Why?, Mount Eerie, Fishboy Granada Theater September 9, 2008
Better than: Driving all the way to Denton on a Tuesday night.
Why? brought out the artsy undergrads in spades, impressively packing the Granada's lower half with well-behaved, vintage-clad kids. And while good music was certainly brought by all, the hyper-picky crowd made it a Goldilocks night. (Too cold, too hot and then just right, ya dig?)
Fishboy frontman Eric Michener had it right: Halfway through his band’s opening set, he leveled with the crowd, thanking them "for sitting through this band, which sounds nothing like the other bands.” The Denton foursome brought the goods, slamming out one of their usual high-energy shows, but the crowd just wasn't feeling it, and the band's fun melodies and impressive stage presence seemed lost on a nearly silent sea of confused faces.
Next up: Mount Eerie, also known as Phil Elverum and his guitar. Could be the most appropriately named band ever. Sitting cross-legged on the stage, a row of speakers and an overworked fog machine doing their best to shroud him from view, there was the impression of spying on a graveyard séance. It was clear from the unanimous trance and general sense of something quietly happening that the audience wanted to dig it, but that the atmosphere wasn’t working for him. Seemed the connection was lost here, too.
This crowd was clearly here for Why? and Why? alone.
The percussion-heavy Oakland band, consisting here of Yoni and Josiah Wolf, Doug McDiarmid and Austin Brown, made their presence known from the start with startlingly crisp harmonies before launching in to the haunting beats of "Song of the Sad Assassin". Yoni’s songwriting lended itself easily to both his poetic rapping and smooth vocals throughout the show, and even lines like “Here we go/To inhaling crushed bones through a dried up white-out pen” seemed relatable when flowing from his tongue. Meanwhile, the band’s amazingly cohesive use of drums,
xylophones vibraphone, keyboards, bass, guitar, tambourine and pretty much anything else they could find to shake or bang on, created complex layers of rhythm, melody and sound.
A few songs into the set, the crowd finally lost its collective cool and let out cheers--and even an “I love you, Yoni!” (to which the rhyme-slinger quickly replied, “Who said that? Was she cute?”) That seemed to open the door for full-on head bobs and hand claps, and--at last--we had a connection of band and crowd.
Despite the intensity of the set, the guys kept things light between songs, taking shots, proclaiming their newfound love of Dallas and inviting everyone to some afterparty in Denton. They were so captivating, I found myself almost wanting to take them up on the offer.
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Pleasing several vocal requesters, they closed the show with a "Simeon’s Dilemma"/"Gemini" encore. An incredibly fitting outro on keys at the end of Gemini seemed to turn the page, read “fin” and leave the masses with a sense of satisfaction. --Brittan Dunham
Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: You ladies scream all you want to for Yoni, but it was Josiah that stole the show. Beating a drum kit senseless, and then making sweet love to the
xylophone vibraphone? Does it really get any better than that?
Random Note: My favorite non-musical moment: Hearing a guy innocently and matter-of-factly point out to an enthusiastic female patron of the arts that her boots were longer than her shorts.
By The Way: This was the final Fishboy show for the band’s drummer, John Clardy, and he gave a stellar send-off. John will be putting those guns to use shredding skins and cymbals for California band Tera Melos.