February 17, 2006

Two shows worthy of attention, even if you’re short on cash

Can’t take back decisions/So begin the denial, goes “When the Walls Fall Down,” by Echos Aim. The group’s founder, guitarist Kurt Reynolds, isn’t at all going to take back the decision to put on an unusual event. This alternative-but-eclectic group is going to transform their all-originals oeuvre into an acoustic concert, presented as a freebie for his neighbors in Bardstown.

When asked about the lack of a cover charge for Friday night’s show at Clay Café, Reynolds’ response is that he never thought about adding one. There’s just a lot of people who are tapped out right after the holidays; that’s his logic. That kind of quiet generosity of spirit wafts throughout conversation with the guitarist. Asked about his influences, he’s not just all over the map (e.g., Sinatra as well as Marilyn Manson) — he makes sure to include his hometown heroes, adding a special callout to guitar teacher Stuart Luckett (formerly of the Louisville group The Unknowns).

Another way in which Reynolds is consistently ready to share is with songwriting. Though he assembled the lineup (other members live in Shepherdsville, Sligo and Louisville) and maintains their Web site (www.echosaim.com) and seems in many ways the glue to keep the quintet together, his point of view is both inclusive and modest. “One person can only do so much, creatively. It takes a team.”

One expression of this: group songwriting. Reynolds says, “I start a song … say I write a lyric down. Or one or two riffs. When we’re at rehearsal, I say, ‘What can we do with this?’” Singer Dave Gilbert will often go off and finish the lyrics while the individual instrumentalists add their own touches in turn. But this is just one model for how tracks come together. “Our drummer comes in once, and he had a beat and lyrics. He wasn’t sure how they could go together. Rob (Bingham) came up with a riff for that.” The general direction of Echos Aim’s sound mixes alt-rock with good use of retro reference points (a dead giveaway that comes when Reynolds begins his list of favorite rockers as Korn and Oasis).

Yet another way in which Reynolds puts his relationship with the listeners in front of any ego concerns is when he admits there’s some sense of experimentation to how the set will be pulled off. The beat will be kept with Bryan Catron working a stripped-down drumkit. Reynolds adds, “We might cheat with Jason Helm keeping to his usual electric bass, but we’re looking for an acoustic.”

He says, “One song, I don’t know if we can pull it off acoustically. The recorded version’s harmonics … I don’t know how the pedal work will sound.” And then there’s “When the Walls Fall Down.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing how that one sounds.” If you have a moment after the show, Reynolds invites listeners to come forward, say hello and give some feedback. And if you like what you hear, come around to another show, where you’ll hear some more new songs that are just being worked out in the group’s cooperative way.

Reynolds likes what Clay Café has added to Bardstown in the last few months, but the band hasn’t had a chance to play there until now. Check it out.

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Saturday, Jan. 7, has the Stoner Moms (with Suspected Terrorist and The Vibrolas) at the Rudyard Kipling. This is another great cheap show for those of you who were generous with the holiday gifts — it’s three bands for three bucks. Stoner Moms are a punk group with all sides of the band showing they know their business musically. The members also know how much of punk is about kicking musical ass with some smarts and a sense of DIY. They seem a bit restless — as in, it sometimes seems hard to pin down what they’re up to next. But based on tracks like the Pixies-gone-lightheaded “Swiffer,” it’s worth following their evolution. Slam away a few of those candy-cane calories, then stand back for one song just to see who’s now the singer.

By T.E. Lyons
tlx@aol.com