On Thursday, October 18, I took advantage of the proximity of two venues to get a better sense of the variety that the City Arts Festival brings, by bouncing between two very different shows. The Crocodile had a fairly typical rock show, with Gold Leaves, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, Throw Me The Statue, and Tomten. The Rendezvous Jewel Box Theatre went a bit more theatrical with SSION, House of Ladosha, and Glitterbang (plus Nark opening, which I missed).
Starting at the Crocodile, Tomten appeared as a trio on organ, bass, and drums, with the organist and bassist trading lead vocals, and for at least one song trading instruments—apparently the band formerly had a fourth member as a guitarist, so the organist filled in on guitar. They reminded me of Yo La Tengo, not that they sounded a lot like that band but that they seemed to be about quirky, thoughtful indie pop. Although they never really excited me, I did enjoy their mix of slower contemplative songs and mid-tempo upbeat ones, and I bet they’d grow on me with more listening.
Next it was over to the Rendezvous for Glitterbang, a band I’d discovered at another show in September and was excited to see again. It was quite a contrast from the Crocodile: instead of the spacious stage, large open room, and relatively bright lights, here was a dark narrow room barely lit, with a smoke machine working so hard, I expected the fire alarm would go off. And where Tomten’s music mostly asked you to sit and listen attentively, Glitterbang’s upbeat synthpop demanded that you get down and dance. The duo started out shrouded in hooded robes and shed them halfway through to reveal a sort of street-punk / biker chic. Their theatrical feel fit in well with the cabaret venue, but their music needed a bigger dance floor, not that the small space stopped people from dancing. Singer Nicki Boedigheimer had an impressively strong voice, while synth player Joey Veneziani demonstrated synth-playing skills to match (it’s not as simple as pressing a button on a laptop). This was easily my favorite set of the evening.
Back at the Crocodile, Throw Me The Statue were not quite what I’d expected. I mistakenly had a vague idea they’d be kind of folk/pop rock, but walked in to discover them playing music that was a bit dreampop, a bit synthrock, and a lot good. Although I couldn’t regret staying through all of Glitterbang’s set, I did wish they hadn’t overlapped, as Throw Me The Statue sounded like a band I should’ve been paying more attention to. That said, it seemed that these were new songs from an upcoming album; when they played an older one I recognized, with a more straight-up rock feel, I didn’t find it as grabby as the other songs, which might explain why I hadn’t paid enough attention before to remember what they were like. Still, I’ll be looking forward to hearing more of their new songs.
My return to the Rendezvous was brief, as House of Ladosha turned out to be not my thing at all: a couple of bearded drag queens performing hardcore rap about having sex. Putting aside any shock value (which here and now should be, but isn’t necessarily, nil), they needed to entertain through the performance or music, but neither interested me. It just seemed gimmicky and pretentious to me, though it was clear that others found it fun.
Once again at the Crocodile, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground filled the stage with quite a big band: besides the lead singer Kirk Huffman and organist Kyle O’Quin (apparently the two people who collectively are “Kay Kay”), they had musicians on guitar, bass, violin, drums, congas, two saxophones, trumpet, and tuba. They played through a set of neo-soul that was more laid back than I’d expected, being more accustomed to the intense performances I’d seen lately from other neo-soul bands such as Fitz and the Tantrums or JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound. That’s not to say that they weren’t a solid bunch of musicians, featuring a couple sax solos and a guitar solo as well as Huffman’s exuberant vocals. And though I’m not a huge fan of the soul sound, I still enjoyed the show.
I made it back to the Rendezvous in time for the last half-hour or so of SSION‘s headlining set. The quartet had kind of a ’70s hipster-street look—I kept thinking of the Beastie Boys as fake TV-series undercover cops from the “Sabotage” video, though it wasn’t much like that—and disco-funk sound. They definitely had a campy feel, but the music was played pretty straight (no pun intended) and was good for dancing. And the crowd did dance a lot, joined by the lead singer in the last couple songs. I would’ve enjoyed seeing the whole set, and I’m glad I caught as much as I did.
The evening wound down at the Crocodile with Gold Leaves, who were playing a sleepy country lullaby when I walked in, and wrapped up shortly after. Although I’d have preferred something more electronic for chilling out, it was still a good ending to a varied night.
A few more photos from the evening: