Saturday, April 30, 2011

Icarus Himself; April 30, 2011; Project Lodge

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sleeping in the Aviary; April 28, 2011; The Frequency

Elliott spent the entire set shirtless, but returned for the encore in a hot dog costume. Yep, business as usual.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Frank Maloney & the Dolt City Ramblers; April 22, 2011; Goose Island Brewery, Wrigleyville, Chicago

My first cousin once-removed Frank Maloney has been writing songs for as long as I’ve thought of him as anything other than a little kid, but with his honky-tonk outfit the Dolt City Ramblers he seems to have finally found his voice. None of his other bands have seemed as natural a fit as this one does. He’s aided by his long-time accomplices Steve McNamee on drums and remarkably talented Pat McCarthy on guitar. McCarthy in particular seems to be having more fun than ever, probably because he finally gets to wear a Western shirt and play lap steel. I think he was also wearing cowboy boots, which would explain the fancy dancing he was doing. Both were also members of Frank’s previous band Roses & Sake along with Frank’s older brother Johnny. While Roses & Sake were occasionally a little rough, it was impossible not to enjoy them onstage (how could you not when they were having so much fun?). The Dolt City Ramblers are downright slick in comparison.

Before I even met DCR bass player Don Angelo, I saw his picture emblazoned on an R & S shirt. He was drinking gin (I’m told) out of a turkey baster, and the caption read “I’m a fan of the band.” He’d learned to play bass just to be in this band, and while he looked a little apprehensive, his playing was certainly adequate. When they weren’t playing one of Frank’s original songs they were covering classic country like George Jones and Buck Owens. However, the most memorable song of the night was one Frank had written for his mother, called, quite logically, “Mama’s Song.” A list of all the first times his mama had busted him, for drinking, smoking, porn etc, it ends with her not being at all upset about finding marijuana in his room and they get high together. It was a pretty hilarious song, and when I asked Reen about the truth of it later, she rolled her eyes and claimed “it’s just a song.”

The Dolt City Ramblers are definitely a band that you don’t have to be related to to love.

Eleventh Dream Day/The 1900’s; April 22, 2011; Lincoln Hall

Chicago band the 1900’s gets compared to Fleetwood Mac or the New Pornographers, not unfairly based on the male/female vocals, but usually they remind me more of Belle & Sebastian than of either of those super groups. Granted female lead singer Jeanine O’Toole is way more aggressive than B&S’s Isobel Campbell ever was, but her male counterpart Edward Anderson couldn’t be more twee without being British. It’s been several years since I have seen them, and in that time O'Toole seems to have taken over leadership of the band. It used to be that she and keyboard player Caroline Donovan shared vocals more equally, now Donovan plays more keyboards and sings less. Even though I prefer Anderson’s singing, the band does seem to have flourished under O’Toole’s direction, and her percussion playing is pretty inspired, though the tambourine glove does seem a little excessive. And that’s coming from someone who once ended up with an impressive bruise after playing tambourine.

I’d thought we were going to Schubas tonight instead of its much larger sister venue Lincoln Hall and that made sense to me. Eleventh Dream Day has only been sporadically active over the last ten years, releasing only three records since 2000 (including the new Riot Now!), and it was hard to believe that enough people were going to show up to warrant the larger venue. During the 1900’s set it looked like that would be true, and the crowd was a bit embarrassing, but by the time 11th DD started their set it had filled in nicely. When you’ve been a band for twenty four years I guess that happens, and there were certainly some super fans there. My favorite moment of the night was when lead singer/guitarist Rick Rizzo jumped off stage to pogo with the most enthusiastic of them, a nerdy looking sort who early in the set I had dubbed “number one fan” from my observation point in the balcony.

I’d only seen them once before, at a street fest in Chicago years ago, but liked them enough to seek out a CD. I’d listened to it a few times, but it sounded nothing like the band I remembered seeing and honestly I haven’t gotten it out in years. The same thing happened tonight, but this time I know better. The charm of the band is the interaction of Rizzo and drummer Janet Bean. Their scream-singing duets power the group; it’s what I imagine Madison band the Hussy sounding like twenty years from now. Given Bean’s much mellower project Freakwater, it’s satisfying to see her rock this hard. They may not play very often, but they haven’t lost anything in the time they’ve been apart. I know I don’t need their CDs and I probably don’t need to see them again for another handful of years, but I enjoyed tonight’s show.

The 1900's

Eleventh Dream Day

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ha Ha Tonka/The Spring Standards/The New Bodies; April 21, 2011; The Mill, Iowa City
Before leaving town the band had some orders to fill which we put together on the sidewalk outside the post office

Sound check

The New Bodies

The Spring Standards

Ha Ha Tonka

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ha Ha Tonka/Laarks/Spring Standards; April 20, 2011; The Frequency

After seeing them in 200-300 capacity venues out west, it seemed strange that Ha Ha Tonka would be playing the tiny Frequency with its 99 capacity in a town that is almost like home to them. While they have yet to sell it out, they keep getting closer, and the eighty some people who were there sure made it feel like it was. Despite some sound problems (Brian’s guitar inexplicably stopped working for half a song) and a sound man who took things way to literally (he turned up the house music four times, only the last time was it appropriate), it was a pretty awesome set. It was the same set they had been perfecting several weeks ago when I’d been on the road with them, and even though they hadn’t added anything new I still loved it. I’m looking forward to the day that “The Humorist” and “Hide It Well” make it into the set. The latter has some pretty complicated harmonies while the former has so many electronic additions they aren’t quite sure how they will play it live.

I missed openers Spring Standards who had been on the road with them since Hoots and Hellmouth returned home after Denver, but I did get to meet most of them, and I saw them the next night in Iowa City. They had developed the kind of relationship with HHT that I’ve seen with other bands they’ve spent a lot of time on the road with like Murder by Death and Langhorne Slim, and they interacted like they had known each other forever. The other opener on tonight’s bill was Laarks, a band that has been to town frequently, but that I was seeing for the first time. They are part of the “Eau Claire Scene” spawned by Bon Iver, having gone to college in Eau Claire I can guarantee you I never thought I would hear that phrase spoken seriously. The lead singer and keyboardist had a unique and intriguing voice, and the guitar and bass players were also great, but it was the drummer that made you take notice. His energy and enthusiasm made him a magnet for your attention, and his expressiveness kept it there. At times it almost didn’t seem like he was in the same band as his relatively sedate bandmates, but it always sounded great. They were a nice compliment to HHT, and it is always nice to see a well-chosen opener.


Ha Ha Tonka