Lou Barlow & the Missing Men/Wye Oak; August 23, 2010; The Frequency
When I heard Lou Barlow would be playing the Frequency following two previous solo shows at the Annex and the High Noon, I was predicting the sort claustrophobic crowd that packed into O’Cayz Corral for an over-sold Sebadoh something like a decade ago. Sometimes I am happy to be wrong. Instead of wall to wall people, there was something close to just the right amount (unless you are the promoter of course). Barlow’s visits to Madison have always been memorable. In addition to the aforementioned show, for his date at the Annex he lost his voice. After croaking his way through a few songs, he asked for volunteers to sing some of his better known numbers. Unfortunately it turned out no one actually knew more than a chorus of any of his songs, and the only person who fared OK was the guy who did the somewhat repetitive “Natural One.”
You would have thought that show would have been a short one; instead it ran over two hours. Tonight went long too. “I never know when to stop,” Barlow claimed several songs after dismissing the Missing Men, “I always play too long and then everyone leaves without buying anything.” To prove that I didn’t think he had played too long, I bought a CD and a T-shirt. I couldn’t have more delighted with his set that included his backing band for two thirds the night and him solo for the rest of it. “It wasn’t what was advertised,” a friend complained. I’m not sure what was advertised, but the Missing Men were there, so I guess she has a point. I didn’t know the majority of the set, except for the songs from Emoh, his quiet solo record from 2005, like the amusingly sacrilegious “Mary” (“Immaculate conception, yeah right”) and the spacey “Caterpillar Girl.” Sadly, requests for Ratt’s “Round & Round,” which he covered on that record, went unfulfilled, “I haven’t played Ratt in a long time,” he apologized. I found it all very entertaining, and I wore a ridiculous grin the whole night. Barlow was more than willing to take requests; unfortunately I couldn’t remember the name of my favorite Folk Implosion song till I walked in the door at home. “Free to Go,” remember that for me for next time, can you please?
This was the first time I had seen the Missing Men- awesome, gray-haired punk rocker Tommy Watson on guitar and adorable, mop-topped Raul Morales on drums- and I enjoyed them immensely. They make a lot of noise for a three piece, especially with Barlow playing the bass pedals. It looked a bit odd to see him shoe and sock-less until I figured out that was what he was doing. Eventually he got tired of it and the band went bass-less the rest of the set. Perhaps the most important job of the Missing Men is keeping Barlow on track and from playing too long, and they did pretty well.
Openers Wye Oak were in no danger of playing too long, their set barely topped thirty minutes. Last time I saw them I thought I remembered drummer And Stack taking more of the vocals, this time around he didn’t even have a microphone. That left guitarist Jen Wasner with all of the vocal responsibility. She has matured as a singer since they were here two years ago, and she seems more comfortable fronting the band. I’m not always a fan of girl singers or two person bands, but Wye Oak seem to know what they are doing.
Lou Barlow & the Missing Men