Sleeping in the Aviary/National Beekeeper’s Society/A Papercup Band/Blueheels; October 9, 2008; The Frequency
Whatever happened to Devin Davis? His Lonely People of the World Unite would have made my Best of 2005 list except I didn't actually hear it until 2006. I saw him play a few oddly quirky, highly entertaining shows, once opening for Tilly & the Wall and once at an unexpectedly sold out show at Schuba's. There were immensely flattering reviews, label interest, fans, much talk about a follow up record and then... nothing. It was like he never existed. While his last MySpace blog was from January of this year, it does apparently get checked every day. The comments section is loaded with "when will the record be done?" and "are you still alive?" posts. Meanwhile, his website hasn't been updated since '07.
Luckily none of that matters now because Sleeping in the Aviary has released Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Motel, a record that sounds strikingly like Davis but outdoes Lonely in both title and content. This is the record I desperately wanted their first release Oh, This Old Thing to be. It tones down the sloppy punk noise and turns up the witty lyrics, accordion (!), and acoustic guitar, while keeping the first record's low-fi charm intact. It's my new best friend, and it's awesome. From “Things Look Good,” a song I remember from the very first time I saw them play (seriously, and this was almost three years ago) to the amazing “Gas Mask Blues” a haunted, spine-tingling track that sounds simultaneously like a murder ballad from the Anthology of American Folk and One Foot in the Grave Beck (oh, how I miss him). When lead singer Elliott Kozel sings "If you have my daughter I don't know what I will do, cause I'm gonna want to hit her when she looks like you," he sounds like he's teetering on the edge of madness and you believe every word.
It used to be that I never knew exactly what to expect at a SitA show, for every entertainingly endearing show like the first time I saw them at the High Noon or their acoustic set at Mother Fool's, there was a King Club show that I just didn’t understand. That hasn't been true the last several times I have seen them, in fact they have become one of Madison's most dependable bands, and every time I find I like them more. Tonight's CD release show was no exception. A solid representation of all their best qualities (including newest member Celeste on the musical saw!), it was the rare occasion when the Frequency stayed crowded all night.
It started with a good-sized crowd when unlikely openers the Blueheels kicked off the night with their own brand of rock, buoyed as always by Robby Schiller's love it or hate it voice (I am solidly in the first camp of course). A Thursday night at the Frequency seemed an unlikely place to have two of Madison’s biggest draws together for the first time, but perhaps that was the logic of having them at opposite ends of the order. Being on this bill gave them a chance to connect with a new crowd who seemed to enjoy their energetic but far too short set. For old fans, they had two new songs on the list. The first was a joyful shout-along, the second a slower jam prominently featuring Teddy Pedriana’s keyboard which sounded unmistakably like a marimba. Undeniably new and different, it might have been my favorite part of a set made up of old favorites.
On the other hand, the National Beekeeper’s Society seemed a natural for this bill. The bands are friends, and I’ve seen lead singer Nick Whetro cover a SitA song with them all in the room. While they played, a set of SitA masks circulated through the crowd, and strangely enough most audience members chose to put them on backwards. It was slightly unnerving to watch the show with Michael, Elliott and Phil starring back at me (see photos). Heavy on the new record Pawn Shop Etiquette (sans the title track which Nick amusingly dismissed as terrible when someone in the crowd yelled for it) with a few of their debut tunes thrown in, it was a typical high energy, entertaining set, perfect for a night which buzzed (no pun intended) from beginning to end.
It’s nights like this that make me thankful I live in a town with such a vibrant local music scene. Several of my entries on this year’s top twenty list are going to be from bands that call Madison home. I already predict a battle between Expensive Vomit and Blake Thomas’s amazing Flatlands.