Saturday, August 28, 2010

album of the day: Grogshow

I believe I found Grogshow on one of my routine ventures to find new music by following link after link on the All Music Guide site. I start with a band I like - say, R.E.M. - and look at what somebody connected with AMG thinks are similar musicians. I proceed through each of those to further links, and usually by the third or fourth degree of separation I find something I haven't heard of before.

Nobody's ever heard of Grogshow before. They were around for a couple years in the middle 1990s, a two-piece band from Duqubue who were trying to break into the Portland music scene when the guitarist and singer, Marc Kisting, died of some kind of pulmonary illness (as far as I've been able to work out - information about the band is extremely hard to find).

The only posterity left by Kisting and drummer Jason Williams is an EP of 8 demos they recorded in somebody's basement, and that was cleaned up by a producer in the Portland scene and released, sort of, in 2005 on future appletree records (sic). It's basically proto-emo alternative music, and the key difference is in their instrumentation, and the benefit of the lack of production on the EP.

Kisting played 12-string acoustic-electric guitar, played with amplification to give a sound halfway between acoustic and electric. He also played tuned mainly down a step, and I believe on some tracks even lower, so that his bass strings give a bit of a bass-guitar sound. It's easy to imagine their live sound from the recording - jangly, loose, looping melodies and rhythms tangled up with each other, with the strains of Kisting's pained (and occasionally whiny) tenor over the top.

My favorite thing about the music is its unfinished, unpolished character. It hasn't been cleaned up, slicked up, and made ready for the big time. We're capturing Grogshow at a creative high-point, not after the recording industry has chewed on them and spat them back out.

Everything I've read on teh Interwebs about Grogshow was written by the same guy. It's all just quoting the same handful of paragraphs that, along with these demos, is all that remains of the band. It was a labor of love, but also a labor of misinformation. The notes on the album insist that it was recorded with only Kisting on guitar and Williams on drums, with no bass. This is clearly false - there is undoubtedly bass on most of the tracks, and on one without bass, the most jangly "Here to Corner" which closes the album, there's two guitar tracks.

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