An Under Cover Weekend Night One: Union Tree Review, Sleepy Kitty, Bruiser Queen

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An Under Cover Weekend kicked off last night in fine fashion promptly at 8:30 p.m., with the Union Tree Review on stage at the Firebird covering the Postal Service. Thanks to a steady schedule of live shows, the young indie-folk band has improved mightily in recent months. Its set only solidified that it's one of the city's most promising young bands.

The quintet eschewed electronics but didn't forgo tempos or volume; highlights included "Nothing Better" and a nuanced, dynamic "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight." Vocalist Tawaine Noah nailed vocalist Ben Gibbard's yearning, pleading vocal style, while drummer Matt Ström ably handled the tune's challenging clicks and spurts. Jen Rudisill's violin and sweet backing vocals added just the right hints of sweetness and melancholy.

Your enjoyment of Sleepy Kitty's set of Pavement covers likely hinged on whether you're a fan of the indie demigods. This isn't a knock on SK, whose fuzzed guitars, distorted vocals and nightmare organ channeled the cracked vibe of the lo-fi slackers; it's more an observation that Pavement's an acquired taste. The duo stuck to the band's less-commercial tunes ("Gold Soundz" was about as familiar as the set got for casual fans); Slanted and Enchanted's stormy churn "In the Mouth a Desert" was a highlight, as were Paige Brubeck's vocals, which veered from dreamy to creased and distorted.

Bruiser Queen was up next as beloved pop-punk act Descendents (or "Bruiscendents" - they even had T-shirts and a banner with a modified, Simpsons-esque band logo in honor). Vocalist Morgan Nusbaum sported a pair of black-framed glasses (a la vocalist Milo Aukerman) and bellowed songs such as "Suburban Home," "Silly Girl" and "Clean Sheets" with the power and snarl of L7's Donita Sparks or a coherent Courtney Love. The band's impressive rhythm section, drummer Jason Potter and bassist Mike Cracchiolo, elevated the set. Potter kept time like Animal from the Muppets - if the felt creature was on speed -- while Cracchiolo locked in and kept up with his bandmate. In true Descendents form, the band ran through eleven songs in its half-hour set, culminating with "I'm the One."

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