Review and photos by Sarah Spencer
The electricity in the air was palpable in downtown Hot Springs, Ark. Not only had Maxine’s Pub added itself to the Ticket Alternative family earlier this summer, but it has also been attracting nationally- and internationally-known artists to the remodeled and historic venue in recent years. New owners Agnes Galecka and husband Kevin Rogers have really helped solidify the Spa City in the independent live music scene with their new, bigger, relocated stage, a top of the line sound system, quality stage lighting, and not to mention, an always clean venue and friendly staff.
The opening band for the night was Stella’s Old Soul, comprised of Hot Springs natives and songwriters Amanda Avery and Ben Robbins, both on vocals, acoustic and electric guitars. Although, according to Robbins, it was only their third time as a band performing in front of an audience, they completely won the crowd over with Avery’s sultry and strong yet achingly fragile voice reminiscent of Norah Jones or Bonnie Raitt coupled with Robbins’ talented guitar picking and strumming in addition to his boyish good looks and you can’t help but take notice. This band is young and new and although Avery’s body language showed that she was visibly nervous, they will only get better and more confident in time and I look forward to seeing what special additions they have in store for us in the near future.
Scott Lucas & The Married Men, out of Chicago, paired up with Girl in a Coma on just this one special and inspiring night of their conflicting tours, to promote their debut album, George Lassos The Moon. With an album title derived from one of the most tender and endearing love scenes from one of the best movies ever made, I knew there would be an instant attraction. Although all three bands had distinctly different sounds and, dare I say, perhaps even completely different musical genres, they all complemented one another beautifully. While Stella’s Old Soul was, indeed, smooth and soulful, Scott Lucas & The Married Men were artistically sophisticated in their dapper attire and variety of classic instruments, which included an accordion and violin. Lucas’ meloncholy and personal love songs reminded me of Depeche Mode or Radiohead’s “Creep,” with it’s brooding appeal.
With little, if any, banter or introduction between songs, they let the music float into each dark corner and embody the room with it’s simplistic solos, fuzzy distortions, or orchestral full on swell. The only complaint I have is that I wish their set was much longer. I truly didn’t want my night with Scott Lucas & The Married Men to end as soon as it did. Set list was as follows: “Crosshairs,” “Weatherman,” “Extra Special Bitter,” “What Fools Allow,” “You Put a Spell on Me,” “Chin Up, Kid,” Local H’s “Hey Rita” melding into The Beatles’ “I’ve Got A Feeling,” “Absolute Beginners” (David Bowie cover), “Dead Flowers” (Rolling Stones cover), and “Stolen Umbrellas.” The Married Men are Aaron Duggins on accordion, Rebecca Brooke Manthe on violin, Pete Muschong on guitar, Randy Payne on drums and Tom Szidon on bass guitar and background vocals. A hired keyboardist played with them as well.
The headliners, Girl in a Coma, an alternative punk rock, all-girl band out of San Antonio, Texas had the majority of the crowd (which was a nice size for a Wednesday night) up on their feet and in front of the stage. Just three days prior, Girl in a Coma had performed at The Tejano Music Awards in their hometown and the stop in Hot Springs was their first stop on their mid-summer tour. Nina Diaz, lead singer, guitarist and songwriter expressed their pleasure in being at Maxine’s and commented on “what a cool venue” it was. After their second song, “Joannie in the City,” (on the album version, Joan Jett sings background vocals and produces on their sophomore album, Trio B.C.) Nina politely asked for someone to “please bring them some tea, any kind of tea” in an apparent way to loosen up her eerily haunting and compelling Mazzy Star and Patsy Cline-esque vocals. Speaking of Ms. Cline, when G.I.A.C. did their own version of “Walkin’ After Midnight,” those who were not already standing promptly did so while they were encouraged to sing along. Jenn Alva, on background vocals, steadfast on her bass guitar and Phanie Diaz, on her powerful drums, kept the beat going and energy up, all while often having smiles on their faces.
During “El Monte”, the simple start to the sweet love song became more emotive and dark with Diaz claiming she wants to marry the object of her affection but, then questions whether her lover can even remember her name. The song also caught the attention of Scott Lucas. I overheard him telling G.I.A.C. that he would love to cover it with their permission. Girl in a Coma left an impression on everyone else there, as well, with their emotional, bold and expressive music complimented with rich vocal tones and an invigorating live performance. Dave Navarro, guitarist for Jane’s Addiction is quoted as saying Girl in a Coma is his “favorite new band.” Dave, I concur!
Set List was as follows: