Interestingly, even though Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s Alec Ounsworth would be the only person performing tonight, he chose to bill this show under the band name instead of his own. It makes sense once you know that he is the only constant member of the band. Much like Bright Eyes of the Mountain Goats, CYHSY is one man and whoever he decides to surround himself with. The band made a splash with their self-titled debut in 2005 and has performed and released records sporadically since then. Despite the dearth of releases, 2011’s Hysterical had just as much bite and vigor as the debut, all held together with Ounsworth’s unique voice, as intriguing as it is nontraditional. For someone who is used to playing big festivals and big venues, moving into the basement (and living rooms) had to be a bit disconcerting, but Ounsworth says he prefers it. He’d rather be playing these intimate shows for a small group of people that are paying attention than playing in front of semi-interested thousands.
He definitely preferred it to the last time he played Madison. The group had been booked into a theater on campus, and the only people who showed up were the folks who had put it together. Since I didn’t even know about the show, it obviously hadn’t been well advertised. Despite the fact that they paid them a lot of money, it was still a fairly depressing gig. Ounsworth wasn’t as chatty as Kasher had been the night before, often rolling one song into the next, making it difficult to know when to applaud. The sold out crowd listened attentively, and fit in their appreciation when they could. A few of the songs from Hysterical stood out, but for the most part it was all a pleasant blur, until the end of the night when he slid into “My Yellow Country Teeth,” what would probably be considered the hit from the debut. It was thrill to hear a song that I’ve heard a million times sung live with just that distinctive voice and a guitar. Ounsworth said the band had just finished up a new record and would be crossing the country again soon when it came out. Sure enough within a week after this show, the Majestic announced a CYHSY show for June. It will be interesting to compare the two performances.