Saturday, December 6, 2008

Remember That Tent You Used to Have that Fit Right over Your Bed?

I can’t say I fancy myself a music pundit (evidenced by the fact that I write this while listening to a playlist that was made for me by iTunes, consisting mostly of Radiohead and Coldplay songs (sigh)). Or really an anything pundit. I know people who are way more into everything I’m into than I am. So perhaps concert reviews don’t come as easily to me as they do to my seasoned colleague and former teacher. But I went to a show last night that I think deserves noting.
Never mind that I know the namesake of Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps from one of my art classes. This band is hot, but not in a Megan Fox kind of way; no, more of an Emily Mortimer sorta hot; more sincere, shy, and judicious in her career choices than other women who share this label. Yes, Emily Mortimer is the best kind of hot—she’s the kind of woman who clearly enjoys the pleasures of life, but who also doesn’t make it her only selling point. She’s the whole package, she is.
Like I was saying, the show, at the University’s hip-for-its-booking-choices but lame-for-its-lack-of-a-wet-bar proprietary venue, The Whole, had a couple of openers who were actually pretty darn good. The surprise of the night was The All Rights, a little trio out of Duluth who, judging from the singer/frontman’s beard, is no stranger to the music scene in this part of the country. They were a little Andrew Bird-esque, but in a good way. My apologies to any big Bird fans out there who might have been angered by that last comment. My opinion of his music was summed up well by my roommate: “he’s tepid and unlistenable”. If you want a conflicting stance on him, read last month’s Esquire.
Like I was saying, The All Rights were, for me at least, better than all right (mhmmhmm, you see I made a joke there?). They were pretty darn good. Their stage presence didn’t lack for a moment and the aforementioned, bearded frontman was never at a loss for a cheeky quip or two. The slightly odd chord progressions, staccato piano jivings, and notsomuch silly as cozy lyrics made me feel warm inside.
But even among such worthy peers, the headliners (again, my acquaintanceship with the band’s singer/songwriter notwithstanding) showed, that they deserved their position at the top of the marquee. Where do I start on Caroline Smith and the Sleeps? The first thing I’ve heard upon talking to friends about the illustrious Ms. Smith, and I agree wholeheartedly with this, is that she’s just so fucking adorable. I mean, really; the babydoll voice, the mane of sort-of-messy-but-not-really hair, the button nose, and the way she sort of dances around with her guitar is just too much to resist (I hope I’m not embarrassing you too much, Caroline). The other bandmembers, however, manage to hold their own pretty well (especially the sassy-ass keyboardist), so rather than falling into the trap so many big groups do, where you’ve got one famous person and a studio band anonymously backing him or her up (see every R&B singer ever), it really feels like there’s a family up on stage. Honestly, the whole time I kept expecting to turn around and see a warm hearth and a besweatered clan cozied up to the fireplace, roasting Jet-Puffs and reading aloud from leather-bound books. The songs themselves, a blend of folky and rocky sort of sounds, arcing from wistful to a bit angry to snarky to gleeful, are pretty much all heart-melters. They speak significantly and with care about childhood memories and lost loves; they’re peculiar, rear-facing little things, always reminiscing about the past with a present wonder. And that’s all I ever really look for in music, now that I think about it.

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