Bishop Allen with Page France at The Proletariat (June 26, 2007)

29 07 2007

First off, sorry for the late post and sorry for the lack of good photos… my cameras (both!) are on the fritz.

Let me say that as this was my first time to go to The Proletariat, I was impressed. It’s a really cool, intimate venue, and the bartender doesn’t get all pissy when you ask for water (I’m looking at you, bartender at Numbers… asshole. If you want me to pay for water, then ask for money. Simple as that.)
Plus they’ve got pool tables. What more can you ask for?

While my concert experience started on Thursday night, for my dear friend Laura and her boyfriend Jim, it started the night before when they mistakenly showed up, played pool for a couple hours, and were told they were gonna have to pay, “like, 5 bucks” before they realized there was no show that night.

So come the 26th, the real date of the concert, I met up with Laura, Jim, Scott, and Scott’s friend Cory in the Washington Mutual parking lot across the street from the Proletariat.

It was an early show – starting around 7:00 – and so we waited for the first act, The Teeth, to finish before Page France took the stage.

Michael Nau of Page France

I had never listened to, or even heard of Page France before the show (I was going for Bishop Allen) and they absolutely blew me away.
Vocalist and guitarist Michael Nau leads the group, which is now comprised of backup vocalist Whitney McGraw, Clinton Jones, and Jason Reeder, as well as a few others who help flesh out the group’s sound in the studio. Their sound was described to me as “squeaky clean pop,” which I guess is somewhat true, but their lyrics reveal more depth than that. To me, their sound seems be reminiscent of both Death Cab and The Decemberists – it all depends on the album and the song.

The majority of their set was pulled from their 2005 album Hello, Dear Wind.
Highlights included the songs “Elephant,” “Hat and Rabbit,” and they closed with “Chariot,” at the request of Laura and Jim.

“You know you want to!” Jim yelled, to which Nau responded, “No.. I really don’t. But we’ll play it anyway.”
That, in a nutshell is what is great about a band like Page France.. they are in it to see their fans happy.

Which, in a way, leads me to Bishop Allen.

Whitney McGraw of Page France

Justin Rice and Christian Rudder are Bishop Allen, a twosome out of Brooklyn whose second full-length but first studio album, The Broken String, came out on July 24 on Dead Oceans Records. On this album, and the supporting tour, they are joined by Cully Symington and Darbie Nowatka.

Bishop Allen has been a pretty upbeat band – their 2003 self-released album Charm School was pretty happy, and the majority of the 12 EP’s they released (one per month of 2006) were happy. The Broken String, while definitely not downer-rock by any means, sounds more mature and introspective than Charm School.

Justin Rice of Bishop Allen

Just about all the songs they played, if not all the songs, were from their latest album – an album that includes what I believe to be one of the better songs ever written about the Battle of Hampton Roads (or the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimack). “The Monitor” is the album opener, a soulful and emotional song that sets the tone for the rest of the album.

Other highlights include “The Chinatown Bus,” the ultimately triumphant “Flight 180,” and the simple but beautiful “Butterfly Nets,” on which Darbie Nowatka steps out from behind the keys and takes the mic. “Corazon,” a love song about a jilted piano, with a sound that, like the subject, is a departure from the norm. “Rain,” a song that Symington dedicated to the Gulf Coast weather system, seems fitting for us Houstonians right now, with the lyrics, “if it’s ever gonna get any better, it’s gotta get worse for a day.”

Bishop Allen kept the crowd captivated (except for Cory, who is unfortunately a rap-only kind of guy) and ended the night at 10 so that some DJ could come on. A long line of fans looking for merch greeted Rudder after the show.

I bought their new CD and was kind of stunned by the less than welcome response from Rudder and Rice when I asked them to sign it. Perhaps I have been spoiled by a pretty long run of extremely nice artists, but come on guys.. I’m a fan who waited until everyone cleared out for you to make a couple squiggly motions with a pen. Give me a break.

However, I won’t let Bishop Allen’s dismissive attitude keep me from singing their praises – the new CD is really good, with plenty of jangly guitar and tambourine to go around.

Buy Page France’s older CD Hello, Dear Wind here, or buy their new album here.
Buy Bishop Allen’s The Broken String here.