Thursday, July 24, 2008

Painted Saints/Stephanie Rearick; July 25, 2008; Mother Fool’s Coffeehouse

The Painted Saints Paul Fonfara makes the trip from Minneapolis down to Madison a couple times a year, but somehow it never seems to be when I can catch the show. His last trip to Madison was only a few weeks back opening for the Nels Kline Singers at the High Noon. Not only was I pretty sure I didn’t want pay that much just to see Fonfara open for Kline’s deceptively named instrumental band, but the Tawnies had a show at the Crystal that night. Finally another chance arrived to see him, a headlining gig at Mother Fool’s.

The last time I remember seeing the one man band, who also plays under the name Painted Saints whether solo or with a band, he had a lot in common with Andrew Bird. The looping, the whistling, the quietly cool stage presence, all invited inevitable comparisons. This time through he seemed to have taken another path. Oh he still likes his looping pedal a lot, but this time he spent minutes building up layer upon layer of musical textures, only to cut them all off before he began singing. While it was an impressive display, I wanted him to keep that sonic wallpaper going behind the words. I didn’t remember him playing the clarinet before, but this time it figured into his some of his best songs. His willingness to experiment makes perfect sense in the context of his past collaborations with some of today’s most willful musical weirdoes, folks like Jim White with his southern gothic charm and fire and brimstone bands Woven Hand and Sixteen Horsepower. I would love to see what he would do with a band behind him, hopefully the next time he comes to town he can bring them along.

I had only seen Stephanie Rearick once maybe twice before. While that performance was in the context of a multi-artist tribute night, I was pretty sure her looping keyboard and vocal songs wouldn’t be for me. I was right. I appreciate the work she does for the local music scene as co-owner of Mother Fool’s and as a performer, but I am pretty sure I don’t need to see her again. She certainly has her fans, at least half the small crowd were no doubt there to see her, but her repetitive aural creations only got on my nerves. Next time I’ll know to get there later, or at the very least have some pocket whiskey to take the edge off.

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