Branching out: Two bands, two worlds

Banty Roosters
at Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar
Thursday, March 4

Civil War Reenactors at
Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar
Friday, March 5

Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar is one of the more interesting places to hear live music in town. Combine an eclectic booker with a venue whose layout resembles a railway car, and you get a show that's bound to be different in one way or another each time you go.

Keeping with this "different" motif, I went out for tea last Thursday and Friday, saw two different acts (and was introduced to the extremely satisfying chai tea milkshake), and had two completely different listening experiences.

Thursday's Twisted Branch performance by the old time/bluegrass band Banty Rooster was the show of the two I planned to review, and with my trusty friend Paul attached to my side for the evening, we made our way down to the Mall for some upstairs action.

After we grabbed a table close to the stage and ordered some cocoa rooibos, the trio known as Banty Rooster began to perform. Composed of an acoustic guitar, a banjo, and an upright bass, the group took about 20 seconds after starting to get into synch– like an old motor, falling into a rhythm after a short while.

"There's one thing I like about that gal of mine. She keeps me all right and loves me all the time" sang the lead vocalist and guitarist in a strong voice accented with grit. Amid almost all traditional tunes, the highlight of the act– aside from their strong grasp of the pop element in the old-time tunes– was the banjo player's backing vocals: high and extremely dirty (almost distorted). I was instantly reminded of the great backup wails on certain T. Rex tunes.

Friday night found me once again gracing the venue with my magnanimous presence, though in much more attractive company (sorry, Paul). A chai tea milkshake into my stay, the quirk-rock group Civil War Reenactors began to set up, which caused me to raise my palms in homage to the gods. Composed of Mike Johnson and Jeff Melkerson on electric guitar and vocals, the group plays a spastic Talking Heads-meets-Pavement-on-uppers kind of quirky pop.

Starting off with "Christmas presents I ask for from my parents that make them think I'm gay," the group quickly bounced into its strange guitar antics to '80s beats sound. Melkerson's mic was not doing its job for this first tune, and aside from several yelps the singer made during the song's many crescendos, few other syllables could be heard.

The problem was quickly rectified, and we were treated to a number of tunes that almost approached pop numbers, but with something off about them (as in "He was always a nice guy (before he killed those four people), but there was always something off about him").

I'm a fan of the Civil War Reenactors, but they're really a band you have to see to understand– and even then, you'll probably either really like 'em or really despise 'em.

The Banty Roosters