Hearsay: Wednesday, February 27, 2003
The Real Thing

In case there’s ever any shortage of bands around town, we can take solace in the fact that Nathan Brown lives here. The multi-instrumentalist, who can easily morph from one-man smooth-jazz outfit to straight-ahead drummer to axe-wielding metalhead, inhabits a strange place in local-band lore, a metaphoric locale where everyone’s an open-minded music lover with a jones for watching a tall, skinny, young puppy-dog-of-a-dude with wispy shoulder-length blond hair who finishes off his shows with cheers — replete with hand claps and foot stomps and rhyming words — for among other things, “horny toads” (a.k.a. the local team, TCU’s Horned Frogs). It’s actually more wonderfully weird than it sounds.

This gratitude for Brown welled up in HearSay’s chest a couple weeks ago while taking in the man and his new outfit, the rock-solid Pretend King. On stage, Brown was leading drummer Shane Faw Faw and bassist Steffin Ratliff (of Pablo and the Hemphill 7 fame) through the impasto of metallic sturm and drang that is the Pretend King sound. The first and last parts of the show were so-so, but the middle, when Pretend King loosened its grip on punk nostalgia, was where Brown’s knack for crafting supremely catchy melodies was allowed to shine — and it did. A song (and forgive HearSay for not getting its name) whose refrains nearly uniformly began with “I cover ground” is still stuck in your columnist’s small brain. As Brown landed on each syllable in the lyric, he and his rhythm section pounded their instruments in unison — boom, boom, boom-boom! — before breaking up into their respective beats, letting the established rhythm stretch into an elongated, methodical, rocking stomp. Is it a radio hit? Possibly, but that doesn’t matter. What you need to know is that Pretend King will be gigging around town for a few weeks before embarking on a small outer-Texas tour. The next chance you get to see them might be your last for a while. Find them, now!

O Brothers

On a Monday night recently at the Wreck Room, after a short, grueling day of mining verbal coal in the caves of West (Virginia) Seventh Street, the seats were warm, the Michelob Ultra was wet, and the bluegrassy blues of Hardwood were inspiring. At one point, acoustic musician and Wreck doorman Cadillac Fraf slipped HearSay a note: “One would think that Hardwood would have the simple decency to sound like shit every once in a while ... No such luck. Their talent and exuberance shine through in every measure.”

There are just two guys in Hardwood, but these blokes make a symphonic racket worthy of any O Brother analogy. The one guy, Brad Madden, sits on a low chair and chops at his acoustic while singing loudly, and the other guy, Darrin Kobetich, leans up on a stool while playing tasty slide riffs on his electric gee-tar, his mouth shut. The playing goes from fast to very fast, from plaintive and melancholy to wrist-slitting melancholy. It’s all pretty cool, in a woe’s-me kinda way. Perfect for nursing agony and wretched bones by.

Contact HearSay at hearsay@fwweekly.com.

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