Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Acorn/John Craigie/Marty Finkel; April 27, 2008; Café Montmartre

The last time I tried to go see Marty Finkel he was opening for a band called Why? at Café Montmartre. I had seen Why? before and, frankly, loathed them, but since Marty and Vid Libert (two local songwriters I really like) were both playing I decided to go anyway. As a bonus, I could always leave early. Great plan, except for that apparently loads of people, especially the college kids, adore Why? and it sold out. How ‘bout that.

I got another chance three weeks later when he played at Montmartre again. As the opener he actually got a fairly long time to play, which was nice because it allowed him to play many of the songs from last year’s self-titled release as well as some newer songs. One of those was from his alter-ego Spinning Swords. While similar to his solo stuff, the Swords are more experimental and a little nosier on CD, live it honestly wasn’t much different than the rest of his set. Marty’s boyish charm goes a long way toward making him so entertaining live, his perpetual grin and enthusiastic attitude are a good part of what makes him interesting, on stage and off. And then there were the pants, super hipster plaids that looked like they came from the Gap were actually a Savers find. And that’s charming too.

The last time I saw Marty I left only a few songs into headliner John Craigie’s set to head over to a Honky Tonk Tuesday. That was a mistake. The dude was absolutely freaking hilarious. Craigie’s songs are good enough, but it’s his between song monologues that guarantee I will be back every time he comes to Madison. And that is more frequent than you would expect from an artist hailing from California. In fact, he is so enamored of our city that one of the songs on his new record is titled “Madison Bound.” Other songs, like his talking blues about trying out for American Idol seem to indicate that he should consider the comic-musician route. For all the hilarity that ensued on stage, his CD was a bit of a surprise. Playing it straight and sober, the disc is good but doesn’t even begin to hint at the hilarity that awaits you in a club. When you see him, make sure he does “Water into wine.” It’s not even a song, instead it’s a bit of banter so hilarious he gets requests for it. Which is another good story.

The Acorn seemed a little unsure how to follow that. They insisted that their stage banter usually consisted of body function jokes and lame observations, but Craigie’s humor seemed to bring out the best in them. The decent sized crowd (who had most likely come for the openers) stayed with them, which had to make their first visit to Madison pretty enjoyable. The six person band found Montmartre’s tiny stage a bit of a challenge, but somehow they managed to Tetris together all of the instruments, giving every member just enough room to play (though the percussionist did have to crawl under the keyboard to get to his seat). Vocals were divided between two vocalists, and their voices worked well together. Even so, it was the cute little guitarist Howie who I found most distracting. With limited space he was lacking his usual microphone, but that didn’t keep him from getting his say, leaning into a nearby mike to randomly impart his wisdom. I really only came to see Marty tonight, but it was well worth sticking around for the duration.

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