on tour. In 2011, he decided to do some dates as a solo act.
He’s also been working on his follow-up to Don’t Throw Me Away, though he doesn’t yet know if it’ll be released under the Mumlers moniker, his own name or something else entirely. The upcoming album promises to be something unexpected. It’s not a revisiting of his sound on the last record—in fact, there are no horns at all. Instead, Sprott is focusing on bizarre new uses for vocal harmonies.
10:30pm, Pagoda Lounge, Fairmont
Being a seven-piece indie-rock band gives Fierce Creatures the maneuverability to play exactly the kind of music they imagine. It also gives them plenty of room to layer in as many sounds and harmonies as they need to create gorgeous, dynamic-enriched arrangements.
They combine guitars, keyboards, drums, percussion and even some less-standard instruments like an occasional mandolin, harmonica and some bells—a tactic that creates a wall of sound larger than any one instrument. They work together to create new soundscapes, intense moods and crescendos, rather than focusing on any one member and showing off their chops.
Fierce Creatures tinker with musical styles indiscriminately, tactfully hodgepodging bits of pop, folk, soul, classic rock and experimental sounds into their songs to create something that is all their own. They dig for the most basic thread of childlike musical expression and re-interpret the standard rock & roll conventions to give new life to pleasantly familiar simple songs.
9:30pm, Pagoda Lounge, Fairmont
“Agues,” the first song off Mike Huguenor’s solo album, Bardamu, is a solid, quirky alt-rock jam that rests nicely between the musical extremes of his various bands. There is Shinobu, his on-again-off-again neurotic jangle-pop quartet. Then there’s Hard Girls, the sophisticated, post-punk power trio. And of course there’s the Classics of Love, his old-school punk-rock group that’s fronted by none other than Jesse Michaels, the former lead singer of Operation Ivy.
Somehow, Huguenor also found time to record this solo EP and even shot a music video for “Agues,” which features him as every member of the band and every person in the audience. His solo material isn’t as overtly offbeat as Shinobu, or as complex as Hard Girls, or even as fierce as the Classics of Love. But what it does have is a newfound level of maturity that marries all of these elements and delivers them in an understated, clever way.
12:30am, Pagoda Lounge, Fairmont
Producer and beatmaker B. Lewis is one of many local musicians influenced by Peanut Butter Wolf. Born and raised in San Jose, B. Lewis quickly came to appreciate Wolf’s legacy as a trailblazer once he started making music in 2009. “He definitely led the way, in the right way,” says Lewis.
Only 23 now, Lewis ironically didn’t discover labels like Stones Throw and Brainfeeder until he went away to Expression College in the East Bay. After college, Lewis moved back to San Jose. This spring, he finished the Egg Black EP, with singer Miles Bonny. What might surprise those who are only familiar with Lewis’ more experimental beats is the sleek and smooth sound of the songs’ soulful R&B.
Lewis’ newest release, A Lion’s Aperture, came out in late July, and delivers further proof of his willingness to push boundaries in a late-night groove. “Priority Number One” kicks off with spacey pinging sounds that evolve into an otherworldy wash of sound and vocal abstractions. “World Frozen Over” spins off in a swirl of sonic scat, anchored by strong keyboards.