When drummer George Duron played the basement with Jon Dee Graham last summer, he suggested power pop icon Tommy Keene as a potential house concert performer. I’d seen Keene a couple times, though it was years ago, and enjoyed him, but the thing that I really remembered was how loud it was. It was hard to imagine Keene in the basement with a full band, but when he contacted me this spring about playing I didn’t hesitate for a second. I cautioned folks to bring earplugs, but as it turned out it wasn’t too loud at all. In fact, it was just right, you know, considering it was a power pop show in a basement. Sadly, it was too much for the microphone of my video camera, reducing his catchy tunes to a staticy mess. He had a terrific group behind him. Drummer John Richardson has played with another pop legend Shoes, as well as a new project the Dream Fakers with Paul Chastain of Matthew Sweet’s band, while the guitarist plays with a number of Chicago area bands. There was a fair amount of freaking out and geeking out in the sold out crowd about Keene playing at the house, and he put on a show worthy of the attention.
He had just released his first all covers record earlier this year, and he opened with an Echo & the Bunnymen song. It’s a great record, with songs ranging from new wave to classic rock. He also went way back in his career for some of the earlier hits. He was charming and modest, enjoying the intimacy of the basement setting. And it was pretty adorable the way he would hike up his pants in preparation for the next song. He did seem a little confused by Marco Pogo. A familiar face on the local music scene, Pogo can be seen pogoing up and down in front of the stage or pacing back and forth at many shows around Madison. There wasn’t really room for that in the basement, but he tried anyway. When he started dancing as soon as Keene announced the name of the song, Keene looked bewildered, “How can you be dancing already? We haven’t started playing.” “I know the song,” Pogo replied.
The main reason Pogo was there was to see opener Jimmy Murn. Murn used to play out frequently with his band the Heymakers, but he’s kept a low profile of late. When I invited him to play I said solo would be just fine. He played a great set which included a lot of covers, claiming he was sick of his own songs. One of the best of these was a Beulah song that I hadn’t thought about in years. He won over an audience that for the most part hadn’t heard of him, and sold quite a few CDs after the show. Apparently, according to Facebook the next day, the whole thing renewed his interest in music and he had direction again. I’m not taking any credit for that, I’m just glad he could come play.