Scene & Herd - Great, really great

Scene & HerdMusic, wine and molehills

I've been enjoying the CD Here Come the Selmanaires since around Thanksgiving, but nothing on the band's debut disc prepared me for just how great the band is live.

Not good. Not very good. Great. Sincerely and completely "I feel stupid for not seeing them earlier, go see them again soon" great.

The Selmanaires consist of brothers Jason and Herb Harris, and their friend Tommy Chung (a one-time contributor to CL who, quite coincidentally, was pictured in a full-page dodgeball tournament ad in last week's edition getting hit in the face with a rubber ball). On Saturday night, they headlined a show at the Drunken Unicorn.

I'll tell you again how great they are, but first, a word about one of the bands on the bill with them: the Liverhearts.

Also a terrific band live, though probably more of an acquired taste because of their love of discord and the way that so many of their songs never resolve, particularly their new songs. It's all tension and no release. My favorite was a tune called "Local Lift."

After they played it, some guy in the audience yelled out, "Play it just like that, but different." Get your mind around that one.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, the Selmanaires. They're great. Did I mention that already? Imagine Ray Davies started a band with the bassist and drummer from Franz Ferdinand. In English, that means propulsive, garage-y guitars, sing-along melodies and harmonies, and danceable, almost disco-rock rhythms.

You can tell that a new band is great when its own songs sound good next to covers. The Selmanaires played two covers, "Cara-Lin" by the Strangeloves and "19th Nervous Breakdown" by Super Bowl halftime band the Rolling Stones. Both songs were played perfectly, but neither distracted from the, um, greatness of original songs like "In the Direction of Yes" or "LMNO6."

The Selmanaires are going on their first extended tour, but will be back at the Earl on March 21. In the meantime, four of the band's songs are streaming on www.myspace.com/theselmanaires.

Why, yes: Speaking of tours, the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance is on tour, too. Like the name implies, the PRWCA is a group of wineries from Paso Robles, a city about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco (for the Bugs Bunny fans among you, Paso Robles is a short drive away from Pismo Beach, and all the clams you can eat!).

To promote the area's wines, the PRWCA rented a ballroom at the Fox Theatre last Wednesday evening and invited a bunch of people to sample the region's wines. There were 100 or so wines available for tasting. There wasn't a bad sip among the ones I tasted. Among my favorites was Opolo Vineyards Syrah.

The wine was great and the vineyard's rep was infectiously enthusiastic. "Is Paso Robles known for its Syrah?" I asked him. "That's why I came to Paso Robles!" he replied, pointing out several other winemakers in the room who'd done the same. He then grabbed a photograph of loose dirt and started bragging that wine is "all about the soil" and that Paso Robles soil has a "minerality" that suits Syrah grapes. You gotta like a guy who likes his dirt so much he has pictures of it.

While the tasting was going on, a corner of the room was roped off for a national casting call for an upcoming PBS reality show called "The Wine Makers." I couldn't hear what the wannabe contestants were saying because the room was too loud. The only audible part was when one of the contestants picked up a guitar and strummed a song about wine for the cameras. I was hoping he'd start singing, "Que Syrah, Syrah," but instead he went with a self-penned, Adam Sandler-like ditty.

Holy Mole-y: On Saturday evening, I stopped by Young Blood Gallery for the Mountains Out of Molehills show. Most of the pieces in the show were varnished wood squares, the size of large coasters. Each was decorated — some with paint, some with Polaroid-transfer-looking photos, some with flora. It wasn't "about" anything that I could make out. It was beautiful, though, and judging from the number of "sold" stickers, a huge hit.

By the way, is the word "molehill" ever uttered or written without being preceded by "making mountain out of"?

Dubya: Every year, the president of the United States is required to deliver a report/agenda about the nation to Congress. Thanks to the advent of television and the electorates' television-era elevation of style over substance, the speech is little more than 45-90 minutes of clichés, platitudes, empty promises and pandering, interrupted every now and then by applause.

To alleviate the inevitable boredom, a group of local comedians who perform at the Five Spot in Little Five Points held a "Heckle the State of the Union" party. The speech was shown live on the bar's TVs while the comedians heckled.

Pimping the show on his blog, comic Brian Bannon promised that it would be "a comedy show as poorly planned and ineptly managed as the Iraq War." He was right. It's hard to come up with quick one-liners under any circumstance. To do it during a written speech that doesn't stop for jokes is even harder.

That doesn't mean the show was without laughs. When President Bush mentioned dispensing HIV/AIDS treatment through black churches, someone pointed out, "That way, only Christians will live." The loudest laugh of the speech came during President Bush's non-sequitur about people who "second-guess" his management of the war in Iraq. "Second-guessing is not a strategy," Bush said, to which Bannon swiftly replied, "So is 'not a strategy!'"


For more of Andy's adventures, visit Scene & Herd at atlanta.creativeloafing.com.

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