The Successful Failures/The August Teens; April 19, 2008; Kiki’s House of Righteous Music
People always ask me how I find the bands that play the house, and I never have one pat answer. Sometimes they are musicians I have known and loved for years like Chris Mills or Jon Dee Graham, other times they are bands I love but don’t know personally and somehow their booking agent contacts me. But before tonight “friend of a friend” was never a way that a band ended up playing my house.
Trenton, New Jersey’s Successful Failures write some of the most ridiculously catchy songs I’ve heard. Songs like “Up to Her Ears” and “Carolina” had me singing along after only a few listens, but I would have never heard them if they hadn’t mentioned that basement veterans Two Cow Garage were friends with their good friend Lauree. As it turns out, I know Lauree, even though she lives in DC. A Twangfest newbie last year, she made an impression the first night after staying up till dawn with the veterans (er, at least that is what I heard, I was lucky to make it back to the room after the show). After she confirmed that they were indeed friends of hers, as well as a great live band and really nice guys, I told them I would love to have them.
My first instinct was to ask Madison’s own premier power pop purveyors the Motorz to play on a co-bill with them. Kyle Motor insisted they were too loud for the basement (a fact I still dispute) but volunteered the August Teens who he plays bass for. Embarrassingly enough, I actually hadn’t seen them before. In my defense, they don’t play that many shows and I had a decent excuse for every show I had missed. They turned out to be perfect for the show. More light-hearted and poppy than the Motorz, their songs included one about having “pizza in my heart.” I don’t know about you, but I like pizza.
A few weeks back when drummer Larry sat in with the Shabelles he advertised his services to other drummers who maybe needed a night off or were just too lazy to practice. I think regular August Teen drummer Josh Motor must have been listening, because tonight we got the handsome and charming Larry behind the kit instead of the ridiculously hot Josh. And honestly, I didn’t even mind. It’s hard to take guitarist Dave Esmond seriously with his Hello Kitty guitar, even with the evil electrical tape eyebrows, but he has some serious chops. Not to mention some artistic skill, he whipped up a kick ass poster for the show in addition to a super cool logo for KHoRM (I’ll let you know when we are printing T-shirts). Mild-mannered lead singer, Dan Hardgrove is what pulls it all together; his addictive songs with their pseudo-fifties vibe had everyone dancing.
And the revelry didn’t end there. The Successful Failures answered the challenge with a high-powered set of their own. In just under an hour they ran through all the catchiest songs from their two and a half CDs. Their poppy version of Kris Kristoferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” was a big hit (and honestly the MySpace song that convinced me to have them); I only regret that they didn’t play their surprising cover of Simon & Garfunkle’s “I Am a Rock,” which does for that song what the Lemonheads did for “Mrs.Robinson.” But that was my only regret. As we all sang along with the chorus to “Sewer Water” I found myself thinking I should have more power pop in the basement. And I know when I do, I’ll ask the August Teens to play again.