Live they were even better. The songs sounded nearly identical to the record with the added bonus of watching the band play them. The record sounds complicated, like it must have been the result of many takes, overdubs and multi-track vocals, but after seeing them it seems equally likely that they could have recorded the whole thing live. I didn’t stop smiling from the moment they started the set with the addictive “In the End There’s Only Love,” also the opening track on the on the record, till the end of their set. There wasn’t much of a crowd, but there were two girls who seemed to know the record as well as I did. When the intriguingly mustached Ewert announced they were going to play “Good Man Down,” the record’s title track, they squealed with delight. “You know it?” he asked them, looking surprised, and they responded they did. I don’t always like keyboards, but they were an integral part to their songs, not to mention the lead singer’s instrument of choice.
I only know two girls named Jolene, but I know at least twice as many songs with that name, and they’re all pretty great. Ewert’s “Jolene” is probably is probably my second favorite track on the record, and live the ringing glockenspiel made it even better. I couldn’t have loved this show more. Since I already had the CD, I went up to the merch table after the show even though I had spent most of my money on drinks. The T-shirt was very cool, despite the fact that the band name is written almost microscopically small next to a large conversation balloon which states, “You had me at hello.” “But they didn’t even play that song,” I protested to the merch guy, who was also Estonian (in fact, I heard they also had a publicist and their own sound guy with them. I guess they are big in Europe). He was so delighted that I knew the record that he sold me the $20 T-shirt for $15. I gave him my card and told him they should play at the house next time through. I don’t know how often they tour, but that would be awesome.
Lucky Trapper Schoepp, he was doing the entire seventeen date run with them, from Austin to Vermont. He was playing solo, his brother Tanner along to help drive and sing some backing vocals. Five shows in they still weren’t sure how exactly to pronounce the lead singers name, but they were having a blast. The Schoepp brothers are always charmingly sincere and their earnestness shines on stage. The songs from their most recent release Run Engine Run are usually pretty literal (for instance, I’d thought the “Pins & Needles” song references to “pain” and “medication” were a metaphor for a relationship gone bad, but they’re really about being in the hospital with a bad back, huh), but they are ridiculously catchy and heartfelt. Trapper did most of the set solo before calling Tanner up for help on a couple originals and a cover of Hank Williams’ “Lost Highway.” It was great to have Corey Hart opening the night with a short set of awesome songs, many of which I had just heard in my basement.
Quite simply, a really good night.