Theodore/New Mountain Kickers; July 18, 2010; High Noon Saloon
I met the boys in Theodore just over a year ago. More accurately I met Justin from Theodore just over a year ago when I thrust my card into his hand after their set at Twangfest and told him that they had to come play my house. I met the rest of the band in November when they showed up at the house to do just that. Since then they’ve played two more shows at the house, making this their fourth Madison visit in nine months. The significance of this show was that for the first time they weren’t playing KHoRM, and I’ll admit I was a little nervous. I added pleading messages to the end of my house show announcements in the hope that I could convince some of the people who hadn’t seen them at the house (which would be nearly all of them) would come to the High Noon. That didn’t happen, but happily there was a decent crowd of people I didn’t know.
Perhaps it was the nice write up in the Onion, maybe it was the High Noon’s built in crowd, or maybe the New Mountain Kickers have a loyal fan base. The latter wouldn’t be that shocking. Lead singer Caitlin Saucier has an interesting voice that I found intriguing but that chased others out of the bar. Their set was equally distributed between covers and originals. The covers were well chosen, but I wish they had stopped joking about having written classics like “Jolene.” The most entertaining part of the band was tattooed mandolin player Todd Hanson who spent the entire set playing while hunched over. We had a few theories about it; mine was that he was trying to hear the monitor; while someone else guessed that usually Saucier wore short skirts. The Theodore boys had arrived very close to 8 PM so they hadn’t had a chance to sound check. Even so, the NMK implored us to stick around for Theodore, because they are “really nice.”
It’s true of course, they are really nice. Even more than that, Theodore is a truly amazing band (which NMK found out), and they proved they could hold a headlining spot outside of their hometown of St Louis (where they tell me they are rock stars). Their new songs as well as their shows recently have tended to rock a little more than that first time I saw them when they were so quietly brilliant. I’m not against the louder Theodore, but I’m secretly hoping that next time they rock a little less. Being mellow without being boring, as the Pernice Brothers and Great Lake Swimmers do so well, is a rare and difficult feat. It’s much easier to be awesome while playing more upbeat tunes. I want more banjo, more horns, more lap steel and most of all more saw, and those just don’t show up as much in the rockers (though surprisingly, the autoharp does).
The week before I’d seen them play two hours in Dubuque, a very long set by Theodore standards. It was totally worth the drive, but Justin seemed embarrassed by the fact that I had driven an hour and a half on a Tuesday to see them especially since they would be in Madison six days later. I told him that I had driven further for bands I like less, and right now I can’t think of any band I like more.
New Mountain Kickers