Quick note to tell you that Henry Owings from Chunklet magazine will be doing a reading on Monday night, October 27, at Subterranean Books at 6275 Delmar. Chunklet is a fine magazine to which I have contributed here and there (albeit to their “Most Overrated”-type list features; never anything substantial, let alone bylined), so I plan to attend.
Last night I had the kind of evening that doesn’t happen much in my life anymore: two shows and one get-together at a bar. Usually I pick one activity and stick with it. However, St. Louis was absolutely hopping with live shows and other activities – something that doesn’t happen very often here – and I decided to take advantage.
7:15 pm: Meet up with Annie and some other RFT colleagues at the Halo Bar. Of Montreal – a band that I kind of liked in Elephant 6′s heyday, but which I cannot stomach these days – were playing at the Pageant next door, so it was convenient for most of the staff. I was just happy to see everyone: usually I just email Annie my copy and go on with my life. As we hung out, Sarah Palin dropped the first puck at the Blues game. Now, I know that most of my readership hates Palin, but I do like her daughter Piper. Kid’s got spunk. Mostly she reminds me a lot of Esther; even looks like her a little.
8:30 pm: The RFT crew goes to see Of Montreal. I hop in my car and head to Lemp Avenue, where two shows of interest are happening. My first stop is Off Broadway, where Jennifer O’Connor is performing. The club is distressingly empty. Opening act Leslie Sanazaro finishes her first song and announces that there’s another band before Jennifer plays. I did not know this, and I didn’t think I had the stamina to sit through two support acts. So I hop in my car and head up the street to…
9:15 pm: The Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center, just a few blocks north, where Mount Eerie and Julie Doiron are playing. I try to open the door and am shushed from the other side; turns out they keep the door locked during performances. The song ends and I am allowed in. It’s just a small, somewhat ramshackle room with a few couches, show flyers all over the walls, and a space cleared away toward the front for bands to play. I’m a fan of these kinds of spaces, and the moment I walk in I feel at home.
Onstage, Calm Down It’s Monday begins their last song. Julie Doiron is playing drums, and Fred Squire is singing and playing guitar. About 10 minutes later, Julie reappears for her solo set, with Fred playing drums. I was never that big of an Eric’s Trip fan and am unfamiliar with her many solo albums, but I am quietly blown away by her performance. Julie has a cracked, shaky voice, and her lyrics are often quite brooding; at least half of the songs she played seem to occur the morning after some sort of traumatic experience. But coupled with her strong melodies, expert guitar playing and conversational, self-deprecating stage presence, the effect is ultimately moving and inspiring. The crowd is utterly silent and respectful throughout the whole set. I silently resolve to check out Julie’s solo work. (Not tonight, though: I only have $5 to my name after paying admission and buying a Calm Down It’s Monday CD-R.)
Mount Eerie quickly sets up; tonight the lineup consists of Phil Elverum and both members of Calm Down It’s Monday. I saw Phil as the Microphones lots of times in Seattle, and each set was different; sometimes he played solo, other times he had a band. Tonight he was quite engaging, if clearly exhausted and somewhat distracted by technical problems. The set consisted of the Lost Wisdom album, start to finish. Phil and Julie’s vocals have a quiet chemistry, and the songs are uniformly involving in their own minor-key way. We all sang along to “Voice In Headphones,” the entire Lemp assembled intoning “It’s not meant to be a strife/It’s not meant to be…/a struggle.”
It was a wonderful show, definitely one of the best I’ve attended since moving here. You know, I’ve talked a lot of smack about Olympia, Washington on this blog. It’s a desperately bizarre place. I wish I could still idealize it the way I did before my time in Seattle. But I’m still in love with the idea of Olympia – simple songs that place sincerity over technical prowess, accessible musicians and bands, a general atmosphere of friendliness and mutual support – and this show was the most perfect embodiment I’ve seen of it in a long time. Elverum lived in Olympia for awhile, but he’s actually from Anacortes; Doiron and Squire are both from Canada. So perhaps I need to focus on non-Olympian peformers who nonetheless support the Olympian ideal.
11:15 pm: I leave before Mount Eerie finishes and drive back down Lemp to catch as much of Jennifer’s set as I can. Incredibly, the same parking space – right across the street from the club – is still open. Inside, about 9 or 10 people are spread throughout the room. Jennifer and her band are playing their first or second song; I couldn’t have timed it more perfectly. I enjoy her performance quite a bit – she even gives me a nod of recognition as I walk in – but after the past couple of hours, it’s depressing to walk into an empty club. I know there are a bunch of other shows going on, but it’s sad all the same. I catch most of her set, but quickly grow exhausted and end up leaving a few songs before the end.
12:15 am: I forget that Hampton Avenue is closed to Route 40. I spend some time getting lost in Forest Park before finding my way back to Skinker and, ultimately, a warm bed.
Callie and I visited just before leaving the West Coast. I suppose I’ve always been a little intrigued by the idea of Anacortes, with its strong connections to K Records. I vividly remember the fog and the mountains on our way north from Seattle, which seemed to envelop everything around us. Anacortes itself was…eh, no big deal. Your basic Pacific Northwest small town, really. We made a quick stop at The Business and headed back to Seattle. I should have remembered what I supposedly learned from previous visits to Athens and Olympia: just because bands you like come from a small town is no guarantee that there’s much to do in that small town. Perhaps I should have visited when there was a good show at the Department of Safety, or stopped by during What The Heck Fest.
Anyway. Two reviews in this week’s RFT: Jennifer O’Connor at the Off Broadway, and Mount Eerie (from Anacortes) at the Lemp Arts Center. Note that these shows are literally down the street from each other. I’m going to try to hit both. So should you.