Theodore; June 25, 2011; Cranky Pat’s
After I booked Chris Mills a show in Madison, I immediately thought of Theodore to round out the bill. The St Louis based band has been an instant favorite of mine since I first saw them at Twangfest in 2009. Of course, it wouldn’t be worth it for them to come up just to play a show with Chris, so I decided to ask my friend Trevor Lee Hopkins who books for Cranky Pat’s in Neenah if he would be interested in having them play. He responded enthusiastically, which confused me initially since I was surprised he had heard of them. Turns out they had played the Mill in Iowa City back when he was still booking there, and he couldn’t wait to book them again. I wasn’t quite sure how we would get people out to see a band most of them had never heard of. Then I got an e-mail from Trevor, apparently local hero Corey Chisel wanted that night, and did I think it would be OK if Theodore opened. While I am not the biggest Chisel fan, I couldn’t think of anything better, at least I knew there would be people there.
Not only were there people there, but it was a sold out show. And everyone got there on time, so Theodore took the stage to a packed house. Since the record release in May, founding member and drummer Jason had left the band. (While I miss him terribly, it is much easier to cook for the band now that I don’t have to worry about a vegan.) They had a replacement drummer already, but he was unable to make the tour. The solution was their friend Matt Pace, a keyboardist and trumpet player for the band Rats & People. While they all seemed to think it wasn’t going to be near the quality that I was used to, I thought Matt did an awesome job and I never would have guessed he wasn’t a drummer. As a bonus, he also had a keyboard set up next to the drum kit and a pocket trumpet that he pulled out to add to the two part horns of JJ on trombone and Andy on trumpet. I’d never seen one before, but this one that JJ found on E-bay is the cutest little trumpet I’ve ever seen.
Theodore has gotten louder and more intense since I first met them, moving away from the mellow, high and lonesome sound of their first records toward a more forceful sound, drenching the songs in feedback and noise before pulling back to a clean melody. As Michelle likes to call it, they’re rocking more. While I miss the tranquil sound of their earlier work, the current material is undeniable and powerful. Lead singer Justin Kinkel-Schuster is the epicenter of this storm, his emotional voice drawing the audience in. After their set, I heard many compliments, “a breath of fresh air” someone told me, and even sold a few CDs, while just as many people asked if they were on iTunes (they are). Before and after the show they got all the pizza (Cranky’s has amazing pizza) and drinks they wanted, a bonus for a band on the road counting every dollar. Overall I couldn’t have asked for a better gig for them, many thanks to Trevor to making this happen.