Friday, February 24, 2012

Elliott BROOD; February 24, 2012; Schubas

Every so often a band name just catches my attention. Without knowing anything more about Elliott BROOD other than that they were a Canadian trio, I noted all their shows on my 2010 SXSW schedule. Of course, I didn’t actually make it to any of them, but when I got back home I picked up their most recent release 2008’s Mountain Meadows. I liked it, silently wished I would have tried harder to see them, and put it on the shelf. I didn’t get it out again until earlier this week when we decided to see them instead of the Flat Five, nothing against them of course, but without Gerald it didn’t seem right. I liked it more than I remembered, and found myself listening to it over and over, alternating with the new Shearwater record I had just picked up. It’s catchy stuff, bluegrass-y rock with a propulsive beat and a vocalist who sounds like a less whiney Sam Llanas. Wikipedia calls it "death country", "frontier rock", or "revival music," all of which are close enough I suppose.

So I was a little surprised when they started the set with a hushed number. “That was a quiet, introspective number to start the night,” guitarist Casey Laforet announced before they broke into one of their signature banjo-propelled hoedowns, and they never looked back, from then on it was nothing but a party. Their new record Days Into Nights, which comes out on Tuesday, continues where that record left off, more infectious toe-tapping numbers that everyone should love. On this one I hear hints of the Cash Brothers, another Torontonian band I loved years ago who seem to have slipped quietly away. As it turns out both Laforet and lead vocalist/guitarist/banjo player Mark Sasso both sing, and their voices are remarkable similar. While Sasso switched between acoustic guitar and banjo, Laforet alternated between electric and acoustic. Early in the set he broke a string and rushed to replace it. “I don’t even know if it’s the right string,” he admitted as he threaded it into place, “it was the first thing I grabbed that looked like a guitar string.” After several attempts to tune it between songs on the electric, he gave up and sheepishly found the correct string.

It was obvious early on that the guys in Elliott BROOD really enjoy what they do, and they seem like the nicest guys ever. When I mentioned that to my friend, he replied, “of course they are, they’re Canadian.” Within the first fifteen minutes Laforet had asked three times how we were doing, but it didn’t feel like idle chatter, I think he really cared. And their audience obviously cares about them. It wasn’t packed, but everyone there was completely into the show. They also seemed to be quite drunk and/or Canadian. Sasso seemed surprised to a response he got when he mentioned a theater in Victoria and everyone hooted as if they had actually been there. For the last three songs drummer Stephen Pitkin, who looked an awful lot like actor J.K. Simmons (in a good way of course), passed out metal pie plates and wooden spoons to the crowd and told them to keep time. Many of the recipients took the task to heart, banging on the plates till they were dented and their spoons shattered into pieces.

As I was buying the (white!) vinyl and a bottle opener from Pitkin after the show, I complimented them on their well done merch display and told him I’d be happy to do merch on their next tour. I hope he knows I was serious, I bet being on tour with them is a ton of fun.

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