Saturday, March 14, 2009

Concert Thoughts

Last night I attended the MidPoint Music Festival Reveal Showcase, otherwise known as Pomegranates CD Release Party for their latest effort, Everybody, Come Outside! The album drops April 14 on Lujo Records.

I'm not sure when or where I first heard of Pomegranates (I'm not even sure I knew how to pronounce it), but what I do remember is how I felt the first time that I saw them live. It was a show last year, or maybe the year before, at the Southgate House, and they were definitely opening for somebody. It might have been a national touring act, but I don't know. I also don't have an exact number of those in attendance, but there couldn't of been more than thirty or forty people at this show.

As I was passing the Southgate House last night looking for a place to park, I was pleasantly surprised to see a line of people extending to the street curb. Never in my life have I waited in a line that long to get into the Southgate House. But don't take that the wrong way. Lines of people that long can bring nothing but good to any business.

I was already running behind, and feared that the concert was already underway. By the time I got through the doors and downstairs, Enlou had already finished and Matthew Shelton and friends were setting up.

They call themselves Matthew Shelton's Picnic, and is one of a few musical endeavors led by who else but Matthew Shelton, whose deep, baritone voice brought to mind God as a singer/songwriter. Shelton stands tall and center, acoustic guitar in hand, playing a different type of folk music, something I've never heard.

What makes this sound appear new to my ears, is who is accompanying Shelton. Somewhat of a super group of sorts. Basically, extremely talented, local individual musicians.

To Shelton's right, and bringing more bass to the music, we have Laura Sabo and Kathleen Moniaci, on the bass clarinet and bassoon, respectively. To his left, we have Sharon Udoh of the Newbees on keys and backing vocals, and Peter Adams on violin.

I have to say, I enjoy seeing unfamiliar sounding instruments brought to life on stage. As they were playing, I often found myself gearing in on what each individual brought to the music. At times, Shelton reminded me of a folk artist from a timeless age. I also thought at times, that this group would be a great opening act for someone like Andrew Bird or Sufjan Stevens. Though I could tell that some of the notes weren't hit perfectly, I reminded myself that musicians are people too, and occasionally make mistakes. When they were spot-on, they created magnificent landscapes of pure musical beauty.

Up next was the Illinois indie-rock band, Headlights. At a time when indie-rock is at an all-time high, I'm beginning to feel an overload of similar sounding bands. Not that Headlights sounded like any or every indie-rock band out there...they really don't.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm starting to become bored with the typical, male/female vocal swap you see in electronic-indie rock. It was once my cup of tea, but because I've grown accustomed to the taste, I think I'm in search of a new, fresh taste for my ears. Bands like this really have to stand out above the rest, if they're looking to win over my heart.

But don't base your opinion on what I'm saying. Check out Headlights for yourself. After all, in only five years they've done quite well. Over 45,000 listeners on, over 420,000 views on MySpace, as well as nearly 590,000 plays on their MySpace page. Not to mention they are signed to a highly respectable label, Polyvinyl Records. That label also includes Asobi Seksu, Loney Dear and Cale Parks.

On after Headlights, were the men of the evening, Pomegranates.

Don't judge too quickly when you see this band. All very young looking but mid-twenties or so, you would think these guys were headed to a high school band challenge at Bogart's. Hell, even I'm a young, looking guy going on 28, who still gets carded for cigarettes!

Age is of no importance once these guys plug in. I remember from that first night that I saw them play, I immediately thought their sound fit somewhere between Modest Mouse and The Shins. Come to find out, they are heavily-influenced by the Talking Heads/David Byrne and Brian Eno.

The band is made up of a few multi-instrumentalists and a drummer/percussionist. Throughout their set, front man Joey Cook, along with Isaac Karns and Josh Kufeldt, would trade instruments back and forth. One playing the standard electric guitar, another on bass, and the other working with sampling and the keyboard.

They brought a lot of the new songs out last night, having never played several of them live. Because the album doesn't come out until next month, I'm not going to sit here and try to write about the fine points of an album that I can't listen to over and over again. That wouldn't be fair.

All I can really say is that the show was great, the Southgate House was a sellout, and 2009 will be a great year for Pomegranates.

As for the whole MidPoint stuff...

The MidPoint Music Festival has launched a newly designed website here, along with a new logo called "Monty", a riverboat captain with one-eye (the midpoint) and a big mustache. What the importance of the logo is, I have no idea, but it looks like a sweet little graphic.

Of course you know, MidPoint will be back in late September, and better than ever. It always is. They're bringing back the Scion Streetcars, as well as continuing showcases across the river at the Southgate House.

They even announced someone who'll be playing at MidPoint this year. He's a national touring artist, who recently played at the Southgate House, and even commented that night on his love for playing such a historic venue. This artist and his band are getting ready to play SXSW with the Felice Brothers and Deer Tick. His band brought down the house that night with their cover of the Talking Head's "Pyscho Killer." You might know of him if you've heard about the Drive-By Truckers.

It's Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit!

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