Friday, September 27, 2013

Califone; September 27, 2013; “Living Room Show,” Milwaukee

This was only my third time at a house concert or “living room show” that was not in my own house.  While my first had been a roomy basement in DeForest, and the second Rick Wood’s spacious abode in St Louis, this one wasn’t a living room at all.  Instead it was a fairly swanky office space on the eighth floor of the old Blatz building downtown, where unfortunately the elevator wasn’t working.  “You can take the stairs,” the helpful concierge said after checking off my name, “or you can wait.”  “Wait for what?” I asked, thinking maybe they were going to have a helicopter airlift us up to the show.  “For it to be fixed,” she replied matter-of-factly.  I didn’t like the questionable time line for the second option, so we took the stairs.  Good call, at the end of the show we all trudged back down since the repairman hadn’t made any headway at all.

I’d been hoping to have Califone play at my house during their trek through the Midwest, and in fact had been holding the next night for them.  When that fell through, I decided to go to Milwaukee.  Lead singer, guitarist, and genius behind the band, Tim Rutili was definitely surprised to see me, and we talked about a Madison show sometime next year (yay!).  The band playing the living room shows is a skeletal representation of the band I’d gotten used to seeing.  The three members that usually back Rutilli were condensed into one guy, who alternated between guitar and keyboard, making enough sound to fill the high-ceilinged room.  The architecture of the room was beautiful, but it wasn’t always the best sounding, at times Rutili’s vocals would get lost in the echoes.  Or maybe that was just him.  Anyway, I missed those guys, but Rutili with his distinctive voice, always so full of emotion and longing, is the key to the band.  While I’d found the shows over the years to range from thrilling to pedantic, every show I’d seen since the release of All My Friends Are Funeral Singers had been genius, and they’d been top of my wish list for the basement for a long time.

The title track of Funeral Singers was certainly the highlight of the show, coming near the end of a set that had been half familiar.  Funeral Singers is a desperate and emotional song, but at the same time pretty and complex.  It made me want to go home and watch the movie of the same name (directed by Rutilli it’s a surprisingly engrossing narrative).  The set also included several songs from the new record, the lovely Stitches, which doesn’t have the former’s addictive streak, but is an engaging record all the same.  I can’t imagine a better place to hear its songs live than at an intimate living room show, I only wish I could have had one at my place too.  Hopefully soon.

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