Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tractor Kings/ 1900's / Beauty Shop @ Canopy 7/15, etc

This show was an exercise in contrasts. Starting the night was Tractor Kings, fronted by the ever-modest and talented Jake Fleschili. The band was tight, with their newest songs sounding as potent and practiced as the favorites, such as "Gone To Heaven." There wasn't a lot of chatter, but there was the cordial thanking of the other bands and basically not much fucking about. The thing I love about the band is that their earnest approach to each song gives them a genuine stage presence. This isn't a cabaret. It isn't a forced effort. It's good songs being played well by people who let the music speak for itself. A very nice start to the evening.

After I made my way to the merch table for some procurements of the Beauty Shop variety, the 1900's took the stage. The band's CD references the Velvet Underground as an influence, which was enough of a reason to take notice for me. I had listened to the disc in its entireity a few months earlier, and had honestly hoped for a better result after such lofty comparisons. The disc was a mild dissapointment. The closest to the VU the band got on disc was to the Doug Yule-lead era of VU after "Loaded." Not exactly a reason to jump and shout. The band took the stage and there was certainly some attention to detail; but more with how the band looked and moved than how the songs were performed. I got the feeling (the same feeling I felt after watching another Chicago band, The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir) that they would have been just as happy playing in front of a mirror than in front of an audience. The band was dressed in 70's garb akin to the cast of either "Dazed and Confused" or "That 70's Show," which contributed to my moniker for them as "That 70's Band" or "Fleetwood Lite." Then, about mid-set, the frontman, Edward Anderson, asked what they and Fleetwood Mac had in common. I couldn't honestly hear the answer, but it was probably that he was more interested in screwing all the girls in the band and losing his lady to the drummer. At any rate, there was a good amount of posturing by the girls (choreographed dance moves?) and some sort of dream of layering their sound with a violinist like they were Broken Social Scene. This was not a show that proved anything to me than that they were a Chicago band that got signed on a lark by Parasol after one gig in Champaign last fall. I stuck with it; hoping for the best and being ultimately disappointed. Best of luck, 1900's, because I definitely see through the schtick.

The night closed with a puzzling set from headliner, The Beauty Shop. This was an interesting show in the fact that they were playing a set of almost entirely new songs looking ill at ease in doing so. In fact, I would go as far as to say that, as a headliner, they played far too many new ones for as much trouble as they had playing them. Considering that the Tractor Kings set of noobs went by so well, this was a bit of a disappointment. They played only four songs off of "Crisis Helpline" and a bizarre, but entertaining, take on Madonna's "Material Girl." Frontman John Hoeffleur frequently made apologies for not being able to blaze through the songs as they had anticipated they would, and a couple of songs were even reset midway through to get the vibe Hoeffleur was looking for. This set just came off as uncomfortable for the band. It was more like sitting in on band practice than one of their usually tight gigs. There were a few highlights among the new songs, but without title announcements, I'll just have to see what ends up shaking out at the next gig or on their next album.

Overall, there was a fair amount of PBR imbibed and a night of live music taken in, so it was pretty decent. I'm looking forward to the Nicodemus Agency Showcase at The Highdive on 7/31 and the Headlights gigs on August 22nd and their record release at the Canopy on the 27th.

And even though I won't be able to see their gig at the IMC on July 21st, I definitely look forward to hearing more of John Isberg's new band, Reds. Click the name to head to the band's MySpace site.

Finally, peace the fork out to The Living Blue's drummer, Mark Schroeder. Not sure why he's leaving the band, but he will definitely be missed. Best of luck!

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