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May 23, 2009

Two Good Nights

 

It’s nice to have two good nights of unpredictable music in a row. Thursday night at the Ogden, Jon Langford (Mekons, Waco Brothers, Pine Valley Cosmonauts) performed as an acoustic duo with violin player/frequent collaborator Jean Cook. The acoustic set dipped heavily into his Skull Orchard album, and he played an aboriginal country song that I’ve got to know more about (artist and song name to follow). The moment that took me aback was his cover of the Go-Betweens’ “Streets of Your Town” – a song I can never listen to just once. For as long as I’ve known the song, I still find it chilling when in the middle of a lovely pop song, Grant McLennan sings, “but this town is full of battered wives.” In the midst of Langford’s class-conscious set, the working class nature of McLennan’s town became clearer.

Last night’s “Musicians Bringing Musicians Home” benefit at Tipitina’s might have been the most successful yet, at least in terms of the show. In the past, the musicians involved have often performed essentially solo with a few collaborating. Last night, the MC5’s Wayne Kramer was onstage for much of the night, as was Martin Perna from Antibalas. The two most stripped-down moments of the show were Jolie Holland’s opening set (which only added Jean Cook, Laura Viers and Erin McKeown) and Kramer’s spoken word tribute to Charles Bukowski. He was accompanied by Bonerama’s Mark Mullins, but it’s hard to think of their duet as small considering the size of Kramer’s guitar and Mullins’ blowing.

The consistent upsizing of the bands meant the artists’ music was going to sound like it hadn’t before and likely wouldn’t again. The greatest beneficiary of that was McKeown, who was accompanied by Bonerama on a jaw-dropping R&B rave-up version of her own “BlackBirds.” Despite all the power around her, she was the unquestionable focal point of the song, and it was clear she was driving the band as much as it was driving her. Other high points included Scott McCaughey of the Minus 5 leading at least three guitars and Bonerama through a good natured “A Certain Girl” dedicated to Antoinette K-Doe that remained light on its feet, and Langford, whose “Sentimental Marching Song” seems to be almost infinitely plastic. He’s done it with a band, he did it acoustic at the Ogden, Sally Timms has performed it backed by Langford alone and with a band, and the army of horns onstage including Shamarr Allen only added soul and pathos to the cry, “He needs a little love at closing time.”

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