Muruch‘s Vic and Heather popped into Taylor Books on Friday night in search of chai and dessert. The cafe was packed with not a single seat to be found. The cause for the crowd seemed to be the scheduled musician for the night: The Disappearing Man (a.k.a. Brandon Mitchell). To be honest, we initially dismissed what appeared to be the standard local guy-with-guitar schtick and headed back toward the bookshelves instead. We eventually sat on the floor in the travel section, which was close enough to hear the music but private enough to chat.
A few minutes later we were pleasantly shocked when the formerly quiet, unassuming The Disappearing Man suddenly burst into a rousing rendition of Violent Femmes’ “Blister In The Sun.” Granted, the song itself is irresistable, but his cover was good enough to have us singing along and floor-dancing. He followed that up with an equally worthy cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel.”
Later, as we browsed books, The Disappearing Man spun things in a completely different direction with an acoustic rendering of Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” Not only did the crowd sing along, but one very enthusiastic guy jumped up to serve as The Disappearing Man’s backup dancer for the song. You can check out some of The Disappearing Man’s own music below. Even if you don’t like his original music, I recommend catching him live for the covers alone.
Last night’s Mountain Stage featured Carrie Rodriguez, Brooke Waggoner, Trixie Whitley, Iris Dement and Bruce Cockburn. With such a powerhouse lineup, it’s no surprise the show sold out before the doors even opened.
Carrie Rodriguez’ 2008 Mountain Stage set was one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended, so I was excited to see her return to my beloved venue. No one woman should be as pretty and gifted as Carrie Rodriguez. Her face and voice are equally gorgeous, her songwriting is top-notch and she’s a multi-instrumental virtuoso. She was accompanied last night by a single guitarist, Luke Jacobs.
Carrie opened with the high energy “Devil in Mind,” playing her violin like a rock guitar. She followed that with the mellow, swaying song “Lake Harriet,” which she called her “ode to the Minnesota man.” The beautiful love song “Get Back in Love,” a tribute to her guitarist’s parents, was the highlight of her set. Carrie asked the Mountain Stage band to join her for her new single, “I Cry For Love,” and ended with the sweet ballad “I Don’t Mind Waiting.”
Carrie Rodriguez’ fifth full-length solo album, Give Me All You Got, will be released January 22, 2013. You can download the new single, “Lake Harriet,” by signing up for Carrie’s email list at her website and watch the video below.
Julie Adams and the Mountain Stage band took a turn covering Ron Sexsmith’s lovely “Speaking With The Angel.”
Brooke Waggoner, a striking redhead in a bright red dress and black boots, took the stage and piano next. I loved Brooke’s sophomore album, Go Easy Little Doves, but had never seen the classically trained singer-pianist in concert before. I had tickets to see her at Mountain Stage in the winter of 2010, but a snow storm canceled the show. I’m so glad Brooke chose to visit earlier in the season this time.
Brooke has one of those rare, flawless voices that sounds exactly the same live as it does recorded. Her voice and melodies have an unusually haunting and delicate quality to them, yet she’s not afraid to add a dark edge to certain songs.
Brooke and her band blasted the stage like it was a rock arena. This girl is going to be a huge star. At least, she should be. She played all new songs from her upcoming album, each more astounding than the last. It was like someone put the best, most impressive elements of Little Earthquakes-era Tori Amos and The Dresden Dolls-era Amanda Palmer into a blender. She was my favorite act of the night and I wish she’d played an extended set.
Brooke Waggoner’s next album, Originator, will be released in early 2013. You can download the first single, “Ink Slinger, at Rolling Stone.
Belgian singer Trixie Whitley had no difficulty following in Brooke’s wake. Trixie is a jack-all-trades kind of artist, having been an actor, dancer, DJ and musician. Her recording resume reads like a Who’s Who of the music industry, with names like Me’shell Ndegeocello, Robert Plant and Marianne Faithfull. Trixie was by far the most entertaining member of Black Dub when I saw them perform at Mountain Stage in 2010 and one of the standout covers on the recent Fleetwood Mac tribute.
Trixie opened with an atmospheric piano melody before picking up an electric guitar for the harder “Gradual Return,” a rock song with almost psychedelic riffs. She switched to an acoustic guitar for a bluesy ballad about a Mexican town, then slid back behind the piano for the love song finale, “I Breath You in My Dreams.” Every song was completely different, yet equally captivating. Trixie’s soulful, versatile voice rivals Adele.
As I posted last month, Trixie is offering a free, legal EP download via Noisetrade (see the end of this review) and her solo debut, Fourth Corner, will be released January 29, 2013.
Strangely, Grammy-winning folk singer Iris Dement was probably the most famous of the performers and the one whose music I was least familiar with. She counts among her fans and collaborators Merle Haggard, John Prine, David Byrne, Natalie Merchant and the Coen Brothers. Her songs have been featured in various television shows and movies, and she herself played a small role in the film Songcatcher. But, to put it politely, her lengthy, dry banter and high pitched whine were not my cup of tea. The older folks in the audience seemed to like it, but I wasn’t the only younger person in the crowd yawning and checking my watch.
Thankfully, Mountain Stage pianist Bob Thompson soothed my frayed nerves with “Stardust.”
Finally, Bruce Cockburn. I’ve seen the Canadian folk master perform at Mountain Stage so many times over the years, I’ve lost count (last night was his 13th time at the venue). But it’s never enough.
As quiet and unassuming as the man is, there is no question that Bruce Cockburn and his music are legendary. I often wonder why Cockburnesque isn’t as overused a musical adjective as Dylanesque, but then I can’t think of any artist that can be compared to Bruce Cockburn. His live performances are even better than his recordings. There’s just something so likable about his humble demeanor and so captivating about his folk songs.
Bruce started with an older instrumental, then played “Call Me Rose” from his most recent album, Small Source of Comfort. He closed with the quaking, gut-renching “Put it in Your Heart.”
Brooke Waggonor and Trixie Whitley were the only performers of the night who didn’t stick around for the group finale. Carrie Rodriguez, Iris Dement and Bruce Cockburn joined host Larry Groce and the Mountain Stage band for a cover of “If I Prove False To Thee.”
Friday night’s Live on the Levee concert at Charleston’s Haddad Riverfront Park was a blast from the past – the mid-1990’s to be exact. Local bands Mother Nang and Crazy Jane reunited, each having split up over a decade ago.
Opening act Mother Nang was a great surprise with their funky, very ’90s “alternative” rock. Their heyday was a bit before my time, so I was unfamiliar with them before the concert. Their set was energetic, rhythmic and a big hit with the all ages crowd. There was even a tiny mosh pit comprised of one very enthusiastic toddler girl.
Crazy Jane took the stage to a joyous reception from the audience. Punked up in ripped black fishnets and combat boots, lead singer Karan Allen jumped and twirled around the stage as if no time had passed. Though I must admit I enjoyed the set more for nostalgia than the present, Allen’s voice is still impressively strong.
Crazy Jane played several songs from their self-titled album, including my personal favorite, “Amazing.” They also delved into their coffeehouse past with some old tunes from their Common Grounds days.
Like Mother Nang, Crazy Jane’s music seemed to appeal to various generations as children as well as older couples danced infront of the stage and several twenty-something flowerchildren frolicked in the periphery.
I hope we’ll be seeing more of both Mother Nang and Crazy Jane in Charleston. The local music scene is in desperate need of such talent.
Pair song after song of crowd-rousing rock with the flabbergasting antics of Ricky Wilson and you’ve got a one-two punk-infused theoretical punch that you won’t soon forget. Kaiser Chiefs is a band that can boost you right out of your seat and deliver you to the doorstep of live music rapture from the very first song. This is a band that needed no time to warm up the crowd for what was a highly entertaining set at the House of Blues Chicago.
The five English lads took a bite out of 1980’s pop culture when they walked out on stage to a reworked sample from the Dire Straits hit song, “Money for Nothing.” The lyrics “I want my…” were stretched out and repeated before taking full shape into “I want my MTV” as the band casually rolled on stage and took their instruments. I pretended for a moment that the crowd would change the chant into “I want my Kaiser Chiefs” but there was no time for that, as the band had already jumped straight away into playful track “Na Na Na Na Naa.” Frontman Wilson commenced his energetic shimmy across the stage, tambourine in hand, eccentric moxie at full force.
I may actually have pages of notes strictly about what the man did with his mic stand throughout the set. Simply put, Wilson straight up made that mic stand his bitch. In fact, he did so many things I’d never seen done with a mic stand before that he inspired me to name some of his moves. First was “The Scarface”: He tossed and twirled it in the air like a baton, caught it and pretended it was a machine gun – all within four seconds flat – before slamming it back in place. “The Rocky Balboa”: Perhaps channeling a boxing legend, he threw jabs at the mic stand with hunched posture and great concentration. And lastly, “The Missy Elliot” wherein Wilson laid it down, flipped it and reversed it. Yup. All that.
Really, though, the kooky mic stand spectacle was just the co-star to the real thing on spotlight: the music. “Ruby,” “I Predict A Riot,” “Every Day I Love You Less,” “Oh My God,” “The Angry Mob.” It was like a playlist of one sing-along worthy song after another; and the crowd was fully enthralled from the very first one. In a display of very high crowd interaction for a weeknight show, there was chanting, clapping and hopping around for every track. The gents of Kaiser Chiefs also played songs from their new album, Start the Revolution Without Me, including popular single “On The Run.” For the duration of one song, the pace shifted from high energy anthems to a slower, more poignant groove. The lights dimmed as a purple hue was cast on the stage and Wilson delivered the words from new track “Starts With Nothing.” With reflective lyrics such as “You start with nothing and you leave with nothing,” the song helps mark the evolution of a band that formed nearly a decade ago. Not every song needs to start a riot – and it was cool to see they can flip that switch off and back on.
The biggest draw, however, to the appeal of seeing this band live is the frontman’s spontaneity. Sure, you could rock Kaiser Chiefs tunes on your iPod any day, but how often will you have the chance to see Wilson mount a giant speaker and remark that the “bass is doing amazing things to [his] testicles”? Right – never. Unless you go their live show, of course. He also somehow managed to climb off the stage, over more giant speakers with his microphone, and launch himself onto the side bar counter where he then chugged a beer produced by the bartender upon his unexpected arrival. Always a jokester, he spoke into his mic with his unmistakable British accent. “Sorry to those of you in the balcony who can’t see me, but I’m fully naked right now – and I’m told it’s a glorious sight!” Hit songs, assaults on mic stands AND laughs? Talk about getting your money’s worth.
Toward the end of the set, Wilson let out an excited yell and shouted, “Chicago! You’re my kind of town!” We feel the same about you, Ricky Wilson. You and your mad talented band mates are always welcome in our city. We might even have some extra mic stands on hand for you next time.
I think it safe to say that the extraordinary Fiona Apple is one of the all-time favorite artists of every single writer on the Muruch staff. This is particularly true of our Mid-West reviewer/photographer Jen “Coble” Hopper, who was fortunate enough to attend Fiona Apple’s live performance on March 19th at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall. You can read Coble’s review and view her photographs from the concert below…
The stage at Lincoln Hall was tiny and intimate, crowded with a baby grand piano, a drum kit and a full accompanying band. The piano was lovingly draped with gorgeous, fringed fabric and several candles. To the right, Fiona greeted the crowd with only a warm smile before beginning her performance. There was just enough floor space to allow her signature expressive physical performance, her body rolling and convulsing through “Fast As You Can.”
The 21+ crowd was elated, cheering Fiona loudly between the first few songs with occasional shouts of “Welcome back!” and “We missed you!” All the while, they collectively sang along with well-loved songs from her first three albums. She spent time at the piano as well as standing at the mic, her eyes closed as she passionately belted out every word. She only opening them when the lights were dim, her shyness still evident. Any stage banter was unnecessary.
The crowd settled after the first few songs of the set, the packed room going completely silent to allow each of the lyrics to be heard. To accompany the new tune, “Anything We Want,” Fiona played a piece of old rebar or scrap metal with what appeared to be a long nail to create a sound like a kitchen sink. A few of the more charming lyrics from the song include this verse:
Let’s pretend we’re 8 years old playing hookey
I’ll draw on the walls and you can play UFC Rookie
Then we’ll grow up, take our clothes off
and you’ll remind me that I wanted you to kiss me
When we find some time alone
and then we can do anything we want
These written lyrics really do not do justice to the whimsy of the upbeat tune or the joy she obviously felt performing it.
Another new song, “Valentine,” started with minimal instrumentals, letting her voice and the lyrics stand alone until after the second verse:
A fugitive too dull to flee
I’m amorous but out of reach
A still-life drawing of peach.
The resonating chorus, “I root for you, I love you, you you you” is followed with the familiar, haunting chord progressions that have grown to be characteristic of her work.
The other new song, “Every Single Night,” is another lighter melody paired with relatable, anxious thoughts:
Every single night’s alright,
Every single night’s a fight
and every single fight’s alright with my brain
I just want to feel everything
I’m made of parts of all that’s around me
That’s why the devil can’t get around me
The now peaceful audience marveled between songs, and evoked a flattered smile from Fiona with singular calls of “I love you!” and “How are you real?”
Fiona still wears each song like a second skin, letting her emotions be completely exposed; slipping easily between the youthful angst and anger of betrayal to lighter or more mature selections. She growled and gritted out “Sleep to Dream” in one of her most impassioned performances, reliving the anger and the frustration with every inch of her petite form. Later in the song, she disappeared behind the piano, bent over at the middle, seemingly hiding through the instrumental portion. On the contrary, “Extraordinary Machine” elicited a practically bubbly performance with playful twists of waist and shoulders and a swinging foot. She bleated and howled older songs like “Carrion” with such volume and raw emotion, they became fresh and new.
She struggled just slightly in her higher range, and her voice was more rough in parts as she finished with “Criminal.” She slowly, gently removed her monitor and sat it on the piano. It’s possible that the only words spoken to the crowd were those to genuinely thank them for a wonderful evening before she walked off stage, not to return. The common wish among the crowd was for a longer set, but it’s evident that Fiona’s performances are on her terms. She spoke only when necessary, and, once she felt her voice start to strain, ended the set without the exercise of an encore.
Her return to the stage was anything but disappointing. Fiona Apple delivered a recharged, inspiring and musically enticing performance. Her next characteristically long-titled release cannot come soon enough, but The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do is tentatively scheduled to hit stores sometime in June.