The Melismatics/Time Since Western/Chris Robley; October 14, 2008; Café Montmartre
The Pale Young Gentlemen were fast becoming one of Madison’s more popular bands when bass player Andy Brawner left the group. While it seemed like a strange move at the time, after hearing Time Since Western I now completely understand why he had too. They released the hauntingly pretty A Sun Goes Down earlier this year to praise from local publications, the Onion said, “In an unexpected, sneaky way, it’s already sounding like one of the year’s keeper local releases.” Meanwhile PYG survived the loss, guitarist Bret Randall moved to bass and lead singer/songwriter Mike Reisenauer now switches between piano (his first instrument) and guitar. In fact, in a sharp contrast to their first release their sophomore record Black Forest (Tra La La) is almost entirely guitar based.
In a strange case of history repeating itself, TSW’s bass player recently left the band to concentrate on his own music. Since they hadn’t replaced him yet, they decided to try a few shows without a bass, tonight was the first. I like it. The often bleak songs are even more affecting with the spare instrumentation. One of the songs in their uniformly excellent set tonight was “A Sun Goes Down,” a track that didn’t actually make it on to their debut release. It seems odd, but as a friend pointed out, “Have you ever heard the Jayhawk’s song “Tomorrow the Green Grass” (the title of their oft-brilliant 2002 release, which doesn’t appear on the record)? It’s not good.” I’m not sure why this track didn’t make the cut; it was certainly as lovely as anything else they played tonight.
Throughout the set Brawner bantered with the audience (“Do you guys really go out on Tuesday nights?” he questioned us) and his drummer, suggesting to the latter that there was only one song in the entire set that he actually liked to play. I certainly didn’t expect to be involved in any of the conversations, this was my first time seeing TSW and Brawner and I had never met, but once Andy the sound guy pointed out that I was in the audience I had his attention. “Kiki’s here?” he repeated, looking in my direction, “you wrote something about me once that I’ve never understood. We can talk about it later.” I panicked thinking I had said something mean, then I realized that I had undoubtedly called him trouble at some point. Later he claimed to have no idea what that meant. I’ll just say I’m pretty sure it is still true, and he should know it is not a bad thing.
While opener Chris Robley’s lonely songs seemed a perfect pairing for TSW, closer The Melismatics seemed an odd addition. Their high-spirited power punk clashed with the other bands, which isn’t exactly a bad thing, just weird. They zipped through their set like they were on a mission, barely pausing between their anthemic girl-boy screamed-sung odes. At some point it occurred to me as I looked around the deserted bar, I guess not many people do go out on Tuesday nights. A shame, because all of these bands deserve a bigger audience than they had tonight.