Friday, August 14, 2009

John Henry & the Engine/August Teens; August 14, 2009; Kiki’s House of Righteous Music

When Ha Ha Tonka played at the house back in November they brought their friend John Henry along with them. There weren’t very many people there that night (I believe I described it as depressing) but the band played a great show and everyone had fun. John enjoyed it so much that he left me a CD and said he would love to bring his own band back sometime. I got a chance to see them play a couple songs at SXSW and told him I would love to have them in the basement sometime. Admittedly, I wouldn’t have even needed to see them play, just knowing that the Ha Ha Tonka boys love them was testament enough for me. Several months later it finally worked out that they were able to make a stop in Madison.

The charming and handsome Henry makes for a captivating central character. Taller than I remembered, he’s charismatic and comfortable in front of an audience. Though I’ll be honest, if you can’t be relaxed in the basement, your days in entertainment might be limited. His backing band were all equally genial, delighted to be playing such a different type of show. Keyboardist Wes Wingate made the biggest impression, his backing vocals added substance to songs that may have just been too ethereal otherwise. The exception may have been the final song, a very vocal party that had drummer AJ Gennaro on his feet and most of the band belting into their own microphone (we had to have extra just for this song). It was a memorable way to end what had already been an enjoyable show. I had hoped that the band would drink enough to derail their plan of driving home that night. Instead it backfired and they were all wired and ready to go.

I had listened to Under the Yellow Moon many, many times leading up to this show trying to visualize the band that would make a good match on this bill. Nothing came easily to mind, so I ended up going with a band that I knew would be a lot of fun. The August Teens were perfectly matched with power poppers the Successful Failures last year, but pairing them with JH & TE actually turned out just as good. An immensely likeable bunch of guys, they played a terrifically entertaining set that included a guest appearance from birthday girl Erika Zar for Joan Jett’s “A.C.D.C.” Zar and the Teens are becoming the Jett Blacks for a Halloween show at the High Noon. Even the perpetually grumpy Kyle Motor seemed to be having fun. Since the Teens have declared the house their favorite place to play, I think it is safe to say they will be back. Maybe they will actually have that debut CD they’ve been promising for years done then.

The August Teens

John Henry & the Engine

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