Monday, October 3, 2011

Bonnie Prince Billy - Phantom Family Halo -- Birchmere - Oct 2 2011

Phantom Family Halo - Oh, I just knew it! Pardon my excitement for connecting the distant dots as well as I did tonight. This group is comprised of a two guitars, one keyboard and a rhythm section. Primarily one guitarist sang and both his vocals and the music were instantly haunting and fascinating in their originality. Of course, I always try to break it down and the fact that these guys were from Louisville, Kentucky had me thinking of the Terrastock Festival I attended there three years back. In addition to the fantastic bands from all over the world (Motorpsycho, United Bible Studies, etc), they featured a number of local bands. A band called Sapat hit the stage with something like 15 members. I rolled my eyes wondering what the heck could come out of this mess. After a couple songs, my eyes focused and my jaw dropped as they played some of the most amazing classical-psyche-folk-rock I would ever want to hear. Well, I was hearing some of the creativity of Sapat tonight as this band reminded me of the alternate universe where Joy Division joined Kyuss in the summer desert jam sessions and grabbed some of that magic. This 40 minute set was quite brilliant. They even had a Sapat moment by inviting a couple of singers to lead the way on a couple songs before they disappered. And of course I am pleased with myself as I learned the next day that this band formed out of Sapat and some other local musicians. And it is great to see that they are on the road. Do catch this band if anything about creative rock music in the psyce-folk world appeals to you. They can do heavy too, as they really let loose a roar with their final number. Some of the crowd was filtering in rather late, which I never understand on a Sunday night. That may be due to the somewhat younger crowd that were likely first time Birchmere patrons who expected a later start. The real latecomers missed out BIG.

Bonnie Prince Billy - Before Will Oldham hit the stage, he sent a rather raw comic on stage because, as she said 'Will Oldham wanted you to have a laugh'. Fortunately after a very long 3-4 minutes where there was some tittering in the back with many faces in front as frozen as mine, she exited. This was the worst entrance I have seen since I saw some duo at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel where the drunken leader and his partner were sound checking in front of the full audience and he made his perplexed partner walk off stage so they could immediately in full view turn around and walk on. His partner's WTF expression did actually make me laugh, so I guess maybe that entrance was better.

Will Oldham (BPB) played guitar and sang with a lead guitarist, stand-up bassist, female vocalist, drummer, and a guy on piano and harmonium. His music is interesting and his weird off-kilter songwriting, mostly lyrically but also musically at times is attractive. It is mostly sparse, rootsy folk with plenty of twists: Neil Young leads, Grateful Dead vocal feel, Gospel touches, etc. I think the more interesting and creative the song, the more I enjoyed seeing it. Otherwise, I kind of felt that sitting at home listening to the record would suffice. I was going back and forth with this a bit when the band cut into a gorgeous rondo. OK, he won me over. The highlights were well worth the attendance and certainly fans of his music got a lot out of this live set.

Quote of the Night: from Will Oldham as I paraphrase... "We played last night in a barn where the audience was supposed to be outside. Due to rain and cold, they all huddled in with us inside the barn with its freshly slaughtered hog's head over the door."

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