Laura & the Love Badgers/This Bright Apocalypse/Jeremiah Nelson & the Mysterious Bruises; December 12, 2008; Reptile Palace, Oshkosh
Blake and Josh passed my car on the way to Oshkosh the night before. When we got there Josh, convinced that we were on our way to Appleton, seemed surprised to see us. I’ll admit, it probably did seem likely that I was going to see the Blueheels at the Cold Shot rather than going to Peabody’s for the Superband. Tonight I faced a similar dilemma as the Blueheels were playing mere blocks from Oshkosh’s Reptile Palace. I managed to resist the urge… for a little while at least.
Jeremiah Nelson lived in Oshkosh for a number of years before leaving the Fox Valley for Madison and he still has a lot of connections in the clubs up there, which may explain how he got the Mysterious Bruises booked two nights in a row in the same city. The crowds were good both nights and the rest of the line-up so different so it definitely was a good idea. A great way to celebrate his birthday, playing another show let him keep the party going. Willie joined them again as the Bruises kicked off the night. He certainly seemed to have gotten more comfortable in the last 24 hours and his jazzy guitar parts seemed unforced and really added to the songs. Jeremiah was proudly sporting the camouflage Miller High Life hat he had gotten as a gift the night before, and he wore it (unironically) surprisingly well.
Superband drummer Chris Sasman is also the drummer for This Bright Apocalypse. Unfortunately he had a family commitment tonight, which left Luke and Johnny to give it a go as a duo. I had heard their practices in the basement earlier in the week and it sounded surprisingly good for a band that depends on the drums for their African rhythms and trademark odd time signatures. After a few rough spots in the first song, which actually became more of a sound check, they pulled off an impressive set which included the first time I’ve seen the mbira used successfully.
An African instrument also know as a kalimba or thumb piano, their mbira is somehow mysteriously (at least to me) amplified by a set of headphones, which resulted in a lot of feedback the last time I saw them play. Tonight however it came through clear as a bell, which is more than I can say for Johnny’s guitar parts which were mostly inaudible. Granted, their odd instrumentation would challenge any sound guy, but it was too bad the guitar was what was lost, especially after the sound was so good for the Bruises. They padded their good but limited set by having Johnny play two of his original songs to start. They quieter one was mostly talked over, but the undeniably catchy “Don’t Look Back” seemed to get the audience’s attention.
Laura Schultz had already gotten my attention earlier in the day. Jeremiah’s girlfriend was gracious enough to let us crash at her place the night before and they all spent Saturday afternoon playing songs. From the second I first heard her sing that day, I couldn’t wait to see her band, the curiously named Love Badgers, that night. A unique and unexpectedly powerful voice, it was perfect her originals and for the covers they chose, Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” and a terrific Tilly & the Wall cover (the latter of which arguably sounded even better earlier in the day when she sang it unaccompanied while goofing around on the computer).
At this point I thought I could sneak over to see the Blueheels for a minute and still catch some of John Statz and his band. Of course that didn’t work and I missed his whole set, my apologies John. I have to say I am looking forward to my next trip to the Fox Valley where they have so much good music and it is all free.