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March 1, 2007

Uncommon wealth, Label X turns 5, Wiggle-mania ensues

The Commonwealth: The Commonwealth’s second album “is the birth we planned for,” says upright bassist Liz Adams. The band plays the Jazz Factory’s Late Night Salon show at 11 p.m. on Friday.Daniel Duncan is no Ernie Fletcher, but he does govern The Commonwealth, the local, six-person string-and-brass band that playfully exceeds what you might expect from such a configuration. Duncan wrote the songs, plays guitar and banjo, and sings on the forthcoming self-titled release.Technically it’s The Commonwealth’s second album, but Duncan says it’s the band’s “first CD in a lot of ways.” As upright bassist Liz Adams put it, “The first CD was our love child, and this one is the birth we planned for.” The new album also represents a balanced effort, with input from the whole band instead of Duncan being the sole composer. This time around, Adams says, there were “a lot of ideas bouncing around among six people.” And they didn’t have to look far for inspiration. According to The Commonwealth’s MySpace page, their main influence is “the local scene” — but less in a musical way and more in a social way, she says.Adams says she was “almost embarrassed” by her lack of knowledge about the Louisville scene when she first started playing, but the “good sense of camaraderie” she has since found in the community has been “influential.”She also lauded local musicians for their willingness to branch out and represent “a lot more genres” than in the past. Duncan adds that in the last five years, there’s been “more experimental music, not just indie rock.”Recently the band had the opportunity to be part of an indie rock experiment when Fugazi’s Brendan Canty brought his “Burn to Shine” film crew to Louisville to score footage for the fourth DVD in a series. “Burn to Shine” documents local musicians in a unique setting — an abandoned building whose demolition is captured as part of the package. Adams claims the “Burn to Shine” project brought The Commonwealth out of adolescence, saying that as a band, they were “late bloomers” — although all the members have a professional history in music in one capacity or another.Ultimately, Duncan says, The Commonwealth is a group of “musicians trying to make music to the best of their ability,” and for most of the members, their ability has been documented. Adams herself is a student of the University of Louisville School of Music, although this is her first creative gig.Unfortunately, the CDs won’t be pressed in time for their next show Friday at the Jazz Factory (815 W. Market St., 992-3242), but The Commonwealth is planning for a release show in early April. For Friday’s late, late set (a.k.a. Late Night Salon), they’ll play a lot of the new stuff and — probably for the last time — some of the old stuff as well. The show starts at 11 p.m. and is free. Friday is a busy night for Louisville music fans, and, starting at 7 p.m., an array of local artists will be found in one place: Headliners Music Hall (1386 Lexington Road, 584-8088, $10). Singer-songwriter Peter Searcy, hip-hop talent Code Red and acoustic rockers The Muckrakers will share the stage with Digby and 49th Star to celebrate what they all have in common — Label X.The independent label is throwing a party to celebrate its fifth anniversary, and the plan is to showcase the diversity and success they’ve achieved since its inception. Unlike many indie labels, this company is proud of its elusive image and commercial success. Label president Todd Smith explains that even the title “indie label” isn’t a neat fit for them.“As far as a comparative analysis to other indie labels, we have no desire or intention to remain isolated or insulated,” Smith says. “Street cred don’t pay the bills. We are swinging for the fences and want to grow this as big as it will go. We are working on some things now that will take Label X even further away from the shape of an ‘indie’ label.” In the meantime, Smith and fellow X-ers are putting their talent on the Louisville map. For Friday’s show, their intentions are simple. “We are hoping to raise awareness of Label X and our position in the community,” Smith says.“We were sort of amazed ourselves when we realized we were coming up on five years, and we thought other people might be as well. Hopefully it sends a message that we’re here to stay.”Gerstle’s schedule is normally full of talented local acts, guys who often grace the place weekly, but this Friday night, the Frankfort Avenue bar will host the Austin, Texas, five-piece known as The Gourds.These guys describe their music creatively, if not explicitly, on their Web site: “The Gourds seem to let their music fry just long enough before they turn it over and brown it on the other side. There is just absolutely no way to categorize this music, these songs, without tearing up the English language.”Multi-instrumentalist Max Johnston is the superstar of the band, having played with Michelle Shocked (his sister), Freakwater, Uncle Tupelo and Wilco in the past. The Gourds’ music has been mistaken for any number of jam bands, particularly when their cover of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” made its way around the jam-band fan base.If you don’t recall hearing the rendition, there is a loose formula for determining what to expect from The Gourds: Just imagine the evolution of such a musician as Johnston, know that he hails from the loins of bluegrass musician “Dollar” Bill Johnston, and that this is the first band where he’s had a significant role (as opposed to being a side man).Now do your own math as to whether it’s worth your $10 to see The Gourds Friday at Gerstle’s (3801 Frankfort Ave., 899-3609). They go on at 9 p.m., followed by Beatin’ Path.The Wiggles are coming to town with their interactive Racing to the End of the Rainbow Live Show, so be dragged by your preschooler to Freedom Hall tonight for the 6:30 p.m. concert. Tickets are available through all Ticketmaster locations (361-3100) and the Freedom Hall box office. Prices range from $18-$35. Seating for tickets purchased at the $35 level will take place in the “hot potato seats” and will include an exclusive Wiggles giveaway.Also, bring roses for Dorothy the Dinosaur and bones for Wags the Dog, two of the band’s on-stage sidekicks. Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.com