The Flat Five don’t get a chance to play together very often, but when they do, they don’t want to stop. Most of the band had arrived at my house by 1 pm for the 7 pm show (pushed back from 6 due to the winner take all football game between division rivals the Packers and the Bears at 3). They hadn’t played any gigs since the end of 2012 so they wanted some rehearsal time. The Flat Five play covers, but they aren’t the songs you hear on classic rock or oldies radio stations. I only knew maybe a third of the songs they played; admittedly some of those were from hearing them played over and over during their practice. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d never seen the Flat Five before, but most of them had already been in my basement. The gorgeous voiced Kelly Hogan (who’s played here twice with her own band)and equally amazing Nora O’Connor (who plays bass with her)are the female contingent, while Casey McDonough, Alex Hall and Scott Ligon are the male delegation. Casey also plays with Kelly, while Hall and I met when he played drums for Robbie’s Christmas show earlier in the month. I’d never met Scott Ligon before, but when he arrived he told me he’d been here before. I was slightly confused until he explained that he’d been with Kelly when they had stayed at the house when I was out of town. Yeah I do that.
After four plus hours of rehearsal you wouldn’t think the show would have much energy. You’d be wrong. They took a break after the hour long first set, claiming they would come back and play until we begged them to stop. They played another hour and a half for the second set. They started off set two with one of the rehearsal songs, one which Ligon said his family used to sing while washing the car. Since the song was a five part harmony version of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” it makes you wonder what growing up in his family was like. The wordy recital may have been the most unique thing they played, but there were plenty of surprises. The best of which was the Monkees’ “Love is Only Sleeping,” Mike Nesmith has nothing on Casey McDonough except maybe a cooler stocking cap. When they had rehearsed it earlier in the day I ran down the steps. “SQUEALLLLLLLL!” I said when they finished the first run through. “I LOVE that song,” I declared with obvious excitement. That display got it dedicated to me to me during the show, mostly because Hogan found it hilarious that I had said “squeal” rather than actually doing it. A close second on the highlight scale was a second Monkees song, this one completely unexpected, especially because I had no idea it was written by Harry Nilsson. It came third in a trio of his songs, and I don’t think I was the only one who wasn’t expecting it. “We don’t even know that one,” Hogan laughed at the end. I never would have guessed, it was perfect. I did my own little Davy Jones dance in the back of the room, you know, the one later copied by Axel Rose.
I wasn’t the only one having a great time, everyone in the sold out crowd was obviously enjoying this very special performance. Even the two audience members under ten. The harmonies were stunning throughout the show, and everyone got a chance to shine. It was especially great to see Scott Ligon, often a sideman, take on a lead role in the band as he switched between guitar and keyboard. It won’t be long before he’s back in the basement, again when I’m here. One of his other bands, the Western Elstons, is playing in February. In addition to including Hall and McDonough, the band also includes former Madisonian and guitar wizard Joel Paterson. I’m guessing we can expect more harmonies and more great covers. I can’t wait.