Soundchecks: YR Lad, Mahogany Soul's Janet: Anthology of an Icon, El Escapado, and Gangstagrass

Live music to catch this week

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INDIE-POP | YR Lad (CD release show)
w/ Matadero and Becca Smith
Thurs. Aug. 16
9 p.m.
$5
The Royal American

On the previous releases by Charleston's YR Lad (pronounced "yer lad"), singer/guitarist Harper Marchman-Jones' dreamy, melodic vocals were the most accessible part of the music. The riffs tended to take on unexpected shapes, influenced equally by art-rock and psychedelia. The song structures were pure progressive rock, becoming increasingly complex the longer the band was together. That's what makes "Imperial Ease (Wild Ivy)" the first single off the band's new album, Show Me the Sign, so interesting. In the place of knotted-up tempos and layers of electric guitars, there's an acoustic guitar weaving a simple melody, aided by a poignant violin and not a whole lot else. And to hear Marchman-Jones talk about the album, it seems like that single is a calling card for a whole new approach. "On our last record, we were coming at it from an art-rock/psychedelia perspective," he says. "There were a lot of long and winding song structures and lots of complex changes. As a songwriter, I'd been kind of building myself up to the point where I could do stuff like that, and I think I eventually made the songs sufficiently complicated enough that I decided that continuing to do it wouldn't be productive. My approach this time was to strip the music down and make the songs as simple as I could and still have them be good, relatable songs." —Vincent Harris THURSDAY

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  • Provided

TRIBUTE | Mahogany Soul presents Janet: Anthology of an Icon
w/ Jeremy Navar
Fri. Aug. 17
9:30 p.m.
$12/adv., $15/door
Pour House

In some ways, Janet Jackson is just as important an icon as her brother Michael. As the 1980s became the 1990s, Janet honed a tough, danceable, often blatantly sexual sound with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, launching multiplatinum albums like Rhythm Nation and Janet, while her brother's career began to flounder. On hits like "Love Will Never Do (Without You)," "That's The Way Love Goes," "Runaway," and "If," she merged relentless beats with catchy pop hooks and ultra-modern production that seemed to be just a few steps ahead of the dance music trends. The only weak spot she had, really, was her vocals, which occasionally sounded too thin or breathy. That won't be a problem with Mahogany Soul's performance of Jackson's greatest songs. This quartet of singers (Christian Smalls, Aisha Kenyetta, Zandrina Dunning, and Tonya Williams) are all talented, versatile vocalists who can blow the roof off of any venue, and they're bound to add some power to Miss Jackson's hits. —Vincent Harris FRIDAY

PROVIDED
  • Provided

SKATE PUNK | El Escapado
w/ Whiskey Warfare
Wed. Aug. 15
7 p.m.
Free
The Sparrow

Blast beats and melodic guitar lines are El Escapado's M.O. The band's latest release, poetically titled The Not So Full— Full Length EP is full of moments that sound like thrash metal took a day trip to the skate park. "Sedition" and "Villains and Heroes" are fast headbangers that will leave you with neck injury. The whole album never really takes its foot off the throttle, and it sounds like a mosh. When asked about the band's influences, vocalist Abe Mesaris cites beer and tequila. "If you're talking specifically music, I guess I would have to say Bad Religion, NOFX, No Use For a Name, just really fast-paced punk rock," he says. In a moment of growth for the band, this is the first release that El Escapado did not record in just a couple days. The band also "touched on some subjects that were kind of deep, dealing with the loss of loved ones," adds Mesaris. —Heath Ellison WEDNESDAY

BENJAMIN SMITH
  • Benjamin Smith

HICK HOP | Gangstagrass
Sun. Aug. 19
9 p.m.
$10/ adv, $12/ door
Pour House

Everybody loves a good opposites-attract story, and that's what we've got with Gangstagrass. The crew of country musicians and rappers perform a brand of rap music that's all about bluegrass instrumentation and beats — or maybe it's bluegrass that's all about rapping. Either way, the peculiar merger has gotten the group attention for its coherent manner of meshing. "Barnburning" is a complete club banger, if that club was located out in a cornfield in Kansas. Gangstagrass uses classic boom-bap drums on "I Go Hard," then branches off into a an outlaw country rap track with "You Can Never Go Home Again." The band's producer and songwriter Rench says that the attention the band has gained doesn't surprise him because people often have eclectic tastes in music. "The market is not actually segregated like that," he said. "There's all these people out there that are already listening to both genres and mixing them up on their playlists." —Heath Ellison SUNDAY

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