Peter Mulvey/Brianna Lane; September 11, 2011; East Side Club
The East Side Club has emerged as a viable venue this summer. The idyllic setting on Lake Monona offers a stunning view of the lake and downtown as well as a peaceful spot to take in a show. While it certainly wouldn't work for every show, since there is no actual stage and the small sound system might have trouble with a full band, it was the perfect venue for Peter Mulvey and Brianna Lane who were on their annual bicycle tour. Every year Mulvey gets a little more serious about this, and his touring just keeps getting greener. In fact, he has already stated that 2013 will be the year he tours strictly by bike, train or bus. This year’s trek included stops from Evanston to La Crosse to Minneapolis. Before tonight’s show they had pedaled from Rockford IL, and as always the trip had made Mulvey a little punchy.
He’s always quick witted, funny and charming, but these bike trips bring out another side, the just plain silly. These are my favorite shows, where I just shake my head and wonder what the hell he’s talking about, while at the same time laughing so hard my stomach hurts. And this is why I knew I had to go tonight, despite being exhausted from partying all night with the Wacos. I’ve heard every song live a dozen times, and some of his stories that many times too, but nights like tonight, where every sentence out of his mouth is a zinger and the stories seem especially poignant, are the reason I keep buying tickets. He started the show with “The Knuckleball Suite,” his ode to the Café Carpe and its curmudgeonly owner Bill Camplin. “It’s a warm summer evening, you can just hear the Knuckleball Suite,” the song begins. He could just as easily been talking about tonight’s venue. The biggest surprise of the night was a request for “Dreams” from the audience. Written during his time busking in the subways of Boston, it ponders the rat race, the future, and well, dreams.
The spunky Brianna Lane has been a nice counterpart for these tours. For one she’s game for these insane sounding treks on a bicycle, for the other she shares Peter’s quick wit and love of nature. She was especially enamored of the duck that circled the stage while she played, though she kept calling it a he, even though it was obviously a she mallard. She thought it appropriate to play Melanie’s “I’ve Got a Brand New Pair of Roller Skates,” and it was considering the first line is about riding a bike. She got some unexpected help from an audience member who started singing along from all the way in the back and swirled her way to the front of the stage, dancing dramatically and singing loudly. I’m still not sure how Lane kept a straight face. I’ve seen Lane a couple times before but I don’t really know her songs, so I was surprised to hear one I knew quite well. “New Tattoo” was a co-write with Jeremiah Nelson, and I heard that song many a Tuesday night at Mickey’s.
Not only do they travel together well, she and Peter sound good together too, and they collaborated on several of the same tunes they had done last year- the very appropriate Jayhawks’ “Bicycle” and the Magnetic Fields’ cover of choice “The Book of Love.” For once they did not have a lengthy ride planned for the next day; instead they were staying in town and playing an early show at Revolution Bicycles. How appropriate.