Seven Nights Out: Friday and Saturday

On Friday (April Fools Day…been a few days since I was able to get to this), I saw The Stares, who I know well, and Ida, who are from New York and were new to me.

The Stares play long, slow, pretty songs with piano provided by the lovely and ethereal Angie Benintendi; she harmonizes beautifully with her boyfriend and guitarist, Drew Whittemore. They’re always a pleasure to listen to, but this night they missed their bassist, Don McGreevy–he was on tour playing drums with Bukkake, who I saw on Tuesday. Their new keyboardist did a decent job of covering the bass parts, and Bill Patton chipped in to do some pedal steel magic. But I wish they’d play more new songs. Their set doesn’t vary much.

Ida was a beautiful surprise. A guy and four women, including a genius abstract violist who did lots of quick back-and-forth textural stuff (think Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks–in fact, the singer mentioned that album by name when telling her how to play a particular song). They had a harmonium–a wooden box works like an accordion, only it’s fixed in one place and you blow air through it by opening and closing this panel on the back. The squeak of the hinges actually added to the overall sound, which was textural and languid, with beautiful singing and occasional four-part harmony. Keyboards, bass, drums, several guitars.

The women should take over the band, though. The guy was a good singer, but he kept taking way too long to tune his cheap classical guitar, and his between-song banter was a bit forced–he was trying to be funny but ended up sounding full of himself. Then he was aware of how he sounded, and tried to make fun of it, which made it worse. I’ve seen quite a few emo bands do that self-conscious “isn’t this rock star stuff silly” bit, and it’s annoying as hell. Fake sincerity: then you’ve got it made. Ida’s music was so beautiful on its own, I didn’t really want to know anything else about the band. Shut up and play your guitar.

The venue was the Paradox. It’s attached to a church, and it’s all-ages. No drinking, no smoking. Big concrete space, underheated, with no chairs. Beautiful Japanese lanterns on the ceiling, and nice sound system, but not so comfortable. Wouldn’t go again unless there was a band I just couldn’t live without hearing.

Saturday night was Weary, featuring (yet again) the illustrious Bill Patton on guitar and steel. Mostly downtemp singer-songwriter blues rock. Kevin Aichler has a great voice, like an old man who’s seen it all. But I mean that in a good way. But the highlight was the rhythm section, Dayna Loeffler on bass and Pam Barger on drums, locked in to one another, but comfortably loose and a bit behind the beat. Like the Stones at their best. Perfect drinking music. (I drank too much.)

They opened for The Purrs, who are absolutely so great that I’m stunned that they’re playing an Irish frat pub on a Saturday. They play rock and roll. The singer sounds a bit like Alex Chilton and looks a bit like Alice Cooper (without makeup), and they have a psychedelic sheen on everything they do, but without the fiddling or twiddling or sound effects that it’s so easy to get bogged down in. A little bit glam, but not quite. Sort of like early Verve (before they did the hit singles that everybody heard but sort of sucked) but with less muddle and distortion. I hesitate to compare them to the Dandy Warhols, who are too jokey and hokey, but it’s that kind of sound–modern but rooted in the era when music was both serious and fun, when people believed in loud chimey guitars and interesting song structures and meaningful lyrics. If they lived in New York, they’d be huge. But the “biz” left Seattle in 1994 and hasn’t looked back.

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