Thursday, November 04, 2010

Two Cow Garage/Franz Nicolay; November 4, 2010; The Frequency

You frequently hear that band members are like brothers, but even actual brothers couldn’t be as close as the boys in Two Cow Garage. Lead singer/guitarist Micah Schnabel and bassist/vocalist Shane Sweeney play every show like it might be their last together, leaning into each other as they play every song with a fevered intensity that few bands achieve. This tour was in support of their new record which had just come out. Unfortunately, I had no clue that it had, so there were a lot of songs in their seemingly too short set that I didn’t know. Even worse, they sold their last copy after the show before I got one. One thing for sure, you don’t have to know the songs to enjoy Two Cow, I found that out the first time I saw them at my very first Twangfest where they blew away nearly every other band that played that weekend.

It sounds like it hurts Micah to sing, his voice a ragged scream, but beautiful all the same. The emotion in every word is overwhelming, and you know that he has lived every word of every song, especially the ones about living hard and girls that are just too young. I’ve always been a sucker for Shane’s songs, his “Saturday Night” has been my favorite Two Cow song since their in-store performance at Euclid Records in St Louis, a quiet, introspective and completely different set than their both guns blazing show that night. Tonight Bill had asked him to play “Mediocre” from Three. Shane always says that he tried to write one type of song, “but ended up with a show tune.” If by that he means it’s catchy and makes you want to sing along, and is maybe the tiniest little bit cheesy, then he’s right he did write a show tune. And there’s nothing wrong with that. That wasn’t the only cheesy thing in tonight’s set, Shane’s pencil-thin mustache also qualifies. Referring to the opener act’s impressive handlebar, Shane claimed that he and Franz had a “mustache off;” “Franz won, and mine retreated.” Of course I still loved it.

The surprising opener for tonight’s show was Franz Nicolay, who spent the last five years playing keyboards in the Hold Steady. The pairing makes a little more sense once you know that Two Cow has played with Nicolay’s former band many times over the years. Nicolay’s solo material doesn’t sound much like Craig Finn’s huge choruses and Tad Kubler’s arena-sized guitar solos and he certain doesn’t harbor the same crush on Bruce Springsteen. Instead his songs are a lot like him- quirky, funny, and slightly discomforting. He turned out the be quite the story teller, and his tales of breaking his guitar climbing down a ladder and the trials of being an accordion player, for example, Wisconsin is one of the few places it is easy to find an accordion repairman.

After playing in clubs their last two trips through town, Shane promised they would “be back in Kiki’s basement soon.” I hope he means it, and I wouldn’t mind if they wanted to bring Franz with them.

Franz Nicolay

Two Cow Garage

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