I’ve been trying to get Sleeping in the Aviary’s drummer Michael Sienkowski to play a basement show for a long time, but the band’s rigorous touring schedule and the fact that they all picked up and moved to Minneapolis a few years back has made that difficult. It’s not just me; Sienkowski figured it had been two years since he had played a show of his own. Since SitA was in town last night I asked if he would be willing to stick around an extra day to open for the Silos’ Walter Salas-Humara. Luckily that worked into his schedule. Even though it has been awhile since he’s played in public, he certainly hasn’t stopped writing. He had a whole collection of songs, a set-worth in fact, that he’s produced since the release of the only record from his side project WhatFor.
He should play out more, because these songs were great. It made me sad to think that no one beyond his circle of friends had likely heard them. He said they were all part of a concept album he was working on, and while he explained each of the songs he played, he didn’t tell us what the concept was. He played unplugged, switching between guitar and keyboard, saying he’s been writing a lot on the latter. There were a lot of songs about girls, which is to be expected, including one about the coffee shop baristas he tends to fall for, and this particular one was a Madison girl. The most memorable of the songs was one he called a “Carpe Diem” sort of song. The hero is a slacker sort, and to everything the adults tell him he answers with a question. “His father says ‘Son, you’ve got to be a man,’ son says ‘what, man?’” Even better was “Police officer says ‘you’d better beware,’ son says ‘be where?’” Clever lyrics paired with a catchy melody, sounds like a hit. I loved the WhatFor record, and Sienkowski apologized, thinking those were the songs I wanted to hear. I told him I would be happy with whatever he played, and I was. Still, there is one old song that that he still likes to play, the classic “Every Time You Call that Girl.” It sounds like it was sucked through a wormhole from the 60s to a lo-fi bedroom recording.
It’s always a pleasure to have Salas-Humara play. His band the Silos did the CD release show for Come On Like the Fast Lane in the basement in 2005, essentially kicking off the House of Righteous Music with a sold out show that saw 60 or more people in and out of the basement. Even more significant they brought Jon Dee Graham to the basement for the first time. Surprisingly the crowds for his solo shows haven’t been as significant, which is surprising since Salas-Humara is the only constant member of the group, which has been around in one configuration or another for nearly thirty years. Despite the small crowd, or perhaps because of, it was a great set. He played songs from his entire catalog, though surprisingly, fan favorite “Susan Across the Ocean” wasn’t one of them, even though there were two women named Susan in the audience. When he came back for an encore Alex requested the song about “a bunch of normal people getting trashed” from Florizona, his most recent release. How appropriate.