By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Stoned Ranger and Defensive Listening made it through another mostly great We Shot JR showcase with their anonymity intact. But the notoriously picky DFW music bloggers revealed themselves to be suckers for a gimmick.
War Wizards—something of an underground supergroup with Wanz Dover, Lars Larsen and Shawn Mauck—were compelling yet frustrating. Even with improvised toilet-paper earplugs, Dover and Mauck's snarling, distorted guitars and industrial laptop beats were painfully loud. Too bad, because when I jammed my fingers into my ears I could pick up on the nuances of Dover's complex beats and Mauck's guitar work. The telltale smell of ozone and smoke from a speaker midway through was no surprise. Larsen screamed politically charged lyrics with all the subtlety of a Jay Leno monologue, pacing the stage in a combat helmet and rolling on the floor screaming "We don't need no fucking war!" incessantly.
It was the polar opposite of Chris Garver's opening set. Aided by an unobtrusive rhythm section, his acoustic country folk songs were almost drowned out by chattering assholes. A follow-up visit to his MySpace site revealed him to be an intriguing, evocative and literate songwriter.
After Night Game Cult's set, no fewer than three intelligent musicians tried to convince me that singer Kyle Cheatham is some sort of mad-genius songwriter. One even compared him to Daniel Johnston. But all I saw was bullshit performance art. He and a girl, both body-painted silvery gray, danced on scattered newspapers and flung dye on each other as he sang poorly over a CD of '80s-mocking, synth-heavy soft rock. Judging by the enthusiastic audience, my opinion was shared by few.
Unlike the identities of the We Shot JR crew, Slocum's music—along with War Wizards' and Garver's—shouldn't be kept secret.