Friday, January 07, 2011

Sleeping in the Aviary; January 7, 2011; High Noon Saloon
German Art Students/Love Cats; Mickey’s Tavern

I see a lot of shows at Mickey’s Tavern but I seldom write about them here. The first reason is that a lot of those shows are Honky Tonk Tuesdays, and y’all have heard me talk way too much about Blake Thomas and Jeremiah Nelson already. Now that Blake has moved away and Jeremiah has replaced him with a rotating cast of characters there may be something one of these days that I will write about. The second is that it is endlessly aggravating to take pictures at Mickey’s. The lighting is poor and there is no stage, so if even one person is standing in front of you it is difficult to take a picture. If I don’t have pictures, somehow I feel I am excused from writing a review. But probably the main reason I don’t write about many shows at Mickey’s is that, Honky Tonk aside, it is a terrible place to see a show. All their shows are free, and that equals crowded, really crowded, especially on the weekends. No matter where you stand, you are in someone’s way. For the bands, the no-stage thing means there isn’t a line between performer and audience, and some folks get a little close. And since everyone is responsible for their own PA, the sound varies wildly.

Still, here I was on a Friday night anyway, perched on a barstool I felt lucky to get, waiting to see the Love Cats and the German Art Students. It was nice to have a stool, I felt at least a little less in the way, but it meant I couldn’t see a thing. This was not a problem for the Love Cats. I’d seen drummer Randy Ballwahn walking around earlier and I don’t think black lipstick is his thing. Every so often I caught a glimpse of Sean Michael Dargan, who was playing the role of Cure lead singer Robert Smith. His curly hair had been encouraged to go wild and, surprisingly, he didn’t look near as unnatural with make-up as Ballwahn had. I’ve never been a huge Cure fan. I have one CD, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, which I bought on account of the undeniable catchiness of two songs, “Why Can’t I Be You?” and what I consider their best song “Just like Heaven.” Luckily for me they played both of those songs, plus there were another handful of tunes in their set I didn’t even realize I knew. While Dargan didn’t sound exactly like Smith, he was close enough, proving once again what a versatile musician he can be.

This was the first time I had seen the German Art Students since they became a three piece almost a year ago. Lead singer/guitarist Annelies Howell moved to bass after original bass player Andy Larson left the band. Since all three boys in the band sang, I was wondering who would take over Larson’s vocals. I’m still wondering. I could see even less during their set and the sound had gotten muddier. I was pleased to find out that they are still the same band that was my first favorite local band. They are still playing their hilarious hits like “Disgruntled Figure Skating Judge” and “Civil War Re-enactor.” We’d seen more than half their set when I decided it was time to head over to the High Noon to hopefully catch Sleeping in the Aviary. I felt a little bad leaving, but I’m hoping next time I see GAS it will be under better circumstances.

The two show night is a difficult trick to pull off. I usually arrive to find that the band I really wanted to see just finished. Tonight I got lucky, and they were just about to start when I walked in. They played a much different set than they had for their CD release show, reaching all the way back to their first record for “Glow Worm.” They also played “THE HARDEST SONG FOR US TO PLAY” which turned out to be a song from their new record. Accordionist Celeste Heule frequently contributes backing vocals, but this was the first time I’d heard her sing lead. Tonight’s version wasn’t as confident as the one on the record, but they made it through just fine. If anything, tonight’s show seemed a little calmer than many of the times I’d seen them, but that might have something to do with the fact that tonight was the kick-off of a massive tour that will take them all over the US. By the time they get back to Madison I bet they’ll have that song mastered, not to mention have some good stories to tell.

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