Saturday evenings in Gainesville can be crazy affairs. Using the middle of the weekend to cut loose from the ordeal of papers, exams, and classes, students often pack the downtown bars and clubs for a brief hedonistic respite from academics. That’s why summer Saturdays are often a fresh change with smaller crowds and a more laidback atmosphere.
This past Saturday provided such an opportunity at Common Grounds with the blues-rock of Bracelet coupled with the mild psychedelia of papercranes. Outside, DJ Jumpstart, better known as journalist and Common Grounds veteran Jay Maggio, played songs from his laptop that included pop-heavy tunes regardless of era. At one point, Maggio segued from Petula Clark’s “Downtown” to Sonic Youth’s rendition of The Carpenters’ “Superstar.” This no doubt provided some eclectic listening for those gathered on the cover-free porch.
Onstage inside, Bracelet kicked off things with their blues-rock sound. At times reaching the higher registers of singers like Jeff Buckley or Thom Yorke, singer-guitarist Larry Watts led the band through rave-ups and quieter, introspective tunes alike. He also thanked someone named Eddie for loaning him an amp after his apparently exploded. Drummer Mike Webb and the hairless Mike Allgood on bass were an intense rhythm section, with Webb even snapping a drumstick tip halfway through the set. Musically, Bracelet had a contemporary-yet-solid sound on par with bands such as Bloc Party or Snow Patrol.
papercranes were up next. (The lack of capitalization is intentional.) Led by singer/actress Rain Phoenix, the band were reminiscent of some of the best of what nineties alternative rock had to offer such as The Sundays and Mazzy Star. With the edge of the stage and mic stands festooned with twinkling Christmas lights, the band launched into their richly textured sound. This was a Phoenix family affair, with sister Liberty joining on lead vocals on a few songs while their mother, Arlyn, looked on from front and center in the crowd. In light of this, local Buzz DJ Spanish yelled that he wanted to “do beer bong hits with mom.” Phoenix retorted that she would be doing all of the heckling this evening since she had the microphone.
Earlier in the set, after saying she was at a loss for words, Rain Phoenix launched her band into a haunting rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire.” The catchy “Untitled Treasure,” with sister Liberty once again on backing vocals followed, in which Rain announced that the song would be on their upcoming CD Vidalia, due out this fall.
Later in the song, Phoenix announced the imminent departure of their drummer, Dave Lebleu, for New York City, dedicating one of their songs to him. Other favorites included the introspective “What’s Left” and the driving “Trophy,” the latter of which brought out Phoenix’s guitar. As a parting effort, Phoenix announced the band was going on “a freeform jazz odyssey,” playing a song that everyone knew. With that, papercranes brought out and updated the Steve Miller Band classic “Abracadabra.” Thus, another magical summer evening of local music came to a close.