Saturday, July 14, 2007

Friday Night Terrace Review: Twilight Sad w/ Unwed Sailor

After such an enthusiastic crowd on Thursday, things got quite tame early on Friday. Behind the beat always brings in a tame crowd and Friday was no exception. Tim Whalen came by and played jazz. No biggie. No one in the crowd seemed really ready to rock after last night and it extended throughout the night.

I met both bands out in the parking lot, but found their respective managers blocking access to both of them, especially the Twilight Sad. When I told them their sound checks, I said they'd have to be speedy if they wanted to finish by midnight. The manager gave a bit of roll of the eyes. "Oh, no, that won't be a problem. Both these guys have about 40 minute sets."
In fact, the shows barely made it past 11:00.

Not to say each was without merit. Unwed Sailor is kind of a low-budget Explosions in the Sky. Many of their songs were atmospheric guitar-based noodlings, except with the appropriate drum work to drive each composition. It was a minimalist band that might have been more suited for an extra-special edition of behind the beat, as the crowd didn't seem all that enthused. Talking to Jamie from Intellasound, he seemed to like the sound but said, "I'm just not sure these guys could hold my interest for long." All the band could talk about was "how beautiful this is. It's the perfect background to a wonderful night." I love it when bands remark on the beauty of our terrace, as if the patrons were either too drunk or tired to notice.

While Unwed Sailor provided some light relief, but such light post-rock musings were far and few between for the Twilight Sad. Stopping in Madison right before their set at the Pitchfork Festival, the group use that soft-loud convention all too well. While thunderous multi-effect bass work of Craig Orzel and swirling feedback guitar of Andy McFarlane combined to shake the terrace to it's core with a -slightly melodic white noise, it would reach it's peak of effectiveness right when disappating into the soft comforting Scottish accent of James Graham. For me, the sound worked. Especially during their body shaking performance of "Talking with Fireworks/Here, it Never Snowed", when Graham knelt down to help smash against the Mark Devine's drumset in a cacophany of white noise set to powerful war-time drums.

The crowd wasn't impressed, though. During the beginning of the set, several friends I sat with got far too drunk and started shouting "Go back to Scotland" and "Freedom!" at Graham, which ellicited some perturbed looks from him. Other people at my table started to stare in disbelief during the "Talking with Fireworks" as if someone had just dumped beer on their clothes.

Some of those looks were also the result of Graham's stage prescence, which is to say, he doesn't have one. Throughout the entire show, Graham gave the audience a 1/4 profile and often turned his back completely, only socializing to introduce the band and end a song with "cheers." He was active in other portions of the show, especially to take his microphone and point it directly at the amp for another brand of pulsating feedback. However, for the great portion of the show, he was uninterested.

That isn't to say the sound wasn't there, it was. Some ladies actually went up to the sound board and blamed Intellasound for the mix - let me tell you right now, what you got was the best approximation of their album you could find at an open air venue.

Afterwards, I jumped up on stage to say my thanks to the band for their wonderful show, but I did have to ask Bassist Orzel something:

"Why does the lead singer turn his back to the audience the whole show?"

Orzel: "Well, any answer I give you is going to be kind of a laugh. I suppose it's to shield himself from the harsh gaze of onlookers, that imposing audience. Also, the lead singer of Waco (????) does that and he has a hard on for those guys."

At that point, the "Hoochies" as referred to in the Isthmus review of the show, made their way to the front of the stage and asked Orzel why they played so loud, because "you don't know how to get people to love you if you play that loud."

Orzel: "Well, we normally play small indoors venue with small ceilings, so when we play that loud it usually (shakes violently) shakes it through their bodies. It's fucking awesome."

Hoochie: Yeah, well, we were shaking up at the sound booth too! Until that one guy (pointing to their tour manager) told us to fuck off! That's not the way to get people to fall in love with you! Don't you want girls flashing you, lifting their tops for you?

Orzel: Well, you're right here so..(mocks a shirt lift.)

After that, I thanked the other band members, gave the manager their check and wished them luck at Pitchfork, as they had to get to Chicago in three hours. Might be why they played such a short show (only about a half an hour). Even if the audience wasn't impressed, I thought it worked.

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