Heard a rumble, will travel

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by Jordan Green

They started out as two members of hardcore band in Boone, Jon Dwyer playing guitar and Andy Decker on bass. The pair found it was easy to share musical ideas and write songs together; between the other members of the band, not so much. They also synced personally.

So, about a year and a half ago, Decker dropped the bass and taught himself to play drums, and Someday Rumble as a two-piece was born. They moved in together — an arrangement that gave them plenty of opportunity to practice. With only two members, they found it easier to schedule gigs. And they found that they could tour in Decker’s Saturn, which they drove up and down the East Coast last summer, at dramatically less expense than they would have needed to keep a van on the road.

Inevitably, Someday Rumble’s perambulations led them down the mountain to Greensboro, where fans told them they ought to play with a band from Winston-Salem called Bare the Traveler. When the two bands finally played a show together at New York Pizza, Dwyer recalls that one of the members of Bare the Traveler suggested that the two bands put out a split EP.

“It was maybe a joke, but I took it seriously, maybe too seriously,” Decker said, picking up the tale outside the Blind Tiger at the bands’ joint release party on July 25. “Jon and I were going into the studio right after that. We went into the studio and recorded these songs the day after we wrote them. We ran into Bare the Traveler and we said, ‘We recorded these songs and they sound dope. What do you think? We’re gonna do this split, right?’ I think we kind of forced their hand.”

Although Bare the Traveler’s overhead is higher with six members, the two bands are similarly positioned with one or two EPs on the market. Both bands have the material and motivation to record long-players, with enthusiastic fans ready to reward the effort. Bare the Traveler is trying to save up for a van. Lead vocalist Daryl Gall said they would like travel to Texas and Pennsylvania to play for fans who have yet to see the band live.

It’s clear that that the members of Bare the Traveler and Someday Rumble hold one another in high regard.

As the two members of Someday Rumble recounted the details of their collaboration with the other band, Spencer Elles of Bare the Traveler materialized before them. The ukulele player and vocalist was dressed in a bike messenger’s cap with a full beard and eyeliner, denim vest with punk patches, fanny pack and plaid pants.

“They’re the most shirt-off-their backs, the most awesome, giving-est people we’ve met,” Elles said.

In keeping with the minimalist blues-punk-rock howl approach of their music, the guys in Someday Rumble favor a kind of casual, active-wear style of dress — cutoff jeans, T-shirts and chin stubble at varying stages of growth. That’s only one contrast with Bare the Traveler, a band with a dynamic stage presence that makes a distinctive visual statement. Combined with Elles’ transgressive carnie look, singer Gall’s hornrimmed glasses, headband, sleeveless flannel and old-fashioned radio microphone gives the band a decidedly steampunk orientation. The androgynous kids thronging the Blind Tiger for the release party — mostly in their early twenties — looked the part of a tribe, sporting bike-messenger caps, heavy eyeliner and partially shaved heads.

Jon Dwyer and Andy Decker of Someday Rumble
Jon Dwyer and Andy Decker of Someday Rumble

Someday Rumble’s 20-minute set provided a blast of catharsis. Buoyant and fierce, Dwyer dispatched chunky bar-chord progressions with electric cattle-prod-like urgency that he matched with supple vocals, while Decker’s steady and assured drumming contributed a dynamic underpinning. Just a quickly as the band went full-bore into a sonic primal scream, they would suddenly drop down to quiet, melodic contemplation suggestive of a haunting Appalachian ballad.

Somewhere between where PJ Harvey left off and the White Stripes picked up, Someday Rumble’s music mines a dark and rich seam in punk-rock’s lineage.

Dwyer’s plaintive lyric as the dust settles from a sonic barrage in “Become,” a song on the band’s recent self-titled EP, is representative of the Someday Rumble’s posture.

“Are we so hell bent on finding heaven that we make prophesies of our pain,” Dwyer sang. “We pray the stars to send down rain/ and we run like thieves when the river rolls too fast.”

When Bare the Traveler took the stage just after midnight, they replaced Someday Rumble’s sorrowful snake-handling church with a raucous circus.

Strip away the band’s hobo-thrift appearance and their substitution of ukulele and keyboards for electric guitar, and you get a balance of melodic articulation and frenzied explosiveness, coupled with sincere vocals and energetic stage presence that has well served North Carolina acts including the Avett Brothers and House of Fools.

The elements of Bare the Traveler’s music are familiar while the overall combination comes across as unique. The raspy bark of Gall’s vocals vaguely recalls the Mighty Mighty Bosstones or Dropkick Murphys. The alt-rock and pop song structures used by the band take on a different feel with a patina of carnivalesque folk through Eric Doomy’s acoustic guitar. While Josh Godfrey’s piano often provides rhythmic punctuation, Doomy’s unorthodox guitar playing builds out from the chorus rather than underpinning the verses.

The band’s devoted fans contributed syncopated handclaps and spirited sing-alongs at several points in the show.

When the band lunged gleefully into “Maggots,” a cut off the new split EP, it sounded like the boundless possibility and fleeting moments of youth that animate the age like opposing charges.

“We control our futures with words and the flick of the wrist,” Gall and Elles sang together. “And where we end up is just based on perception of others and the paths that we missed.”

In the buoyant crowd, it was easy to miss the sardonic inversion of a later verse.

“What am I to do now? I’m buried six feet underground,” Gall sang. “And the maggots started eating at my brains.”

And right on cue, Elles playfully squealed, “Oh, no!”