Saturday, October 23, 2010

Planet Propaganda’s 21st Anniversary Party; October 23, 2010; Planet Propaganda Office, Machinery Row

Months ago one of Planet Propaganda’s employees quizzed me about how to book bands. He was planning their 21st anniversary party and had his sights set on a big name headliner, so I was a little surprised when I got the invitation to the big night and the third name on the bill was Sleeping in the Aviary. As former and current employees, the Hemlines and Time Since Western respectively had been part of the line-up since the beginning, but I was surprised that they had given up on their search for a big name and gone with the formerly local, currently Minneapolitan band. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore Sleeping in the Aviary, and I was super excited to see them, but they certainly aren’t the Old 97’s. They’re better.

SitA’s last record Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Motel was a revelation, a lo-fi gem with smart lyrics hinging precariously on Elliott Kozel’s ragged voice. It was the best of everything their unpredictable live shows hinted at. Since relocating one member at a time to Minneapolis, their Madison shows have been less frequent and when I last saw them in Milwaukee in September it had been over a year since I surprised them in Boston. Their set tonight was their typical high energy explosion of old and new songs, the latter of which are slated for a CD to be released in November. The only thing missing was accordionist Celeste Huele, who had a prior engagement. Her unlikely instrument has proven vital to the developing sound of the band. At one point, Kozel called Bob Koch to the stage, “Don’t worry, you’ll know what it is when you get up here,” Kozel reassured the hesitant Koch. I’m glad he knew what to do, because I certainly wasn’t expecting the band to bust into Bob Seeger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll.” I probably would have been even more shocked if I hadn’t seen the band do an entire set of wedding band style covers a year ago.

They were followed by Time Since Western whose sole member Andy Brawner is an employee at Planet Propaganda. It had been awhile since TSW had played a show, and I was beginning to think that maybe the “band” was done. Instead of playing solo tonight, Brawner was joined by drummer Mike Krol (or at least that is my best guess as to who it was), and I am happy to report the band is definitely back. It was awesome. Everything up till this point, including an opening set from the Hemlines, which may have been the best I’ve ever seen them play even though they forsake their name and wore pants, had been pretty remarkable and I could have left happy right then, but there was still more to come.

When we arrived Rob Sax ran over the entertainment line-up, “and then after Time Since Western there’s going to be a super band doing Bob Dylan and the Band’s “Basement Tapes.” I couldn’t imagine anything better, “I think my head will explode,” I told him (and judging by the way it felt the next day it had). Brawner joined Kozel, Phil Mahlstadt and Michael Sienkowski of SitA, along with Eric Duerr of Elden Calder (who despite never playing shows recently got a song on the soundtrack of a major motion picture) and a keyboard player I didn’t recognize for a set of tunes from that classic record. I heard later that they had only practiced once, but I never would have guessed, they sounded great. When Brawner covered the Beatles “Back in the USSR” the last time I saw him it sounded like a Time Since Western tune, but when he sang these tunes they stayed true to the originals. My only regret is that I wish I had more memory on my camera so I could have videoed more of their set. A second regret is that my memory is a little limited thanks to the beer and wine Planet Propaganda provided.

“Million Dollar Bash” was especially great, even though Brawner almost forgot the most important verse, you know, “I took my potatoes down to be mashed, and made it on over to that Million Dollar Bash.” It was stuck in my head all the next day. “Sleeping in the Aviary?” a friend asked when she caught me singing that line. “No, Dylan.” And suddenly their choice made a lot more sense.

The Hemlines

Sleeping in the Aviary

Time Since Western

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