Show Review: Acoustic Show at Shantytown with Spider + Octopus, Renee Arozqueta, Thomas Took and others

by Jack Diablo

Venue: Shantytown
Date: July 8, 2009
Walking into Shantytown on a night featuring live music is a bit like rolling the dice. With no prior knowledge about who’s playing on a particular night, you could happen upon something either beautiful or assaulting (depending upon your preference). Whether you are into it or not, you can count on seeing some of the best underground music that comes through town, and for free.
The past few shows I’ve attended have been pretty rowdy so it was a little bizarre to walk in on folks sitting around in chairs watching acoustic music. Nevertheless, there were some pretty great musicians performing from across the northern part of Florida.
First up was Jacksonville native, Elisabeth Cramer with her folky acoustic songs about life and love. Her voice is soft and soothing as she finger-picks her guitar. Following her was Little High Little Low out of Gainesville. His is that pop-punk acoustic emo thing with whiny, slightly effeminate vocals. It wasn’t too far of from a softer version of The Mr. T Experience, the kind of stuff sensitive punks listened to in junior high. To be fair, he somewhat approached an immature David Dondero.
Thomas Tooke, who normally performs drumming duties for Honey Chamber, is also a talented guitarist and solo performer. Tooke’s songs, although somewhat similar thematically, are more mature than LHLL. While not nearly as depressing, his songs are introspective in the way that characterizes the likes of Elliot Smith. In his music he is able to acknowledge his feelings, faults and failures without reaching the obnoxious melodrama of acoustic emo, proving you can mope with dignity.
Originally out of Pensacola, Renee Arozqueta and Spider + Octopus closed out the night. Each performed a solo set followed by a few songs together with Renee on accordion. Renee’s music has an ambient minimalism to it. It soothes, it calms and relaxes, and it enchants with a sense of poetry. More than just an outlet for expressing a few emotions, her songs dig a little deeper into the human experience and probe the soul. Spider + Octopus is similar but in a folkier fashion more akin to early Saddle Creek recordings like Bright Eyes from Fevers and Mirrors.
Sometimes the lineups at locally organized shows are all over the place, but this one had definite cohesion with enough variety to keep it interesting. Although Shantytown is a venue somewhat better suited to harder music, it is certainly capable of supporting shows of this nature.