Wye Oak/Butterfly Assasins; August 11, 2008; High Noon Saloon
The duo Wye Oak are named for the state tree of Maryland, which gives you an idea of how proud they are to be from the oft-maligned city of Baltmore. And they certainly do a good job of improving the reputation of their city. Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack easily break free of the White Stripes connotations that spring to mind these days whenever you hear about a male-female duo. For one thing their line-up is different- Jenn plays guitar and does most of the singing, Andy plays drums and keyboards and does backing vocals (though on the CD he does take lead on a number of tunes). For a another thing, there isn’t one bit of pomposity in their set.
Jenn sings almost hesitantly, despite the fact that she has a beautiful voice. Andy even had to tell her to turn down her guitar so we could all hear her. Later I confessed to her that I totally enjoyed their set even though I don’t usually like girl singers. “Neither do I!” she laughed. It is that sort of delightful deprecation that made them so likeable. Apparently during sound check one gentlemen in the bar asked if they were married, and then asked if they were brother and sister after they responded no to the first question. When Jenn answered no to that one too, adding that she was his mom, the patron responded with, “Well then, let’s get together and make ourselves a bass player!” She also admitted to loving Wisconsin because she loves cheese, even though she is slightly lactose intolerant. You have to respect someone who will still eat cheese when it makes them sick.
I probably wouldn’t have even been at the show tonight if it hadn’t been for Ryan Hembrey. Wye Oak had played at the Hideout the night before and he told them he could probably help them out with a place to stay in Madison. “You should go see the band at the High Noon tomorrow night,” he texted me, “nice folks, they need beds. You’re on the list.” Thanks Ryan, feel free to direct any band this nice to my door.
Openers the Butterfly Assassins hail from Chicago, and this was their second trip to Madison in only a few months. Their set tonight was as aggressive as the one earlier at the Project Lodge, while the larger High Noon stage gave them room to stretch out. Even though their dramatic string and keyboard songs would seem to be right up my alley given how I swoon over the Pale Young Gentlemen, I found myself impatient with them. I’ve never been one to object to a band yelling at me, but somehow I felt that was what lead singer Brian Trahan was doing. I will no doubt be seeing them again as they are just down the road, and as always I am willing to give them another chance.