What better way to celebrate my newly birthdayed self than road tripping it out to St. Louis my favorite artist for to see? It is so appropriate that my comeback to the blog underworld comes at the hand of one Mr. John Vanderslice and his astonishing performance and St. Louis University’s Billiken Club.
Allow me to go on a bit of a jealous rant for a second… The Billiken Club. What a genius concept, really. SLU, a wet campus full of, as far as I can tell, the most uppity and toootally hip hipsters around, happens to have on their campus a concert venue that allows them to reach into their deep private university pockets and pull in amazing national names like Dan Deacon, Enon, Menomena, Caribou, The Twilight Sad, and the Mountain Goats among so many others. It would be one thing if that was it, but it’s not. They also are able to put on concerts with good regularity with FREE admission. Que ridiculo! Being in College Music Committee here at Mizzou, I have a vague idea of what kind of budget we student activities committees have to work with, and we basically wring every last dime from that budget to pay for talent to come out to Columbia, and even when we charge for entry, we STILL lose a lot of money. At this point, I just more or less try not to think about what the operating budget must be for that place… but I digress.
After a quick detour (unplanned) to a Schnucks for directions ol’ lady Gina and I got to the Billiken Club, like the competent young ladies that we are, just in time to see one man band The Show is the Rainbow a.k.a. Darren Keen set up. From the very onset of his frenetic live show, I knew two things: 1. This guy is crazy. 2. I kind of want to marry him.
The Show is the Rainbow’s Darren Keen… during one of a few moments of rest.
Mr. Rainbow hails from my new neighbor to the northwest… Nebraska! He also harbors a lot of resentment towards midwestern behemoth Saddle Creek golden boy Conor Oberst (vomit here) and the rest of his label-mates. In fact, I think he played 3 songs in a row about his hate for the record labels and how they “reject [him] every day.” “Sometimes I don’t even send them demos and they still reject me,” said Keen. A shocking revelation, what with songs like “Do the Skinny” – ostensibly about a girl who weighs 400 pounds, then loses 300 pounds “so she can fuck skinny hipster guys.” The catch? “… all the fat goes in her pussy, so none of the guys can get their dicks in.” Poetry!
He was an outrageously entertaining, and straight up outrageous, performer – running laps around the audience, literally at times, all on a broken foot. How was it broken? By being drunk and naked and falling off a runway at a show in Minnesota. Yep, that’s my kind of guy.
Moving along, Gina and I went outside between sets to enjoy the finally nice weather while simultaneously enjoying a cigarette. And then we did both of those things whiiiile simultaneously chatting up Ian Bjornstad keyboardist/sometimes accordionist in the ol’ Vanderslice band. Super nice guy, super curly and awesome hair, super used to be an ESL teacher in California, super kind of flirted with Gina. Uhhhh….
Anyway, we made our way back inside, and up to the front like the totally not lame fangirls that we are. John, Ian, David Douglas (drums/moog), and the touring violin god that is Daniel Hart took the stage, making “dad jokes” as they played a wide range of songs, spanning years of their discography. Granted, I now love about every song that John has put out over the years, so I am more than a little biased in my views, but the crowd seemed just as excited as we were about the set. Highlights included “The Tower,” “Tablespoon of Codeine,” “Exodus Damage,” and of course, “White Dove.”
Towards the end of the set, the audience voted to forgo a fake “oh hey, we’re gonna leave guys” and then cheer them on for an encore, and instead opted to just take the energy from the set and move it outside to the cool midnight air. John brought his acoustic guitar, Ian brought an accordion and xylophone, Daniel brought his violin, and David brought out a floor tom to perform a handful of songs sans microphones. It was truly unique, and their performance of “Numbered Lithograph” could not have been any better.
Daniel Hart, Ian Bjornstad, John Vanderslice, hipsterzzz (note the Converse/Vans).
With everyone gathered around the musicians, the atmosphere was great and I really couldn’t help but love SLU for being cool enough to not only permit, but foster, this sort of relationship between performer and audience.
As people trickled out after buying their merchandise (John Vanderslice pillowcase, anyone?) Ian introduced us to Daniel and John. While Daniel and Gina talked violins, John and I talked gardening and songwriting – two activities he finds to be very similar. After their current tour ends, Vanderslice et al. will take to the studio to record their next album. Whether it will be ready for a tour in the fall, not even they know, but with a track record like his for both recordings and live shows, those who know, know that John Vanderslice is worth the wait.
“School is Cool” – The Show is the Rainbow
“White Dove” – John Vanderslice
“Exodus Damage” – John Vanderslice
Thanks to Schedule Two, based in Minneapolis, for providing concert footage of John and the band’s March 19th performance… Check it out, and footage from other great artists at www.scheduletwo.com.