Friday, September 28, 2012

Tennis/Spectator/Making Movies at Off Broadway 9/27/12

By Blair Stiles

Tennis, photo by Erin Algiere
Autumn in its adolescence incorporates rare warm nights and pumpkin ale in its bid as winter’s suitor. The combination muffles the senses, or heightens them in preparation of evening’s palette: bruised blue-black and dull, streetlight yellow. The evening’s dark colors worked their way inside Off Broadway. Comfortable darkness is a worthy backdrop for Spectator, who performed with lights down low. St. Louis’s dream-pop act is a midnight kiss on record, and anointed with a country balm live. The harmonies of vocalists Megan Rooney and Jeffery Albert coaxed the room with sultry pillow talk. When Rooney bid the audience farewell with a sweet “We’ll see you later,” it was impossible not to think, “Hope so.”

Off Broadway at half capacity gave enough room between scattered duos to navigate with ease. When Making Movies took the stage, they wrestled with a disjointed crowd, who didn’t seem ready for either the band’s Spanish-English lyrics or their Guadalajara-meets-Kansas-City aesthetic. Singer/guitarist Enrique Chi’s hands, body, and chords shook with the blur of an epileptic fit. His brother, bassist Diego Chi, marched around the stage on an ant-stomping mission, while percussionist and keyboardist Juan-Carlos Chaurand glided from instrument to instrument without a second guess. Drummer Brendan Culp supplied the sly rancor: when Enrique referred to a certain kind of romantic relationship as, “usually fucked up, and [hard to] get out of,” to smothered chuckles from the crowd, Culp whipped out, drier than the Sahara, “If you laughed, you’ve probably been in one.” After playing for an audience that would not bring themselves to clap or sing with the exuberant band, Culp’s snarkiness felt justified. 

Not a prettier picture was painted that evening than Tennis’s Alaina Moore. Her crystalline features, tousled blonde mane, and miniscule stature give her the appearance of a cosmic pixie. Though she and husband/bandmate Patrick Riley reside in Denver, CO, in person they look and sound like they could be a Swedish pop act. Feather-light keys and unobtrusive guitar have the pitter-patter effect of snowfall under Moore’s dainty coo. Moore claimed, unconvincingly, to “not know what [she’s] doing up here” and danced center stage with her eyes closed to “Petition.” 

Every song elicited jubilant applause from the audience. After the bleak response to Making Movies, the audience’s disposition needed to be rebuilt. Tennis guaranteed this turn, coiling their energy around the crowd. The audience was overtaken: they danced at last, and it was apparent they had been waiting for just the right moment to let loose.

When Moore introduced the last song, the crowd cried out in protest. Moore looked genuinely surprised; she looked first to the crowd, then to her bandmates with wide, astonished eyes before jumping them into a spontaneous two-song encore. Moore’s last words were, “Thank you St. Louis. You make other cities a drag.” It was the kind of audience reception that St. Louis should be known for.

It All Feels the Same
South Carolina
Deep in the Woods
Guiding Light (Television cover)
Never to Part
My Better Self
Water Birds
Dimming Light
Cape Dory

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Big Muddy celebrates the new Hooten Hallers 45

Did you know you're living in Welp City? That is, according to the Hooten Hallers. They're releasing the "Welp City 45" this Friday, September 14 at Off Broadway on STL's own Big Muddy Records. It's going to be a hell of a show, because in addition to their romping-stompin Americanski roots hollerin, there's gonna be a set by musical collisionists Bug Chaser. It's like the music from the dirty past and the destroyed future are meeting at the dance floor of a neutral bar in the present to hash out just exactly what gets the feet to stompin the loudest. Caught up in the good-time bar fight is Doormat & Little Rachel and Jack Grelle (also Big Muddy Records artists)...and you, hopefully, getting your dance on and reveling in the weird ways of Welp City.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Phish brings its circus to midtown

It’s been an up and down four years since Phish returned from their second extended hiatus. There have been some amazing highlights and St. Louis was lucky enough to witness one of them Tuesday night at Chaifetz Arena. This after experiencing one of the lowlights at the Fox Theater in 2009, a show that garnered all manner of bad reviews in the online world of Phish fans. Last night, it felt like a different band from that last stop here in River City. It was a pure rock ‘n roll show. The first set churned out rocker after rocker, starting with a “Punch You In The Eye “/”Runaway Jim” combo that immediately got the arena in full swing. Though it was relatively free of jamming (by Phish standards), they tackled some of their more intricate compositions like “The Curtain”, “Mound” “Reba” and a rare Frank Zappa cover, “Peaches En Regalia”. They also showed off their trademark goofiness with the barbershop quartet-inspired “I Didn’t Know” which also included an increasingly rare vacuum solo by drummer Jon Fishman. Yes, he plays the vacuum. He’s in fact so good at playing the “instrument” that guitarist Trey Anastasio called him the “John Coltrane of the vacuum”. There was a little jamming, especially in “Possum” but it was mostly crowd-pleasing rarities and cover songs, ending with Dylan’s “Quinn The Eskimo”. According to some online reports, Anastasio picked up a new overdrive pedal hand-built right here in St. Louis by Sarno Music Solutions on Tuesday before the show and incorporated into his rig. It definitely sounded like he was excited to have a new, loud rocking tone in his arsenal.

At setbreak, I commented that I expected the second set to feature more of the groovy/jammy Phish style after the hard hitting first set. They definitely stretched things out more as the set started with long-time fan favorite “Chalkdust Torture”, which blended seamlessly into the mellow “Frankie Says”, a song titled as a tongue-in-cheek nod to the Frankie Goes To Hollywood song “Relax” and the tee shirts that were so popular in the 80’s. The transitions continued throughout the first part of the second set, going from “Frankie Says” into “Undermind” to “Sand” and ending with a balls-out cover of the James Gang’s “Walk Away”. There was a momentary pause before launching into a monster version of “Limb by Limb” that may already have reached legendary status with Phish fans. A weirdly placed “Julius” kept the crowd dancing, but it was only a quick appetizer for the real dance/funk throw down: Phish’s cover of Deodato’s fusion version of Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, which most people recognize as the theme song to the movie “2001: A Space Oddessy”. Glowsticks flew and the building shook while lighting director Chris Kuroda provided the visual highlights of the show. As if that was not enough, the band ended the second set with the quintessential Phish song “You Enjoy Myself”, replete with trampolines, a very funky bass solo from Mike Gordon and the always weird but always fun a capella vocal jam.
When the band returned to the stage, keyboard player Page McConnell thanked the crowd before launching into a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Shine A Light”, which they debuted in 2009 as part of a Halloween show where they played “Exile On Main Street” in its entirety. It was a nice way to cool the crowd down before they inevitably ended up at one of the many after-show parties happening in venues around town.
Set One:
Punch You In The Eye
Runaway Jim
I Didn’t Know
The Curtain
Peaches En Regalia (Frank Zappa)
Sample In A Jar
The Sloth
Camel Walk
Quinn The Eskimo (Bob Dylan)
Set Two:
Chalkdust Torture->
Frankie Says->
Walk Away (James Gang)
Limb By Limb
Also Sprach Zarathustra (Richard Strauss/Deodato)
You Enjoy Myself
Encore: Shine A Light (Rolling Stones)