Sunday, October 31, 2010

These United States with Thrift Store Cowboys and Adam Arcuragi and The Lupine Choral Society at the Iota

After the whole long day of the Rally to Restore Sanity and a visit to the Holocaust Museum, you would think we would have collapsed in a heap and gone home.  Nope.  Instead, we continued on as planned to the Iota Club and Cafe in Arlington to see These United States, with Thrift Store Cowboys and Adam Arcuragi and The Lupine Choral Society

I like to say I knew all about TUS, but that would be a big fat lie.  I'd heard their name, perhaps, a DC/Lexington, KY band that been around for a while, an indie roots rock or alt-country kind of sound (they seem to have a variety of different labels, depending on who you ask). As part of my campaign to be less of a musical moron, my plan is to see more music and pay more attention. Starting dead tired with a band that I'd spent zero time listening to may not have been the best approach, but hey, I was out, and swaying with the beat, so it's a start. 

These United States
For a Saturday night on Halloween weekend, it was a surprisingly quiet show, which I can't quite figure out.  These were pretty tight bands, with even the opening band being reasonably solid, although, at a guess, a little starry-eyed about being billed the TUS.  All three bands seemed to know each other well and bleed into each other, with folks going up on stage here and there. I think this was the last night Thrift Store Cowboys and These United States would be together after several months on tour, so there was lots of cross-pollination.  And enthusiasm: the Cowboys' bass player, bounced up and down with alarming and entertaining bounce. I'm not sure it helped him play, but what the hell, twas fine.   

Halloween got its due, particularly from These United States, who played not just "The Monster Mash," but also "Werewolves of London."  Most of the band was in "classy drag" excepting the lead singer, Jesse Elliott, who told the story of how he missed the memo and ended up in a banana suit.  Elliott was extra festive and sweaty; he sang with unabashed enthuasiam and came on down to the dance floor in his banana suit (hmm, that sounds like a euphemism, but isn't).  My friend grooved on hearing "Wooly Bully," and that did actually get the small crowd (including me) actually dancing, not just swaying, so a good hoppin' version, but the song itself leaves me cold.  What can I say, I'm a crank. 

The last song we caught before stomping back to the Metro was a long version of Dylan's "Isis," a song my friend apparently finds irritating. It has many, many verses, which allowed just about everyone to sing a verse, which I think was the point. I found that interesting from a voice perspective, and just watching everyone crowd on stage.  I'm not sure if it's the Iota accoustics, the sound board or the band(s), but I found it very difficult to decipher the words on anything, so mostly, I was running on the melody and tone and giving up on what might be being said.  As a word person, that's really frustrating, and I find I like the music clips I've been thumbing through much more since I can, in the clips, hear what is said. Had I known their music ahead of time, this wouldn't have been as much of an issue...a word to the wise for me, I suppose.  Research.    

If I were a better music person or listener, I'd tell you all about the original songs they'd played, as play them they did.  From scanning through clips, I think "Water and Wheat" from "What Lasts" was on the playlist.  But no guarantees on that. 

Definitely, I loved, loved the steel pedal guitars in TUS and TSC.  They're just fun, warping in and out of different tunings.  And one of the TSC boys even showed up with an accordian.  Yowza. 

Musically, this is a bunch of boys that play everyhing and have no fear..everyone sings, most people play both the guitar and the drums, so everyone was rotating around from seat to seat, band to band, passing another tambourine.  Clearly, they'd spent a lot of time jamming together and were having a ball because, hey, why not?  It's Halloween, after all. 

A good show for which I wish I was more awake, more knowledgeable, and that more people were out, but it's a start.

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