Here come the superlatives.
If you take hold of country music with your right hand, and in your left you grip punk rock, then you might call yourself Richmond Fontaine. They play country music with fuzzy-noted Telecaster chords, and they play punk rock with pedal steel. Yeah, that’s right. All at once. Of course they’re not the first to do it, and they won’t be the last. But they are, right now, the best. They do pretty and they do dirty and they do pretty dirty pretty damn good too. This is of course the kind of thing that made us all love Uncle Tupelo.
But wait just a minute. Richmond Fontaine are no Uncle Tupelo tribute act, so let’s all just shut up for a minute and listen to this music. And let’s listen to what that guy is singing. It’s Gram Parsons storytelling with a novelist’s eye for detail (now I’m cheating, because Willy Vlautin is a published novelist: http://www.willyvlautin.com/). Richmond Fontaine are a tribute act after all. They’re a tribute act to life, and their songs chart all the worst and best things about it, the beauty and frustration, and that’s what’s great about their music, and that’s what makes their music matter. Richmond Fontaine don’t play to you. They play for you. The music opens up and lets you in. It creates the shared experience in which the stage isn’t a pedestal that raises the performer above the audience, but a contact point between human beings, some of them playing guitars and drums (and pedal steel) and singing, and some of them listening and shouting out songs they want to hear and receiving apologies because their favorite song isn’t going to be played this time but it’s still the best show she’s seen this year anyway. It’s what rock ‘n’ roll does best, and right now Richmond Fontaine are doing the best live rock ‘n’ roll on planet earth. It’s not something I say lightly. They really are that good.
31Knots were the second of three bands performing at Seattle’s Paradox on December 2, 2006. The other two bands performing that night were the opener Evangelicals and headliners Menomena. The night overall was great and 31Knots seriously tore it up despite some drum monitor issues.
Vocalist/Guitarist Joe Haege often stumbled around the stage (and crowd) apparently drunk on the musicâ€”the performance was held at an all ages venue attached to a church so it definitely wasn’t alcohol. Towards the end of the set Haege changed on stage into a more uniform-ish outfit before heading into the crowd with the mic stand for the closing songs.
Following The Slats at the October 13th show at the Sunset Tavern in Seattle was Thee Emergency. Although they’re from Seattle, I wasn’t familiar with them and if you aren’t familiar with the group, let me give you some advice, check this band out NOW!
They have a few tracks posted on their website and on their MySpace Page. My favorites Revolution 1. If you have the chance, you must see them perform live. They give so much energy it’s ridiculous and just a great experience. Their album Can You Dig It? was released this past June on Blue Disguise Records.
The only non-Seattle group performing at the KEXP sponsored show at the Sunset Tavern, Minneapolis’s The Slats put on a show that certainly gained the respect of the Seattle crowd. In case you can’t tell from the photos, they really get into their performance!
For a sample of The Slats, check out “Teena” (MP3) from their album Pick It Up as well as the other MP3s on The Slats site. The tracks “Ironman” and “King of Hawaii” from their newest album Boom Patrol are posted on The Slats’s MySpace page for your listening pleasure.
On Thursday, October 12, 2006, Trentalange celebrated the release of the album Photo Album of Complex Relationships (read The PhiLL(er) Review) with a performance at Seattle’s Sunset Tavern.
Barbara Trentalange and her drummer managed to pretty well provide the same atmospheric, full sound of the album in the live performance. Although it seemed like a good amount of this was with the help of some pre-recorded/programmed segments, it seemed like she was also capturing some sound as she performend and then looping it as well. Following an opening performance on the flute, Trentalange’s performance was balanced pretty equally between the bass and keyboard. The standout song of the night for me was “Monster” (MySpace Download) which is also my favorite from the album.