My favorite part of the Califone show tonight came after the show was over. When I went to tell lead singer/guitarist/keyboardist/band mastermind Tim Rutili what a great show it was, the first thing he said to me was “Can we play at your house next time?” The answer of course is a resounding yes. For years Califone and Chuck Prophet had been at the top of my wish list. Prophet played last May, so that left only one. The Califone that took the stage at the High Noon tonight was not the band that had stayed with me so many times before, in fact Rutili was the only member in common with that band. And while I definitely missed percussionist Ben Massarella , talented multi-instrumentalist Joe Adamik, and awesome guitarist and worthy ping pong rival Jim Becker, the band we did get was perfectly suited to backing Rutili’s haunting songs.
My only disappointment was that there weren’t more songs from 2010’s All My Friends are Funeral Singers, the album where I finally “got” Califone, only the urgent title track made the cut in a set that was heavy on the more reflective songs from last year’s Stitches. They opened with that record’s opening track “Movie Music Kills a Kiss,” one of the record’s lighter tracks, and from there wove a mysterious web of guitars, keyboards and percussion. The two percussionists at the back of the stage chose to guide the songs rather than draw attention to themselves. Despite serious guitar chops from the other side of the stage, all eyes were focused on Rutili who seldom looked up during a song, and who seemed taken away by what he was playing. In between songs, he was engaged and funny, if sometimes uncomfortably. “I wrote this song when I thought I wanted to sleep with my sister,” I was more than a little freaked out before he finished the sentence, “in law.” Whew. He also spent a lot of time reflecting on meeting an old girlfriend he hadn’t seen in decades the last time he was in town, one of many conversations he shared with the audience.
Nashville guitar player William Tyler joined Califone on this tour. If I had been at the back of the room I’m not sure I would have enjoyed his intricate instrumentals as much. Most of the intrigue of these songs came from watching him fashion them. The guitar whiz who looked like he could be Jack White’s long lost and decidedly healthier brother spun intricate and unbelievable music from his twelve string guitar. Definitely worth getting there on time for.