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Kicking Giant
Rice Coffee House
Monday, February 13

Kicking Giant's latest album, Alien I.D., is surprising, not so much for the music but for the fact that it's on K records, the Olympia, Washington, label that's defined the naive-pop sound in alternative music. There's nothing naive here. Kicking Giant alternates between aggressive noise and subdued soundscapes (with an annoying spoken-word piece thrown in for bad measure). Alien I.D. just doesn't have that K spirit. Maybe I missed something. Or maybe the album just needed a real live audience to come alive.

The Rice Coffee House provided a conducive atmosphere for appreciating the well-orchestrated noise the two-piece fed the audience. The duo of guitarist Tae Won Yu and drummer Rachel Carns played a game of dynamics that demanded (and got) the crowd's complete attention. Sure, the audience was well-primed for the show when Kicking Giant broke into that indie rock dance that's apparently issued to everybody who visits Olympia. Kicking Giant even managed to draw the audience into its little dancing game -- until the band veered off into something different.

The set ranged between garage pop and noise, both taking advantage of a textural complexity that lent a heavy atmosphere to the songs. So call KG a K band via The Jesus and Mary Chain. I guess that's a good thing. And if it weren't for those damn spoken-word pieces that broke up the set, I probably would have been pretty impressed.

-- Justin Crane

Eddie Palmieri Octet
Rockefeller's
Wednesday, February 15

Pianist and Latin jazz legend Eddie Palmieri's U.S. tour stopped at Rockefeller's, but the second of the evening's two shows might have left the audience wondering whether Palmieri even noticed that he was here.

With a three-piece horn section to work with -- including a stellar Conrad Herwig on trombone, an impish Brian Lynch on trumpet and a thoroughly disinterested Donald Harrison on sax -- it was hard to understand why most of the set found that same horn section huddled in a back corner of the stage, giggling at Palmieri's effusive, drunken banter and playing hardly a lick. Bassist John Benitez got to show off in interminable duels with the bandleader, and three different percussionists were allowed to stretch out in three separate drum solos that were extraordinary in their own right, but hardly much of a show when strung together as the larger part of the set.

Without a vocalist, Palmieri had his hands tied when it came to much of his repertoire, and when he opened the floor to requests, he had to admit that, well, he couldn't do any of those songs tonight. Instead, he filled the space with conversation with the crowd and frequent introductions of the band members. When, on a rare occasion, the full band gathered to pursue a groove, the floor filled with dancers, and you could hear the sort of musicianship that's made Palmieri a deserving legend. But for most of the night, all you could see was the reason that, as a live performer, he's still regarded as an iffy bet.

-- Brad Tyer

 
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