Concert Reviews

Over The Weekend: Wild Nothing, Abe Vigoda and Soft Environmenal Collapse at Sons of Hermann Hall

Wild Nothing, Abe Vigoda, Soft Environmental Collapse
Sons of Hermann Hall
February 5, 2011

Better than:
enduring another day cooped up at home and off work because of the icy weather.

There was very little between-song banter from any of the acts on Saturday night's bill at Sons of Hermann Hall. No crazy light shows, either. No costumes, no special effects, no mosh pit.

No celebrity guests, either, thank God. And no photo booth.

All at play here: Several different groups of guys from different states taking turns standing on the same stage, strumming guitars, beating drums, pushing buttons and sounding every bit like the modern takes on New Order and The Cure and The Smiths that they are.

Whether it was Abe Vigoda, Wild Nothing or local openers Soft Environmental Collapse, it was all pretty much the same: dreamy guitars, heavy reverb, sentimental lyrics and soaring synths from dudes in buffalo plaid, striped long-sleeves and Levis. The most well-known tracks and singles from each act were enough to get the crowd swooning, head-bobbing and, occasionally, dancing.

Sure, Abe Vigoda was a bit dancier. And Wild Nothing was a bit more sentimental. But, it was all pretty basic C86 compilation stuff for the everyday -- the kind of stuff that makes young guys want to write songs and start a band while simultaneously making young girls sing along and swoon.

A dozen or so folks stood in the back near the merch table and the bar, but the rest of the crowd stuck to the folding chairs and tables near the sides of the upstairs.

It was especially weird watching the crowd's behavior during Soft Environmental Collapse's set, because though the music isn't much less danceable than the work offered up by some of this band's members' work in Ishi, no one was dancing.

On an invite for the show SEC was described as Ishi-lite, and that's a pretty good description. The band's sound reminds of a drugged-out, fuzzed-out Aqueduct or Granddaddy. Half of the material's very catchy, hooky stuff -- and it's almost all TV-commercial friendly. With John Mudd's vocals up front in the mix, one thing was abundantly clear that isn't clear at Ishi shows: The guy can sing.

His counterparts from the Los Angeles-based Abe Vigoda took the stage next, and, after the act's recent change in sound, you half-expected them to walk out all dressed in black. They weren't, though, and by their second song, "Throwing Shade," most of the audience left the safety of the folding tables and chairs and clustered pretty close to the stage. A few people were dancing, but not as many as you'd imagine the band was hoping for during what's arguably its most danceable new track. (The overwhelming majority of the band's set came from Crush, and in interviews the band has hinted at an increasingly dance-oriented sound in the future.)

"Here's a blast from the past," one of the guys said jokingly before the band launched into a two-fer of older material from 2008's Skeleton, a much brighter collection of material. The only problem: Without the "tropical punk" upon which they made their name, Abe Vigoda's live show seems to lack some bounce. It's something that the band still taps into -- like when they played "Bear Face" and "Skeleton" off Skeleton -- but something they're clearly trying to move away from.

Virginia's Wild Nothing played last -- curious, if only because their dreamy, barely-out-of-the-bedroom sound would probably have better fit before Abe Vigoda's set. The band -- the bedroom project of Jack Tatum -- first really blipped on the music-blog's radar with a cover of Kate Bush's "Cloudbusting." It was more surprising, though, to see so many folks in the crowd mouthing along to the lyrics off last year's Gemini and even the band's very recently released EP. 

The young gals and guys in the audience seemed to hang on every word, trance-like. And, once again, the vast majority were more focused on mouthing along with the choruses crooned by Tatum than on dancing.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I love seeing shows at at Sons of Hermann Hall. I love the warm sound that all that wood helps create, and I love that no one keeps interrupting the show to bus the tables for bottles and glasses. And, I like that, by the end of the night, the beer bottles and plastic cups are huddled in little groups across the folding tables like temporary trophies.

Random Note: By the time Wild Nothing announced it's last song, it was 11:58 p.m. Walking back to the car after the show, my plus one and I passed a similarly bundled up couple on their way toward Sons of Hermann Hall. "Have all the bands already played?" the dude asked us. "Yeah," we both replied. "Jeez," the dude said. "Really!? It's not even midnight." I felt bad that the pair had missed out, but I salute any promoter who regularly starts their shows on time. Plus, he should've known better: Sons usually has earlier shows.

By The Way: I thought the poster for this show looked great -- the gold was a nice touch and totally worth it if there was an up-charge to get that color incorporated into the design. To check out the poster and the set lists from the show, check out this picture from show promoter Parade of Flesh's Facebook page.