Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Handsome Family
El Mocambo

The Handsome Family come recommended by a Stateside friend. Now, truth be told, I got only about a 50% success rate with bands that have been recommended to me over the years. I don't pay much heed to 'fan appreciation' though I type ceaselessly in my quest to convert others. Still, there's too much to discover on your own so once in awhile it pays to take direction.

On the surface it looks like a no-brainer. Accolades from the likes of Greil Marcus. A band that mines the darkness of American roots music and blends it with an indie-ethos; which apparently makes them 'alt-country' in the places where pigeon-holes are required. Two people in the band. And a rock-bottom, fan-friendly ticket price for a show in an intimate history steeped bar, The ElMo, where Maggie Trudeau spent a lost weekend with Mick Jagger and broke our Prime Ministers heart.

Opening tonight is Marissa Nadler who brings her banjo and a handful of new songs to the stage. She lists her influences as artists as varied as Elizabeth Cotton to Joy Division and The Beatles, so there's no telling what it's going to sound like. When you get there, though, it sounds like Kate Bush with no passion...but that's just me, I'm not a big fan of the female voice in the high range, it took me over 40 years to take a shine to Joan Baez.

The Sparks family, er, Handsome Family, have some musical support on drums and guitar in the guise of Jason Todd and Steven Duraki(?). Kevin Hearns, of Barenaked Ladies and Lou Reed fame, sits in for three songs on the accordion. If only he'd plugged the damn thing in properly as his brief stint results in three brutal static blasts from the PA system.

The alt-country tag is not quite appropriate. While they are sonically like Crash Test Dummies, their lyrics, and subject matter, elevate this music beyond the narrow constrictions of 'country'.

Here's the set list and some samples:

T01 Arlene
T02 So Much Wine
T03 My Sister's Tiny Hands
T04 The Loneliness of Magnets
T05 The Giant of Illinois
T06 Darling, My Darling
T07 Through the Trees (*PA static @ 27 sec)
T08 Linger, Let Me Linger(*PA static, false start)
T09 Linger, Let Me Linger
T10 After We Shot the Grizzly
T11 band intro
T12 Little Sparrows
T13 All the Time In Airports
T14 The Forgotten Lake
T15 The Bottomless Hole
T16 talk
T17 My Friend
T18 crowd/encore
T19 A Thousand Diamond Rings
T20 talk
T21 Wild Wood
T22 Don't Be Scared

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