Dandy Warhols/Pale Young Gentlemen; August 31, 2009; Majestic Theater
The last time the Dandy Warhols came to town it was for a $20 show at the Barrymore. This time it was a much better deal. Another in the Jack Daniels sponsored Studio 7 series, not only was it free but there was swag for those who could guess the answers to JD trivia and complimentary drinks for everyone, Jack Daniels of course, rows and rows of the distinctive bottles lined the shelf behind the bar. I certainly wouldn’t have paid twenty to see the band that I had lost interest in ever since their third record, but I was more than happy to go to the show tonight. I had enjoyed their debut The Dandy Warhols Come Down, and their sophomore effort the country tinged Thirteen Tales of Urban Bohemia remains one of my favorite records. The trippy Welcome to the Monkey House lost me though, and I hadn’t gone out of my way, other than a festival sighting, to see them since then. I was intrigued to see what devastatingly handsome Courtney Taylor-Taylor and company had been up to.
The answer appears to be “designing a light show.” A wall of lights had been set up behind them and throughout the show they blinked in patterns or strobe, the overall effect ranging from completely annoying to just difficult. Not that the music was terribly complex; by the time they announced their last song I felt like I had just been listening to the same song over and over for the previous hour anyway. Even the songs I really like, “Bohemian Like You” and “The Last Junkie on Earth,” had been reduced to pulsing beats and lights. We left before the encore, which turned out not to be the statement we thought it was since they never returned to the stage despite a what I hear was a genuine effort from the audience encouraging them. The Majestic had stated that they would let people without invites in if the room wasn’t full at show time. Jack Daniels didn’t seem to care much either if you had a voucher or not, and their girls handed out tickets to anyone in line who didn’t have one.
Which added up well for the openers, local band the Pale Young Gentlemen. The band has been garnering enthusiastic reviews since forming in Madison five years ago. I was solidly on that first bandwagon but had fallen off recently with the release of their sophomore record Black Forest (Tra La La) which traded manic gypsy dance tunes for sleepier bedroom pop. Still, I’ve been trailing behind the wagon always curious to see where they are headed next. Their shows recently have been limited to opening for national touring acts (they’re playing with Andrew Bird next month at the Forward Fest) and local bills with friends Sleeping in the Aviary. Tonight’s set, an engaging blend of old and new material, brought back the abandoned keyboard and included a number of songs from their first release. Opening a free show in a good sized theater where folks are slurping down free whiskey could be a disaster, but instead they worked it well, engaging the audience immediately and likely gaining a number of new fans in the process.
At the end of the night I was happy. I was pleasantly drunk and I’d seen a show that was worth more than I had paid for it.
Pale Young Gentlemen
The Dandy Warhols