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