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Kids in the park
SCAD's free Forsyth show kick-starts a musical Friday
Cold War Kids

One of the nice things about living in Savannah is the traditional concert for graduating SCAD seniors at the start of every summer. You don’t have to be part of the graduating class, or a SCAD student, or even a student anywhere to see this show. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you’ve never gone to school at all.

It’s outdoors, it’s free, and it’s open to everyone, a sweet deal for any Savannah music fan. The whole “college” thing is strictly optional.

The 2011 “New Alumni Concert” happens at 7 p.m. Friday, June 3 in Forsyth Park. This year’s band is Cold War Kids, a soul–infused indie rock quartet out of Long Beach, California.

Best known for the widescreen semi–hit “Hang Me Out to Dry” and music that fused skittery punk with soaring melodies and reverb–y sonic soundscapes, Cold War Kids is fronted by former professional English teach Nathan Willett.

The band is touring behind its recently–released third full–length album, Mine is Yours.

Produced by Jacquire King (Modest Mouse, Kings of Leon, Tom Waits’ Mule Variations), Mine is Yours seems to be one of those “turning point” records: The band has made several enormous changes, trading in the soulful, searching angst of old for a more polished, ambitious, ready–friendly sound.

“Between the first and second album, I don’t think we made a big leap, but did a good job writing songs in the same style and vein,” Willett recently told Interview. “But I think we are the kind of band that wants to do something different each time to stay excited. There are a lot of different things this time around. We recorded the first two albums relatively quickly, in a week or two each. Very live, getting spontaneous takes. But the third record – we went into the studio with no completed songs, we wrote in the studio, we kept working through things.”

This, for him, is what’s different about the songs on Mine is Yours: “The last two albums are much more narrative and fictional. This one is much more personal, and about me or friends of mine. I opened the door and tried to write about myself ... while still keeping it interesting and lyrical.”

Assuming the Cold War Kids concert starts on time (and whether or not there’s an opening act — a name is floating out there but no one could or would officially confirm at press time), it should let out in the vicinity of 11 p.m. Should you wish to continue your live–music adventure, here’s a quick look at who’s playing in the clubs Friday:

Dead Confederate (Loco’s Grill & Pub) is the Athens alt/country grunge band whose lead singer, guitarist Hardy Morris, comes from the nasally Neil Young/Jeff Tweedy class. The group’s tough, uncompromising electric Americana has been featured on two albums – Wrecking Ball and the amazing Sugar – and they’ve been known, when prodded, to perform Young’s seminal Tonight’s the Night album in its entirety.

Burning Mansions (Wormhole Bar) is the “other” band fronted by singer/guitarist Jonathan Murphy – he’s the title guy in Jon Lee & the Canebrakes, and while that trio focuses on tough, melodic blues, Burning Mansions roams over more rock ‘n’ roll territory. New CD just out - Labor Day - has a definite Hendrix/Trower feel to it.

Same As it Ever Was (Live Wire Music Hall) is a Talking Heads tribute band from Knoxville, Tenn. If you must know, the band is profiled in the Noteworthy section of this issue of Connect.

Shovels & Rope (The Jinx) consists of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, quirky alt–country singer/songwriters (both of whom have played here before) doing that tight, two–part harmony thang: “Two guitars, a junkyard drum kit (harvested from an actual garbage heap – adorned with tambourines, flowers and kitchen rags) and a handful of harmonicas.” They’ve opened for Band of Horses and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit.

Bambara (Hang Fire). “Distortion, feedback and melodic noise” is how one fan/critic described this Athens power trio before comparing them to Sonic Youth (which I get) and the Who (which I can’t hear). Bambara is alternatively moody and neo–psychedelic, and unremittingly fierce. A two–fer this week, too: They’re at the Jinx Thursday (the night before this Hang Fire show), with Cusses and Intimate Stranger.

Damon & the Shitkickers (Congress Street Social Club). Savannah’s got a good dirty handful of country–edged Americana bands, but this bunch – fronted by vocalist Damon Mailand – adheres most closely to the “country” side of the equation – specifically, the hardscrabble “outlaw” stuff of Cash, Jennings, Earle and company. Probably the only band in town to cover Vern Gosdin, too!

Listen 2 Three (Retro on Congress). Up and coming Savannah rock trio with a strong debut album, Play it By Ear.


SCAD New Alumni Concert: Cold War Kids

Where: Forsyth Park

When: At 7 p.m. Friday, June 3

Admission: Free