Monthly Archives: August 2011

Music in Mears – Final Concert of 2011 Season

It was a great night to finish up the 2011 Season of Music in Mears concerts.  3 acts were on the lineup and they were great.  The Katie Todd Band was up first, and they reminded me of Ingrid Michaelson, with a mix of shoe-gaze-y singer-songwriter music  and energetic jam band  funk.  The eponymous singer had a strong voice, although I wanted her to push harder–it felt like at many of the climaxes, where i expected her to let our a roar, she plateaued, but she was strong, and her band was solid.  It was a lot of fun to watch her bassist and her drummer play off of one another.  Her bassist was awesome, throwing in lots of flourishes and runs that played around on the edges of the songs adding complexity and depth without derailing the rest of the groove.

The second act was either Dead Peasants or Jef Lee Johnson & Friends.  I think it’s the same people, but there was confusion about which incarnation was at the event.  Anyways, the group is kinda hard to genre-ize, as some of their music felt like straight up contemporary jazz, while other songs were like avant-garde rock, while some felt like being at a psychedelic JImi Hendrix concert.  They covered an impressive amount of genre ground in an hour.  The lead guitarist (Jeff lee Johnson?) was astoundingly good.  He went from playing Earl Klugh-esque riffs to shredding like Slash, and hit many notes in between.  I was shocked.  I have never heard of the guy.  His drummer was on point, adding bits and pieces of sound and rhythm all over the place.  He seldom sat still or just rode the beat.  Finally, his bassist was amazing.  His solos, which were too few!, were just breath-taking, and he would just create a funky beat and sit in it for sections, and it was hard to not just get up and hug the man after their set.  I had a lot of fun listening to him especially.

The final act of the night, and the season, was local artist Haley Bonar.  She was exceptional; literally radiant on stage.  She was accompanied by a fantastic guitarist, whose name i have forgotten, but his playing was a great complement to hers, generally adding washed-out, distorted, plaintive accents to her own guitar and voice work.  Ive been following Haley for years and years, since learning she was a South Dakota native too, and have seen her live a couple times in the Twin Cities, and this was by far the coolest concert of hers I have seen.  She forgot the power cord to her Wurlitzer, so she played the entire set on guitar, which was absolutely fine by me.

I particularly enjoyed “Green Eye’d Boy,” “SIlver Zephyrs,” & “Kid October”  but she played a lot of great songs.

The only downside to the set was the swarm of little kids who decided it was cool to have an “i need attention” fest directly in front of Haley, so much of my footage is marred by children running in and out of frame over and over, and screaming.  It was cute for about 15 minutes, then i wanted to throttle their parents.  Oh well.  I will add some videos if I got any decent ones, over the weekend.


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Posted by on August 26, 2011 in Uncategorized


Fritz Lang + Dark Dark Dark + Modern Times Spychestra + beautiful evening = Joy overload

So Monday night i went an event out at the Walker Art Center (or more precisely the lawn adjacent, where the infinitely nicer old Guthrie used to reside–ugh the new one is a nightmare) to see a screening of Fritz Lang’s “Spies” IMDB with live music scroing done by Minneapolis musicians Dark Dark Dark(album art on site may be NSFW) (who are amazing) and a choir numbering like 30-40 people styling themselves the Modern Times Spychestra.  In short the event was amazing.

While i wasnt blown away by the film, it at least wasnt awful.  The film was pretty standard fare for the time period, hilarious overacting reminiscent of vaudeville, but typical for films of the time that drew acting talent from the stage and other venues where such exaggeration was standard.  You can read summaries of the film elsewhere, so ill just sum it up as a love story with an arch-villian, some gunfights, and a train wreck.

The music and on stage performances accompanying the film were absolutely thrilling.  While there were often long periods of quite and lull, there were some key set moments where the music soared and caught me up and immersed me in the moment and in the film.  The segment i recorded and posted on youtube, in particular, was quite arresting.  One of the ‘squads’  of the Spychestra was waving red lights around, while they, or another squad clanked on what sounded like old clunky bells or pipes or something.  It is impossible to capture what a neat moment it was… the video.  I may post some others but this was probably my favorite moment of the night.  You can hear me say “wow” like an idiot a little ways into the clip…

Additionally, there mustve been like several thousand people gathered to watch the film, and they appeared to come from all walks of life, which was awesome (although there did seem to be a particularly strong hipster contingent…)  the vibe was electric and cool, and in some ways it felt almost like some quasi-hippie gathering from back in college (ah those were the days).

I cannot say enough about the music.  Using a lot of repeating themes and motifs, the music was at times sparse enough to leave you wondering if you were imagining you heard something and at others insistent, driving, and enveloping.  the piano and cello work, in particular, were fantastic.  I felt, during some of the more intense musical sections, that i was listening to a second coming of Phillip Glass.  Seriously, words don’t do justice.  They were just that good.

If you dont know who Dark Dark Dark are, seek them out.  I think there music is more accessible than a lot of similar groups (although they really do kinda have their own niche carved out, so parallels are hard for me to find). I’ll post about Dark Dark Dark soon, with some vids or something…