Thursday, September 16, 2010

Scarring Party/Sleeping in the Aviary; September 16, 2010; Cactus Club, Milwaukee

Since moving to Minneapolis Sleeping in the Aviary doesn’t play Madison near as often as when they lived here. That is a tragedy in itself, but the bigger misfortune is that the last four times they have played Madison I haven’t been there and it broke my heart. I wasn’t just being lazy, I have a valid excuse for every single show. Now that Blake has also moved to the Twin Cities and is living with my cousin Johnny, I’ve been watching SitA’s calendar for an opportunity to see them and two of my favorite boys in their new hometown. So far nothing has worked out, but I did find out they were playing the Cactus Club tonight.

The only advantage I can see to not having seen them in so long is that they have a bunch of new songs that will become their third full length release. The most memorable of these was one that lead singer Elliot Kozel called a sing-along. Since I hadn’t ever heard it before I wasn’t quite sure how we were supposed to sing along, but it quickly became obvious that every line ended with “and the very next day I died.” Also slated for the new release is a song that I’d heard the first time in my basement when Elliot and Phil opened for Hamell on Trial. Part of a proclaimed Maritime theme, the song involves a doomed cruise ship and a narrator who is desperate to get lucky before it goes down. The gimmick is the gargling noises that he makes as the poor soul drowns. Tonight he used water which had the same sound effect as the beer had in the basement, without the disadvantage of foaming all over his face. Also new was the guitar player. I’ll admit he seemed a little superfluous, but maybe they’re just working him in gradually. Drummer Michael Sienkowski had to give up one of his toms to make room for the new guy, luckily he didn’t seem to miss it. SitA shows can range from utter brilliance to embarrassing trainwrecks. Even when it is one of the latter they are still entertaining, but tonight was definitely closer to the former.

These Cactus Club shows can turn into late nights, so I was actually hoping that I wouldn’t want to see the last band so we could get on the road, but there was no way I was going to miss the Scarring Party. The Milwaukee band is one of the most unique I’ve seen, though admittedly it is not for everyone. The band consists of tuba, drums, banjo and lead singer Daniel Bullock who plays accordion and guitar and sings into a microphone that looks like it was stolen from a 1920’s radio newsroom. His warbling voice matches the microphone and sounds like it should be emanating from a hand crank Victrola, crackling and popping. The first time I saw them they instantly reminded me of the Tigerlilies, a very unique group I saw in London via their macabre musical Shockheaded Peter. Their unique instrumentation even makes intriguing use of a typewriter on “The Ocean Floor.”

It had been two years since I last saw the Scarring Party and there were some things I didn’t remember about them. One, I didn’t remember that the banjo player was pretty much the cutest thing ever, with dark hair that fell low over his eyes and a winning smile (see photos). Pretty sure he wasn’t there the last time, I would have remembered that. Second, I don’t remember Bullock talking much before, but tonight he was hilarious. Taking a 9 volt battery from Phil to replace the failing one in his guitar, he touched it to his tongue to make sure it worked. “It’s mine now,” he quipped. They have just released their third CD Losing Teeth and it’s a winner, capturing all the magic of the live show. I certainly hope it isn’t as long before I see them the next time, and the same definitely goes for Sleeping in the Aviary.

Sleeping in the Aviary

The Scarring Party

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