Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside and Finn Riggins @ Alive After Five; Radiation City, Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside and Death Songs @ Neurolux (6/26/13)

I'd liked what I'd heard by Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside, but I'd never seen them play live.  When I saw that they'd be playing Alive After Five, then, I marked it down on the calendar.  I just hoped that I'd take enough notes before converting into liquid form.

There were so many people when I got down to the Grove that I didn't bother trying to count them.  I'd guess that there were at least a couple hundred folks.  When Sallie Ford played, there were maybe a couple hundred more.

I got there in time to catch about half of Finn Riggins' opening set.  Lisa Simpson's voice and guitar sounded as melodious, Eric Gilbert's keyboards as textured and Cameron Bouiss's drums as propulsive as ever.  It made me smile to see about a dozen people dancing, especially a couple of young girls and an elderly Asian lady with a tan Army hat.  The set's last song, "Pannin' For Gold," went out to Eric Gilbert's mom, who couldn't make it to this gig.  Nice fella, that Eric Gilbert.

Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside played next.  Rarely do formalists have both the heart to fully embrace their chosen traditions and the smarts to put their own stamp on them.  One part Wanda Jackson, one part Liz Phair, one part the vinyl-collecting librarian of my dreams, Ford is one of those few.  Originals such as the swaggering "They Told Me" and the sassy, surf-tinged "Bad Boys" sounded right at home next to the cover of Loretta Lynn's "Fist City."  Ford seemed a bit subdued, but her pinched, squealing snarl still struck a nice balance between geeky and sexy.  Her bandmates pitched in with strong, swinging rhythms and yowling guitar.  And if their "Heart of Glass" cover didn't quite fit, who cares?  It's a wise formalist who knows when to leave formalism alone.

Miraculously, I stayed close enough to solid after Alive After Five to make it down to Neurolux.  The show there excited me because it featured Death Songs, an act I hadn't seen in well over a year; the Cave Singers, a Treefort 2012 act I'd missed; and Radiation City, one of my top 10 Treefort 2013 acts.

Unfortunately, I learned when I got there that the Cave Singers' van had broken down, forcing them to cancel their appearance (lotta that going around, seems like--the same thing happened with the Nekromantix about two weeks before).  Radiation City and Death Songs were still on board, however, and Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside jumped on the bill to fill things out.

Death Songs played first.  I likened Nicholas Dellfs to Skip James in my review of his April 2012 performance at the VaC.  Hearing his eerie, quavery tenor and ominous but catchy tunes here, however, I thought that he sounded a bit too pop for that analogy to work.  I toyed with comparing him to Travis Ward at first, but Dellf's sharp cover of Townes Van Zandt's "Lungs" brushed that one aside too.  Works for me: I dig Skip James, but nowadays, I play "Snake Song" and "To Live is to Fly" more than "Devil Got My Woman."

Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside played next.  Third time's the charm: I don't know if it was the air conditioning or the beer or the two-set warm-up, but Ford stepped up her game considerably here.  Her vocal attack had more bite ("You may thinkofmeas just some littlegirlyoumet..."), and her interactions with the crowd felt more open and comfortable.  She even told a joke: "Don't have phone sex; you might get hearing AIDS!"  Meanwhile, the band sounded as smooth and strong as they did a couple of hours earlier, and the enclosed space seemed to give the music more concentrated force.  The dance floor filled up early on and stayed full for the duration of the set.

Radiation City closed out the show at Neurolux.  Their shiny tunes, chiming guitar and misty keyboard sounded just as dreamy, but their lithe, bouncy rhythm section sounded much funkier and more rocking than I remembered.  Also, while I'm loath to call someone's singing "soulful" (really, the word gets used way too damn often), Elisabeth Ellison's moans, coos and wails all but demand it.  "Heart of Glass" would've made more sense coming from them than from Sallie Ford.  Given the savvy elusiveness of their lyrics, however, "Happiness is a Warm Gun" worked just as well.

You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Duck Club Presents.  If you like what you've read and would like to help keep it going, click the yellow "Give" button and donate.  Even $5 would help.

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