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Concert Thu Feb 27 2014
Graveface Records is a wholly independent label, the brainchild of Ryan Graveface who plays for a few of the bands that call his label home. The extraordinary music that comes out of the Savannah, Georgia based outfit ranges from the psychedelic sounds of Black Moth Super Rainbow to the avant-garde Xiu Xiu. Recently they began a tour called The Graveface Roadshow ,featuring a compendium of the label's artists performing together. This past Monday they brought Dreamend , The Stargazer Lilies, and The Casket Girls to the Empty Bottle for a free show. Rarely does it get better than this.
Dreamend started their set a little later than the listed start time, which allowed for the late comers to enjoy the band's post-rock fuzz. Once the room had a decent crowd the band hit the ground running, delving straight into a heavy and absorbing song. Dreamend is main project of Ryan Graveface and it's definitely worthwhile. A barely visible video projected onto the stage as Graveface played off to the side behind a case with the words The Casket Girls written on the lid. He wore a balaclava like headgear the entire time he played guitar. The microphone attached to the front of the mask weighed it down, distorting Graveface's look into something twisted and surreal. The near childlike thank you toward the end of the set, seemingly the only time Graveface addressed the crowd, made me jump. It was a drastic shift from Graveface's deep droning singing voice. His presence onstage was a magnificent façade that worked well with the music, giving him a nice dreamlike appearance.
Guitarist John Cep and drummer Peter Seeba, who played alongside Graveface earlier, returned to the stage to play with Kim Field as The Stargazer Lilies. As the band's name suggests, there is an ethereal nature to their music. It felt like i could just zone out to their lofty mix of dreamy pop and heavy shoegazing. "Don't Waste My Time" starts the set with that exact mindset, showcasing Field's angelic voice. She stands her ground well, playing bass and shining along with Cep's phenomenal guitar skills. At one point Cep uses a bow to play, creating a luscious wave of ambient guitar rock. The Stargazer Lilies were quite stunning, especially when they let loose toward the end. The set was capped off with a fit of noise, featuring Seeba going completely wild on the drums.
A string of woos could be heard deep within the Empty Bottle coming from Seeba, who played for every band that nigh with the most energetic drumming I've seen in a while. He made his way through the crowd, forgoing the stairs and jumping up to the stage. Once there, next to Elsa and Phaedra Green, he said that the night felt like a party, introducing the band as such: "We are The Casket Girls, you are The Casket Girls". It was the exact set up the band needed, quick and lovably strange. Graveface stood off to the side of the stage as he did during his Dreamend set, while the Greene sisters were right at the center. It became apparent as they broke into the slow and haunting "Sleepwalking" that The Casket Girls were something special.
It takes a little while to get used to The Casket Girls' brand of unadulterated weirdness. But once you understand it, there's no going back. The Casket Girls are simply amazing. David Lynch is listed as their influence on their Facebook page and it is a spot on reference. It's as if they were taken out of one of the more surreal scenes in one of his movies, hypnotic dancing and all. Throughout the night Elsa and Phaedra mirrored each others' movements, like synchronized swimmers whirling through the music.
Elsa and Phaedra Greene harmonized the entire night, occasionally being joined by Graveface's altered voice. Their music eschews traditional pop soundscapes for rougher grinding ones. "Chemical Dizzy" stood out as their most interesting performance. Its lyrics echoed in my ears well after the show. The Casket Girls are more than just a band; they're a living art piece. Their descent into the crowd at the end of the show for hugs that culminated in a shared embrace between the sisters was grand. In this final moment, Seeba's earlier declaration rang true. We were The Casket Girls, they were The Casket Girls.