Stolen Wallpaper

Words but a whisper, deafness a shout

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Location: Zeeland, Michigan, United States

Hi. I wish I had a job selling squirrels. They're so furry, and give you toothy grins. Unless they're rabid, in which case they will eat your face off and then find the rest of your family. That's not so good, I guess.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Live Music Log, May 2018

Hi.  I'm a guy who goes to shows in west Michigan and then writes about them.  These are my dim recollections.

5 5 18  Lindsay Lou #5/Mark Lavengood #3  Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids  The various vagaries of music business meant that Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys' new album, Southland, was in the can for 15 months, during which time Everything Changed:  Mark Lavengood left the band to keep his family in GR, a drummer from California was added, and the Flatbellys part of the name went away.  It's out at last and it is excellent, though of course Mark is all over it, many of its songs being familiar to me now from the intervening live shows.  The Voice is a monster, an actual hit song in a better universe;  Shining In The Distance is a wistful anthem for troubled times;  Simple and Sober, sung by Jeremy Rilko, is a gentle rebuke for our frenzied paces.  They make their homes in Nashville, but they are still loved up here in the homeland.  The merch table was run by soooo many Rilkos.  Mark's opening slot included In Transit, which was to be his vocal spotlight on Southland, and several other big-grin tunes.  The level of musicianship would be daunting if it wasn't all in service of straightforward, bluegrassish pop songs.  I was bemused by the multi-pierced goth girl working the floor who looked like the Americana was making her bleed internally.  It takes all kinds:  sometimes I want the snotty rock and roll, and sometimes I want the honeyed sounds of Lindsay Lou.  Spending my last dime on that sugar.

5 6 18  The Crane Wives #45  The Rumpus Room, Chelsea  Last minute trip to the east side, Roo in tow, for my favorite band in a tiny lil room that smelled strongly of pizza and had hilarious hobbit murals on every wall.  Here I Am, or Ghost Town, is shaping into a powerful lament for the people left behind when the world moves on.  Small but appreciative crowd.  Mr. Zito presented me with a T shirt, a 2X from the newest run of the design they stole back from me and did so well with;  I didn't have the heart to tell him I could fit it on one arm.  I am large.

5 11 18  NELLIE McKAY  W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Battle Creek  Weird show with a delightfully daffy woman.  This was at noon, in the basement of a philanthropic organization attached to a cereal empire:  grand staircase, fancy garden, indoor fountain, giant piano.  Part of the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, which showcases many kinds of music in many venues throughout the Kalamazoo area.  She bounded out, decked in a drum majorette uniform and shiny boots, and proceeded to beguile or bewilder the crowd, depending on their ability to get what she was doing.  A modern day Victor Borge, Nellie adds a lot of comedy to her world class piano, her sweet n sour vocals, and occasional ukulele.  (When she stood for the ukulele tunes, she was three feet from me.)  I did not take notes, that might have seemed rude, so I can't remember every bit of the just-over-an-hour performance, but I was utterly charmed.  Her dog was backstage, for god's sake.  On The Work Song, the audience was divided into singalong thirds:  a high note, a low note, and a phrase in Mandarin.  I was in the high note section;  she looked right at me and complimented me on my high note "for a burly dude."  I can die now.  After Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter, she chirped, "Thanks, I wrote that one yesterday!"  No Dog Song, but she did play Ding Dong, one of my favorites from her crazy debut album, Get Away From Me.  Too short a show, but long enough to solidify my devotion.

5 12 18  JEN SYGIT  House show, Cadillac  Sometimes it feels rude to pull out my phone to take notes for this blog, usually in intimate settings like this house show in a deceptively swanky farmhouse near Cadillac, part of the Gopherwood series.  Downside:  I can't remember much of anything, beyond that I really liked Ms. Sygit and her songs.  She's about to release her first album in nine years, making her ten years as a professional musician all the more impressive.  I know I fell asleep at least once in the hot hot room (not as asleep as my friend Rich tho), but I know I want to see her play again.  She has her own Warblersesque band called Stella too.  A highlight I remember was Pay For What You Get, a clever lyric set to a slinky tune.

5 16 18  KATE PILLSBURY/Brian Koenigsknecht #13  SpeakEZ Lounge, Grand Rapids If you read my entry last month, you know what the Crane Wives mean to me, how they were a contributing factor in my getting my life back on some kind of track.  Kate, one of the two main songwriters in that band, was playing her first solo show in nine years, since before the band existed, and I was sure as hell gonna rearrange my whole damn life to make sure I was there.  I don't know how Brian did it, but first he got Emilee to play out with him at Creston in March, and now Kate.  We're the same age, and same basic profession, but he's got performer's charisma;  I have only intermittent spazzy wit.  They traded off songs rather than playing whole sets, Brian's Roswell songs sounding great alongside a few deeper cuts, including my beloved Last Of The Venues.  Kate didn't go quite as hardcore as Emilee did, she played a couple Wives songs and a couple of covers, but it was beyond marvelous.  A bigger crowd would have been nice, but those of us who came were rapt.  Chris Stapleton's Traveler was a highlight, as was Jealous Of The Moon, and a broody relationship song called Taking Turns.  And...for the first time since I met her, she sang How To Rest, the song that blew me apart and glued me back together.  She is my favorite songwriter of the 21st century, and I am very glad she exists.  To conclude, Brian goaded her into a cover of Fleetwood Mac's The Chain...and then HE fluffed the words.  The best of times.

5 19 18  IN THE CLOUDS 2018:  LIPSTICK JODI/LIAM WILCOX/POZZETRONICS/LEAH KRISTENE/JESSICA IN THE RAINBOW/CLOUDLIGHT/VAN LENTE/Libby DeCamp #4/MADDIE JACKSON  House show, Grand Haven  This was an all-day house show event, held by Jessica Fogle and Bryan Ralph of cloudlight:  so much music under one low basement ceiling.  I was awkwardly early as usual, sipping a Lacroix in the corner while others sauntered in, so the day started a half hour behind, with Karli Morehouse of Lipstick Jodi Neil Younging it with just her and her electric guitar.  Even alone, her songs like Katrina ring out like the big emo pop anthems LGBT kids should have had ten years ago.  I hope they become massive.  There was a new one so filled with desperate longing I had to look away, this in a basement six feet from me.  Sets were alternately in the basement and the living room, so we tromped upstairs for a piano set by Liam Wilcox, a former student of Jessica's, an actual angsty teen who started shaky and got more impressive as the nerves burned off.  Pozzetronics:  dafuq did I just see?  A dude with a suitcase full of electronics, not my bag but still impressive in a howdhedodat way.  As he said, "I don't compose;  I EXPLORE."  Makes the Go Rounds freakouts sound like medieval lute.  Again, got better as his confidence rose, this was his first gig ever.  Leah Kristene was a young lady with four strings on a six string guitar and a big dusky voice.  She broke down while singing a very personal song, and we were all there for her in a physically palpable way in that quiet living room.  This was my first time seeing Jessica In The Rainbow playing her own songs after two Tom Waits nights, and it was superb:  cello, keys, tasteful guitar, the sound of slightly tipsy melancholy unicorns.  Cloudlight is also Jessica, with more emphasis on the songs of her partner Bryan, slightly more down to earth than the anything-goes Rainbow, though both have bountiful charms and much the same personnel.  Van Lente is Gabrielle Schaub, singing very quietly and gorgeously about sad subjects and she needs more content out there oh god is she good.  Then my first repeat:  Libby came armed with a whole lot of excellent new songs and the whole Troupe, minus Olivia, backing her up.  Much less banjo, much more bite.  This new album is gonna be killer.  Ask For Water was an angry Flint anthem that will pin your ears back.  At this point, I was so hot (I sat out the blaring basement noise of Chef Goldblum) and sleepy that I took a powder on the last two acts.  My apologies to Pink Sky and Queen Bee Dream, I will have to catch you at a less exhausted time.

5 23 18  The Crane Wives #46 (Kate and Emilee--acoustic) Grand Armory, Grand Haven  Very much like the duo show a couple months ago, but with better seats and more company.  Brandon remarked that they were the loudest acoustic act he'd ever seen...the time spent going all electric has helped make them a powerhouse of sound when they're not even trying to be.  Lovely to hear a few songs out of the vault, like Hole In The Silver Lining and New Discovery, and the new ones stripped down show their staying power.  We all went out to dinner afterwards, during which I tried not to squee like a child with a 2 liter of Mountain Dew.

5 26 18  I BELIEVE IN JULIO/SUZIES/BLANCA LUZ/REGGIES  Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids  This was a night for the snotty rock and roll.  Creepy Alone Guy rode again, but I needed something more abrasive in my musical diet, and here twas.  The reggies were a female-fronted trio dealing in shoegazey textures and strong melodies, like a more atonal Jen Trynin. Breeders-ish chameleons. Soft inaudible vocals with occasional shouty bits piercing through the sound mix.  A lot of shows lately, I can't make out the words at all;  is it my hearing?  They can't ALL be shitty PA mixes, can they?  For everyone tonight except Julio, I couldn't make out a word.  Blanca Luz featured a woman on bass (looking forward to a day that isn't notable), which was notable chiefly because they also featured Cedric Canero, the amazing bassist for Hollywood Makeout, on second guitar.  Craig Wedrenish vocals, high and reedy, more power melodies.  Singer, who kinda looked like he just found a guitar in the dumpster behind the venue, was impressively dedicated to wearing his thick cap despite the oppressive heat.  This band has heard All Time Low.  Suzies:  five dudes, four singers, kinda preppy aesthetic, Underwater, Devo Lite kinda vibe.  Old fashioned setup, like the Tornadoes or the Chantays, for a propulsive Doctor Who Theme kind of sound.  And then Julio:  Andrew WK, Dave Grohl and Cyco Miko rolled into one, with Daine Hammerle of Big Dudee Roo having a whole lotta fun on the drums, and Dan Fisher of every band in the world on bass.  His parents were there, something I have seen over and over at the Scheme.  This is like a punk Stepladders:  dude has a vision, calls on ringer friends to execute said vision.  Been Around is a damn Grand Rapids anthem.  All of these bands should be checked out on Bandcamp.  Very glad I went.

5 27 18  Olivia Mainville #19 (with Brandon James)  HopCat, Kalamazoo  Outdoors, hot as hell, but Bob English dumped his water on me a couple of times which helped with that.  A fun lil duo show, much like the Zeeland Tripelroot gigs, trading the bass, guitar and vocals around.  Wee bit of drama around an unpaid tab, Dan to the rescue.  I like having friends, it sure beats the years I had of the alternative.  Good to see Steve, Adam and Libby as well.  There were a few songs I didn't know so well, which are likely to be fleshed out on the record they're currently driving to California to make.  Can't wait.

5 28 18  Carrie McFerrin #17  Lucky Girl Brewing, Paw Paw  Even hotter:  this new brewpub is basically a pole barn at a busy crossroad in the middle of nowhere, and the AC was out.  Carrie cut a slyly ridiculous figure in a stars-and-stripes dress:  embracing the absurdity, because laughter beats sobbing any day of the week.  Pick A Flower is a great song that gets better every time I hear it. Neutral Milk Hotel's In The Aeroplane Over The Sea has never been more out of place, and all the more great for it Matt Borr was dragooned in for a mini duo set at the end, and their harmonies were worth every drop of sweat that ran down my overheated back.  There were also adorable children present.  Happy Memorial Day, folks, as the "president" says.



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