Yeah…we’re posting this WAY after the fact, but…
Man…we’re getting there.
For all of the hemming and hawing we’ve done here at the Stranger’s Almanac about needing to breather some life into “the scene” (assuming one exists in Frederick), Saturday September 15th was evidence that we’re getting there.
Because…if you have to decide which show to catch on a given night because two stellar shows are occurring at the same time - that is a GOOD thing.
Saturday brought us a cavalcade of local music scene juggernauts: Ghost Baby (the solo project of Olivia Solomon, of Austin and Oliva fame) and Ashli Cheshire, (of Cheshi fame) teaming up to play a quiet but heavy show at Area 31. Afterward/during, the purveyors of wonderment and friendship, Mr. Husband, were also booked to close down Cafe Nola on the same night - with starting set times about an hour apart. We decided to catch the beginning of the Ghost Baby and Cheshi (solo) show before popping over to Nola to catch Mr. Husband and their brand of jangle pop.
Ghost Baby & Cheshi @ Area 31
Y’all. Ghost Baby’s set was harmony central. But before we get into that, let’s rap a sec about Area 31…
From the website: “Area 31 is a space that will evolve with the artists and patrons who participate. Not only is it home to a collection of filmmakers, editors, artists, Frederick’s 72 Film Fest, Archai Media, and and atrhouse theater, the space is available for rent and is host to unique events and seminars. We are here to make it easier for others to create more of whatever drives them. “
We’ve not yet witnessed any of the other shows at this space, but we’re gonna keep our eyes peeled. However, we would be remiss if we did not note that the price tag associated with renting the space seems a bit prohibitive. If we are reading the pricing accurately, it cost $750 to put on this show. - meaning you would need to get 75 bodies in the room at $10/per to break even.
Come on, Frederick. Not sure that is making it “easier for other to create more of what drives them” … but we’ll reserve our thoughts on this for another post.
Not there were 75 bodies in the room on this particular night (the cover was $10), so we’re dubious about this show ‘breaking even’ - but if it didn’t, that’s a damn shame. Because it was special.
Despite the above dig on rental pricing, Area 31 is a great venue. No stage, but there is a makeshift bar as you enter, and the room where the music took place was sizable - and could be a full-legit music venue if there was a dedicated stage and PA. On the adjacent wall to the area where the ‘stage’ was set, there was a large screen on which a black and white film of landscapes pictured upside down was displayed - soliciting more than one joke about Stranger Things.
All that aside, the space really was #RadAF. Olivia and Ashli spent some time decorating the “stage” area with LED candles, and crazy taxidermied lamps of some weird shit involving deer hooves and lots of floral-y stuff. It was incredibly fitting for the atmospheric sounds that were about to fill the room.
As noted, Ghost Baby is the solo project of Olivia Solomon. She’s been active on SoundCloud posting her own music (and some covers) for about 5 months. It is hard to pin-down her sound with a simple ‘Recommended If You Like’ (RIYL), but on this particular evening, Ghost Baby upped the ante by inviting Ashli Cheshire to the set sing harmony and play some lead guitar.
There were moments of the set where Olivia and Ash singing together sounded like Neko Case (and we feel confident in that assessment having recently seen Neko Case in Harrisburg, PA). Given, the only time we’ve seen Ash play was a solo set in Baltimore at the Ottobar opening for Frederick locals Jim Shorts, it was nice to see this artist in a different context - in this case, adding additional layers of sound and soaring vocal harmonies to this set of Ghost Baby songs [after a year of living in Frederick, we’ve yet to catch a full-band Cheshi show (which will be rectified when they play The Thing this fall)].
Everything about this set clicked. From the bizarre, yet kinda rad “stage” to the overall vibe of the crowd and the room - which meshed well with the songs themselves. Ghost Baby’s sound is ethereal. Though, perhaps ‘haunting’ is the better adjective here. The crowd was engaged and quiet (which has not been our experience when attending shows of this ilk while living elsewhere). Despite the skeletal setup of two electric guitars, two amps, and two microphones, these two artists painted every wall with a pretty lush sound. Olivia was plugged into an “organ”-like effect that created a layered, swelling sound with each strum. Her guitar laid a droning landscape that allowed hers and Ashli’s vocals (and their lead guitar) to soar above.
It was gorgeous.
Here, have yourself a listen:
Ghost Baby’s set seemed to end just as soon as it had begun. reluctantly, we bid farewell to Area 31 for the embrace of Cafe Nola and the trio from out of the 4th Dimension, Mr. Husband. Again, all apologies to Cheshi for missing their solo set, but to atone for these sins, we’re gonna be front and center for y’all at the Thing!
Mr. Husband at Cafe Nola
If you’ve never seen Mr. Husband before…well…we’ll just say you’re missing a wild ride. Mr. Husband’s sets are just bananas. Before a note of music is struck, you more than likely notice frontman Kinny Husband’s ‘getup‘, which , we should note, has been the same for every show we’ve been privy to attending. From the ground up: black Vans, black denim jeans, dark indigo denim jacket (buttoned-closed) over a white turtle neck, bright-colored faux Ray-Ban shades, and a red, white, and blue bandanna holding back a massive, long, black wig of hair. In fact, he looks a lot like the dude in the photo to the right.
Durning the set, there are lots of references to friendship, wonderment, the 4th Dimension, and just how good each song has been to Kinny and the boys.
If you’re thinking " Come ON, Stranger!! Bands who rely on gimmicks do so because they’re otherwise boring.”
Mr. Husband are tight. As two coats of paint. And their sound is completely dialed in (which is not easy to do in a room as echo-y as Nola). Also, for a three-piece, they bring a LOT of sound to the stage. There is something to be said about a good power trio who knows how to listen to each other when playing and know how to play to the room. Mr. Husband’s songs are dreamy, poppy tunes chock-full of arpeggioed guitar that allows the song’s melody to bounce right across the room and into your head - where it will live for a while (not a bad thing). The tunes are filled in by the rhythm section of ‘Bassin’ Jasen Reeder and Chris Morris on the drums. Reeder’s bass lines compliment the bounce of the melodies while still keeping the low groove. Oh, and that in-between song banter about friendship, wonderment and the 4th Domension? It works. There is nothing about the character of Mr. Kenneth Husband that doesn’t seem like he might not be an actual dude you know. He’s not too extreme. He’s not too boring. It’s, as the kids would say, ‘gold!’
We missed much of the opening solo Kinny set, but if the two songs we did catch were an indication of the whole thing (a couple fun old country covers), it’s a shame we missed it (but, you know, Ghost Baby and Cheshi, yo). This begs the question about Mr. Husband’s penchant for country AND western music. The note accompanying the pre-release of OCEAN PINES on Mr. Husband’s bandcamp page suggests that he is steeped in this genre, which is interesting as much of the available output has more of a poppy, almost Beach Boys quality to it (please note that this is a compliment). But hey, we’re no Stranger [pun intended] to country and western music ourselves. So Kinny…[call us].
Mr. Husband’s OCEAN PINES is due out October 26, 2018. You can pre-order via the bandcamp link above (which will get you the title track as an instant download). Really, really looking forward to this record, fellas.
Good on you, Frederick!
So, yeah. More nights of lots of good music, please.
In fact, since this show took place, there have been a steady stream of excellent shows around town (some which we here at the Rank Stranger missed in favor of seeing Dinosaur Jr. at the Black Cat in DC). But we’re DEFINITELY looking forward to the Thing. Indeed, we hope to have a post (or two) about it. Maybe it will shut us up about the perceived fledging music scene here in Frederick!
[fun fact: Mr. Husband must have heard us on Nola’s patio earlier in the night lamenting the lack of stages in Frederick that could lend to a stronger scene because he looked out from the stage and commented that “things seem pretty, pretty awesome” that Saturday night at Nola. We agree, Kinny…we just want a lot more of that very thing!]