The Spring Standards had just been on the Conan O’Brien show, which is pretty darn cool, but apparently no one in Madison watches Conan O’Brien because the crowd was pretty slim for their headlining show at the Frequency. They didn’t really seem to mind and they poured all their energy into a very entertaining show. Still, they couldn’t resist bringing up their brush with a star. “He’s really tall,” singer/percussionist/keyboard player Heather Robb stated, “but what most people don’t know…” She paused and giggled, trying to think up some unusual fact, “…is that he really likes a bit of cake.” The made-up fact caused her to laugh even more.
The Standards did a whole tour with Ha Ha Tonka, but strangely enough I had only seen them play once before tonight. I met them in Madison but had missed their set that night (volleyball). I saw them play the next night in Iowa City, but now I don’t feel like I really appreciated it. Tonight, however, I think I did, and it was pretty awesome, and I liked them even more (as people and musicians). They are friendly, funny, sweet and really amazing musicians whose voices sound terrific together. Instead of being disappointed with the small crowd, they used it as an opportunity to come down on the floor and get personal with a couple songs unplugged. The first was a very pretty original, the second as part of the encore was James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James.” After going through college with a Taylor-obsessed roommate, I didn’t think I ever needed to hear that song again. I was wrong.
Three of the four band members sing, while the fourth (Noah) jumps around joyfully while playing guitar, bass, and pedal steel. OK, so not much jumping while playing the latter. There’s Heather, who’s sweet and sassy with a beautiful voice. The other two are named James, distinguished previously by Ha Ha Tonka as James the Savior (his dark hair was longer then) and King James (for no apparent reason). As well as sharing lead vocal duties, the three also share drumming duty, but they do it in a very unique way. Each member has at least part of a kit in front of them as if they had taken turns choosing pieces from a complete kit, which makes for some intriguing percussion. Their music is much more complex than I realized at first, but still catchy and upbeat. It’s good stuff.
They stayed with me that night, and as I gave them the tour of the basement they commented that they should play there next time. Sounds good to me, especially since they are obviously OK with small crowds.
Sons of Fathers