It’s funny all the different routes one can take to finding a band. For instance I found Southeast Engine because of a chance meeting with drummer Leo DeLuca. I was introduced to him at SXSW several years ago, based on a mutual love of the Wrens. I came to find out that he was also the man behind Moon Jaw records who had put out Theodore’s Hold You Like a Lover, and that he had his own band. I returned home and ordered their record From the Forest to the Sea. I liked it, a lot. But it didn’t prepare me for 2011’s Canary. DeLuca took over Misra Records when it looked like they were lost, inking a deal with Bloodshot to be their distributor. I got an early copy of that record from my friends at the Chicago based label and haven’t stop listening to it. The song cycle revolves around a Depression era family and songs like “Ruthie” and “Red Lake Shore” are emotionally intense and intelligent. The standout track is “Adeline of the Appalachian Mountains,” a song so beautiful it can make you cry.
They opened with it tonight, taking away any uncertainty about whether or not they would play it. I had seen them three times before. Two show at SXSW this year and a woefully under-attended show at the House Café in Dekalb. Though I should mention that every show I have seen at the House Cafe has been woefully under-attended. Those were good shows, but tonight qualified as amazing. During the break (where they didn’t really seem to know what to do, “we don’t take breaks”), bass player Jesse Remnant admitted he prefers playing loud, but quiet was what made this so good. I never really appreciated the harmony vocals between him and his brother, lead singer and guitarist Adam, before. “The Everly Brothers” DeLuca jokingly called them, but he wasn’t wrong, they sound very sweet together.
The intimate setting also allowed them some liberties, like playing a few songs unplugged. Jesse traded his bass for an acoustic guitar and DeLuca brought his snare up front, leaving keyboardist Billy Matheny the only one tethered to electricity. The attentive crowd loved it, though I wasn’t sure DeLuca would be able to get up again after crouching awkwardly with his drum for that long. Matheny grabbed the attention later that night when DeLuca popped the snaps on his pearl snap shirt to reveal a black marker tattoo of Spring Green inside an arrow pierced heart on his skinny chest (see photo).
Remarkably, this was my first trip to the Shitty Barn, which of course isn’t shitty at all. It’s a great listening room, as well as a cozy space that sounds great. They usually do shows on Wednesdays and even though such awesome folk as the Pines play there regularly, I won’t miss volleyball. I am jealous that they got Southeast Engine before I did. The band did seem to enjoy their first visit to Wisconsin(“I’m gay for your state” DeLuca told me), so hopefully they will play the basement soon. I won’t quit pestering them until they do. I am pretty sure it will be magical.