no-cover

Midlake w/ Maria Taylor – [Live]

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Friday, 28 September 2007

In a night that started with a photopass fiasco, where my new pal Clarence, the head security dude at the Fonda in L.A., gave me some sort of code to tell the guy guarding the entrance to the photo pit that allowed me to get up close and personal with one of the most prolific and understated bands of this decade, Midlake. The Denton, Texas-based band is on the final stretch of a 35-date (or so) tour that ends with them somewhere in Kansas. Their plan must be to make enough dough to sustain them with minimal day-job work, while they settle down and hammer out their next album, which will most likely be on shelves in 2008.

Well, that’s not really an assumption as they posted a note to fans that went something like, “We have been busy outfitting our new studio with wallpaper, curtains, gold paint, acoustic treatment, recording equipment, etc., so that after this tour we can hole up for awhile and make our next album. We are anxious and excited to see the fruits of our soon-to-be-labor and hope you will all be patient while we try and make the best record we can make.” I, for one, will not be patient.

Overall, this was quite an interesting evening. It’s hard when you truly only care about the headliner and have to sit through what would appear to be bands that you could care less about. Up first, the announcer said something close to, “The littlest rockers around, Wild Youth!” I was upstairs at the time, watching them on the screen while I drank my Crown on the rocks, and yes, they were children, like 12 or 13 maybe, playing Band of Horses, Midlake and David Bowie cover songs. It kind of reminded me of when I played “One” in my 8th grade talent show, so my sleeveless Metal Up Your Ass shirt goes off to them.

After the wee-rock of Wild Youth was Saddle Creek-artist Maria Taylor, who had some help toward the end of her set. A few special guests, which made her performance a lot more eventful, joined her onstage. They included the bright-eyed Conor Oberst, who is in town for some crazy show at the Hollywood Bowl with with the L.A. Philharmonic, Yo La Tengo and GC-fave M. Ward. Also appearing with Ms. Taylor was L.A.’s Sean Tillman, aka Har Mar Superstar/Sean Na Na. Of course Oberst had to stop by and help sing “The Ballad of Sean Foley,” which appeared on Lynn Teeter Flower. But still, all this while waiting for Midlake was like getting a set of tires on your sixteenth birthday rather than a car.

Finally, the lights dim and the band I hope to put in my top 10 for the decade as soon as it’s over, walks onstage to darkness and faint blue lights. The best part of watching Midlake live is figuring out who does what on each song. For example, Tim Smith’s credits are vocals, piano, keyboard, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and flute. Eric Nicholson’s credits are just as overwhelming: keyboards, piano, acoustic guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar and electric guitar. So watching them scramble around, switching instruments is quite fun to put it all in perspective. My favorite part is figuring out who is singing on what song, and to my amazement, drummer McKenzie Smith handles quite a bit of the backing vocals. The whole show was like this.

They played a majority of their songs from The Trials of Van Occupanther, opening with “Bandits” and “Roscoe” (which was politely dedicated to Wild Youth). They sounded as beautiful and flawless as I had hoped, but I did get the feeling that they were anxious to get off tour and head back into the studio. From what I could tell, they only played one new song, which sounded, well, like a Midlake song. We were also graced with perfectly executed songs, “Branches,” "Head Home” (with an extended intro), “It Covers the Hillside,” Van Occupanther,” and maybe for me, the most shining moment of the night was when Smith picked up his acoustic and strummed a single chord to check the tuning before diving into “Chasing After Deer,” which might be one of the most beautiful songs written in my 32 years on this earth. They also dove into their back catalogue and played a few songs from 2004's Bamnan and Silvercork, (“Balloon Maker”) and one or two from their 2001 EP, Milkmaid Grand Army.

While standing back at the bar, Danny Masterson walked by with some pals, which didn’t surprise me really, considering a few days before this show, we saw Alicia Silverstone at The New Pornographers show. It looks like the Henry Fonda Theater is the new Dolce. Masterson has his own radio show on L.A.’s Indie 103.1, so it’s not really a stretch that he would be at a Midlake show, considering he usually plays some good music and Midlake kinda fall into that category.

The night ended with a much-appreciated encore, which could’ve gone on for another few hours if I had anything to do with it, but it was two songs. Now I just need to find a cryogenic chamber and freeze myself until their next album comes out. Anyone have any ideas? Maybe I’ll just be a hard-workin’ dude and live by the immortal words: “Bring me a day full of honest work and a roof that never leaks I'll be satisfied.” Okay Midlake, I’ll be patient and appreciate the here and now, but do me a favor and hurry the hell up!

For more on Midlake: www.midlake.net

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