I’ve seen a few shows since my last post, starting with Au Revoir Simone on Friday (Aug. 17) at the Abbey Pub. Frankly, I’m not that familiar with this female trio’s pop music. I listened to some songs before seeing the concert. The group has its moments, but for the most part I found its keyboard-based pop tunes a little on the precious side, and they all started to sound the same after a while. Some rabid fans were in attendance, though, including some repeatedly yelling “I love you!” with vocal-cord-stretching vigor. I showed up at the Abbey in time for David Singer, the second of the four act playing on Friday. (What’s with the four-band lineups over there?) Singer, who also ran the Intonation music festivals in 2005 and 2006, plays ’70s-style pop music rooted in piano chords. The next band was Oh No Oh My from Austin, who were a pleasant surprise – upbeat indie pop. Clearly, a lot of Oh No Oh My fans were in the crowd, which gave them a pretty enthusiastic reception. They were my favorites of the night.
On Saturday night (Aug. 18), I checked out the CD release party for Marvin Tate at the Hideout. I interviewed Tate a few years back, when he was still leading a band called Marvin Tate’s D-Settlement, a slightly peculiar mix of spoken-word poetry, soul and rock. They put on a jammin’ performance one afternoon at the old Tower Records store on Clark Street, drawing stares from passers-by. Tate just put out first solo record, Family Swim, and it’s equally baffling (baffling in a way that’s not bad). There are a couple of spoken poems on the record, plus Tate engaging in moody Tom Waits-ian numbers, plus some rockers that are more like soul and gospel music. Ex-Wilco member LeRoy Bach produced the record, and he played in Tate’s band Saturday night (along with Emmett Kelly) for a rousing performance.
The first group of the night, Eyes Ears Nose, were a singular sensation… If there is a genre that defines what they do, maybe it would be “goofball rock.” You knew you were in for something weird when they started off their first song with sliding notes on a metal whistle – the sort of sound effect you might hear in a Three Stooges film. The guys and gal in this group frequently swapped instruments and leapt about a lot. The music, on first impression, seemed pretty good. The energy level was great.
Adam Fitz played the middle set of the night, performing some new songs of his own, with soulful hollerin’ and amped-up pop-rock. He tossed in a couple of covers, including a really nice rendition of one of my favorite M. Ward songs, “Fool Says.”
On Sunday, I was at the House of Blues for Crowded House. I’ve always liked Crowded House’s hits, but I’ve never delved too deeply into their catalogue. It was a pretty good show, though a lot of it veered too much into adult-contemporary territory for my tastes. The final encore of the night transformed into a cover of “A Day in the Life,” which I thought was awfully cool. “Don’t Dream It’s Over” sounded good… except it bugged me to hear that great organ part supplanted by a Melodica solo. I mean, come on. An actual keyboard was sitting right there. Play the darn thing. That’s my favorite part of the song.
Crowded House was preceded by a solo set from Liam Finn, son of Crowded House leader Neil Finn. Liam is certainly a talented guy, as he proved by using a looping pedal to play guitar and drum solos on top of his own rhythms. In fact, I’d venture that he was a having a little too much fun for his own good with all of the looping trickery. It started to feel more like a novelty than a useful tool. Still, he showed a ton of energy and promise. Liam also sat in with Crowded House, strumming some acoustic guitar and doing backup harmonies. Maybe the Crowded House set would have been a little livelier if they’d unleashed this kid on the drums.
The first band of the night was 16 Frames, not to be confused with the Frames. They were the epitome of generic pop-rock, even down to their stage moves and corny banter. A bunch of pretty boys from L.A. with a record coming out on Arista. They seemed like a TV-show version of a band more than a real band.
(Sorry, no photos from the Crowded House concert.)
Finally, last night (Aug. 20) I saw Mark Olson, former member of the Jayhawks, at Schubas. It was quite a nice little show (a little short and a little sparsely attended, unfortunately) with Olson singing a bunch of songs off his new CD The Salvation Blues, some stuff from his Creekdippers albums and a few Jayhawks classics, including one of my favorites, “Blue.” Listening to that song again, I thought: Man, what a classic composition. Giving the concert an international flair, Italian violinist Michele Gazich (that’s a man) played some mean fiddle solos, while Norwegian Ingunn Ringvold did a nice job on harmonies, percussion, keyboard and guitar.
The opening act was a low-key folk duo from Omaha called McCarthy Trenching. (Or is it really just the one guy with a side musician? I couldn’t tell…) Their songs were quite nice, and the crowd listened with quiet respect.