Saturday, June 07, 2008

Icarus Himself/Vid Libert; June 7, 2008; Mother Fool’s Coffeehouse

The severe thunderstorm warnings and the tornado watches had mercifully subsided by the time I made my way back towards downtown for an early show at Mother Fool’s. I’ve seldom seen large crowds at the cozy coffeehouse, but the biggest ones I’ve seen tend to be for local bands rather than for the touring acts that stop here. Tonight’s well-attended show featured two of Madison’s most intriguing songwriters. Icarus Himself is the stage name The National Beekeeper’s Society leader Nick Whetro has taken for his solo project, while “Vid” is just a shortened version of David Libert’s real name.

Nick mixes the occasional NBS song into his set (notably the excellent “Scars”), as well as a Sleeping in the Aviary cover, along with material exclusively for the solo project. His five song EP is a pleasant diversion, even as it suffers from the EP curse, just too damn short. I look forward to his full length release due out this fall. For a portion of his set he was joined by NBS member/Cribshitter leader Karl who added electric guitar as well as some backing vocals. How a guy who played in Jimmy’s Comet, as safe a pop band as you can imagine, ended up in several of Madison’s most interesting and experimental groups is beyond me, but it is definitely a good thing. Mother Fool’s intimate setting and the feeling that most of the folks there were friends encouraged the duo to try new stuff, including a song that they had only played together once. Nick’s intriguing songs and voice unadorned by a band make his solo project the more interesting of his two musical outlets.

It used to be that a Vid Libert solo sighting was rare indeed, it was much more common to see him as part of his rock combo the Nervous System, but it has become less unusual in recent months. In addition to being selected by Tag for several high profile opening gigs (including a sold-out Why? show and a less-well attended but superior Jim White show), he’s been playing more local showcases. The completion of his second unassuming, but terrific CD seems to have motivated him to play out more. The first time I heard many of the songs from the new Return to Mayaquez they were played solo or with minimal accompaniment from guitarist Mike, but recent gigs have found him bringing along his pedal steel, as well as a drummer being added to the mix. No matter what combination of musicians is onstage, ultimately it is the naïve charm of the songs and Vid’s Daniel Johnston-esque voice proclaiming them that make him worth seeing every time.

This was a perfect combination on a rainy night inside Mother Fool’s cozy space. It isn’t often I prefer a coffeehouse to a bar as a place to see a show, but I didn’t want to be anywhere else but here tonight.

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