Updated Thu, Mar 15, 2012 10:08 pm
There were a couple of storms brewing last night in Athens, Ohio. Outside, the wind howled while the town received its first real snowfall of the season. Inside the Casa Cantina, Scubadog created their own squall with their trademark blend of volume, melody and energy.
In addition to the hometown favorites, the bill was filled out by Athens singer-songwriter (and member of Southeast Engine) Jesse Remnant, along with the Columbus-based Old Hundred.
Remnant (who also plays with Scubadog), opened the night with a half dozen acoustic guitar/vocal numbers. Drawing from a large list of influences, Remnant entertained the audience with Dylan-styled fingerpicking and a voice reminiscent of Graham Nash. There is something very familiar in the timbre of Remnant's voice that harks back to Mr. Nash’s vocals on those classic CSN&Y records; both have great ranges which stay strong even in the highest register, and both have happy-sounding tunes that are hard to disagree with.
Old Hundred was next to take the Cantina’s stage, with six players in all. The band's sound was unique right off the bat, due to the presence of mandolin on almost every song. Many bands incorporate the instrument into their live performances, but will often only perform a single song or maybe two with the instrument. Old Hundred's mandolinist Nate Gelinas added wonderful texture and life to the band's music by providing a classic Americana feel--not to say that Old Hundred is an Americana group.
On the contrary: Old Hundred flirted with several genres throughout their set. Many of the grooves reminded me of the band Spoon, one song could have been a Dire Straits outtake and a few other songs contained elements of Fleet Foxes (i.e. heavy, thumping quarter-notes on the kick drum, heavily-reverbed electric guitar sections). Despite borrowing from several other bands, Old Hundred managed to carve out a sound that is all their own. The Athens crowd appreciated them very much, and I expect they will be back soon.
Athens' own Scubadog headlined with a diverse 16-song set. The band's strong rhythm section kicked in with the opening song, a cover of Harry Nilsson's "Jump Into The Fire." Lead guitarist Josh Antonuccio came out swinging with guitar solos, his Fender Stratocaster seemingly having a mind of its own. Scubadog grabbed the crowd's attention at the start and had them clapping along by the third song.
On can definitely hear the influences in Scubadog’s music: A bit of The Clash here, some Modest Mouse there. A highlight of the set for this writer was "Hot Stone Foot Massage," a tune that sounded not unlike the Arcade Fire, complete with distorted, roaring, wall-of-sound guitars over a bed of feedback.
Two other covers were welcomed by the audience. David Bowie turned 65 years old this week, and to celebrate, Scubadog put on a high energy, almost-punk performance of "Queen Bitch" from Hunky Dory. The second cover was Elvis Costello’s pub-rock classic "Mystery Dance" from 1977's My Aim Is True.
By the last song of the set, a Scubadog banner appeared in the crowd and the audience cheered the band home. The group closed their set with a simple message to the crowd: "This is as much about you as it is about us. Thank you and have a good night." Hopefully, Scubadog will be around for a long time, playing the occasional show when they can. Between their high energy and excellent musicianship, I doubt they'll ever be hard-pressed to draw a crowd.
For more information: