I’m still new to the business of bourgeoning scenes, but it has always seemed to me that an artistic community comes into its own when people from other cities and towns begin to take notice. Something about being in the thick of things, and having a personal stake in the outcome of the town you live in can certainly cloud your vision, but when bands from Atlanta, Athens, Birmingham, Charlotte and even my beloved Brooklyn begin showing up to play, you know things have clicked into place.
That certainly seems to be the case in Macon these days. I would say that half of the bands I’ve seen here in the last month have been from somewhere else –places with well established scenes, no less. So is this really the beginning of the Macon renaissance?
I defer, as always, to people who have been here for the years and even decades necessary to make an honest judgement, and so far it seems that they are in agreement. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Check out the current issue of The 11th Hour in print or online. The cover story, by publisher Brad Evans, features some of the prime suspects who have been working for years to bring experimental, and truly indie music to a town that has contributed more than its share to American popular music over the years.
In the article, Evans brings up Denny Hanson, a twenty-something bandleader who was a teenage wunderkind — even landing on the cover if The 11th Hour himself — before moving to Portland. At the time it looked like a possible deathknell for the city’s gestational scene, but it wasn’t. The scene continued and now Denny is back. I caught him with his band floridians at The Golden Bough last Tuesday. It was my first time hearing him, so I have nothing to compare it to, but Denny seemed well versed in the kind of the emotive, referential indie rock that Portland specializes in.
It’s not necessarily music that I would chase down in New York, but it felt different here. I could sense in the lead-up to the show an anticipation that I have felt a few times here, a groundswell of support for an artist who could be somewhere else, but chooses to be here. The feeling was palpable at the show as well.
Hanson introduced his band in a low monotone — TJ Walter, a Los Angeles based drummer and Macon-based William Dantzler on bass — before the trio eased into “Del Mar,” the opener to their latest EP, Waves. Like a number of songs on the album, “Del Mar” pairs Hanson’s legato vocals and keyboard against more rhythmically involved bass and drum parts. Dantzler’s bass laid down the static harmony, while Hanson ran arpeggios and leaned into the mic to deliver the song’s ethereal lyrics. Throughout the performance, drummer TJ Walter tapped eighth note rhythms on bass drum and the bell of his ride cymbal that provided counterpoint and momentum for band’s practiced transitions.
Stripped of the reverb and overdubs of the album, Hanson’s voice seemed vulnerable, but assured in both the upper and lower registers throughout the performance, which worked well within the diaphanous framework of most of the tunes. The only exception came when his voice broke into a gutteral shout, and a piece would jump into focus.
On the Facebook invitation for the event, Hanson warned that this would be the “first and probably only (ever) Macon performance” for floridians. Let’s hope he’s mistaken on that.