Thursday, September 11, 2008

Preaching to the Converted

If I held you up to fire I would see a reddish frame
Of rust around your soul's transparency
And you, you with your beauty
And I with my spleen
I'll hitchhike to your bonfire
In my suit of gasoline.
--Centro-Matic, "The Fugitives Have Won"

It's been a long time since the Monkey and I have ventured out on a school night to catch a show. It's been a longer time since we've trooped farther than fifteen minutes to see such a show. But, last night was an opportunity not to be missed. Unfortunately, only about fifty other people seemed to agree with me, and most of them had a far shorter distance to travel than Monkey or I.

The show, Centro-Matic with The Broken West, was a bargain. Eight-fifty. That was a pleasant surprise. We got to Slowdown at about a quarter after nine, and when we walked in, we were met with a pair of other surprises.

First, the floor of the hall was shut off by a large partition, just like it was when I'd been there for the Jens Lekman show a few months back. The difference this time was that no one was doing a sound check behind the panels. Tonight, as we passed through the doors, Centro-Matic's alter ego, South San Gabriel was in the midst of a laid back set of their own music. I knew they have toured this way, opening up with some SSG tunes before the opening act, but, I didn't expect them to be starting at 9pm. Judging by the length of their set, we probably only missed about half of a song. They played a pair of tunes from The Carlton Chronicles and several more that I did not recognize, all from the comfort of their chairs.

Second, there were about forty people in the bar. That was it. It was like being in somebody's basement. In that way, it was kind of cool, but, I was surprised at the low turn out, Wednesday night, or not.

After SSG, a trio, Mal Madrigal took the tiny corner stage for a half dozen classical/European influenced folk-y tunes (yawn). They were followed by The Broken West, a band that impressed me, and put me in mind of several other bands.

I have this bad habit, sometimes, of talking about bands through the medium of other bands. I always say a certain music sounds like this, or reminds me of that. It's a useful and legitimate manner of description, and it gives me a frame of reference, but, in the end, it is a thoroughly unoriginal way to describe a band. But, guess what? I kept at it last night.

The Broken West made me miss Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. They made me think of The Alarm. They have strong pop sensibilities, and I liked it. As a matter of fact, I like it much more live, as, like a wine connoisseur, I sniffed their riffs and melodies and scented strains of Arcade Fire with hints of White Rabbits, then I have ever liked any of their recordings. Go figure.

Lastly, just after Wednesday became Thursday, Will Johnson and the boys took the stage. I leaned over to Monkey in our booth (yes, it was that uncrowded (maybe 70 by the time it was headliner time) that Monkey and I got one of four booths) and remarked how each of the four bands had hardly any commonalities in style. SSG is low-key, pedal steel and electric acoustic, kind of atmospheric. Mal Madrigal, well, that was sort of a curious Joan Baez meets Django Rheinhardt kind of thing (maybe?), The Broken West we've covered. And Centro-Matic is different from, but in the finest tradition of anything ever to grace the pages of No Depression.

But, as is my wont, I digress. C-M played a solid hour set, spanning most of their recordings. Johnson's sometimes obscure, often realistic, and occasionally disgusted lyrics seemed to be well-received by the crowd. Of course, this is no surprise, since this is the band they came to see, I imagine. Highlights included "Infernoesque Grande," "Calling Thermatico," "Supercar," and "Argonne Limit Co." The band were on top of their game (they traded instruments back and forth a few times), polite (Will referred to all in attendance as "good friends"), and the sound was awesome in the shrunken space. I just wonder how the climate might have been improved by a greater turn out, some uninitiated, who may have been turned on to the stark images and melodious anger of one of the finest songwriters working today.

We stumbled out into the dawn, as the band unplugged amps and wound cables, and, after a few brushes with nodding off arrived home at about 2:30 am. Right about now, I am running on fumes after a hair over three hours of sleep last night, so...good night, all!

1 comment:

La Fashionista said...

This sounds like a great time! You can always sleep later...eventually. A good show is worth a late (school) night! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Nighty night.

Anon AMVB