Sunday, April 10, 2011

Franz Nicolay/David Dondero/The Faders; April 10, 2011; Schubas

Sometimes you just know you made the right decision. I hated hearing that only twenty people paid to see Eddie Spaghetti at the High Noon tonight. He had been absolutely charming when I met him at SXSW and the fact the he ends every song with an emphatic “CHA CHA CHA!” (so you know when to freak out) is just about the coolest thing I’d ever seen, er, heard. But given how excited Matt Focht and Colby Stark (both formerly of Head of Femur) were to see me at Schubas on a Sunday night; I knew I made the right choice. After all, I couldn’t miss the debut of their new band the Faders. The last time I had seen them they were still debating on a name, and the pressure was on since their split 7” with David Dondero was about to go to press. “There are other bands called the Faders,” they confided, “but none of them are as cool as us.”

How could they be? In addition to my two favorite members of HoF, the band also includes bassist Dan Dietrich (owner of Wall to Wall studios), fantastic guitarist Ethan Semone , and the uber-cool Dave Max Crawford whom I have seen many, many times with Chris Mills. The sound still bears a resemblance to Femur, but they’ve turned down the quirkiness and replaced it with an undeniable catchiness. I was hearing these songs for the first time, but wanted to sing along. Most of what makes it so addictive is Focht’s distinctive voice; I could pick it out of a line-up anytime. At the end of their set they announced that their next gig would be June 24 at the Hideout. It took me a minute to figure out why that sounded so familiar, then I realized that Mills is also playing at the Hideout that night. Yay!

Just as there were folks there just to see the Faders, there were certainly people who were there just to see the evening’s other two acts. During Dondero’s set, a dedicated following pressed close to the stage, occasionally yelling out a request, most of which he gamely tried to play. I knew the name as part of Conor Oberst’s Saddle Creek gang, and I thought I had seen him before, but the large man on stage didn’t look at all familiar. He has a mournful sound which matches well with his hangdog demeanor. The songs he played solo were good, but he came alive when the Faders joined him as his backing band. Especially catchy was the song “This Guitar” which I was happy to hear was his contribution to the record.

I wasn’t quite sure what exactly former Hold Steady member Franz Nicolay would sound like solo, but it was a pleasant surprise the first time I saw him. He’s charming and witty, and open and honest, and only the tiniest bit creepy. Oh, c’mon, if you’ve seen his mustache you probably thought he’d be creepy too. As with the last time I saw him, he talked a lot about being an accordion player and the trials of finding an accordion repair shop on the road. Luckily it seems the upper Midwest is a gold mine, which may be why I was seeing him for the second time in five months. The crowd had thinned quite a bit by this point, but the folks who were there were attentive and filled in the area in the front of the stage. I’m not in love with his grand songs, but they certainly are growing on me.

The Faders

David Dondero

Franz Nicolay

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