Saturday, August 08, 2009

Sleeping in the Aviary/A Lull/Pale Young Gentlemen; August 8, 2009; The High Noon Saloon

In the three plus years since I first saw Sleeping in the Aviary, I’ve seen them play a lot of shows, some good, some bad, and some where I showed up expecting Sleeping in the Aviary, but instead got one of their alter-egos (the Lark Voorhies for example who did nothing but songs inspired by Saved by the Bell). When they are good, they are very, very good, and when they are bad, well, you probably don’t want to take any pictures. Their lead singer and guitarist Elliot Kozel claims he plays barefoot or in socks because it makes him feel more at home, but I contend it’s so that he can get his pants off easier. One thing for sure is that they are without fail interesting, and tonight was no exception.

Since losing half the band to Minneapolis the frequency of their appearances around town has dwindled, making every show a can’t-miss one. Now that drummer Michael Sienkowski is joining them up north, we’re also losing Whatfor, his side project which played their last band show the previous weekend at Mickey’s Tavern. While that show ended with an hour’s worth of inexplicable covers (everything from “Twist and Shout” to “Two Princes”) and had Kozel asking the packed crowd every few songs why we were still there, tonight’s show at the roomier High Noon Saloon ended with the stage a complete disaster, a layer of fake money covering it and all three vocal microphones on the floor, their stands angled awkwardly. Like I said, interesting.

The carpet of currency came courtesy of their rap song, of course. After a number of fans joined the band on stage to play riotous percussion on Whatfor’s ridiculously catchy “People,” a suspiciously dressed character lagged behind, stepping up to the microphone to question the band about their need to tour when they obviously were very wealthy. As Kozel pointed out, everyone knows indie rock bands are poor, so either this was a set-up or this dude was a lunatic. It turned out to, thankfully, be the former as fistfuls of cash flew into the air while the band did a silly but convincing rap about “too much money” with the boys all spitting a verse. Kozel’s “bling,” an authentic looking Mercedes hood ornament on a chain, looked even more ridiculous against his skinny chest after he removed his shirt at the end of the song. Thankfully that was all he took off.

Their seeming obsession with death that became apparent on the last record (witness song titles “Girl in the Ground” and “Everybody’s Different Everybody Dies”) and was reinforced with the Southside Cemetery Singers (another side project featuring songs written in graveyards) continues with their newest song whose every verse ends with “dead,” as in “now she’s” and “I wish I were.” The morbidity seems even stranger given their joie de vivre on stage. In fact, they even seemed to bring out the sillier side of their normally serious labelmates The Pale Young Gentlemen.

The Gents first record had a rollicking gypsy feel too it, thanks to lead singer Mike Reisenauer’s excitable keyboard playing, but their sophomore release Black Forest (Tra La La)saw him trade the keys in for a more solemn guitar. A change I still haven’t gotten used to. Tonight saw them sticking mostly to songs from that record, but also loosening them up a bit. While his frequent falsetto might not have been well advised, it still showed signs of life I was worried they had lost. Middle band A Lull who hails from Chicago IL (as they reminded us with amusing frequency) lived up to their name by providing a surprisingly calming intermission between two very vocal bands. Singing was kept to a minimum while Stomp-style, every band member has a drum, percussion kept it interesting.

This order made more sense than the last time when Aviary played first and the Gents closed. I wouldn’t ever want to follow Sleeping in the Aviary. Not only is it a lot to live up to musically, but look at the mess they left on stage.

Pale Young Gentlemen

A Lull

Sleeping in the Aviary

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