Chuck Prophet was all over SXSW this year, but I missed every set, including the Twangfest party which I totally intended to be at. I adore Prophet, but I wasn’t too worried since I knew I’d be seeing him the week after I got back. I am not a huge fan of Shank Hall, the set-up often seems awkward and their no pass out policy seems ridiculous, but I go there when I need to. Prophet also seemed a little unsure about the venue, joking that it felt like he was playing some sort of weird private show for a secret audience. It certainly wasn’t a secret as I ran into several people I knew, some also from Madison. The co-headlining show with the Peter Case Band was a result of two tours crossing paths in Milwaukee. And it seemed like we were pretty lucky to be there.
The Peter Case band was scheduled to be Peter Case and Paul Collins (his bandmate in the Nerves) doing the songs of the Nerves, the Plimsouls and one of Collins’ old bands. They played several times around Austin, but I missed those shows too. A funny thing happened on the way to Wisconsin, Collins got kicked off his own tour. I don’t know the details, but Collins was left behind and Case continued on with the Milwaukee based rhythm section that had been Collins’s. Tim Schwegler was joining them on guitar for the next leg of the tour, and this was his first night. It was hard to tell exactly what was wrong with the band, but it sounded off. I thought it was the band, while a friend thought it was Case. We had been standing up close during Prophet’s set but I was having a hard time with the sound there. I moved back but it was only slightly better. Overall, it was a little disappointing. Additionally, I’ve decided I prefer Case’s bluesy folk, like he played at the house last fall, to his power pop.
Their job was made even harder by following Prophet, a consummate performer who has never disappointed me. He was on again tonight, blazing through songs from his excellent new record as well as some old classics. My only quibble, which I didn’t even realize till later, was the lack of any songs from 2010’s sublime record Let Freedom Ring. That record was colored by the recording sessions in a “state of the art” studio in Mexico City where power outages were a daily, sometimes hourly, occurrence. The new record stayed much, much closer to home, Temple Beautiful is a love letter to his hometown of San Francisco. Ably aided as always by his top notch band, which features his lovely wife Stephanie Finch as well as guitarist James DePrado and bassist Kevin T. White, he turned in a killer, if way too short, performance. The new face in the band belonged to drummer Kyle Caprista, a handsome guy who looked like he could be Chuck’s brother. And by that I actually mean Chuck Bartowski (of the NBC series Chuck), not Prophet.
New record highlights included the title track, “The Left Hand and the Right Hand” and the super catchy duet with Finch “Little Boy/Little Girl.” Prophet introduced Finch for a solo song of her own by saying that “like everyone else, Stephie has a CD out.” The track she chose was the same she played last time through Milwaukee, but I’ll admit “Tina Goodbye” is a pretty good song. As always, Prophet introduced the somewhat nonsensical “You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp)” as something that may be too heavy for us to handle. It’s not. I still hold on hope for a Mission Express house concert one of these days, and that dream was buoyed by the fact that I got a double take and I friendly hi from Prophet earlier in the night. Now that he knows me he can’t say no, right?
Chuck Prophet & the Mission Express
Peter Case Band