Monday, March 24, 2008

A jam-packed evening of theatrical proportions

Photo by Ryan Donnell

I felt a sudden surge of energy before I stepped into Schubas March 20. Perhaps some part of my subconscious knew that I was in for an immensely entertaining show, even though I wasn’t aware of knowing it.

The Moneynotes, a Dixieland-inspired, country-bluegrass group opened the night. Apart from the edge of originality in their music, the most “indie” things about them were their ties. A surprisingly skilled fiddler often stole the show—quite a feat amidst so much onstage ruckus. The eight or nine members of the Moneynotes gyrated around the stage, their performance culminating in “A Pirate’s Confession,” a kinetically hopping hoedown that finishes with an all-band tremolo.

In the interim, Tally Hall made some adjustments onstage and could be seen wearing stick-on mustaches that, curiously, did not reappear later in the show. Then, instead of coming onstage themselves, they projected their music video for the joyfully buoyant “Good Day” onstage, followed by clips of what was apparently their “Internet Show,” introduced (via projected movie screen) with some pomp. These clips would have been entertaining were I at home with nothing to do but search YouTube, but watching them on the darkened stage at Schubas was quite frustrating.

This faux pas was more than made up for during Tally Hall’s set. They stormed the stage with a variety of gimmicks but soon settled into “Welcome to Tally Hall,” a goofy yet compelling anthem that includes skilled white-boy rapping from frontmen Rob Cantor and Joe Hawley. Cantor, a demure-looking, bespectacled boy who looks all of 18 but is actually a college graduate, seemed to morph into a full-blown rock star before our eyes, proving himself again and again throughout the show, whether singing mellifluously, adeptly strumming his guitar or busting out the rhymes.

The Spinto Band could hardly compete with the flamboyance of the preceding acts, but they managed to deliver their new tune “Summer Grof” with tightly synched aplomb, and the gruffly soaring melody was intensely catchy. Thomas Hughes fronted the band with a kind of manic panache, his enthusiasm powering the performance. Although not always perfectly harmonious, the Spinto Band’s multi-layered sound was perhaps the most interesting of the night, with dissonance and rough edges feeding into a dynamic pastiche. Songs from their first album, like the video game-inspired “Atari,” sounded fresh in the live performance.

The trio of bands last Thursday night was an ingenious combination. None of them were simple garnishments intended to make the next act look good. All could have stood on their own, but together they made one staggeringly entertaining night of music.—Cory Robertson