True Widow, The Nighty Nite and Joey Kendall
June 11, 2011
Better than: killing a litter of kittens.
A few minutes before acclaimed area rock producer and former Paper Chase frontman John Congleton took to the stage at the Double Wide with his new band, The Nighty Nite, for their much-anticipated live debut in Dallas, Congleton, who'd previously been spotted in street clothes milling about the venue, suddenly appeared in the performance space of the Deep Ellum rock spot, dressed in what appeared to be Amish attire.
"Actually," he said with a laugh when as much was pointed out, "it's supposed to be more Children of the Corn."
Fitting: Whereas The Paper Chase had more than a few threads of doom and gloom running through their angular alternative offerings, The Nighty Nite appear to be specifically woven from them.
Or maybe that's just a forced dissimilarity. Congleton, after all, has gone on record as saying that much of The Nighty Nite's early material is essentially just old Paper Chase holdovers. And, indeed, that previous band sure makes an easy comparison to this new one, which finds Congleton joined by that band's drummer, Jason Garner, as well as Shearwater's Kevin Schneider on bass, Wires Under Tension's Chris Tignor on violin and Denton musician Daniel Folmer on keys and acoustic guitar (who has perhaps permanently replaced Hospital Ships' Jordan Geiger in the band's lineup).
Yes, the biggest difference between the two acts is that instrumentation; strings were never much a part of The Paper Chase's offerings, but with the Nighty Nite, they're integral, adding swirling accoutrement to Congleton's noted spastic guitar play and Garner's epic drumming (which, live, finds him standing as he performs).
The biggest similarity, meanwhile, came in the band's on-stage vigor -- and particularly in Congleton's. Ever the dynamic and eye-catching performer, Congleton swayed and jerked about the Double Wide's small stage on Saturday night as if his own steep progressions were yanking him about like a man possessed. And perhaps he was: At one point, Congleton, stonefaced, shouted out at the crowd that "Every time you lie, a kitten dies."
The whole thing felt rather epic, albeit a familiar kind of epic. It remains to be determined how much The Nighty Nite will differ from The Paper Chase -- on their night, they were rather similar, albeit with new songs and new attire -- but perhaps the lack of differences are the key here. The Paper Chase, after all, weren't exactly a band fans were ready to rid themselves of yet. The Nighty Nite, clearly, should serve as a fine fill for their void. Theirs, without question, was an exciting offering.
The same could be said of the whole night, actually. Headlining trio True Widow, still fresh from their East Coast tour in support of Surfer Blood and ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, shined quite bright on this night, many thanks to their recent road experience. Finally crisp and tight live, the band's performances now seem to have caught up to their stellar on-record sound -- which is to say that their offerings are loud, deeply melodic and, thankfully, in no rush to get anywhere.
Meanwhile, opening performer Joey Kendall, who might be as close to a genius oddball pop singer as North Texas (aside, perhaps, from fellow Grapevine product Fishboy), started the night off on a far lighter but no less compelling note, mixing a NOFX cover and one of his own Mount Righteous songs into his acoustic offerings.
Personal Bias: I was flat-out giddy about this show, and, I'm happy to report, it didn't disappoint. True Widow, The Paper Chase and Mount Righteous all easily land in my top 10 local bands list. If not top five.
By The Way: It was a decent turnout at this show, but not nearly the overwhelming one I'd come into it expecting. I hope, for all of our sakes, that this wasn't due to the fact that Vanilla Ice was playing a free show up the street at Trees.
Random Note: Weren't the kids in Children of the Corn Amish? Or am I making that up?