April 14, 2010

Get Down Sunday Night With Thao and the Gang

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This Sunday, April 18, Ithaca will be privy to quite a number of rare musical experiences. Barton will host The Flaming Lips, true, but in a more intimate and less dramatic setting, Thao with The Get Down Stay Down will be playing Castaway’s. The San Francisco based band most recently released their album Know Better Learn Faster late in 2009. The album was a success, blending syncopated and groove based songs with demure bluegrass and country influences, creating a nice blend of catchy and quirky pop. Besides Thao Nguyen’s charming voice, the arrangements on the album are lively and well thought-out — a result of collaborative work as a band: “We arrange the songs as a band in rehearsals,” the singer said.While the mix of influences on the band’s sound is evident, the presence of bluegrass roots, as on “The Give” and “Swimming Pools,” (present in the instrumentation, incorporating banjo, and fundamental to Nguyen’s singing) is unexpected but also perhaps most endearing. “I started guitar because of country,” says Nguyen, who plays “guitar primarily, but also drums and banjo.” Nguyen’s vocalizations often recall an old-fashioned bluesy-country sound, sometimes breaking (as on “Bag of Hammers” off 2008’s We Brave Bee Stings And All) and always opting for emotive over conventionally “pretty.” This vintage mentality can be seen clearly too in her choice of guitar, “a 1960s Nation Hollow Body.” For those who aren’t the guitar equivalent of Pokémon card collectors, this is a really cool one.While Nguyen sometimes performs solo, of which she admits, “Solo is scarier,” she has lately been playing as Thao with The Get Down Stay Down. Recently, the band played a show at 826LA, a free, non-profit writing program for students through high school, where Thao herself tutors. “826 is great, I tutor there a few times a week.” Of playing with a band versus solo, Nguyen says solo, it’s harder “to capture and hold attention.” But with the musician’s great repertoire, the audience’s attention seems to be a given. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MQSiwrUdUU

Original Author: Ruby Perlmutter